World of Search Conference Vindicates SEO Basics, Exposes Bad Boy SEO Tricksters
The 2004 “World of Search” conference at the Las Vegas Convention Center began Tuesday, November 15, with a short welcome address and conference kudos and credits from WebMasterWorld.com (WMW) owner Brett Tabke. The first session, titled “Big Site Promotion” provided a glimpse into search engine gambits employed by the SE strategists for the big boys at Autobytel.com (Joe Morin of Boost Search Marketing), About.com (Marshall Simmonds, Primedia in-house Search Director) and IBM (Bill Hunt of GlobalStrategies.com).
“Big Site Promotion” turned out to be a vindication of the standard SEO rallying cry, “Content and relevancy are King!” Both Simmonds (About.com) and Morin (Autobytel.com) told tales of basic SEO issues. Both work in a change-resistant corporate culture where adoption is slow and “proof of concept” is often necessary before multiple division heads will sign-off. Mulltiple division directors must agree to page templates changes, even when those changes are well recognized necessities of SEO.
In the same session, we heard from IBM SEO Bill Hunt with a story of finding and removing rogue robots.txt files that kept SE spiders out of literally thousands of pages. He quizzed audience members on the issue and got only a sprinkling of upraised hands when he asked how many thought that problem might be significant.
Hunt warned them that they’d better take it seriously when pages are not being indexed and look for unknown robots.txt files that may be found lurking on client servers of monstrous corporate sites. He noted that the starting point for large site SEO is often the bare essentials (the standard Title, Heading and Metadata) on global templates, followed byresolving “barriers to crawling” such as dynamic URL’s, cookies and session ID’s in visible URL’s through URL rewrites.
The after lunch “SEO Super Session” served mostly to frighten and anger any honest and ethical SEO’s when a panel discussion exposed the so-called “Black Hat” SEO techniques as common, acceptable and routine for at least one panelist and some audience members, who shared a laugh over illicit ranking techniques. Even though one panelist pointed out the presence of Google’s Matt Cutts in the back of the room, another panelist grinned through his “do what works” justification for even more black hat techniques and said, to more laughs, “You’re not a true SEO until you’ve been banned at least once!”
I beg to differ on that point and hope the friendly chuckles passed around that session aren’t a true reflection of the majority of this audience so accepting of underhanded black hat trickery. I literally got physically ill over the spamming techniques and cloaking skullduggery so easily accepted in the name of “client advocacy” by many SEO’s. Panelist members mentioned that they’d been surprised at the number of people at SEO conferences who refuse to offer their name and occupation when greeted because they don’t want to be identified as one of those bad boy SEO’s. I’m proud of my occupation and refuse to use questionable “algo-busting” trickery so readily acccepted with a wink by some.
The latest widespread dirty trick is done using an IP delivery ruse which forwards recognized search engine spiders to a higher ranked site trhrough a “301 page moved”, thus inheriting the forwarded site’s PageRank, while showing all other visitors the true pages. Although I suppose I’ll be seen as a naive and gullible-SEO-prude by those using “brute force” techniques to manipulate the search engines, I’ll accept the inevitable ribbing and sleep well at niight.
An audience member wondered out loud why Google hasn’t done something to correct this latest underhanded IP delivery technique. Panelists had no answer, but suggested attendees corner search engine representatives present from Google (Matt Cutts) and Yahoo (Tim Mayer) to see what they had to say on the subject.
Though I’ve lost clients to those willing to employ these rotten egg techniques that attract visitors like maggots, at least I don’t have to return later and clean up the mess left by the buzzing bugs crawling over the stench left once their techniques die suddenly, are discovered and banned. I’ve earned substantial money doing the cleanup for previous, banned SEO’s. I hated that work and the extensive cleanup of rotting doorway pages, stinky cloaked pages and endless putrid piles of deteriorating mirror sites.
I just this week lost a job to a black hat SEO team. The work I bid on and lost was from a substantial company seeking to cover up bad press that is ranking in top spots, right below their sales site. The clear honest solution is to displace those bad press results with high ranking and legitimate press releases, FAQ’s, glossary of terms and relevant contextual sites that rank above them. I will, in the future, refuse the inevitable job of cleaning up the mess left by the black hat winner of that contract.
Though more sessions capped the first day agenda, none could hold my attention after that stomach turning black hat technique discussion – I had to flee to my hotel room to suffer my illness in private. Damn! I hope some good announcements or innovative ideas emerge from days two and three of the “WebMaster World of Search #7” so I can get over that upset stomach brought on by the bad boys of search. I know there will always be those willing to cheat, lie and steal as long as there is money to be made. I also know I won’t be one of them.