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SMX London 2007 Conference Notes: Part 1



(GSINC‘s Gareth Davies couldn’t resist the lure of SMX London and took excellent notes while he was there. Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4)

On the morning of Nov 15th I headed down to the inaugural SMX in London held at the Hilton Metropole. The night before I had the rather dubious honour of staying in a cheap Bayswater hotel that had no internet connection, subsidence and only served up two thin pieces of cheese and bread for breakfast. So it was a joy to walk into the rather upmarket Hilton Metropole (and I vowed never to skimp on hotels again).

First impressions was that SMX was going to be quite an intimate event compared to larger scale SES events but the general opinion was smaller is better when it comes to conferences. Straight away there were opportunities to meet people and network and getting around to sessions was pretty effortless – so no complaints there.

SMX logo - Chris Sherman and Mario Queiroz photo

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Google’s Mario Queiroz (with Chris Sherman)
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So after a few coffees everyone sat in on the keynote with Mario Queiroz of Google which was an informal Q&A. MQ addressed Google’s 12 product development centers and with such growing media presence across Europe (and with TV advertising to boot) is the future for Google as a media company?

Well according to Mario Queiroz search is still key, and search quality is most important to Google as a company. He was adamant that they are not moving away from search as their primary area and Google’s aim as always is to try and provide the most relevant and comprehensive results to a user.

Via the product development centers Google is expanding its technology in the mobile arena and hopes to open up this technology to 3rd party developers by making APIs available. Google recognises that it can’t do everything itself and is hoping people will take the fundamentals of their mobile technology applications to the next level.

Are you using Google docs? Well if you haven’t heard of them Google has .doc friendly software and a spreadsheets program that will handle traditional Ms Office documents such as word and excel. In Gmail its possible to open up files using Google Docs for example.

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SEO for Multimedia Session
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First off Jenny Simpson from Web Certain addressed the implications of Google Universal upon search. Jenny covered the key media types applicable to Google Universal such as pictures, video, news, books and regular listings.

With Google’s Universal search and blended results image files can appear as top listings, news and video results with thumbnails are being seen more frequently on Google’s UK results. So for search marketers it’s more important than ever to be able to promote multi-media content for their clients.

Jenny also addressed ways in which you could optimise images, such as putting keywords in the filename/ url, adding to alt tag, H1 and H2 tags and body copy as well as adding to the title and meta description tag.

Blogging for business was also addressed. It’s not massive in the Uk market yet however the benefits of blogging for business are growing.

Jenny stressed making sure a blog is well optimised and encouraged people to make use of WordPress plugins that help make more search engine friendly title tags and URLS. Jenny also pointed out the importance of well considered category names when setting up a blog.

Next up was Shari Thurow of Omni Marketing Interactive who was quick to point out that if you optimised your website content well in the first place, then Universal search was not such a big deal.

Shari also covered some of the issues people in search face when working with design agencies and in particular when sites are made without consulting the SEO. She suggested the best process was to involve SEOs and do keyword research first, then design the information architecture (wire-frame of core text content), then undertake the design phase and finally the validation process of SEO via promotion and link building.

Shari also covered what she called the 5-8 second test when designing web pages. The test involves putting a layout of the page being designed in front of a small sample audience for 5–8 seconds then taking it away and asking them what they remember. If they do not remember the key aspects of what the page is about from their 5-8 seconds then the design needs to be changed!

Shari also spent time covering ways to optimise multi-media content and the differences with text files. In non-text files keywords could be placed in title tags, visible body copy, Meta description tag, alt text, domain/ filenames and on page links and Shari showed an example of a page that contained an illustration and showed the various ways an image could be optimised. While she spoke about this I sketched up my version of this idea and here it is below.

Image optimisation example

Another interesting idea was the use of related links and Shari suggested the value of annotating related links on a page especially for non text files. The benefit being that annotating related links offers the user more information about the page they are about to visit and a search engine a better sense of theme and relevancy than a link alone. I liked this idea alot actually.

It was also suggested that images are batched into their own image library and so embedded in HTML pages and optimised too – possibly called gallery. The same should apply for video however a term like video ‘library’ was probably a better choice of words.

Similar to the image optimisation example video can be optimised in a similar way. In the example below we can see that there is text title for the video and an H2 introduction. Using keywords, in-links and related links provides ways for a user to watch more videos, understand what they are.

Screenshot of optimising for video

When asked about using flash for the main website Shari pointed out that flash can usually get people to say “Hey that’s cool’ but it is less successful in getting people to add to cart – so think about what it is you want to achieve.

Shari’s presentation was full of great ideas providing lots of useful information built up over years of experience. The second edition of her book Search Engine Visibility is now out and if her conference performance is anything to go buy it’s going to be worth a read.

The networking lunch at the Hilton worked well as a stand up affair. If someone described stand up lunch to me I’d probably think it was a bit odd, but in practice it works great. The food and the deserts at the event were also wonderful. (My cheese for breakfast incident was soon a distant memory).

(Next up: Leveraging Social Media Networks.)