Live from SMX Advanced: The Periodic Table of SEO: 2012 Edition

By Amanda Sides | Jun 5, 2012
More Articles by Amanda


Seattle

Kicking off this year’s SMX Advanced conference here in rainy Seattle, is a session on The Periodic Table of SEO, the 2012 Edition. (Periodic Table of SEO).

In this session, several reputable speakers walk us through some of the new ranking factors we’ll need to be paying attention to in the near future. Here’s what they had to say.

Chris Silver Smith, President, Argent Media (@si1very)

Quality score is becoming a major factor even in organic rankings this day in age, bringing page speed and the like into the equation as an influence on rankings. On the same topic, Chris says Google is looking to find a way to quantify whether a site is trustworthy or not. Some possible signals could be things like:

  • Having an About Us page, as many low-quality sites lack an About Us page.
  • Having a face for your company, such as pictures and information about your employees and executive team.
  • Having a Contact Us page, inviting users to reach out to the company directly.
  • Including Copyright statements, where spammy sites typically take content from others, and don’t have any copyright verbiage.
  • Including Author by-lines, putting a face and ownership on the content provided.
  • Providing trust seals and icons, giving users more trust and determining it’s a trustworthy site.
On top of the more obvious SEO factors, start optimizing your sites for usability and design in terms of user experience, as this could also be a ranking factor in the near future, if not already.

Jeff MacGurn, VP of SEO, Covario (@yerrbo)

Microformatting:

If you aren’t already, you should look into taking advantage of Rich Snippets. Rich Snippets are a type of microformatting that provides searchers with so much more usable content than in the past, allowing them to make better and quicker decisions on whether certain results are relevant to their needs.

Rich Snippets, such as recipe rich snippets, have been known to push results to the top of  SERPs, and also give searchers the option to filter within the SERPs to find recipes with specific ingredients, helping them again, make better and quicker decisions and get the content they need right away.

Linking:

After various experiments, Jeff has come to the conclusion that it may not really make that much of a difference whether you link with text “here” in a dofollow link, link with the same text, “here” in a nofollow link, or link with the keyword in the anchor text.  Perhaps perform some experiments of your own, and see what’s really working for you.

Social Signals:

Out of all the experiments he’s done, what John found is that Google+ had the biggest short term impact, while Facebook Recommend was the clear winner having the biggest impact overall over rankings. Pinterest did pretty well, and the Facebook Like had the smallest impact.

A word to the wise: try not to shun social promotions without trying them out first for your specific business and goals. Through social promotions only, John found that a company’s site ranked #12 after just two weeks of social promotion on a new web application. While rankings may not be solely based on social signals, they definitely are having a big impact, so take advantage of those appropriately for your company.

Random Notes from John’s social tests on what makes content viral:

  • Humorous content is absorbed better towards the end of the work day
  • Serious content is absorbed better towards the beginning of the day
  • A majority of content that goes viral on Reddit are simply images. While you want to provide lots of interactive content, sometimes keeping it simple will take you farther.
  • Thursday is the day of the week when content has the best chance of going viral.

Mark Munroe, Inflection (@markemunroe

What’s going on inside the Google brain? Definitely things like make more money, give answers right on the SERP instead of just direct you to another source, etc. It’s constantly changing and Mark goes through the details…

Off Page vs. On Page SEO. What’s missing? Usually behavior metrics. Influenced by both, but in fact, not actually either one of them.

Criteria for Google Metrics:

  • Statistically significant: Hard to reach significance at the page level.
  • Unambiguous: Work as an absolute measure
  • Global: Must  work for all sites, not just a certain category, etc.

Search User Experience Engineering (SearchUX)

There is always a question from the user, they find where they need to go on the SERP, then the site they clicked through to delivers their answer. This is an ideal situation. What if the question is still left unanswered?  The user goes back to Google and starts back over. The website owner has no insight into what happens after they leave the site, however Google does. Google analyzes the reasoning behind the users abandonment, whether it be a bad user experience, trust issues, bad content… basically it comes down to dissatisfaction.  We need to bridge the gap in the sites not knowing what happens, and Google knowing everything.

Typically, searcher goals may conflict with company goals. When a user gets to your site, you push them down a path that is going to be most beneficial to you, not necessarily the searcher.  Mark suggests sacrificing a few conversions to work on optimizing your users website and search experience.

Some things to consider:

  • Analyze pages and keywords that drive traffic, optimize your site for those; use that information wisely.
  • Implement Analytics to have more insight into user behavior on your site.
  • Design and launch surveys
  • Ask users how useful the content is. this will help you determine if you need to make some changes by getting direct feedback from the user.
  • And of course, always be testing.

Kristine Schachinger, Founder/Consultant, SitesWithoutWalls.com (@schachin)

Correlation vs. Causation

Correlation is a mutual relation of two or more things where one has a measurable affect on the other, where Causation means there on thing has a direct  and measurable affect on the other. People, especially SEOs in this case, need to really get a good grasp on these concepts, as people mistake correlation for causation, and make poor decisions based on those incorrect assumptions.

An example of an inaccurate assumption would be the sales of ice cream go up in the summer, and violent crimes go up in the summer, so ice cream purchase cause more violent crime. Hardly the case. This type of incorrect assumption happens all the time in the search industry. You need to test the strength of correlated relationships or the direct measure of causal relationships to find out what indeed is influencing results. In SEO terms, a lot of things cannot be directly related as causing something because Google doesn’t directly tell you what caused a ranking increase or drop. You have to measure the strength of the correlation between, say, exact match text and site ranking drop. There’s no way to tell if one had a direct impact on the other.

Almost ALL of SEO is correlative. 

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