SMX West: San José

Posted by on Nov 6, 2012 in Search Engine Optimization, SMX

SMX West 2012 – A First-Timer’s Experience

“You must unlearn what you have learned.” – Yoda


Man, was that the truth. As you can gather, I am a big fan of Star Wars and attribute a lot of my awkwardness as a kid to the fact that I believed I would some day be ‘discovered’ to have ‘powers’ and become some awesome class of Jedi; as only a high midichlorian count can provide. Unfortunately, the Jedi Council has not called… yet. Going to SMX for the first time is what I imagine the experience of visiting the Jedi Council would be like.

Sure, I have been to conferences before. I have met stars and important dignitaries in my life and travels. Even so, it is something all together different to meet the big names in an industry that one is passionate about. That marks the difference; I cared about the people I was going to be meeting; the material they would present and most importantly – I was a willing to forget what I thought I knew about The Force… sorry, I mean SEO.

Before I go too far into my personal experience at SMX West 2012, I need to share a great big thanks to cj Advertising for footing the bill for this opportunity to learn and network. I had only been with them for about four months before they took a chance on their newest SEO Specialist and flew me from good ol’ Nashville to the beautiful town (or city as most would call it) of San José.

My SMX West All-Access Pass

After experiencing the wonderful adventure that is flying nowadays and making it through the 8 hour flight, we arrived in San José around midnight. Starving and jet lagged, my co-workers and I journeyed to the Marriott at which we were staying and discovered that there was a great little Italian restaurant still open! It wasn’t a bad start to my SMX experience.

Side Note: That little Italian restaurant was absolutely amazing and goes by the name Original Joe’s. If you are ever in San José, I highly recommend this spot.

In meetings prior to attending SMX, we determined what sessions I would attend as the only SEO going on this excursion. (My other two counterparts are focused on SEM, namely display advertising and PPC – and we ended up becoming clients of Acquisio thanks to the conference).

San Jose Marriott, DowntownYou may be wondering, ‘but Chris, SMX West 2012 happened in February, why are you just now writing about it?’ Well, to be honest, I am always skeptical of new things especially when it involves something I’m passionate about, like my children. Before presenting anything, I typically like to investigate it thoroughly and determine if it is worth the effort to pursue.

Look at all the hubbub surrounding business reviews. We all read reviews, testimonials or feedback of a business as well as take heed of what people say about a service before committing time, money, effort or resources to it. Information should be parsed though in a similar fashion.

Plus, after getting back, I had A LOT of work to do for the clients and embarked on a five month journey. Let me just say that the project that came out of SMX was affectionately named: Project FIX.

The creamy goodness in all of that? I have highlighted items below from SMX that I have tested, used and know every SEO should be implementing in their strategy or best practices thanks to months of testing and fact finding.

Here are the sessions I attended during SMX West, click to jump to the section:

SMX West, San Jose – Day 1

  • Hardcore Local SEO tactics
  • Solving Problems & Seeing Success In Google Places
  • Surviving SEO Changes

SMX West, San Jose – Day 2

  • Talking Google with Maile Ohye
  • Link Building Fundamentals
  • Technical SEO:, Rel=Author & Meta Tagging Best Practices
  • Making Data Actionable: Bing and Google Webmaster Tools

SMX West, San Jose – Day 3

  • The New Killer Content
  • Pillars of SEO
  • Understanding [Not Provided]


Welcome, Let Us Blow Your Mind – Day 1

Presentation: Hardcore local SEO tactics

Mike Ramsey of Nifty Marketing

Key Fact: 2010 saw the introduction of the Blended Algo, also known as ‘Über Search’, launched that impacted local rankings. Über search referred to the fact that search result became a mix of images, map results, pay per click ads, and news links.

URLs and Local Search:

  1. Use homepage in Google Places or landing page for each local place.
  2. Have pages for each category – simple landing pages (deprecated).
  3. One page cannot rank for both organic and business (deprecated).

