Takeaways and Tidbits from Searchfest 2011

Yesterday I attended the fantastic SEMpdx Searchfest conference, which I’ve made sure to attend at least the last 4 years in a row, maybe 5. I always attend this event because some of the best in the industry show up from all over the country to share the latest trends in Search Engine Management and Marketing. Each year I feel like there’s at least one major takeaway that I can apply immediately for my clients. Here are some notes from this year that I found interesting from attending the ‘advanced search track’:

– Google personalization is always on now, signed in or not. That means that the search results shown for given terms are specific to you based on your location, persona, and browsing history, and search results will vary for everyone. In fact one presenter noted that 6 of 10 results displayed are personalized!

– Twitter plays an alarmingly large role in the ranking of pages now. A couple of presenters noted that links that were tweeted and retweeted, especially by highly valued Tweeters, got significant ranking boosts.

– Page load times were also noted to be a part of the ranking algorithm now as well.

– A few presenters talked about the growing importance of mobile web, but I have to be honest, I’ve been hearing this same story for the last 6 years and I’m still not convinced. Especially with stats like by 2013 there will be 5.8B mobile users, but only 30% will have smartphones…

– Google is always updating their Search Engine Results Pages (SERPS) and now that they allocate so much related content at the top (like images, news, local, etc…) there are new sitemaps that they’ll accept that will help you appear in these areas; most notably image, video, and news sitemaps.

– “Content farms”, or sites that exist purely to create web content to rank well in SERPs, are now being penalized by Google. Being a content authority is becoming more important than just well written, keyword laden articles. One way to see how Google views your authority is to filter results by reading level.

– An often overlooked detail is how your result looks in the SERPs, meaning you may have a high ranking, but if no one is clicking on it because the presentation falls short, who cares? Make sure to have a quality snippet shown, that uses all 3 lines, and has strong anchor text.

dc