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SMX London 2008 – Day 2 Session 2

Henry Elliss
Henry Elliss
Managing Director
5 November 2008

The second session of the day that interested me was moderated by the lovely Vanessa Fox, and was entitled “SEO for web 2.0 websites”. The panel once again included Dave Naylor, Nathan Baggia from Microsoft, Tom Critchlow from Distilled and possibly the jazziest-dresser I have ever seen on a panel – Mikkel deMib Svendsen from deMib.com.

Img00995Nathan Baggia started off talking about some examples of brilliant web 2.0 sites that simply won’t come up in results due to their appalling SEO.  The best thing about his first example (Arbor snowboards) was the little table of rankings he gave for Arbor rankings for their brand name – Google and Yahoo both rank it 1, while Microsoft Live ranked in 3. He kind’ve skipped over that though…!  Some of the issues/tips he highlighted included:

- Sites built in AJAZ, Silverlight, Flash etc – search engines can’t see the content
- If there isn’t a unique URL for all pages, it’s hard not only for search engines but also for users sending links to their friends. The solution? Make sure your landing page loads quickly,  is built in HTML/CSS etc.
- Some of these sites have massive amounts of content, yet it’s not being read so it isn’t making any impact.
- Don’t build a whole page in Flash, just the elements that NEED to have flash functionality. “Refactor functionality and content”.
- Create a down-level experience – detect user agents to optimise the user experience.
- He also gave some tips that relate to ASP.net and IIS-specific issues, but went over them too fast for me to take notes!

Tom Critchlow followed, who talked about the difficulty of optimising content that a user has written for you (i.e. user generated content won’t be optimised, though it will still be useful content). Some of the tips he gave included: using “recent search queries” lists to generate internal links;  Use internal metrics (stars, thumbs-up, comments etc) to identify missed opportunity pages;  Align your internal voting system (star, favourites etc) with your external voting (share on Digg, Facebook etc); Vanessa Fox added at the end that if you manually edit the title tags of your UGC pages you can see some big gains.

Dave Naylor was up next, and he talked about his own blog as a case study – his blog was recently hacked (the ultimate UGC) though Google very kindly helped him get it crawled again. He also discussed a petition website which he works with, which had to be moderated to stop it’s users going nuts.  His presentation was a lot more negative about Web 2.0, though some of his advice was worth noting – keep control of your site, look at it like a spider would, don’t think that web 2.0 makes you bullet proof.

The final speaker of the session was the aforementioned snazzy-dresser, Mikkel deMib. Mikkel talked mainly about how AJAX works, and what sort of pitfalls you can come up against when trying to optimise an AJAX site. The main take-home message on this, from all the panel and Vanessa Fox too, was that AJAX is an absolute beast in terms of SEO issues, to tread very carefully.

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