Meta and Titles

  1. Top rankers have: Keyword, Location and Business name
  2. Use phone number that is mobile compatible.


  1. Always have forms and phone numbers.

NAP (Name, address, phone number) + MAP

  1. Create a custom map for your locations (Read this as a ‘branded map listing’)
  2. NAP can be coded in Schema and hCard (add KML to the mix while you’re at it.)
  3. Use and

Finding Success with Google PlacesNote* KML file can be used to help identify a site as being associated with a Google Places listings. Using this method, they will hard code your address and give you an address landmark in the maps.

Using the rel=“author” to associate images and a Google+ profile [read: Rich Snippets]. (Yea, now we all know that everything Google means all things Plus.)

Presentation: Local Ranking Factors: Google Places and Websites by Chris Silver Smith, Argent Media

  1. Relevance: Keyword in business name, keyword in SEO, and category of business
  2. Distance: Radius, city/zip, user geo (IP address / cellphone)
  3. Prominence (Important): Relative popularity, classic Page Rank, mentions (citations)
  4. “PlaceRank”: popularity of the location (I like this; image this being social triggers for locations, i.e. Facebook check-ins, Foursquare, geo markers on images, etc.)

What are citations?

Mentions: business name, street address, telephone, links, and related associations.

Key Tip: Check competitor citations in Google Places (this is where it matters), are you listed there?

Thinking outside the box:

  • Wikipedia Articles
  • Offer free WiFi – become listing in a number of free WiFi directories
  • Geo cache locations
  • National markers and/or state related opportunities (historical markers, government services)
  • Hobbyist directories
  • Specialty directories (do you offer language support, have designations, or valuable resources)
  • Associate with local events and special occasions.

IMPORTANT: Check-ins (Facebook, Foursquare, Google)!! It is nearly impossible to game this type of citation because it relies on global positioning!

Wikipedia has been integrated into the Google Map popularity indicator (see, traffic on the Google place map).

Presentation: Challenges to Local

Manish Patel of Where2GetIt

  • Understand the local ecosystem
    • Using social media to identify new users and have users share your business.
  • Assumption: “I rank well for my brand.”
    • Watch out for resources, directories or other sites ranking for your brand.
  • Quality and Consistency
    • Check the data:
      • Show SERPs
      • Ranking reports
      • Show social divide – what’s happening in the social sphere?
    • Missing locations in directories, bad phone numbers, poor geo codes, duplicates: What this information is conveying is the fact that some discovery must be done to identify issues with existing citations, references and local data.
    • Core data providers: infogroup, acxiom > geo devices
  • Analysis
    • We are swimming in data, but what does it all mean?Look at the basics, its all about the leads and value (actions, likes, clicks, check-ins or bookmarking: these outcomes are the value of local, aka engagement).
      • Chart in a manner clients (and you) can understand: plot engagement on the map.
    • Break it up by channel:
      • Search, Organic
        • Google, Bing, etc
      • Mobile, Web
        • Device

Presentation: Solving Problems & Seeing Success In Google Places

Nyagoslav Zhekov of OptiLocal

For all you nerds and big businesses, Nyagoslav really gets into some of the nitty gritty of search. During his discussion, he discusses the depth and complexity involved in understanding the server-side of Google’s Mapping and Local Listing management system. If you are a large organization with global prowess and locations, Nyagoslav is a great technical resource for understanding how your business is impacted by the methodology of local mapping, visit his website for great information on the local realm.

Listing vs Cluster

Listings are just the frontend of an areas/businesses cluster of information. Data comes from a number of sources and provides credibility to the listing.

The cluster determines what data/listings are merged or create a new listing for.

  • Trustworthiness of source
  • Recentness of data
  • Completeness of data
  • Citations using same data (displaying)

Remember UGC – approved user generated content “User generated content can trump the owner verified data (if the cluster criteria is met)” – Nyagoslav


  • Recommended for NAP consistency – Whitespark
  • Yext (LS scorecard)
  • LS SEO check up – Bright Local

When problems occur:

When Google takes the data it has found and has to determine if it should merge or create new clusters. (Can you say duplicate listings!!)

