Boston PubCon 2006: Day 2

Alright, this post is 2 weeks late, but I have been busy since getting back from the con. The second day’s sessions were even better than the first day, I thought. So, overall I enjoyed the second day the most. Here is a rundown of the sessions.

The first morning session was the Super Bloggers of Search with Matt Cutts, Rob Scoble and Jeremy Zawodny. The panel was asked to talk first about the future of blogging and then about corporate blogging. One thing I noticed is that the panelists mentioned Bloglines and Technorati several times. I use those services rarely, but I think that says a lot about their popularity and significance.

Matt Cutts talked about how, for him, blogging helps make you more transparent and allows for good feedback. Jeremy Zawodny said that feedback comes through e-mail as well as blog comments, so not all of it is seen by the public. He talked about how blogging about Google Finance and Yahoo Finance allowed him an opportunity to meet with the new head of Yahoo Finance and talk about new plans for the service.

The bloggers were asked which platform they use, and it was interesting to note that none of them use their own companies’ blogging platforms. Matt Cutts and Robert Scoble both use WordPress. Matt said that he uses it over Blogger because of the ability to use categories with WordPress. Overall, it was a very interesting session.

Next, I went to the Public Relations session, which was also very interesting. The panelists were Lee Odden, Lawrence Coburn, Robin Liss and David McInnis. I think Odden and McInnis had the most interesting presentations. Odden basically outlined his companies strategy for using online PR for his clients. David McInnis works for PRWeb and talked about the services current features as well as some new ones they added recently. One thing that Odden and McInnis both said was that you should issue at least one press release a month. This is because the news search engines run on a 28 day cycle, so they drop press releases after 28 days.

The third session of the day was another Link Building session. Panelists were Mike Grehan, Jim Boykin, Bill Hartzer and Eric Ward. Jim Boykin gave a presentation about how his company will go about building links for his clients. It was very interesting, but he asked bloggers in the room not to post the information publicly. Overall, it was a very good session, but it was kind of an overview of stuff I already knew.

One thing I heard several speakers say is be careful about linking between sites on the same IP address. Search engines will look at that as an attempt to cheat the system because those sites are usually owned or run by the same company.

Eric Ward gave the best presentation here. He said that he builds links without the search engines in mind. Eric asked the question if there were no search engines, would you still want that link? To me, that is a very important idea to keep in mind when building links. Many of the speakers repeated the idea that is the quality of the link that matters, not the quantity. Another thing that Eric said was that you should try to get links from different top level domains. This means that instead of getting links from only .com’s, they should be from other sources as well, such as .gov’s and .edu’s. Overall, it was a very informative session.

After lunch, we had 2 more sessions. The first one was on Paid Links: Risks vs. Rewards. Todd Malicoat, Patrick Gavin, Philip Kaplan and Roger Montti all gave presentations. I was disappointed overall in this session. I went to the session because I wanted to know about risks of buying links. There wasn’t a lot of information on that. They mainly talked about buying links.

Todd Malicoat and Patrick Gavin gave the best presentations on buying links. Kaplan talked about his company, AdBrite, rather than repeat what the other panelists said. When he tried to go to his companies site, however, it was down, so his presentation was pretty much useless. But, it is worth noting that AdBrite sells ads, and I believe they are an ad network. They do not link to sites directly, instead they use a redirect link. Also, advertisers can get full stats for every site they advertise on, as opposed to Google, which does not release any stats about which sites their ads appear on.

Roger Montti, aka martinibuster, did not really present on paid links either, but rather talked about link building in general. He did offer a few tips. First, was use high quality content to generate links, which is pretty much a given, but has gained a lot attention lately as “link baiting.” Another tip Roger gave was to buy links for new sites to get them started building traffic. This made a lot of sense to me. He also said that when buying links or building links, you can use banner ads instead of just text links. I would add that you must have keywords on the alt text and use a direct link. Roger also recommended using partner link deals, which is similar to reciprocal linking, I guess.

The last session of the day was Search Engines & Webmasters aka “Search Engine Smackdown.” This session was very informative and entertaining. The panel consisted of Matt Cutts from Google, Tim Mayer from Yahoo, Rahul Lahiri (I believe) from Ask.com and a rep from MSN who had a foreign name I didn’t catch.

The first rep to speak was from Ask. He said that they were very focused on the user experience. He also gave some SEO tips for Ask. He said same subject links are important and that visual relevance was important. I assume by visual relevance he means the results that the users sees that makes them want to click on it, i.e. the title tag, description and url. Some of the things they don’t recommend using are hidden redirects, artificial links, hidden links and misspelled anchor text. Also, he said to help the crawler, don’t use session id’s or cookies and provide http last modified headers. Additionally, custom 404’s should send a 404 signal back to the search engine.

Matt Cutts talked about Google Calendar a little bit. He mentioned that Google Calendar imports RSS, which I thought was important. Matt indicated Google is refreshing supplemental results so those should be updating. He talked about bigdaddy and said that all the datacenters are showing it now. Bigdaddy was a software infrastructure upgrade to crawling and indexing. Matt said along with bigdaddy we should see fresher indexing, smarter crawling and a new Googlebot.

Tim Mayer said that Yahoo recommends that pages be index friendly with unique content. He explained that Yahoo Seeker, which some people were apparently confused about, is the shopping crawler. Tim talked about several new features at Yahoo, such as local and navigational active abstracts, my web 2.0 beta and Yahoo mindset. Yahoo mindset is a search result relevancy slider that toggles between shopping vs. research results.

The Microsoft rep pretty much just gave a live demo of Live.com, which was probably for the best. It is a really cool new search engine, which makes use of a lot of AJAX. One of the coolest things was the local search. This is similar to Google maps but in Boston and Seattle they have street level views on the maps. This was really cool to see. It also has search macros and rss feeds.

In the Q and A, Ask said that different sites have different indexing times. Matt Cutts stressed that Google sees a dash as a separator and an underscore as a combiner. Also, when asked about China censorship, Matt said Google’s ultimate decision was to provide a disclaimer in the results where a search result had been removed due to government censorship. Overall, this was a very entertaining and informative session.