SMX Advanced 2008 Wrap-up

Last week I was in Seattle for the SMX Advanced 2008 conference. I’ll run down a few thoughts on the trip.

What was good?

It’s always nice to visit Seattle. I had never been to Seattle until last year. Now I’ve been four times, and I’ve managed to get macaroni and cheese from West 5 for three of those visits. I really enjoy Seattle’s vibe and visiting Google colleagues at the Kirkland-plex each time.

SMX has a really friendly feel as well. I got to talk to a bunch of new people. One of my favorite events was a “Talk to search engineers” lunch where several people from Google, Yahoo, and Microsoft each ate at tables with 10-11 conference attendees. Added: Danny sent this picture from the lunch:

Lunch session

My table was a ton of fun. I asked for the topic “Anything but Spam,” and even though we talked about spam a little bit, we also talked about a bunch of other topics, including high gas prices and Google’s Renewable Energy Cheaper than Coal initiative, which includes an investment in high-altitude wind energy extraction. We also talked about how presidential candidates describe their interactions with drugs, and whether that reflects the willingness of the younger “Chat/IM” generation to disclose their weekend hijinks on social sites like MySpace and Facebook.

It was fascinating to watch the keynote with Microsoft’s Kevin Johnson. Years ago I read every book I could find about Microsoft, but I still learn a lot from hearing Microsofties in person. Johnson described where he wanted Microsoft to innovate (user experience, business model, distribution, and verticals — especially commercial intent). I also got some insights into how Johnson viewed the Live brand. When Danny Sullivan asked why Microsoft owned an SEO and why Microsoft shut down its book scanning project, I thought Johnson gave especially politic answers. All in all, I learned a lot from the Microsoft keynote.

I also enjoyed the “You&A” session with Danny. We talked about a bunch of topics:
– Truth in marketing: the difference between a prank and more serious deception. You can watch a minute or so of what I said on the subject. By the way, to the folks that ran the conference: if you’ve got a video of the keynote, I’d love if you’d release it on the web where everyone can watch it. That would be supersweet if it’s doable.
– When does Google consider widgets spammy? I talked about the spectrum of why people make links and that being toward the editorial + informed end was better. At the other end are things like web counters with hidden links to spammy sites. Some of the criteria that I mentioned included whether the links were hidden in the widget, how off-topic the widget was (a zombie-themed widget pointing to pay day loans and cash advance sites would be pretty off-topic), whether the target of the links went back to the original widget location or to some completely different third party, whether the anchortext was simple (“”) vs. spammy or keyword stuffed, whether the publisher received clear disclosure that the widget would include extra links (burying the disclosure that a widget would include links down in subsection 29a, paragraph 5 would be poor disclosure), the number of links in the widget, etc.
– Search results in search results. The less value-add there is to a search result url, the less our users like it. Users typically don’t want to see search results from other web search engines in our search results, for example. But search results of different types of data (e.g. civil war property records) would be more likely to be of use to searchers.
– Whether Mahalo is closer to a search engine or closer to a content play.
Google’s definition of cloaking, plus how that’s different from IP delivery and geolocation.
– Whether Google has different types of penalties (yes, we do).
– Whether people should bother with PageRank sculpting. I reiterated Shari Thurow’s point that if you design your information and site architecture well, it’s not something that you need to worry about at all. This was considered an advanced conference, so I didn’t shut the door on the idea completely, but I did try to get across that there’s an opportunity cost to sculpting and that the vast majority of people would get more benefit from spending their time working on making their site more compelling (so they got more links/PageRank) rather than obsessing about how to move around the PageRank that they have.
– Someone asked “How does it feel to be the moral compass of Google?” (or maybe it was for SEO). On one level, it’s flattering to be asked that, but I disagreed with the premise of the question. I pointed out that Danny can usually predict what stance I’m going to take on an issue, for example. In most cases, an SEO already knows whether a tactic is really useful to users, so they don’t need to hear my take on a particular issue. I found a video of my answer to the SEO moral compass question. Anybody know of other videos from the keynote?

