Best of SMX Advanced 2009

SMX Advanced was fantastic. Here’s the best of the best …

Best lines:

  • Christine Churchill: “Anybody in this room not on Twitter? One person? Wow, let’s all applaud the last holdout.”
  • Matt Cutts when asked “how do I know if I’m getting penalized?” : “If you disappear from Google. That’s what we call a leading indicator.”
  • Danny Sullivan: “How many of you enjoyed Microsoft’s party last night? OK, today you each need to do 100 searches to pay for it.”
  • Danny: (to Qi Lu, MSFT’s pres of search) “You can tell us if you’re really going to buy Y!’s search assets. We won’t tell anybody.”
  • Danny: “How many of you have used Bing?” (a lot of hands) “Oh, how many of you haven’t used Bing?” (about 5 hands) (To Qi: ) “OK, so you’re spending $80 billion to convince him.”
  • Adam Audette: “Doing site audits are great, because you always find something that makes you think ‘that’s a new way fail'” (man, how come a guy named Audette does audits, and a guy name Grey does grey hat stuff? Did their names influence their futures?)
  • Greg Boser: “I can’t wait until my daughter is in college so I can get my hands on her edu account. We chose her college based on domain value.”
  • Danny: (Riffing while reading a Question): “Here’s a question from Steve. I’m trying to rebrand our Website. It was called …”
  • Todd Friesen: “The most exciting new thing about search? Real Time search, Twitter search. It’s so exciting, so spammable.”
  • George Markel: “I’m going to go way back. Pre-Twitter.”

Liveliest session:

  • Danny moderating Rand, Laura, and Marty. That was fun. Marty forgot to do the Obi Won hand movement when telling Matt Cutts “this is not buying links.” Also great stuff at the session, especially Rand’s lessons on which factors correlate best with SEO success. (See Lisa Barone’s great recap).

Best takeaways:

  • Matt Cutts: PR sculpting used to work. It doesn’t any more. If you NoFollow a link, you no longer shift the power to the page’s other links, the power just evaporates. Update: At the SEO Vets session, the consensus was Don’t Panic, and Don’t Change Anything.
  • Matt Cutts: If you’re doing clever things that might look spammy, try to use a recognized implementation. For example, if you’re displaying some text only on mouse-over, use a standard implementation so we don’t mistake it for trickery.
  • Laura Lippay: You need 2 parallel SEO teams: technical and strategic.  For strategy: “The best ranking factor you can have is a hot product.” (Of course, I’m always thrown by the way Yahoo! attends this conference with their Content people that are trying to rank, not with their Search people. I don’t even think their ad people were here. Contrast this to Google, and to Microsoft).

Best visual points made:

  • Michael Gray preceded his grey hat techniques with a disclaimer slide that this was for entertainment and educational purposes only.
  • Danny showing the value of old links by Googling “search engine.” Dogpile comes up #1. Google is #7. On Bing, Dogpile is also #1, Danny’s site is #5, and neither Google nor Bing are in the top 10. (On Yahoo!, BTW, Y! is #1, Google #2). Danny followed this up with a search for toothpaste … “Wikipedia is number 1, because that’s the law … but look down here, number 10 on this very competitive term is an ugly 10 year old page from a Nebraska family dentist…”

Best running gag:

  • Danny repeatedly gloating that we could now easily decide questions like “should I attend this session” with Bing, the new decision engine. Danny also liked showing Bing’s superiority when it ranked his pages higher than Google did.

Best bogus stat & syllogism:

  • It went something like this …78% of internet users have watched an online video. The average amount of time spent watching video is over 3 hours. So it’s obviously a big marketing tool. …. Umm … but “average” probably meant “arithmetic mean.” And “watching video” probably probably includes pirated movies, porn, etc. So a small percentage of users watching lots of non-marketing videos completely skew those numbers. You’ve given me no information about how well a video listing will serve as a marketing tool.

Best “telling it like it is:”

  • Matt effectively said “We don’t tell you what to do, you can do whatever you want to, it’s your site. But we can do whatever we want to on our site to best serve our users.”

Best blog coverage of these sessions:

  • Lisa Barone doing a fantastic job covering the SEO track at Outspoken Media
  • Richard Baxter nice & detailed coverage, also of the SEO track, at SEOGadget
  • Angie doing a great job, mostly on the Social Media track at ExpertSEM

Best tweet:

  • @toddmintz Playing Talking Heads “Road To Nowhere” before Microsoft keynote…incredible symbolism at play 🙂 [hat tip to Lisa Barone] — Which I guess would make playing Road to Nowhere before the Bing keynote the Best Foreshadowing.

Biggest missed opportunity:

  • Microsoft does their big launch, sends a big delegation, makes a big party, lighting up the Space Needle. And then they send their president of search to do the big keynote interview. Which sounds like a good idea, but it wasn’t. He may be the world’s greatest manager. But dude, send somebody else to be your face to the search professionals community.

Best turning a bug into a feature:

  • Facebook’s pitch: “Get them before they search.” Right. Because scattershot targeting of people who might want my service sounds so much more effective than getting the right people while they’re actually searching for my service.

Best surprise applause:

  • Derrick Wheeler: “The hard part about SEO is getting it implemented.” Apparently a lot of frustration in the room judging by the spontaneous applause. Derrick followed up with “And that’s why you should vote for me,” before also mentioning that people often budget for the audit but not for the implementation, so you pay the SEO geniuses and you get nothing. On a related note, Derrick would have been a much better choice to give the MSFT keynote. Some executives are world class presenters. Some aren’t. You wouldn’t let somebody write code unless they have the talent for it. Same has to be true about giving presentations.

Best no show

  • Yahoo! search isn’t here. Y! search advertising isn’t here. Y! doesn’t have a booth downstairs. Laura Lippay from Y!’s Content team is here, but I think that’s it. And I don’t think anybody’s noticed — wait, Danny Sullivan did (I guess he should notice these things). Danny just pointed out that Y! seems to be positioning themselves out of the search space. Uh … OK. Good post by Danny. Microsoft & Y! refuse to be #2 in the world’s most lucrative space, so they’re positioning themselves out of the space. Good luck, guys.

Best ways to improve next SMX

  • More electricity outlets. I know Danny said it’s expensive, but this was ridiculous, people like vultures trying to snag an outlet. (I had to keep shutting down, and scavenging for abandoned outlets). More electricity outlets will get you more live blogging, more tweeting, etc., and generally happier and less frustrated customers. Spring for the extra outlets, guys.
  • Why don’t you make the Matt Cutts interview more than 45 minutes? It’s the highlight of the show, and everybody (including Matt and Danny) seems ready for more.

Quick wrap-up:

It was a great conference. They have enough funny, brilliant, charismatic and exciting people to make this work. Most of the sessions soared. Well done, guys.