SES London 2010 | Panel – The Future of SEO


I must admit, some of the sessions thus far have been a little bit “SEO-lite”. Knowing (some of) this next bunch, we should get some great insight and direction. I’ve put out a rallying tweet for some mobile questions, I’m sure we’ll be hearing more about Universal and Personalised search without prompt.

Moderator: Dixon Jones, Receptional LTD.

Panellists: Lisa Myers, Verve Search & SEO Chicks. Maile Ohye, Google. Dan Cohen, MSN and Julian Shambles, Telegraph.

(The panel all have head-set mics, which from the front row, looks a bit ‘Steps’.)

Dixon starts with an intro, and a reminder of the hashtag – so that we can tweet questions to him for the panel (so I have)…(mobile)… (since y’asked).

The panel intro themselves.

Dan – nothing to do with Bing, but will be emailing questions to them. Dan is monitoring the #SESKey as Dixon’s iPhone iFailed.

Maile – works with search on WMT API and represents organic search for Google.

Julian – audience development for Telegraph, with responsibilities for driving traffic.

Lisa – CEO of Verve Search and SEO Chicks blogger and State of Search Blogger.

Dixon – founder of Receptional and representing Majestic SEO.


Dixon – starts by asking the panel “what is the ONE thing you’re focusing on and the ONE thing we need to get right?”

Dan – MSN is a massive SEO challenge due to number of properties, languages, 3rd party content and other complexities. Top one is content. Quality is always the most important thing, though it sounds hackneyed, it is definitely true and for MSN, never more so than now.

Dixon – why is this so difficult then? Julian why? Julian says the Tele stands for content.. and quality content. Training journo’s for content writing for the web; using personalities like Norman Tebbit.

Dixon – how difficult, Lisa, is creating and ‘getting content’ when thinking about links? Lisa – social media and local is a primary concern and consideration.

Dixon – asks Maile the original question.

Maile – dig deep and look at all properties and avenues available. Quantify returns, looking at metrics to measure social, realtime etc. Then implement on that by prioritising and re-prioritising.

Dan adds to this… when your site model is a page impression model, it’s all about bringing them and keeping them flowing through. As an example they are building technology to detect the visit from search- keyword, ping the bing API and see what else could be of use within site.

Lisa adds a concern about “chasing the keyword” i.e. creating content in a reactionary way. Need to be smarter, not just reactive.

Julian – obviously there must be a reactionary element for Tele, but involving personalsation of content direction and delivery adds distinction.

Dixon – is this a problem for Google? Maile, when it gets to legal issues yes. Show Googlebot the generic non-personalised content. Dixon – does that mean there will be a deterioration of quality. Maile – no, as we’re constantly evolving and personalisation isn’t new – think GEO.

Dixon – for me it’s about original content. 4BN people yet the same three stories on four news channels.

Dixon – (let’s have an argument) “does Google like SEO’s?”(He’s looking at Maile and asking why no sponsorship or parties anymore).

Maile – we want to speak to advanced webmasters because we get excellent feedback. Apparently the new server response time (site performance) in WMT came from feedback in last years’ SES London!!!

SEOs help us direct development for the benefit of all webmasters.

Dixon – Asks Lisa if she feels Google reaches out to Europe. Yes nowadays. We have Fille and Gusella (sic?) and people reaching out to SEOs with feeback.

Dixon – to Julian, do you feel an advantage as a publisher. Not really but there is some form of symbiosis. We give good content and in return get our SERPS position.

Lisa – wants to come back on the previous point that there seems to be a complete lack of assistance or input from Google when it comes to specific search experiences, e.g. Local and UK SERPS.

Dan – thinks the Bing position as content provider, plus SEO, plus search engine means MSN are well placed.

Dixon – asks the audience to vote on contact from Google. Over-whelming majority think Google is getting better on reaching out.

Dixon – is old-school SEO dead? (On page, html tags, meta-data etc)

Dan – though not speaking as a search engine, yes. Very important to get on page right from simple construction perspective. Dan moves onto Twitter (though I have no idea why or how this relates to, if on page still matters.)

