Posted July 5, 2007 7:45 am by with 32 comments

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Moderator: Danny Sullivan, Editor-in-Chief, Search Engine Land


Danny (on the premise of this session): Because there were so many people submitting their sites to Yahoo, Yahoo set up the Yahoo priority queue. When you submitted a site to Yahoo, if you put (yahoo) after your email address, you’d get bumped up the queue. It was a hugely kept secret; it wasn’t put on forums. It was passed along by word of mouth based on trust.

On your honor: people, don’t blog this. (We’ll see if there’s honor among SEOs) and search engine reps: keep it under wraps for one month from now, Greenwich Mean Time.
If anybody breaks the embargo, they’re dead to us. No tricks! I mean it!

Matt Cutts (forced to share a story so he won’t be kicked out of the room): You realize it’s cloth back there, so I can stand outside of the room and still hear, right?

Alright, I’ll tell you about my favorite spammer of ’06. How would you like to get 7000 domains? For free? And get page rank to them from eTrade? Pretty good deal, eh?

This doesn’t work on Google anymore (though I couldn’t say whether it works on other search engines). When you buy a domain, you own it for a year. Usually you get hosting, or park the domain. What if you don’t? You set name server to “” Millions of domains are marked this way. But some are marked “,” with a hyphen, including some registered by eTrade.

This spammer found the “dangling nameserver tag” and registered and others.

Danny: Is that good enough? (Audience responds). Okay, who first?

Stephan Spencer

  1. Eliminate competitors’ grouped results: they appear as #1 and #2—but they’re actually more like #1 and #8. You can find the true position of indented results: change the number of results on the page incrementally (using &num=9, then 8, then 7, etc.). After the indented result disappears, that’s its real rank. Let’s say you have a link on page one, as well as one at #12 right now. Optimize the title of your #12 page to bump it up to page 1 as an indented result. Then link to #11—bump up enough pages to knock that grouped result off page 1.
  2. View a potentially cloaked page when “cached” link not available. Use google translate and translate from English to English.
  3. Change preferences to English only: You’ll eliminate all the pages it knows the page exists but hasn’t spidered it (supplementals) from the estimated number of results. This forces it to use pages that it knows the language for.
  4. Free analyst reports: search Google on “forrester research grapevine endnotes filetype:pdf” (or ppt).
  5. Build a link building spider. Look for sites one click away from Google. Look for sites with high PR, with preference for sites that already give link love to patrons/sponsors. For example: spider they link to Python Software Foundation. You can sponsor PSF for $3000/yr. You could also give an NPO something for free.
  6. Cloak your home page: The good type of cloaking: scrape off parameters/session IDs.
  7. Link build your existing links. Mine your existing backlinks to get the anchor text changed. Improve your links. Use We Build Pages’ Neat-o tool. Find sites you have relationships with to get them to change link anchor text.

Shari Thurow: Usability perspective

  1. My big secret is that I took a class, Methods of organizing information for information retrieval and display, creation of information systems. Everybody’s giving tips, but you gotta move on and evolve. Think out of the box: Jared Spool, Jakob Nielsen
  2. Articles:
    • Marcia Bates article on “berry picking”—search isn’t a linear process. Search is querying, refining, expanding, foraging, pogosticking, browsing/surving, scanning, reading: all of these behaviors are search useability: it’s berrypicking. If tips don’t support most of these behaviors, they’re not worth much.
    • “What is a document?” by Michael Buckland: you think a document is text-based. Is King Tut’s mummy a document? Yes. Does the museum information retrieval system retrieve (their search engine) the document? No. It gets a document surrogate—meta data. Go to MPAA’s meta data. Also, these are limitations of many CMSes: (a) When you optimize a document or a document surrogate, compensate for search behaviors and (b) think of it as a triangle with these sides: (1) Information retrieval system (search engines, site searches), (2) interface & CMS, and (3) searchers w/ search behaviors.
  3. Search engines publish scholarly articles regularly
  4. Move beyond the cat-and-mouse mentality.

Mikke deMib Svendsen
He considered telling us:

  • Things that help me in my work as an SEO
  • The book that everyone should read and yet so few SEOs do
  • How to scrape Google without penalties
  • Cross site scripting (Yahoo)

Instead, he’s speaking on:
Unleash the wonders of computer-based writing
Content creation: one of the big challenges of SEO is to create original “quality content” for all the keywords I want to rank for. Why not follow search engines’ example and use computers to do what we’re too lazy to do.

Remember Epic 2014 flash movie—they predict Google will take Google News to write original content based on their findings.

A simple system: randomizing words & phrases; word replacements—tricky
Semi-advanced: Markov chains (what we discuss today)
Very advanced: original content writing

What about quality? It’s there.
Is the quality of computer-based writing good enough now? It’s not much worse than the average stuff on the web.

