SEO in 2011: What’s working, what’s not

Packed room for SEO in 2011 here at SMX London. Delayed start due to technical difficulties. What’s not working? The microphone. Fixed. We’re on.

Mikkel deMib Svendsen leads it off.

Best SEO Strategy ever: optimize for users, not engines.

In the 90s algos were simple, indexes were small, only on-site factors, and easy to reverse engineer. Very poor, if any, spam detection, with few people and weak technology.

That’s when SEO was born. It worked temporarily. It doesn’t work today.

Algos are very complex, dynamic, local, and personal. Indexes are huge and competition is high. Very difficult to reverse engineer.

Spam protection is much better. Large teams, advanced technologies. Tricks work for much shorter time. May still be worth it in some industries, but it’s a much harder game.

Search engines just want to give users what they want.

Don’t reverse engineer the algo. Work towards what the engines are trying to do.

Example: Social is a great signal. We knew the engines would use them eventually. Sites that focus on what the engines want to do were ahead of the curve with social, unaffected by Panda, etc.

[This is the whitest hat presentation I’ve ever heard by anybody not named Cutts or Fox].

In conclusion, chasing the algo can be fun. I still enjoy it, for the science of it, for the geeky fun of it. [He probably also reads Playboy for the articles]. If you’re not in the PPC industries (Pills, Porn, and Casinos) don’t go there.

People try to reverse engineer, but they do it poorly, and they get bad results.

So focus on the users and stay ahead of the engines. This is the best SEO strategy I can offer you today, and tomorrow.

Next is Max Thomas, president of Thunder SEO.

Panda crushed some big sites like eZineArticles and Also hit smaller sites.

Let’s simplify the issue. We have a site, we need links. That’s not new. We need links from quality sites. That’s not new either. But now we need active URLs.

We need content, topical content. That’s not new. But it all has to be engaging. And Matt Cutts said that if you have too many pages that are not good you may want to remove them because they could be hurting your whole site. That’s new.

With Panda a lot of the more clever link strategies no longer apply.

We need Content that’s engaging, attracts users, that people want to link to and share.


1: Make the link building part of how you do business.

Example: Crest Capital. Provides equipment leasing. They work with vendors so they created a Vendor Badge. With a leasing app that helps the vendor. With a good anchor text link.

Does it work? Yes, they have far more unique domains and URLs of incoming links than their competitors.

2: Create community as part of your content strategy

Example: Pat Moore foundation. A rehab facility. How do they reach into their existing community and build more around it?

Announce official program inviting guest bloggers. They give content and they also put a badge on their own site identifying them as a guest blogger on Pat Moore’s site.

3: Don’t just rely on Google

Shows traffic source pie chart of two of his sites.

4: Experiment

You have to experiment, and you have to track.

5: Have Fun

Great content rocks.


And finally Christine Churchill from KeyRelevance.

How many of you love Google Instant? [Not one hand. But I probably would have raised my hand if I weren’t typing.]

She has a love hate relationship with it.

Google says they did it for the users. She thinks it’s a brilliant strategy to reduce server load.

It has a profound effect on how people search. Good titles work, people are scanning the titles more. [Chris said this too].

Google is looking for signals from the user. These are getting more and more important.

Google suggestions are influencing search queries and user behavior. The user may change what they query because of what Google shows while they’re searching. Pay attention to what shows up when people are typing their search queries.

The people who did all the right things were generally helped, not hurt, by Panda. Pay more attention to page layout & quality. Reduce number of ads. Deep original content. Authoritative authors.

How can Google tell if the content is shallow? Often they can. Sometimes through user signals.

High quality sites have certain user behavior characteristics:

  • Bookmarked
  • Shared / Liked
  • Less use of back button
  • Longer time on site

Long click (stay on the site) vs. Short Click (bounce right back) as ranking factor.

Google gave a list of questions to ask yourself about your site, including:

  • Too many ads?
  • Would you trust the site?

[Full list is here More guidance on building high-quality sites]

In the past a bad page only affected itself. Now it can affect your whole site.

Optimize for Local and Mobile. They’re getting more and more important.

If you were hit by Panda:

  • Diversify. Look at Bing, YouTube, flickr.
  • Optimize for numerous channels: videos, images, recipes, blogs, press releases .,,
  • Think about Pay Per Click

Emerging search signals:

  • Social media. Build your social base.
  • Retweets
  • Likes
  • Plus 1
  • Shares
  • Diggs
  • Reviews


  • Best practices still work.
  • Good titles more important
  • Focus on site quality
  • Look beyond Google
  • Build and optimize social media profiles
  • Participate in social media signals