medium_5176236104I recently had the opportunity to listen to Brett Tabke and Joe Latatro give a recap of the general themes and takeaways from this latest 2013 Pubcon in Las Vegas. To give a little bit of background, Brett (seen to left) is the chair of Pubcon conferences and has been involved in marketing and conferences for decades. The SEO whiz would be Joe who is a leading search engine marketing expert recognized widely in the industry and has taught and spoken at a number of venues and conferences. The first half of the article covers general marketing trends and technology presented by Brett while the second half focuses on SEO and best practices discussed by Joe.

 

General Trends

1. Mobile

Not surprisingly this was the first topic that Brett brought up during the event. What was more surprising was the extent that mobile has taken over search. Brett ran through several stats that included mobile search representing 17% of all search. The growth potential of mobile is amazing with Google predicting it to overtake desktop search by the end of the year. In terms of market share in mobile Android is clearly the leader with Apple and Microsoft in a more distant second and third respectively.

Along with the heavy use of mobile comes the search behavior that begins with users looking up a topic on their mobile device and then shifting to desktop or laptop at home in order to make comparisons and complete the purchase. With such a high amount of search starting on mobile responsive design a necessity. The use of small boxes in the design makes scrolling in mobile more manageable and increases comprehension rates. This same box technique is being used with Google’s Graph Search results in the form of ‘cards’.

2. Biotics

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When I first think of biotics I have an image of the borg from Star Trek pop into my head. No need to fear the borg coming soon but the biotic industry is seeing huge advances.  Google Glass was recently launched representing a new generation of portable tech. For those unfamiliar, Google Glass is an interactive, wearable technology that allows you to view a screen through one eye while giving voice commands. Predictions of the glass coming in contact form are as early as 2023. Other useful biotic tech mentioned included hearing aids with blue tooth functionality allowing individuals with poor hearing to use their phone directly with hearing devices. Several small companies are making investments in the biotech area and we’ll just have to wait to see what they come up with.

3. Snapchat and Startups

Also mentioned was the hugely profitable start-up that was started back in September of 2011. Within six months Snapchat had become hugely successful taking lead market share in photsharing apps and software over Facebook, Instagram, and Flickr. Snapchat stands as proof of the fickle and potentially, profitable world of social interaction. Giants like Facebook need to continue to innovate to stay relevant as they see competitors like Twitter re-surging and other new applications stealing share.

4. Motion Sensing Input Devices

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After watching Minority Report audiences may have expected future technology to move rapidly into motion sensing inputs. Even Brett predicted this area surging a few years back, but the predictions have proven false as the best the industry has really come up with in large scale production are devices like the Kinect on gaming consoles. The poor usability of such systems make them more of a novelty item rather than a successful enterprise. Perhaps part of the reason that they haven’t taken off in the personal computer market is that using your hands to manipulate on screen imagery is really tiring (at least compared to a mouse or tracking pad).

5. Google the Great and Powerful

What can’t Google do is pretty much the summation of the topic. They continue to dominate in the search industry with constant innovation in order to create  the best user experience possible. Bing lags behind mimicking following Google’s footprints. Google’s whims rock the search world and Matt Cutts has the ear of web owners everywhere. Beyond their work in search, OS, browsers, and phones they have also stepped into other auto-tech. Most notable are their efforts in creating an autonomous car. Google has been focusing on creating software capable of navigating a car on the road without human interaction. They have aptly named their software chauffeur and the cars have already undergone road testing although there are no immediate plans for commercialization of the technology.

6. Alternate Realities

No alternate dimensions to explore but another identities have been an option for years now. Second Life, popular a few years back, involved individuals being able to create an identity and interact in an online world that even allowed individuals to get virtually marry each other. Second life sparked trading markets that exchanged physical money for game currency as well as controversy about origin_389136064the impact of internet use on individuals. Alternate reality applications like Second Life have fallen into the background but are beginning to make a comeback and the use of marketing within alternate worlds is taking front stage. Virtual placement of brands and social media within alternate realities will be an interesting topic in the future.

7. Startup Advice

To finish off his presentation Brett detailed what actions he personally would take in creating a marketing plan for a start-up company. The first step he listed is to find the niche for your product or service in social media and rapidly invest in the niche. Email and newsletter marketing still works well enough to make the investment but they are beginning to disappear soon as younger generations have replaced email with text messaging. Along similar lines direct mail is a possible marketing route to follow and as always focus on unique content in your marketing in order to attract both users and search engines.

 

SEO Practices

1. Penguin 2.0 and 2.1

Funny Evil PenguinPenguin 2.0 was not revolutionary when it came to Google’s algorithm; it was simply Google tightening the reigns on  link building strategies. For example if 50 percent or more of incoming links to your site used exact match keywords your webpages was probably hit. Google said that Penguin 2.1 came about as a result of spammers commenting in forums that 2.0 wasn’t hard to get around. In reaction, more stringent standards were created that involved targeting over-optimized press releases (no backdating enforcement though). If you got hit by 2.1 you can thank the loud mouthed, black-hat forums.