Another favorite moment: I took a fleece jacket with me up to Seattle. Good thing too, because it was rainy and chilly at times. I walked up to one person from the conference at the taxi stand of the conference hotel. The first thing she said was “Oh, you have cats?” πŸ™‚ That cat hair is hard to remove from fleece.

Let’s see, what else did I like? I knew that one of the panels was going to discuss “white-hat cloaking” (which is an oxymoron in Google websearch), so we took some time to provide more information about how Google defines cloaking — we also revised a bunch of other documentation.

What was bad?

This year a lot more black hat material leaked into the regular conference sessions. Lots of people seemed to notice. Danny did a reflective post about this. He also left a comment on Lisa’s original thread that said “The conference had content that was far more blackhat that I would have liked to have seen. …. Yes, it is useful for people to understand the blackhat world. But there’s more to advanced than blackhat, and I wanted a lot more of that to be shown.”

I’m not going to rehash the debate, because it’s been well-covered in other places. But I will pass along some feedback from a couple people I talked to. I chatted with one person in the conference hotel. The paraphrased conversation was along the lines of “I’m an inhouse SEO, and if I tried some of the stuff suggested in those panels, I’d be looking for a new job.” I chatted with someone else who was attending their first search conference. They essentially said (paraphrasing again) “It was really discouraging to hear one person say ‘If you need to lie to get links, do it.’ I appreciated hearing the opposite viewpoint during the Q&A session. It struck a chord with me to hear you arguing that SEO should be a legitimate industry and that the long-term view is the better approach.”

So I did feel that the black hat material was a mismatch for much of the audience (inhouse SEOs and people doing their first search conference). At one point I felt like I’d stumbled back into 2003, when the search conferences had official panels about topics like cloaking. From that perspective, several panels of the conference felt like a step backwards. On the bright side, I think Nate Buggia from Microsoft re-worked a fair amount of his developer-day presentation on the second day to talk about all the lower-risk ways to improve your site architecture without cloaking. Again, I think the blacker tint of this conference was mostly unintentional, and my hope is that Danny will continue to tweak and tune SMX Advanced in the future.


I enjoyed talking to fellow Kentuckian Mike McDonald for a ten minute interview. We even got a chance to discuss the new Google favicon.

I did a 20-25 minute interview with Eric Enge. Eric is getting that transcribed now and I’ll add a link when he posts the interview.

I also did an interview with Brier Dudley for quite a while on the phone. Brier struck me as quite a sharp guy. The SEO industry can be a bit incomprehensible even for seasoned journalists who have done their homework. I may end up reading Brier as much as I read Mathew Ingram, which is a lot.

This wasn’t an interview, but I had a really good time talking to Colin Cochrane. Check out Colin’s site to see how he nearly yoinked the Google algorithm from me. Later on I managed to retrieve the algorithm and in its place I left some pocket lint and a blank piece of paper. Muhaha! πŸ™‚

39 Responses to SMX Advanced 2008 Wrap-up (Leave a comment)

  1. Matt,

    “β€œI’m an inhouse SEO, and if I tried some of the stuff suggested in those panels, I’d be looking for a new job.” ”

    Glad you have had a chance to talk some In-House SEOs. And thanks for your honest Wrap-up.

    I guess most of us In-House SEO are abiding search engines quality guidelines because we aim at long term achievements and care and respect our employers sites. Moreover, we don’t wish to harm the works of our webdevelopers and designers.

    Who knows. GOOG might sponser any future In-House SEOs Conference πŸ™‚

  2. Great summary posts here and earlier Matt.
    Hey, you saved me $1500!

  3. Hi Matt,

    “- Whether Google has different types of penalties (yes, we do).”

    Why do you have penalties at all?

    The problem with penalties is they open up new avenues for exploitation. Wouldn’t it be better to just disregard the benefit of any activities that you are currently penalising for.

    For example if you find that someone is buying links, at the moment you penalise him and the selling site. What if he didn’t buy those links but a competitor did so he got penalised? If you just disregarded them there would be no possible exploit for the competitor.