Newest and most useful troubleshooter is the Google Places Troubleshooter, don’t use the GP Report a problem.

Joseph Henson of Search Influence

Auditing tactics:

Note* Google will merge, override, or create listings using third-party information.

Inaccurate listing details:

  • Inaccurate NAP
  • Inconsistent and duplication of NAP
  • Improper onsite NAP optimization (standardized operation)

See for GP graphic.

How to fix it:

  • Use official DBA – if you have more than one, pick one delete others
  • Use to confirm Government official business address
  • Use one unique phone number for each location, 800’s should be secondary
  • (Don’t claim duplicate listings) don’t agree with that.


Disseminate NAP data throughout the internet: Acxiom, Localeze, InfoGroup (catching a theme here…)

“UBL is not a good resources for citation aggregators.” – Joseph Henson

Best Practices: Have one email, one login, and make sure no other NAP listing already exist.

Presentation: Don’t Panic! A Hitchhiker’s Guide To Surviving SEO Changes

Mark Munroe of Reply!

How to protect yourself from Algo changes.

Google Panda update goals:

  • Relevant answers to queries as soon as possible
  • Reduce rank of low-quality
    • Panda
    • May Day
    • Above the fold
    • Blended search

Truth of search: Provide the answer on the first query so the user doesn’t have to search again.

Panda closed opportunities:

  • Link farms
  • Link begging
  • Low quality content spewing

Focus on providing a quality SERP experience. Monitor the guidelines and view yourself as a partner with Google. Does your listing help them provide users with what they are looking for? Google’s purpose is to answer the questions users submit (query). It is easy to see a bad listing if the user returns to the SERP or moves to the next page of the SERPs.

Your content: Does it answer the query? If the user bounces, returns to the SERP or no further action follow – no.

Provide what your SERP listing says it will, i.e. title and meta description. Then the content should exactly provide that result. Ex. Review Site should display Reviews on landing and above fold.

Kerry Dean of Performance Media Group

Technical Tips

Do the basics: (But don’t ‘over do’ the basics, care of the over optimization algo update.)

  1. Onsite – title, headers
  2. Navigations
  3. Information Architecture (IA)
  4. Crawling problems
  5. Sitemaps – XML and on site

Double up your analytic data: Use Google Analytics with Omniture or get another service.

Embrace the age of personal branding: Allow employees’ or clients’ sites to use the rel attribute to develop Author Rank / Author Authority.

Marshall Simmonds of Define Media Group

Blended Search

Marketing is not just about the content, its about the media. To be relevant there are key areas:

  • Blog regularly
  • Pay attention to the technical areas (<lastmod>)
  • Use RSS, (it’s Googles!)
  • Multiple media forms and types

Solutions for renewing information or older content (Audit)

  • Audit
  • Reduce ad blocks
  • No index or remove bad pages
  • Syndication
  • Clean up duplication
  • Sitemaps


XML, HTML, Image, Video, New, Blogs, etc. One for every sitemap.

Video: Only one video platform to get into Google, USE YOUTUBE

GNews and the standout tag: 7 times/week using link rel=”standout” href=”location” to promote content.

“Google doesn’t have a white or black list, they may have an exception list.”

Michael Martinez

“Look at what you’re doing with your website. Just justify if each page of your site answers the question. Yes or no, don’t be disillusioned. Monitor the guidelines. Wonder what a site can do to survive Panda? Find one that ranks well, do the research.”

Michael Martinez

After this slightly heated session I made it my mission to personally thank Michael for his candor and honesty. His passion around calling out the ‘whiners’ complaining about Panda really changed the way I view websites, their SEO strategies and Google. I think I fell into a false sense of privilege in regards to how Google should treat me and my websites; I believe others felt that way too. For me Panda and Michael’s bitch slap was a refreshing of my perspective. Like I tell my kids when they get a little sideways, “I think it’s time to press the reset button.” Learn more about Michael Martinez and his organization SEO Theory, you won’t regret it!