2. Hummingbird

Hummingbird was released a couple months back in August and was said to be the largest update to the Google algorithm, easily rivaling Caffiene, but rather than just another update Hummingbird was a replacement of the entire Google algorithm. Hummingbird got a lot of hype and was run on national networks but Joe pointed out that for such a enormous change to the algorithm there were very few ruffled feathers. Where was the outrage on the forums that had been present in Panda and Penguin? Hummingbird appeared to be more of a PR stunt rather than an influential update.

The general idea of Hummingbird was to shrink queries down and create more of a conversation with users as they typed in shorter questions. Joe also noted that this may have had the consequence of increasing PPC costs. The long tail keywords that companies had been bidding for may now be associated with shorter keyword queries increasing the cost to bids. While just a guess it may confirmed in the future.

3. Link Schemes

Google is taking on link schemes seriously and has a team of over 1,000 individuals dedicated to the manual identification and penalization of web spam. Joe ran through a number of link schemes to avoid using; essentially if you can control the link Google doesn’t want you using it. Nofollow originally pushed by Google and then quickly forgotten is making a quick comeback which returns the trade of link sculpting.

Press releases were heavily targeted in Penguin 2.1 and for those still using press releases make sure to nofollow the links. If you insist on using links use naked urls rather than keyword anchor text. Nofollows which were initially thought to have no SEO value may actually have an affect in the algorithm. So the best advice would be to nofollow the links and then let Google decide which links to count.

Other items mentioned include:

  • Advertorials are best avoided as they are essentially paying for a link.
  • Directories listing still adds link-juice but if you plan on using directories target the high quality ones.
  • Do not use widgets with links.
  • When it comes to signatures avoid article bylines with keyword optimized text. Instead use naked URLs or branded keywords.
  • Avoid large scale guest posting ( hundreds of posts each month) and instead develop relationships with other webmasters. To get a feel for the right amount of guests posts look at the average number coming from competitors in the industry.

Future topics that we will probably see include link bait through quality content marketing and a heavier focus on developing relationships.

4. Google+

It isn’t shocking that Google would promote its own social network and since Google+ still remains a ghost town with a large majority of users being business they have taken steps to promote (coerce?) interaction.

  • Google has begun associating comments on YouTube with Google+ profiles. Rather than commenting as bieberhater23origin_5935522390 you now have to use your actual name. While this may have interesting results in the way people interact online it also makes individuals aware of their account and more likely to log on and adjust setting and correct information. There are ways of avoiding this identification like creating a false Google+ account and commenting while logged into the alias (but this also boost the number of Google+ ‘users’).
  • Google authorship is showing up all over the place pulling in information and face shots of writers on various topics. The power of authorship in the algorithm is substantial as authors will show up in top results side by side with company websites.
  • To promote interaction and connections on Google+ Google Ripples was developed. You can go onto ripples and view the trail or ripple of posts, shares, and interactions. From there you can identify individuals to connect with. This tool is great for SEOs interested in expanding personal networks or businesses trying to make the right contacts to help share posts.
  • Focus on Google+ to show up in SEO results as Google gives preference to +1s above Facebook Likes and rewteets on Twitter. This is especially useful for branded search terms as it has been estimated that there is a 25 percent return on +1s.

5. Negative Seo and Manual Action Notices

During the panel portion of the event a reoccurring topic was negative SEO and battling potential harm. Negative SEO is definitely effective and by participating in something like link-farming a competitor’s website you can knock them out of the game for months (not that I am promoting such behavior). If you are hit with negative SEO the most you can do is identify the links and do your best to have them removed from the websites. After trying yourself you can submit the list of links to Google’s disavow list and wait for Google to reevaluate the links and possibly remove them. When you use the disavow list Google is really looking for blood, sweat and tears on your part in having the links removed.

One improvement to this system is that Google does not permit re-inclusion requests unless they have posted a manual action notice previously in your webmaster tools. For those nervous webmasters who fear they may have been hit with a negative SEO campaign unless you have a manual notification in webmaster tools you can relax. This is also of particular benefit to SEO companies who have to deal with itchy clients who jump at the slightest dip in traffic.

6. Other Advice

origin_7460433450Here are some other topics mentioned by Joe during the presentation:

  • Ensure that your company is in compliance with Google’s mobile device guidelines. It turns out the majority of Corporate America have websites that do not follow the guidelines and if you want to avoid penalization you need to get on this.
  • Google continues to focus on their Graph search which allows searchers to stay on Google’s site as answers are provided to them directly. A good portion of the knowledge graph pulls from wikepedia and drops the information into cards at the top of search results. This has led to companies hiring Wikepedia Link Builders to work on Wikepedia directly to have a chance of showing up in the cards displayed to searchers.

 

The final takeaway was that SEO is constantly evolving and if you obey the rules strictly you will never get ahead of competition. Take (educated) risks in order to succeed and if you fail remove negative efforts and go again; be part of the evolution.

Hopefully this recap gave you a better grasp on industry trends as well as some SEO practices to implement on your own site. SEO/webmaster conferences and events pop up all over the nation and it can be difficult to choose which to attend. If you are going to purchase a plane ticket Pubcon is always among the top conferences to attend. Best of luck in your SEO efforts.

Photo Credit: Thomas Hawk, whatleydude, Reuben Yau, Sveltlana Gladkova, Bruce Clay Inc., Also Scott, SEO Planter

Jamie Bates