    Also you penalty thresholds appear to be US focused. In the UK we operate at less than 10 percent of the US. If someone in the UK goes out and buys a few hundred links you don’t apply a penalty because you have much bigger problems in the US, But for folks in the UK, both users and site owners this is a problem. Your thresholds are too high. But if you just disregarded dodgy links then it would apply at any scale, there would be no threshold for a penalty to apply.

    In my niche for the most important 2 word term we have a site that has bought links from off topic sites, I can’t prove it but it is obvious if you compare what they have with what an 8 year old site that was #1 for most of that time has built up organically, and Google has rewarded them with #1 slot and because they have links out to on topic sites, has given them site links so they dominate the serps. Those external links are to affiliate fee and commission paying sites.

    I 150% support you in your fight against spam. FWIW I think that on the whole you do a fantastic job but users and ethical quality site owners need more protection from spam and I don’t believe that penalties is the way to go. It is just causing more, different problems.

    Best wishes


  4. Yep — working on getting that video out there, Matt!

  5. You made a good point in your interview with Brier Dudley, that is that there will always be a place for SEO. See the SEO business is about 10 years old. This is a young industry, and it has taken about ten years for google to separate the wheat from the chaff. At this point many people are calling for the end of SEO as it seems like the only thing you can do is create relevant content. Any attempts to fool the SERPs will only hurt you. But in my opinion this is where it takes real creativity and intellect to get good results without cheating. A really good SEO will think of ways which is relevant and honest which will attract people to their clients sites. Its like in school, the kids that cheated were never the smart ones.

  6. Great post and summary of the event. I hated that I did not have the option of going this time, but there’s always next year.

    I know how it is with cats as my wife and I have 2 cats and whatever we have that’s black ALWAYS shows their cat hair no matter how many times you lint roll yourself. πŸ™‚

  7. Matt, I enjoyed the chat that you & I had at the conference and look forward to seeing you at SES San Jose (I’m guessing you’ll be there?).

  8. Bummer!!!! No link love from Matt once again to my blog.

    [mini rant]
    Matt provides all sorts of link love to all the other SEO’s in this post but for me he sends my link love to YouTube instead of my blog post. πŸ™
    Really not that big of a deal, but it just makes me feel that I am not a part of the SEO community.
    I really am not an SEO, I just play one on TV.
    [/mini rant]

  9. Matt,

    Nice joining you for the ‘Anything But Spam’ topic for lunch! The conference was loads of fun and you will soon see the Mily Vanily post on our blog πŸ˜›

    Speaking of youth and this Chat/IM generation, I’m the perfect example of how this is taking effect. Soon nothing will be shocking and everything will happen instantly and with little to no thought of consequence. Maybe it’s for the best.

    I look forward to seeing you in New York (SMX East).


  10. Being an in house SEO, I have to agree that some tactics covered at SMX, I would never even consider.

    However, hearing from the darker side was beneficial. I now see SPAM from my competition more than just a nuisance.

    I filed the BH issue under, ‘good to know’.

    Thanks Danny and Matt for keeping it all in perspective. You both are excellent role models. You provide logical and easy to understand guidelines for all SEOs, in and out.

  11. Phil, we work towards covering as much spam as possible in our algorithms, but when people complain to us about off-topic porn for their name, they wouldn’t be very happy to hear “We think we might know a way to spot that with an algorithm, so we’ll get back to you in a month or two.” If you think a competitor is buying links, definitely feel free to mention it to us though: and we’ll check it out. But we do work very hard to keep site A from hurting site B in different ways.

    Danny, glad to hear that there will be an official video soon!

    Mark, nice points. I think most people understand that SEO != spam in the search industry. Brier asked a slightly different question, which was “Would the world be better off if no one did SEO and left all the ranking optimization completely up to search engines?” That’s a fun topic to think about, but in reality it’s a moot point because people will always be polishing their site for users and search engines.

    Todd, right now I’m planning to be on a panel at SES San Jose. It was good to see you too.