Lisa – Googler in Norway confirmed that H1 tags not as important as 2 – 3 years ago. Stuff like optimum KW density is bullshit. Of course title tags, internal linking is massive.

Julian – for us the basic core technical challenge as a large publisher is the CMS. Inbound links are important and occur quite naturally as a content provider. Julian goes on to mention Twitter, but Lisa points out that has nothing to do with on-page. Yeah but it’s an engagement factor. (Maybe that’s what Dan was getting at too.)

Dixon – Asks Maile, what is Google looking for…

Maile there are tools like Allinone SEO pack which take care of the on-page stuff, therefore it is really more about off-site and prioritising engagement drivers like social tools.

Lisa – points out that link strategies and link tools are harder to work on in a time when link factors seems to be tuned higher in the algorithm.

Dixon – finally gets to my question on mobile usability (thanks @richardbaxter for re-tweeting).

Dan – talks about vertical silos of information and how search engines seem to be lacking in how they link data points.

Maile – Applications are important, but the idea of the web being a database of applications needs to be understood in the way we access applications on the web. It is no longer something you access from your desktop. Which creates a big playground on the web. Whilst there is a lot going on in terms of apps, they have a huge stake in HTML5 because they’ve put their money on the web.

(I was hoping more for a consideration of mobile web usability in “on-page” and how that impacts SEO; perspective rather than a bit about apps TBH)…

Dixon – opens up questions to the floor.

Q for Dan – how does he feel about Google using content from the PA?

Interesting, particualrly as Google have hired a commercial content person so is there a move to paid content on cards?

Dan passes to Julian – Julian when it comes to content disparity and challenges true content publishers must adapt. Yes it’s changing but we have to adapt to change as technology changes. Dixon – does that include rev share on content deals with Google? Julien sidesteps, as it’s not his bag.

I’m sure if they’re getting a share of revenue from ad revenue on content shared with Yahoo! then they’ll be getting some kick-back from Google.

Q How do SEOs keep up with 400+ changes a year with 200+ algorithmic componants????

Lisa – things like this event. Talk to other SEOs, share knowledge to piece it together. Get the ear of the black hatters.

Dixon uses RSS runner to check all the major SEO forums every morning (SES, ClickZ, Webmaster World etc). After that… wait until the market catches up. Though “Wave” might have been exciting for us lot, the average punter hasn’t got a clue just yet.

Lisa – remember not all of those changes are to piss off SEOs. Many of these changes are deliberately as a result of our feedback. One change might mean less work elsewhere.

Dan – prioritise for internal development. Which is very difficult. How do you quantify the value of fixing an H1 tag???

Q from the audience – How does Google detect paid links (I don’t do it but I have a friend that does.) Dixon adds – why is this bad in a free market economy?

Maile  – We want our organic search results to be available to everyone and reflect what people like. Impartiality.

How do we detect a paid links? Maile starts, well what we ususally do is… Kidding! Maile nearly had us going there icon_wink-9508559

Normally this is approached by a warning message that you might be infringing their guidelines. Can’t give more detail as if they say what it is that has been detected it will open the detection criteria, therefore open the algorithm for opportunity to be gamed.

Another Q from audience to Maile – where to focus on absorbing information from Google.

Webmaster central blog should be the focus for major feature releases like realtime etc. Don’t worry too much about the tweaks and small updates.

Q – less organic listing as there is PPC, News, Video, Froogle, etc.

Lisa – yes, organic can at times be seen to be disappearing from page one. Dixon, is not that the data sources are changing. Lisa – but that changes things quite considerably. Dixon – from a SERPS checking perspective, but check your tracking systems for tracking.

Maile – lets clarify that most of these other types of listing are still organic and not paid content. Lisa – yes but all of these other types of listings have algorithms that are very different, and seem to get much less attention.

Maile – think of it more as another route to entry. Having a strong website is still the key.

With that we’re out of time. Not sure where to next for SEO, but this SEO is off to interview someone. Laters icon_wink-9508559

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