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No. 106
July 5th, 2008

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2008 SMX Advanced Recap for Small Businesses

Monday Night Dinner at the Icon Grill

The Top Small Business Takeaways from SMX Advanced

So apparently the ban on revealing secrets from the “Give It Up” session was lifted this weekend, so I thought it was about damned time for me to publish my recap of what is turning into my favorite search engine marketing conference.

First of all, thanks to Tom Schmitz of Portent Interactive for picking up the tab for my delicious Mac N Cheese at the Icon Grill on Monday night. Other attendees pictured are Jane Copland, Tom Critchlow (Tom, great to meet you!), Scott Willoughby, Will Critchlow, Rob Kerry, Danny Dover, ___ (who I think works for Rob–sorry I forgot your name!), and Brian Brown aka Identity.

Second, from my previous recaps, you may know that I tend to focus on the actionable advice given at the conference that everyday small business owners, or small business SEOs can take to improve their standing in the search engines. This one will be no different…

…so without further ado…

In general, there were a lot of risky, black-hat strategies presented that I would NOT recommend that any small business pursue. For one thing, your niches aren’t likely to be competitive enough where you’re going to need to turn to the dark side of SEO. And as a small business, if Google catches you doing something dirty, you don’t have the same kind of pull with Google to get re-indexed, like Amazon or BMW might (two notable offenders who appear to be doing just fine in the SERPs today, thank you very much).

But there were also plenty of mind-expanding strategies which don’t necessarily fall into either the white hat OR the black hat camp. Such as:

Perform creative queries using advanced operators with Google and Yahoo to find potential targets for incoming links.

  • Examples include “ bookmarks your-service-keyword” and “ sponsors your-town-or-region”. Don’t stop there–get creative and Perform similar searches for .org’s and you’ve got a list of powerful websites that you might be able to receive a link with a little quality content on your website (presented by Roger Montti). On the sponsorship front, yes these could be considered paid links. But it’s hard to believe that Google would PENALIZE you for donating to charity, especially since there are so many charities already linking out to sponsors who have never heard of the rel=nofollow tag, in which case all you’d lose would be money towards a good cause.
  • A few more creative queries were detailed by Rand Fishkin in the Give It Up session, my favorite of which was “My Company Name – –” at Yahoo. This query will tell you who’s already mentioning your company without linking to you & it should help identify your absolute easiest targets to ask for a link. Pretty cool!
  • See who’s linking to a slew of competitors simultaneously with Yahoo searches like “”. If you’re not listed there, approach that site for a link (Stephan Spencer, NetConcepts, via Jim Boykin‘s Co-Citation tool).

Mine your existing links.

  • See who is already linking to you in Yahoo Site Explorer and go back to ask your more important linkers if they’ll link to with better anchor text (i.e. what you do or what you sell, rather than just your company name). Offer to compensate them for their time in some way, whether it’s a product sample, or a mention on your own blog, etc. (Stephan Spencer, NetConcepts)

Give free talks at Chambers of Commerce or libraries in your area.

  • This could lead to links from local non-profits (umm, like the library) as well as potential web-savvy attendees who may have personal or business blogs. (Stephan Spencer, NetConcepts)

If you don’t have the time to blog, consider looking for an existing one in your niche and offering to buy it.

  • If you can add content in a similar niche, the domain age of a previous blog that is 301 redirected to one hosted on your own domain can increase the trust in your site. But wait a little while to 301 the old website to yours after you officially register it to avoid tripping any search engine filters. (Jeremy Shoemaker, ShoeMoney)
  • Just because Google is a registrar does NOT mean they can see behind a private registration wall–hint hint, if you’re going to buy an older domain, sign up for private registration. (Stephan Spencer, NetConcepts)
  • This is a little blackhat, so beware: consider looking around for Blogspot blogs, particularly those with unused hotmail addresses, since you can often re-register those addresses and “jack” their login credentials. Blogspot blogs may be more likely to a) have been abandoned b) be older than abandoned WordPress blogs. (Todd Friesen)

One of the most original concepts presented at the entire conference came from Jonah Stein of “It’s the ROI.”

  • Don’t get caught up in the whole PageRank debate (whether it’s accurate, how often it’s updated, etc.). Use the frequency of crawling to know how important Google/Yahoo consider a particular website or a particular page on a website to be. The search engines can’t obfuscate page crawls, because doing so would lead to lower quality search results.

And Richard Zwicky of Enquisite presented an interesting hypothesis about the location of links affecting the way a site ranks in a particular geo-location:

  • Links from a site hosted in a particular state or particular region can help a site rank better within that region.
  • Now, I’m not sure I agree with this for the regular organic algorithms, because honestly, what percentage of websites are hosted in their hometown, let alone their home state. Home country, maybe, but I’m not sure about the finer-grained detail of this hypothesis.
  • Nevertheless, it does tie in nicely with what I’ve been saying recently with regard to on-page signals of location and how they matter in the Google LOCAL algorithm

And of GREAT interest to me were Rand’s top Google Local Ranking Factors:

  1. Registering with Google Local
  2. Proximity to Centroid
  3. Number of Local Reviews
  4. Local Link Popularity (in his case, links from other Seattle blogs)
  5. A Local phone number
  6. Participation in online menu / review services like Zagat’s
  7. Quality of Reviews
  8. City Name in Anchor Text
  9. Local, non-Google directory listings
  10. Keywords in your business name
  11. Domain Authority
  12. Address included on webpage

I had no idea that Rand was interested in Local Search until his presentation! I surely would have invited him to participate in the Local Search Ranking Factors, for which I’d sent out the survey a week prior, if I had known!

His factor rankings seemed to fall more or less inline with my own inklings, except that he gave much more weight to centroid proximity and a little more weight to reviews than I might have. This also could be dependent on his experience on a particular client in the restaurant industry (?), which tends to be more competitive than those for most clients I service.

Once again, SMX Seattle was a HUGE success! Great job Danny, Chris and everyone else at Third Door Media!

And now for something a little different…

I was truly impressed with several business cards I accumulated while in Seattle. Allow me to share a little link love for some EXCELLENT graphic design work: