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Search Engine Strategies, Danny Sullivan, And The Velocity of Trust

Aug 17, 2007
At the Search Engine Strategies conference in New York City last week, Danny Sullivan's presentation set the tone and created a value proposition for the entire event.

His hour and one-half "Introduction To Search Marketing" was one of five concurrent programs to kick off the three day event. The folks at the Hilton on 6th. Avenue had to string three large rooms together, with half a dozen huge screens and lots of audio so the people packed all the way into the back of the last room could hear and see what he had to say.

Danny is generally considered a leading light for anyone and everyone when it comes to articulating how search engines work. But that was not what filled up these rooms.

His expertise about search engines is well known by the media and by anyone who has been around the development of search engine strategies for over a decade. But at least 60% of the people in the audience were not there for that reason either.

The majority of the attendees were there because of the five concurrent sessions, this was the only introductory one - and they were new to search. Some of us wanted to hear Danny because we'd heard his clear descriptions of the way things work before.

But for most of the people in the room this was their introduction to search and Danny did not disappoint. He gave us all confidence in our decision to be there, reassured us that what looked too big and complex could be sorted out, and he helped everyone get focused so we could choose the remaining sessions more objectively.

His personable style put us at ease with virtually no acronyms and SEO shorthand during his talk. I don't know about you but I am sick to death of presenters who have to pepper their talks with expressions like "revolutionize seamless bandwidth", "engineer leading-edge action-items" or "incentivize wireless infrastructures" because they think it's more important to impress us than it is to communicate with us.

Danny used concrete nouns that created real life images of things we are familiar with, like shoes. That alone gave us confidence that no matter how daunting the search marketing environment might be, here was someone who could explain in it plain English.

Danny began covering search engines in late 1995, when he undertook a study of how they indexed web pages. That study later evolved into the Search Engine Watch site that he founded and edited through November 2006.

And never once did he mention that his talk was part of his farewell tour. In fact it was another day at the office - except that his office is in an English village. His wife and two young sons joined him on his trip to New York and sat in the front row until the siren call of Toys R Us beckoned.

One of the nice touches, something only those of us in the front of the room well before kick-off time saw was when he flashed a photo of their sons on the screen for them. It was so fast I'm sure not many people other than the boys saw it. All I got was a quick shot with a Kermit hat on one of them.

After that, no matter what he was selling - I was buying. Everyone I spoke to, none of whom really knew who or how important he was - said the same thing. He will be the face of search for them going forward.

His core presentation featured a massive amount of information on 77 slides. He went through them smoothly, has done this before - telling us from the start not to worry too much about the details because there was a major presentation for each of the content areas he was presenting.

We could sit back and simply absorb the logical flow.

As he moved through the overview from free search results, to search engine PR, and advertising I could sense that each of us was considering what is important to us - so we would know which of the following sessions we should attend and why.

What became clear for me was how the 20/80 rule applies to most of the thins we do when it comes to search engine marketing. That's when 20% of our activity will provide 80% of our results.

I was all ears, wanting to know what we are already doing right and what we can get the greatest leverage out of so we can just forget the rest. We want our site to achieve what it can achieve with a reasonable amount of money, time, and effort.

Along those lines he said that page content is critical. Since we write stories for business owners to read, page content is already critical to us. He said that our title tags are important and this is something we've been working on for the last three years. Our older content is indexed without regard to putting keywords in the title, so we'll just leave them the way they are.

He said that design issues had an impact on searchability and I was so thankful that our designer and our savvy software engineer were of one mind when they created our site. Another check mark on the positive side of the equation.

And he talked at length about linking with other web site and how important it was to be linked with trusted web sites where our readers already are. This was something we had never really done anything about - but I left there with some specific ideas of who we should be linked to and a conviction to work on getting links in the future.

With this new found knowledge a lot of people left the session knowing that there were things within their control, stuff they could actually do right now, that will end up influencing their search engine ranking.

Then they can concentrate on the hundreds of other things that will make incremental differences depending on the mood of the spiders and other crawlers tomorrow an the next day and the day after that.

Danny left us with three important tips.
First he said, don't ignore the free listings and the search engine PR because small changes like those above can reap big free rewards.

Second he said that we should not rely solely on free listings because they can and do change without notice. If you positively have to be number one on a search engine, consider buying ads that put you there.

And finally, that the next two and one half days of sessions and the exhibitors on three floors of the hotel will build on everything we had just heard. And he was right!

To paraphrase Danny, now editor-in-chief of Search Engine Land, do what has the greatest leverage for you, do the best you reasonably can when you do it, and then move on.
About the Author
If you want to know a lot more about search engine strategies visit our directory of over 300 search engine marketing and optimization articles in our Search Engine Articles Directory. Wayne Messick is an experienced family business consultant whose web site http://www.iBizResources.com offers business owners a wealth of free information and business insights.
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