Uses of computer generated writing
Cloaking sites: Great keyword-rich unique “correct” filler texts. Scales well.
Splogs: Honestly, if you tweak your systems well the text that comes out doesn’t look much more silly than average blogs.
Data feeds/affiliate. Advanced re-writing of standard product descriptions.
Foreign language sites: Get keywords and let the machines do the rest

Markov Chains
I am not a programmer—and even I can understand this!
This is based on a sequence of random values whose probabilities at a time interval depends upon the value of the number at the previous time.
It scans through the text & creates a huge frequency table. For example, “up the” appears 6 times in a document. “Up the” is followed by “stairs” twice and by “ladder” four times. Based on these frequencies, it can construct natural-sounding sentences.

Add additional processing to retrigger the program to write longer text to get proper keyword focus. Adjust the keyword density. Blend with other methods (scraping). Create keyword based cross-linking. This is good for freshness.


  • Make your own tools
  • Get good sample texts: separate ones for each keyword. Scrape 10-30 pages from SERPs (Wikipedia is great for this.)
  • Experiment: save your old tools & play with variables.

Funny: there was a Markov chain conspiracy page: they ran conspiracy theories through Markov chain (thinks it was on SEOBlackHat).

(Mike Grehan notes that PageRank is based on a Markov chain.)

Bruce Clay
Internal linking—silo structure:

  • We’ve been teaching it in our course for 3 years. It’s complex until simplified. Every site we’ve implemented it on has seen a traffic jump and rankings increase of 30%+ usually in 6 month or less.
  • Align your navigation by query, not random groupings (like products). Like the Bruce Clay site—we saw a 50% jump in traffic, and 100% jump in inquiries in 48 hours of new siloed site design.
  • Landing pages receive internal links (and popularity voting) across themes
  • Anchor text management is critical.
  • See [and part two]

Training: the require their clients to attend an SEOToolSet training because [a lovely little chiasmus]:

  • Arguing about every action slows the project
  • Training pulls the team together and establishes common terminology. Customer satisfaction more than doubled.
  • Failure to speak the same language will result in missed expectations and “blaming.”
  • The SEO is always to blame.
  • Project success more than doubles if the team all understands what is happening.
  • Training is critical.

Universal/intergalactic—what’s next

  • Future research: large brands aren’t looking beyond where they are. The Fortune 500 know that their brands will last forever if they’re well established—but it’s like a frozen lake. It’s solid, it’s solid, but it’s melting from the bottom up.
  • Embrace change.
  • Social networking is eroding the brands. Understand that participation in the Internet is critical to brand protection. Embrace change.
  • So do it all—blog video, podcasts, RSS, social. Make it a religion or be gone in five years.
  • If we embrace it, we’ll be ahead (because they won’t).
  • Think Inter-galactic

Increase traffic—experiment: meta refresh tag (add a meta refresh tag to your website directing it to

  • There’s no magic pill
  • Back in the day with Infoseek you could submit a change, and there’d be no lag time. It was a great lab environment. Back then, adding a tag was making you different from competition. Now it’s completeness of data, relationships of data, who points where, and social networking

Mike Grehan
My current thoughts: think different.

These days, sometimes, you just have to be #1. Conventional wisdom has always said you have to write compelling title tags. When universal search happens, title tags can’t compete with pictures! He gives the example of a “Shakira” SERP: who’s going to click on a boring text link when there’s a sexy picture there. Another example: the American Airlines SERP: open the plus box in the results, and they’re the only result above the fold.

We have to look heuristics, video: how it’s all pulled together. Previously, we were just thinking about text. When you talk about content, the first thing the we talk about is copy. But there’s so much more.

For the future, don’t just think about text. Think different.

Links are very important, but in the future they won’t be the most important thing. The quality of the link will be important. Look offline—a friend was starting a new restaurant in London. They found three leading food critics in London and got them to eat at the restaurant. Even if the food sucked, they’d still get the link (and press).

Jill Whalen
Use the alt attribute of your logo:

  • Alt attribute text = anchor text
  • Linked from every other page of the site.
  • Use a big money competitive phrase or word that describes your site completely

Dynamic titles & descriptions
For titles: use last 3 phrases from bread crumbs, in reverse order + company name:
The breadcrumb Travel : Cruises : Cruise Lines : Royal Caribbean : Costa Rica 7 day cruise would become:
<title>Costa Rica 7 day cruise—Royal Caribbean—Cruise Lines—Company Name</title> . This way, your title tags are keyword rich and describe the page well.

Dynamic descriptions: create a generic description at each category & page level, and substitute the keyword phrase appropriately.
Cruise line level: [company name] offers tons of cruises and info from the [cruise line name] cruise line to suit your budget and destination requirements. Lear. more about [cruise line name] now.
Ship level: [Company name] offers [cruises] and info on [cruise line name]’s [ship name] ship. Learn why [ship name] may be the perfect cruise ship for your cruising vacation.

