Some of the Distilled team was lucky enough to be present for the awesome SEOmoz Pro Training Seminars here in Seattle. Feedback from the event is overwhelmingly positive amongst all attendees, and the Distilled folks are no exception.
In chatting with some of the attendees I noticed that many people made strong connections with various particular seminars for all sorts of reasons. So to get some insight into what the present Distilled members thought, I asked them all:
- What seminar they liked the most, and why?
- How might they change their processes to take advantage of what was said?
I loved Seth Besmertnik's presentation on scaling your SEO team. In particular, the idea of pushing your clients towards P&L across organic traffic - and away from the concept of today's organic traffic being free tomorrow. I'm definitely going to be thinking more about that angle.
It was also the first time I met Wil Reynolds face to face and saw him speak. I loved his enthusiasm and took away a bunch of tips about things we need to start tracking in order to be able to analyse issues across clients and predict upcoming changes.
I'm loving the conference - lots of very entertaining speakers and some good actionable tips and insights. For me, the most useful takeaway is from Seth which is that the best way to get buy-in for large scale SEO is to start small and hustle to shift the needle and once you have some small successes you're in a much better position to get buy-in from management and other departments.
It's only half way through day 2 when I'm writing this but I'm really looking forward to Will's sexy reporting - there's been a lot of talk from lots of different angles on creating reports, from seo audits to analytics reports and insights so I think this should be a key takeaway from the conference too.
There was definitely some excitement around the description for Ben Hendrickson's session, which promized that he would "pull back the curtain on a new way to rank higher." So - what did he deliver? Ben showed off his research on a 'topic relevancy function' called LDA - it's essentially gives an estimate of how relevant a page of content is to a particular term. Is this useful? The initial data collected showed that for any search term, the LDA score of the top twenty pages was correlated to their ranking position - and that this correlation was potentially even stronger than many of the link-metrics which SEOmoz has already shown to be indicative of how well a site will rank.
To help us get our heads around this, there's a new topic relevancy tool in SEOmoz's Labs, which allows you to assess the relevancy of a particular page (or block of text) to a particular topic / keyphrase. You can add or remove text from a a page's contents, and see how this affects the topic relevancy score. (Higher scores mean better relevancy, and correlate with a better ranking for that term.)
Is this important? Is this really a hidden technique that we can use? Well, this is by no means saying this is a be-all-and-end-all of SEO; links are still terribly important and clearly a big factor in the ranking algorithms. However, time will tell - we'll see more information on ranking correlation soon, but it will be interesting to see if anyone thinks they've benefited from optimizing their page content to improve LDA score. You'll be hearing a lot more about this topic, I'm sure...
I am going to be up front and say that I haven't gotten to attend as much as I would have liked. Clients need tending to after all. I have attended some awesome sessions though. One was Dan Zarella's coverage of Twitter success and a few points like staying positive. I also enjoyed the update about a space that few understand fully, Local. David Mihm is still the King of Local and gave us a great update on the space from a holistic perspective.
The best presenters so far have been our very own Rob Ousbey and Joanna Lord. They are always a joy to listen to, and I get to hear their wonderful senses of humor everyday. That is what makes work that much better.
The most thought provoking content bit was Marshall Simmonds comment about the rel=canonical passing less juice than traditional 301 redirects. While I believe him that it could be possible, I still hold that each has a different purpose and therefore businesses should choose what to use in terms of usability rather than link passing ability. In the end, direct links are best no matter what.
I am sorry to miss Will's presentation later today (it's mid-day Tuesday) but I can't wait for the festivities tonight. The party that SEOmoz throws can be the best source of information at any conference. Have I mentioned I met the guys at Distilled 2 years ago at such a party? Good things come from the oddest places, like bowling alleys.
As I sat down at my first conference on Monday morning, I sipped my coffee and felt very impressed by the talent and knowledge surrounding me, not to mention slightly in awe of the number of Tweets and emails being furiously typed in the few moments before Rand kicked things off.
Lindsay Wassell's talk on SEO audits was fantastic. I am in sales at Distilled and we have been seeing a growing interest in audits lately, so it was great to see a typical schedule for an audit broken down. I appreciated her thoughtful ideas on letting things marinate over lunch or a coffee break to think about and examine your approach to ensure you are on the best track. I think everyone can use this tip.
"You pitch when you educate" from the Presentation Off between Will and Rand hit home with me. I am not an SEO, but I sell SEO and this point only amplified my interest in learning all I can. No one wants to hear a sales pitch, they want you to listen to and understand their issues. For the remainder of the conference, I soaked up as many insights and tips as I could to educate myself from the best in the business.
I loved Marshall Simmonds' presentation on big site architecture, mainly because I've never (and may never) experience that set of issues. So much of SEO ability comes from experience, and having him share the trials and tribulations of a gigantic site like the New York Times provides awesome insight. Marshall spoke about the difficulty the NYtimes.com has in keeping articles fresh and properly indexed, as well as the duplicate content issues that the site faces (I believe he said that each article may have up to 500 different versions). He recognized that while the rel=canonical tag isn't the best solution, it provides the most value when considering the effort it would take to correct these duplicate problems at the source.
You can view the power point presentations for all of the seminars over at SEOmoz.
London Pro Seminar
In case you've missed it, Distilled is hosting our very own pro SEO seminar in London on the 25th and 26th of October and we'd be delighted if you came! Last year's event was a huge success and this year promises to be even better. We've assembled some of the top SEO minds to share some of their best strategies and ideas with you, so sign up now!