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SES Toronto 2009 Day 1 Recap

Cliffnotes From Day 1

My first day at SES Toronto was info packed, networking wild, and quite interesting to say the least. Overall, the experience was worthwhile, though I do feel that the conference is better catered towards beginner to intermediate SEO/SEM types. Reconnecting with old friends at the Expo hall and meeting new ones felt great, and I hope to do more that tomorrow. So here’s an abridged version of what you need to know about today in 15 minutes or less.

Keynote: Tara Hunt – The Whuffie Factor

Since I love the efficiency of bulleted points (almost as much as Twitter) here’s what Tara broadly emphasized on:

  • SEO & Whuffie aren’t apart. They live together.
  • Google results are the best representation of Whuffie.
  • She talks about the 5 principles of getting more Whuffie (read her book for these)
  • Create Automagic – A customer experience that is so seamless, it’s almost magical.

Tara’s message is consistent with folks like Chris Brogan and Seth Godin and even Guy Kawasaki – The common philosophy boils down to helping your customers and connecting with them because that is the right thing to do, rather than exploit customers for profit. This philosophy isn’t new in any way, and the oldest sales reference I can think of is Zig Ziglar’s quote: “You can get whatever you want in life, IF ONLY you help enough OTHER people get what they want”.

Panel: Internationalizing Search Campaigns

Toronto’s own SEM Lady, Helen Overland and Kirsten Baker Ash lead up the talk followed by the Andy Atkin Kruger, all of whom seriously know their stuff. Top globalization and localization tips included:

  • Plan strategies centrally.
  • Focus on regional search engines.
  • Get a regional TLD *Important*
  • Get regional inbound links.
  • Get a regional host if possible.
  • Don’t half-ass translation. Get a certified translator instead.
  • Canonical link elements and no-f0llow, no index etc. are band aid solutions at best.

Interesting facts:

  • Europe lacks properly SEO’ed websites compared to N.America.
  • Keyword searches in languages other than english are often exclusively short-tail.
  • Keyword tools are underdeveloped, so using qualitative data from print media and focus groups is a good practice.
  • Russia is the fastest growing country in Europe, in terms of overall of website growth.

The Orion Panel : The Future of Search

The highlight of this panel were the hardcore stats provided by Microsoft’s Stacey Jarvis. As an ex-Microsoftee, I was happy to see MS tracking this sort of data. Statistics included:

  • 98% of all Canadians going online use search.
  • 8% YOY growth in search engine usage (assuming ’08 vs ’07).
  • A searcher conducts 144 searches on average every month.
  • Only 1 in 4 queries are satisfactory.
  • 15% of all queries result in completely irrelevant results.
  • 42% of all searches require refinement.
  • 30 minutes on the search engines is the average session time.
  • 9% of all query sessions last 3 minutes on average.

I’m not sure if these stats are specific to Live/MSN/Bing or to all search engines in general. The rest of the conversation between Tim Schigel, Stacey Jarvis, and Bryan Eisenberg revolved around a multitude of things such as the quality of search, educating children on using search engines, safe-search for kids, and a lively debate on whether search engine leaders should make changes to ‘steer’ the public, or if search engines should adapt to their users instead.

Althought I don’t have the exact words, Stacey said something along the lines of ‘users are not sophisticated enough to make decisions of their own and so we have to make them for them”. My tweet in response says: #sesto search engines should shape around their users, and not focus on teaching users how to search. This is why google gets it right…

I attended the video optimization session next, but didn’t end up taking notes. If you’re at #SESTO tomorrow, tweet me and let’s meet up!

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About the Author

Hired Gun of all things Internet Marketing & SEO. Founder at @PoweredbySearch. Local Search aficionado, and startup lover. I love fast cars & smart people.