You Thought You Knew SEO – Day 2

Presentation: Real Answers For Technical SEO Problems

Maile Ohye of Google

rel=”alternate” hreflang=”[desired language]”

This is used to specify, clearly, different languages being used on pages.

Use this in conjunction with the canonical tag to identify pages that contain the same main content but vary in navigation options and language specific content.

In addition, using this along with the canonical tag shows what page is preferred and responsible for all other versions, (this determines the title, desc. shown in the SERPs) if using template-type versions of the same content.

– SERP will offer the local version of the URL as needed by the user (ex.,

– Use multiple URLs for serving different languages (it is not good to use translator services…)

The same page in different languages should point to each other using the alternate tag, this helps engines identify which version to serve and link to.

Do not use geo target if generic content/general content or sharing the same products on different pages.

For all pages, for different devices, use the same naming conventions.

Key Tip: Stop scrappers, use “baseurl” care of Jonathan Hochman

“Use canonical on every page, but Bing doesn’t like the canonical (believes it ignores it).”

Vanessa Fox

Robots.txt is good but does not help if you want to keep items out. Google prefers the on page rel=”noindex,[nofollow/follow]”

If there are 404s in Webmaster Tools, they are more for webmasters – do not truly impact the SERP or website value. See them as an opportunity for more pages in SERP and missed link value.

Adam Audette of RKG


  • Use a ‘view all’ as the target
  • Use rel=”next/prev”
  • noindex,follow all following pages
  • self ref rel canonical
  • each pagination should contain unique titles, URLs & metas.

Jonathan Hochman of Hochman Consultants

Check out Content delivery network – relocates resources and identifies resources closer to the users to improve load speed. Also protects against scrappers, bots, malware, and other nefarious systems.

Subdomain/Subfolder: Consensus is… it doesn’t matter. But use subdomains for large, relatively unrelated materials. Never, ever switch from one to the other. View the video of Matt about this one:


Videos: only way into the SERP is unique or YouTube. Video related SEO (sitemap, synopsis, and encoding) along with popularity determine rank/value to users.

Presentation:  Link Building Fundamentals

Christine Churchill of Key Relevance

Debra Mastaler of Alliance-Link

Side notes: *Check ComScore for share of search.

*Remember: Pages rank, not sites.

Link popularity: Triangle/Pyramid – Top: Quantity, 2nd Tier Quality (Quality flows, based on quality, relevance and distance), 3rd Tier Relevance, 4th Anchor Text

“Link wheels” are bad as of recently. Particularly mircrosites that are general, unnatural or inconsistent.

  • can create an RSS feed from any page.
  • can pull RSS feeds for a keyword.
  • Set up Google Alerts, Search Mentions, TweetBeep or Giga Alerts.

Pro tip: Check out http://www.

Add share options to everything: content, pdfs, and infographics.

Useful query: inurl:edu+inurl:blog “keyword” or “content”

Turn content into Podcasts: Audacity

Identify links to less credible resources (wiki) and tell the linker(s) that you have better content with more credibility.

Note* database for general articles. Use email list for new sources and traffic opportunities.

When you or an individual writes (or records) a review use:

  1. Press releases
  2. Syndication solutions
  3. Include details, lots of details

Create separate blogs or sites for image links. (this kinda contradicts what she and others have said, but I believe the point is to segment different types of media from being in one stream.)

Presentation:, Rel=Author & Meta Tagging Best Practices

Navneet Virk of Roundarch

Semantics is the study of meaning. Semantic web provides a common framework for content.

There is a need for sophisticated and natural language driven search and processing applications.

Is semantic markup right for you:

  • Structured information
    • Yes: conversions benefit your data

How to markup:

  1. Identify Structured data
  2. Define attributes & Ontology/relationships
  3. Content markup – RDFa, Microdata (recommended by Google)

Avis Case study:

  1. Identify the landscape
  2. Create keyword personas: these tools identify the type of search user that converts (ie. Using keyword terms, demographics, locations, content, and user generated reviews)
  3. Approach
  4. Used to determine data approach.
  5. Extend the schema using additional data values, sitemap, geo, keyword, brand craft.