And of course, Trapezoidal Linking Matriflux

Jennifer Slegg: linking
Internet link love—as I add new content, I link to it from the home page. It gets spidered more quickly.

Each content page should link to 2-3 other related articles. Don’t buy links on pages multiple clicks or directories deep—they should be 2-3 clicks from home page.

Anchor text: adjacent keywords can influence the anchor text, so mix & match. Avoid the Googlebomb filter by making sure the phrase is on the page

Buying links: vary your keyword phrases using 10-20 variations. Distribute the anchor texts unevenly (10 of one, 5 of another, 2 of another and 1 and 1 and 1, etc.) to make it look more natural.
Always check the backlinks of the page it’ll be appearing on.
Avoid comment placement (footer, sidebar).
Buy a link embedded within the text of an article.
Avoid commonly known link networks—if it’s on Matt’s radar, steer clear.

External link love
Link to authority sites in your niche., even if they’re not linking back. You can use nofollow if you don’t want to give your vote of confidence. There’s more value in one way links.

Use target _blank attribute to keep people from leaving your site right away.


  • Carefully crafted linkbait can get you a lot of links very quickly (Top X ways to do Y or how to Y in X easy steps).
  • Tools, giveaways, killer content.
  • Quizzes, contests & awards
  • Breaking a story, huge exposés, exploits or scoops.
  • Rants, controversy or anything shocking.

Caution: all linkbait can backfire and spectacularly so.

  • You could be jumped on by everyone.
  • If you think your target is too weak to fight back, consider their friends & networks.
  • You may need reputation management.
  • In the search engine’s eyes, links will count.

Todd Friesen
Javascript multivariate testing
Breadcrumbs in title tags: where you should put your brand in that title tag is based on brand strength. Put keywords in front with less recognized brands; put big brands at the beginning of title tags.

Buying links works. Think of it as media placement, if that helps. If you’re a link network and you sell links, Google knows about you—

For a lot of people, we’re dealing with brands, it doesn’t apply to our world (like thigns in Mikkel’s presentation). I recommend Bazaarvoice—they provide product reviews that are unique to every site. They’re moving into education, finance, and law. It’s great, real content.

We had one site where we their footer links were just an echo of their top navigation and doing nothing for them. We put the keywords in their footer links. In about 3 days, we saw a boost across the board on all the keywords in the footer.

Moving sites from domains or structures is scary! Typically, if you don’t do it right, you can wipe yourself out.

Got your sitemap XML from old site. Get new site ready to go. Build out new XML sitemap. Map out 301 redirection from all old pages to new pages. Then launch new site. Submit old sitemap in Webmaster Central and SiteExplorer. They see it and say, “Let’s go check it out.” They’ll work through your old sitemap, prompting search engines to look at old your URLs—“Hey, they’re redirected!” Then put in your new sitemap. We did this for one client and successfully moved them from their old URL structure to a new URL structure to an all-flash site.

Greg Boser
301s—getting creative with your redirection
To me, 301 redirection doesn’t get utilized nearly as much as it should. We use it like a robots.txt on steroids. We use conditional redirects for search engines for duplicate content—the same content in two locations for good user experience.

In the Dave Pasternack contest, we conspired together come in 8 days before the end of the conference to 301 pages to a central page together. The backlinks were 301’d instantly. You can mask where your juice is coming from for 30-60-90 days. You can also use this for site consolidation: purchase sites that rank for your keyword lower in the SERPs—now you own all their link juice.

There is a downside, though. Google “Greg Boser” and you’ll find a Googlebomb—Dave Pasternack is in the top 10 for “Greg Boser.” I 301d my Dave Pasternack page to a New York Times article—now its in top 10. Your new destination site can rank for your old anchor text.

If you own a couple smaller sites, you could be more aggressive with your links through redirection. If it doesn’t work, you can turn it off.

Sponsored WP template: put a different URL redirecting to your main site there in case it backfires. If it does, turn it off (or direct it to a competitor).

(Todd follow up: The sitemaps thing—I wrote that up for an article to be in OMMA magazine/MediaPost.)

Danny Sullivan

  • Get the original article URL for the New York Times—no query, etc. Go to the New York Times link generator. It generates a URL that lets you get into any of their content without registering.
  • Google has tons of blogs. Blogs have permalinks. I’d link to Google blogs and had never seen my permalink [in the “Links to the Post” section]. I tried the Blogger: “Create a link” thing. That doesn’t work worth a darn. You’ll get the permalink (not PR) & traffic if Google Blog Search can see you’re linking to it. If you can, make sur eyour link is at the top or the bottom of the list.
  • Google Blog Search only takes what’s in the feed. For partial feeds, remember that Google Blog Search won’t see a link at the end of a post.