    Dave Dugdale, consider that the lesson learned for trying to get me/other SEOs to link to you by fake-killing me in a video. πŸ™‚ You don’t have to try that hard for the link or it can backfire. If it makes you feel better, I consider us on level ground now. πŸ™‚

    Tyler (and Ben and everyone else I shared lunch with), it was a really good time.

  12. It struck a chord with me to hear you arguing that SEO should be a legitimate industry and that the long-term view is the better approach.

    This quote from the in-house SEO says more than anything else ever could. Believe it or not, this just led to an epiphany on my part. Thanks, Matt.

  13. Matt,

    In your last post, you asked:
    “Scott, what’s the issue you’re trying to get addressed?”
    I replied but you haven’t answered. Can you at least confirm that you have my email address and may email me with any further that you can share?

  14. Nice details Matt –

    I guess it does seem pretty pointless for a company to send their inhouse SEO to a conference to learn tactics that would hurt the company.

    It is beneficial to know what goes on though and I’m sure some of the blackhat material was helpful in one-way or another. I read that a lot of whitehats learn most from studying blackhat tactics but??

  15. Well, I wouldn’t say it’s pointless for companies to send in their employees to attend the conference because of the black hat content (I’m sure I really wanted to go), since even though we cannot and should not use any of those tactics, it’s always nice to know what your competitors might be doing to gain on you.

    There are plenty of grey hat/black hat stuff going on in the industry that my company is in, and sometimes it’s pretty frustrating knowing that your effort got beat by things like that.

    It’s very unfortunate that I live in Canada and could not attend the show, but from all the reviews and debates about the conference, it seems like a very informative and entertaining conference.

  16. Matt, I appreciate your blog in general and this recount of SMX.

    Your mention of an SEO/developer with a picture of you on his blog – it’s a comic picture – reminds me of something I’ve been wondering about. Don’t you find it a little weird that so many SEO consultants have pictures of you on their websites? It’s like having a picture of you validates them as an SEO professional. Like they are using a picture of them posing with you to show potential clients that they are plugged in to the search industry and in the know about the latest SEO tips and tricks.

  17. Jayson

    “I read that a lot of whitehats learn most from studying blackhat tactics but??”

    You shouldn’t believe all what you read πŸ™‚

    There is nothing of value or new for a Whitehat to learn from those lazy blackhats spammers.

    And you don’t need to travel to a conference to read about what the blackhats do. Those blackhats suffer of lack of confidence. Therefore they post on their blogs and forums the spam methods they are using, just to get their supporters attention. Blackhats need attention all the time, you know πŸ˜‰

  18. Matt, thanks for being Google’s ambassador to the search community. It was a pleasure to meet you @ SMX.

  19. Harith: To add to your point, the real black hats aren’t going to be sharing any secrets either. If they can actually game the system to get top position for ultra-competitive phrases, they aren’t going to tell anyone else how to do it.

  20. I just going to be completely honest in my post, I’m not even sure if this is the right arena but I’m going to voice my concerns

    I work for a search/digital agency, we are completely white-hat, we don’t buy links, we try to create useful content that people will naturally link to…

    Even though we do this, currently we cannot compete in the SERPS, because so many sites using black-hat techniques are still there
    (ranking highly for key terms), and most have been there well over a year.

    I’m considering moving on from my company, due completely because of this fact. I’m the one who bears the brunt of this. What am I meant to tell my clients? That Google will penalise them? I’ve been waiting months for them to do so (I do report these sites)

    I’m at my wits ends.

    I wonder if theres anyone out there in the same position?

    I’m sorry if this post comes across as ranting or whining, I just don’t know what else to do

  21. Sounds as if the conference was pretty good. I guess my question is, is pay-per-blog as a form of keyword link building considered black hat. A company I worked with before bought into this service for some very competitive keywords and noticed a pretty quick benefit. The blogs wrote articles related to the keywords and to the site they linked to. However, I felt that my boss was doing something shady. I know link exchanges and the such go against Google’s TOS, or developer’s guidelines, but what about the pay-per-blog scheme?