AJ Kohn of Blind Five Year Old


As we all know now, this has to be one of the most important things SEOs can do to establish authority and improve SERP listing CTR. Come on, who doesn’t like rich snippets?!


  • Higher CTR
  • More traffic
  • Exposure
  • More fans and followers (Google+)
  • Personal branding
  • Reduce plagiarism

Review and research XFN (XHTML) concerning the development of relationship between data, content and authorship.

Google likes it because it helps verify authorship across the web.

Note* Use Rel=Publisher for company page (Google+ profile). Using publisher should not be used on single post or blogs. Having all the authors of a brands on the brand page is good, but they should have their own G+ page.


  • Name and email
  • Google+
  • rel=author
  • Three link monte
    • Link from a page to an author page.
    • About page links to Google+ profile with a rel=”me”
    • On Google+ profile rel=”contributor-to”

Note*: Use the rich snippets tool to test the authorship three link monte.

  • Watch out for the tag or use the tag rel=”publisher” but it isn’t overly concerning to have both.
  • Warnings below the author line in rich snips isn’t pressing or problematic.
  • Track authorship in the labs section under Google Analytics, but it is only for the Google+ profile associated with the author.

Dennis Goedegebuure of Geeknet, Inc.

Rich Snippets

Rel=Author is currently only working in English SERPs.

Key Tip: Use the same image throughout for improved authorship and snippet value.

What is the value of the Snippet?

  • Increases the confidence of the SERP for the user.
  • The Amazon results loose their snippets when listed with author snippets (natural listing).


Recovery: After, After Dark and Letting It All Sink In – Day 3

After the first two days and dancing the night away (which also involved me trying to break dance #Fail) with Danny Sullivan, Jon Wuebben and Elizabeth Osmeloski, it was time to try and recover on the last day of SMX.

The morning was also filled with panic as, during the course of the night, my cheap but very necessary glasses were misplaced. With the help of a good Samaritan, Twitter and the wonderful Akvile Harlow, I was able to recover them soon after the first session. Luckily the rest of the trip was less, eventful.

Presentation: The New Killer Content

Heather Lloyd-Martin of SuccessWorks Search Marketing

Content management strategy and processes are important to creating manageable systems for content creation. Content is still king and vital to SEO growth.

  • Blogs
  • Google+ Posts
  • PR

Tip 1: Copywriting 101 – Remember, who is your customer

  • Revisit your customer persona
  • What’s in it for the customer/visitor/client
  • How will the content fulfill a need
  • Everyone on the web is not your target – envision going into a Starbucks: depending on what they are doing will let you know if they would be interested in what you have to say. This determines how you will say it.
  • Make your content more about the users, be warm, easy to read, and personal

Tip 2: Money pages

  • Investigate conversion rates
  • Let data drive your content edits

Tip 3: Clean up content (mullets)

  • Update outdated articles
  • Update sales content regularly
  • Regularly review and add to press page

Tip 4: Create for readers not the engines

  • Include trends
  • Answer customer concerns, those are SE concerns

Tip 5: SERP opportunities

  • Look at analytics; pages with good rank but low CTR
  • Meta descriptions Matter

Tip 6: Repurpose your content

  • Tweet
  • RSS
  • Facebook
  • Use old content, if relevant, in these new systems.

Tip 7: Create an editorial calendar

Gary Magnone of ThunderSEO

What is quality content?

Look to the Google post “More guidance on building high-quality sites” view the engine to know what guidelines they use to determine ‘quality.’

Old killer content: Using TextBroker as a way of rating content.

New killer content

  • Audience personas
    • Name
    • Age
    • Family status
    • Job
    • Values
    • Interest
    • Goals
  • Need states
    • Research phase
    • Quality

Check out these resources:

  • Trendistic: trends on twitter
  • GoFish: live keyword research

Use word clouds as a way of determining primary targets.

Meet the visitors’ business goals according to their persona use-case.  Make the content link to only the content that relates. If there is a resource off site that will help, translate that into your own words and add a page to your website.

