SES Report: Day 3

A busy day for me, filled with off site client meetings. Nonetheless, I managed to catch two sessions. These were: Speaking Unofficially: Search Engine Bloggers, and Usability & SEO: Two Wins for the Price of One. Both were very interesting.

The first of these featured Jeremy Zawodny of Yahoo, Matt Cutts of Google, Niall Kennedy of Microsoft, and Gary Price of Ask.com. This session was not deep in tips and tricks for blogging success, but did provide some real insight into corporate mechanics at the major search engines. Each of these people blogs about life in their business as individuals, and not as corporate representatives.

This has the interesting dynamic of finding them criticizing their employer at times, and praising their competition at others. All of this is oddly interesting, but not really the type of value I seek in coming to SES. However, a couple of points emerged – their situation as bloggers mirrors ours in some respects. You can't use your blog as an ad for your company, or else you lose your respect and readership very quickly. It's all about trust and reputation.

Also, I was fascinated to learn from Gary Price that you can obtain an enormous amount of research data online from your local (closest major city) library with nothing more than a library card. There is a wealth of database information that you can obtain by using these resources. If you have a site that focuses on presenting large volumes of data, there is a tremendous resource available to you that you may not even be aware of. Call your local library (where you have a library card) and you will be amazed at what you get.

The usability session underscored points that you will see us emphasize over and over again in the articles section of our site. Designing for users and designing for SEO are not mutually exclusive goals. Sites that are easier for humans to figure out are usually also easier for crawlers to figure out.

For example, a page that has several parameters in its URL, such as:

www.yourdomain.com/pages?id=12&dest=2345&placement=9485

may not even be indexed by a search engine. Whereas if you use mod rewrite rules to remap your URL to (for example):

www.yourdomain.com/pages/trees/pines/firs

your page is very likely to be indexed, and is easier for users to understand when they see it too.

Another thing that works for both users is a clear, simple, global navigation scheme. Users certainly like to know where to find the master menu for your site, and so do search engines. Similarly, an easy to understand site hierarchy benefits both search engines and users as well.

I also enjoyed my first walk through the Exhibit Hall. One thing I thought was interesting was SiteTuners.com. They offer a business model where they tune the conversion performance of your site in return for a percentage of the increase in business they bring to your site. No up front fees.

A very cool model. They use automated tools to make the process work, and therefore do require a high volume of transactions to engage with a site. Also, they want to get paid 50% of the revenue growth. So it's not for everyone, but I really liked their model.

So much for Day 3. Time to call it tonight. Tomorrow I will start with my perennial favorite session – Meet the Crawlers. We will write our final post for the SES event tomorrow evening. Ciao!

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