  22. I liked SMX Advanced, learned a lot. I felt like a yo-yo after listening to the morning “white hat” cloaking session and then yours in the afternoon. I think I got it… cloaking=bad, conditional redirects=bad, lunch=good

  23. Dave (Original)

    Harith: To add to your point, the real black hats aren’t going to be sharing any secrets either. If they can actually game the system to get top position for ultra-competitive phrases, they aren’t going to tell anyone else how to do it.

    Blackhats can fool some of the people at Google some of the time, but they cannot fool all people at Google all of the time.

    Rather than sleeping with one-eye-open and shunning away from the lime light, build sites for HUMANS and any “SEO” takes care of itself………………………………lomg term. Why? Simply because Google rewards sites built for Humans and punishes those built for SEs.

    Humans use Google, not machines.

  24. That’s a great post Dave. It’s something so simple and easy to understand, but yet, it’s something so many people seem to not get. If that way of building websites did not work, how the heck could some of us be doing it that way for over ten years?

    Here’s what that conference could have taught;

    “Sit back. Relax. Kick your feet up. Wash your mind of everything. Repeat this 1000 times: Build your site for your visitors and use your God Given common sense doing so.”

    There it is. That’s what “Advanced SEO” is. Really.

    It’s one of those things where the majority just have to think there is some magic formula or a top ten list of things to do, etc, where in reality, it is truly the above.

  25. I agree, the lunch was one the best things at SMX. Thanks for taking the time to sit and talk with us Matt. I’m the guy from West Liberty, Kentucky. In the photo I’m sitting on your left in the brown shirt with white stripes next to Stephan Spencer. The food, snacks, and Starbucks coffee at SMX were great. Maybe you can get Danny to get some Ale-8 next time.

    There’s been a lot of talk about SMX Advanced being a lot of black hat stuff. Maybe Danny could sphinn the Organic SEO track in a different way and show us some things to stay away from or things our competitors could be doing to us. Just a thought.

    Go Big Blue!

  26. I think that it is wrongheaded to denigrade a conference on Search Engine Optimization for having an increasing amount of information on black hat or gray hat methods.

    While I do not intend to argue on behalf of one technique or another here, I think that it is essential that our conferences have a strong mix of all techniques. Whether conference goers like it or not, their competitors are using techniques that run the full range of black-hat to white-hat, and knowledge of those techniques – their risks and rewards – is intrinsically valuable.

    I believe that there is actually a positive rebirth in the Search Engine Optimization community, one that is neither the maverick (and charlatan) of the early years, nor the risk averse SEOs of late. The rebirth is one where SEOs look at search rankings as a scientific problem which can be improved upon with the addition of certain stimuli. Those stimuli have risks and rewards which can and ought to be measured – regardless of the stigma associated with them.

    Not only do I believe it to be healthy, I believe it to be necessary. The vast majority of “Advanced White-Hat Strategies” such as exhaustive keyword discovery, Page-Rank sculpting via nofollow siloing and ball-linking, etc. offer little to no Return on Investment for the average website owner. These techniques are valuable only to large, established websites and networks where the application can be scaled across thousands if not tens of thousands of pages. Mom and Pop will never recoup the thousands in conference fees or consulting fees they needed to afford this type of information.

    But learning how to use social bookmarking to acquire a set of 50+ backlinks to their site, certainly a gray-hat technique, could be enough to push them up a couple spots for that local niche term they have been targetting. Will it cause the company any harm? No. Unequivocally, no. Maybe Google will devalue the links one day. Maybe even immediately. But it will not cause harm because doing so would make it too easy to Googlebowl.

    I am not saying that everyone should go out and buy a copy of XRumer. What I am saying is that any conference that ignores these techniques, or only speaks of them in passing, derogatory remarks, is a conference that is not worth attending.

  27. Dave (Original)

    Thanks, Doug πŸ™‚

    IMO, SEO=Myth and has done for many Years now. I can see why Google keeps the “Myth” alive and kicking though, but totally confused why one Google department fights SE spam, while another sponsors it teaching???????????