Jon Wuebben of ContentLaunch

Content marketing: attract, acquire, and ENGAGE a clearly defined and understood target audience.

Content has a voice and needs to interact with the audience.

Become a valued resource versus a seller to customers through effective content.

  • Digital mags
  • Content widgets
  • White papers
  • Case studies
  • Webinars

Three pillars: content, design, usability

  • Content – is it valuable and easy to digest
  • Design – how effective is the design, are there images, info graphics
  • Usability – is it intuitive, easy to navigate and share

For mobile: content that is touch sensitive, keep it focused, break up content and use short words. Keep it streamlined and focused.

Main takeaways:

  1. Relevant
  2. Optimized and shareable
  3. Leverageable
  4. Profitable – for you and the user

Shari Thurow of Omni Marketing Interactive

Four Pillars of SEO

  1. Keyword focused text
    1. Match searcher mental models
    2. Does it make sense
    3. What is the information scent – does the SERP link match the page
  2. Architecture and design
    1. Remember make the content accessible
    2. Technology friendly
  3. Link development
    1. Allow people to validate your content, if they like you’ll know
  4. Searcher Behaviors
    1. Informational search
    2. Navigational – where am I going, how do I go
    3. Transactional, least type of behavior

What pages answer questions?: FAQs, references, how-tos, and white papers. If it is a direct question query provide a direct answer. If the answer is in a document, optimize the document – this goes far with user experience and building lasting relationships.

Content is not just content and links. It is a multi-media experience. Use associated graphics, slideshows, and videos when providing direct answers.

Nathan Safran of Conductor, Inc.

Understanding Not Provided

  1. Denial – This isn’t real
  2. Anger – Trying to figure out how to punish Google
  3. Bargaining – Give us data, we’ll give you leads!
  4. Depression/Sorrow – Realizing it is gone
  5. Acceptance – Deal with it, the data is not coming back


– For most industries the average is 14-16% with financing being higher (22%).

– Little difference in onsite behavior for logged in vs not logged in.


  • 6 out of 10 use for email. It is possible that this is the largest starting point of [not provided] causes.
  • Half of all users are logged in for about 75% of the time.
  • Data shows that those who purchase online frequently are going to be logged in a majority of the time.

Figuring Out [Not Provided]: the easy not so easy way.

Marty Weintraub offered some insight into a few methods of seeing past [not provided] and correlating the information using available data. In his example, which was hard to follow at times (I was a little sluggish and he had tons, I mean tons of statistics), Marty used Webmaster Tools to determine keywords for a page, then using Google Analytics to line up the page data for the keywords under not provided.

Drilling down into the pages you can correlate the data to circumvent the [not provided] cloud but always remember not set is not the same as not provided.

The Wrapper

After hours of sessions, heart palpitations and subsequent recovery; was it worth it? The answer is a resounding yes. Over the following months the information I gathered from SMX helped me make some of the greatest strides in client marketing strategies. Not only did the event pay for itself through financial success in servicing clients, but it helped me become more confident as a SEO. I knew a lot going in to the conference but what I knew was unsubstantiated or better yet, I operated in a vacuum with little interaction with other search marketing specialists which left me jaded.

I would say one of the greatest things an SEO can do for him or herself is to grow in confidence knowing that we are all in the same boat. An expert knows one truth; that he or she does not have all the answers but knows what questions to ask, how to ask those questions and where to turn for the right answers. No one man [or woman] can change the world in a vacuum or by him or herself; collaboration will always trump compromise.

Did I mention I was a fan of Star Wars?!

Chris as Mace Windu

“May The Force be with you” – Mace Windu

A. Chris TurnerAbout the Author: Chris Turner is also known as ChocolateSEO. CSEO is Chris' Nashville search marketing and consulting service offering a variety of services to help you, your company and any website maximize web-based marketing opportunities. He is the father of three girls, one boy (finally) and husband to the wonderful Savannah. Join the author's circle: Chris Turner on Google+.