Maybe it’s a good thing that I didn’t go to SES Chicago; I’m trying to fight off a bit of a cold. On the other hand, it sounds like Charles Martin did a great job on the Q&A on links panel. One small tweak in that write-up: Charles doesn’t work for me and would probably laugh loudly at the suggestion. He’s in a completely different part of Google’s quality group.
Since I can’t be in Chicago, I’ll talk about the site clinic panel from the last conference I was at. I’ll be touching on a few things from this panel, also covered here. The first thing I noticed was that the only space left up at the speakers’ table was all the way on the end; I got to sit next to Bruce Clay. The next thing I noticed was that although the conference’s free wireless wasn’t working in that room, the $25/day (!!!) wireless was working. I bit the bullet and paid for some wireless time. Just to be a little crazy, I tried to get on the super-duper secret mondo-encrypted Google private network: Success! I guess when you’re paying usurious rates to get wireless, they let you access whatever weird encrypted ports you want. I tilted the screen a little toward me so that no one could see what I’m doing. Bruce noticed all this. He leaned over and whispered: “it’s okay, I won’t peek.” A smile spreads across my face.
So: I’m sitting in a room with a bunch of webmasters who want to throw out urls for me to analyze. I have full access to all my spam detective and debugging tools that I know and love. I’ve got my pimped out Firefox ready to go, and no one can see my screen. It’s like some wonderful, wonderful daydream has come true.
The main point I want to get across is that in 1-2 minutes, it was easy to tell whether a site was (over)doing reciprocal links or trying to buy links. One site said: “we used to be doing okay last year, but for some reason we’re just not doing as well this year.” And I was able to tell them why: they had no spam penalties, but Google is getting better at handling paid links, and the paid links that might have helped them last year just weren’t doing them any good now.
My favorite overall moment was when a totally legit company (micromatic.com) stood up and asked for advice. Overall, their site was great: good architecture and very crawlable. They had lots of really good backlinks, including industry-specific links. But I could also tell that they’d been buying some backlinks. And they were buying backlinks from the exact same place as one of the earlier sites! At the point when in a minute of typing, I can say: you guys are both trying to buy backlinks, and I can tell that you’re buying them from the same network, and here’s an example page from ketv.com where both of you are even on the same page, and it’s not doing you any good at all: that just made my day. Having a concrete demonstration is so much better than just making a claim, especially when one of the sites says beforehand that they’re not doing as well as they used to be. I told micromatic.com that they had a great site, so they should stop trying to buy backlinks and spend more money to reward their inhouse SEO who had done a great job on the crawlability and architecture of the site.