  28. PS: You are welcome Matt. I am guessing by the end of the next week you will rank in the top 10 for the mispelling of the word “Denigrate”. But of course, we wouldn’t want to let the cat out of the bag that posting fake comments to your own blog with mispelling is a great way to get extra traffic without tarnishing your sites reputation. Those types of gray-hat techniques are too dangerous to employ, right?

  29. Dave (Original)

    Misspellings have never held any true benefit, just another fallacy of “SEO”. Google already factors in typos and show results based on the correct spelling and even suggests the correct spelling.

    I would rather target the correct spelling of any word, regardless. Unless you really want an extra 2 illiterate visitors per day.

  30. Once again, Dave, another reason why Black Hat information needs to be shared at the conferences. You have clearly drunk the Google Kool Aid.

    First off, to prove you wrong immediately, look at the mispelling of Denigrate, which I spelled as Denigrade. Google has not corrected this mispelling, thus pages with incidental use of the word Denigrade in them are ranking…

    It is not a “fallacy” of SEO, but it is not as simple as filling a page with mispellings.

    First, you need to determine whether or not the mispelling is searched.
    Second, you check Google / Yahoo / MSN to see if they auto-correct the mispelling.
    Third, inject that word onto your page in a method that does not appear to make you look illiterate.

    And, unfortunately, you greatly underestimate the value of 2 illiterate visitors per day. If I do that ever work day for a year, that is 400+ new visitors per day. Multiply that by 365 and a 2.5% conversion rate on a product which brings you a profit of $10 per sale and you have just made a nice $36,500. That is a decent salary on mispellings alone.

    This is what I am talking about folks – people are believing the hype without actually doing research. They are calling things “myths”, “fallacies”, or worse when, in reality, many of these things are actually working better than ever BECAUSE there is so little competition due to the pervasiveness of unresearched rumors like the one you present above.

    Please, take some time and do some experimentation – even test out some black hat methods. Stop reading Matt Cutt’s blog to get all of your knowledge and start doing some science.

  31. Matt,

    I was curious what would happen to the rankings of my post that I titled “Matt Cutts Take On Fabricated Link Bait video”.

    The YouTube video of your session links back to my original blog post.

    YouTube now ranks #1 for “Matt Cutts Take On Fabricated Link Bait video”.
    Sphinn ranks #2
    RentVine ranks #3

    It appears Google favors link juice over the original source.

  32. Dave (Original)

    Russ Jones, it’s always easy to find an exception to a rule and use that exception to prove a silly point. If you think that example is the norm, good luck…..

    And, unfortunately, you greatly underestimate the value of 2 illiterate visitors per day. If I do that ever work day for a year, that is 400+ new visitors per day. Multiply that by 365 and a 2.5% conversion rate on a product which brings you a profit of $10 per sale and you have just made a nice $36,500. That is a decent salary on mispellings alone.

    LOL! While you are off chasing shadows, I’ll be chasing a REAL ROI πŸ™‚ You cleary have your head in the clouds…………..or somewhere a lot darker πŸ˜‰

  33. Thanks for your response Dave. And yes, it is not the norm, but the exceptions are where we can find exceptional ROI. This is just one of hundreds of “tricks” that webmasters can use to build sites with substantial traffic without needing to employ the big guns (the kind of expensive professional SEO which my company and I deliver to those who can afford it every day).

    But, let me be a little direct.

    There is not always an exception to every rule. That my friend, IS a myth. If there are exceptions, it is no longer a rule. That rule is now, at most, part of a larger, more nuanced rule.

    Blackhats have a knack for discovering that nuance and exploiting it for their own good. Whitehats can learn from that exploitation and, instead, use more subtle techniques to take advantage of blackhat discovered nuances.

    Or, of course, you could just assume that there is no nuance. Paid links are bad. Mispellings don’t work. Sitemaps are good, and anything that works better is black hat, unethical, and not REAL ROI.

    The truth is, the guys who are making the REAL ROI are not you, who believes in and uses white-hat, not me who must use white-hat, but the blackhatters which continue to churn and burn sites into oblivious.

  34. Dave (Original)

    Russ, sorry mate, you haven’t a clue. Some of use don’t need “tricks” to get traffic. In fact, we build pages for real live humans with good informative & unique content. As such, we get true quality traffic from real money terms that don’t have an imaginary ROI.

    Cat & mouse games with Google have about the same potential as a Moth flying around a light globe.

    Optimize pages/sites for humans and the Google algo guessing games are simply not needed.

    Good luck with your “tricks” πŸ™‚

  35. Matt, it is normal that people talk about black hat, and there is nothing strange about many people trying to go black hat.

    Let’s be fair, we – people with sites and blogs – always would like to get more traffic from Google. And it is only Google that can stop us from doing really bad thing.

    Let me give an example. I purchased 3rd party solution that works with YouTube videos and embeds them into a site. Everything was great for a while (traffic and money), but then the site got kicked off from Google index. And then it turned out (when I nailed the vendor) that around 9 from 10 THEIR sites with this solution also get kicked off.

    So, evidently somewhere with this solution I crossed the line with Google and they did what they should – deindexed me. But there are no strict rules about what to do and not to do with Google, just general guidelines. And I understand why there are no strict rules – because this will give away Google algo.

    This huge passage was aimed at one thing. Sometimes, even after we read the Google webmasters’ guidelines, we do not know if doing this or that will be a black hat. That is why it is absolutely ok to talk about black hat SEO stuff, discuss it, say what works and what not. And you – Google – just need to stop us from crossing the line.

    Basically, this is what you do and I hope keep doing, without ruining the general idea of making the Web a better place.

  36. I’ve got to get to an SMX conference.
    I’m surprised that anyone is touting black hat techniques. Didn’t anyone learn anything from the last five years? Maybe the ones pushing it have never been penalized or simply don’t have enough time in the industry to have learned.

  37. If Google doesn’t come down on grey hat practices hard soon everyone will be doing it and it will become the norm.

    I’m in a position now where all around me are doing one or more of these; buying links, using css to re-order their pages so Googlebot has a different idea of what the page is about than a user, hiding links in noscript areas etc etc. I’ve reported a few of these things but I’ve never seen any action. So I’m now in a dilemma. If the only way to compete is to go grey should I do it. I know that even if I’m reported by a competitor Google won’t do anything about it so there’s no risk.

    Occasionally a site will rise near or above me and I think how the heck have they suddenly done that after languishing on page 2 for 3 years. Over to Y site-explorer and sure enough there are thousands of links with the same or almost exactly the same anchor text on every page of a few off topic US blogs and forums even though the product is very UK specific. And this just pushes me nearer to following suit.

    Oh and I should say that the UK geo filter even adds to the rewards that Google gives to these slightly dodgy practices.

    The point is that Google is causing its own problems as webmasters react to the reality of what they see every day.

    I don’t envy you your job.



  38. According to Analytics, Search sent 616 visits via keywords containing a misspelling of my city in the last 30 days.

    Whether misspellings matter depends on your keyword. For me, it is a matter of typos. People frequently mistype my city’s name. It is not a dictionary word. It’s a proper noun. It’s not that people are illiterate, but the word is just easy to mistype. (And it’s always mistyped the same way.)

    People need to just look at their analytics and decide if misspellings matter to their specific situation.

    If you optimize your site for people, and people misspell your target keyword…

  39. This is a question to Google in general. I just read this and really want to understand the reason the search engines would agree to something like this?

    “The only β€œclosed” session was β€œGive it Up!” where the panel told their inside secrets. The attendees and panelists swore an oath to stay silent or to have their souls doomed to the Google Sandbox if any of the information was revealed for the next 30 days. That included agreement by Google, Yahoo! and Microsoft Live Search. The search engine giants swore to not β€œfix” any loopholes that were divulged. And, some of the tactics revealed where borderline black hat SEO techniques. Fortunately, there were some solid, clean white hat SEO tips divulged as well.”

    Is this totally true? I would like to know please. Thanks.