The “New” SEO – SMX Advanced Seattle Takeaways

My recent trip to SMX Advanced provided my brain with an overflowing basket of new ideas, concepts and procedures to process and bring to our clients.

I love these conferences, not just for the sessions that are taught, but for the ability to network with my SEO-industry friends and bounce ideas off of each of them.  We collaborate on ideas and come up with some awesome thoughts for helping our clients succeed in their online markets.

This SMX Advanced in Seattle was info-packed for sure.  I certainly cannot provide all of the details in one blog post, but I wanted to share information from the best SEO session of the conference.

First, the New Periodic Table of SEO Ranking Factors – a daunting chart of colors and initials that made me cringe at first.  Luckily, a little known fact, here – I was a chemistry GEEK in high school.  I couldn’t do math to save my soul, but give me a chemical equation and I was in hog heaven, I LOVED them…..weird, I know.

Periodic Table of SEO Ranking FactorsVisit: for the full table

This session went over the new landscape of SEO – what is working now, what is working less, and what will and will not be working in the future.  One piece of information you have to remember as we talk about these strategies – this information CORRELATES to rankings, it doesn’t really “cause” rankings. We don’t know what Google’s exact algorithm is, so the cause of higher rankings is an unknown, but we can speculate and say “the larger the number of linking c-blocks for these sites measured, the higher they ranked.”

So a diverse profile of linking c-block CORRELATES to higher rankings, it doesn’t necessarily CAUSE high rankings.  That being said, correlation data is how we’ve worked for years.  We know that A+B+C-D=better rankings for “Keyword X”.  So A, B, C and no D correlate to higher rankings.

Okay, now that vocabulary time is over, let’s get to the nitty-gritty of what is and isn’t working – and what will work in the future.

When everything looks the same, the slightest thing becomes a huge differentiator

This was the theme of the way SEO is working today.  If your market contains 10 top players, and each one those players have written page titles, meta descriptions and have sites that are approximately the same size, there’s not much to differentiate one from the other in the ranking pack.  Those elements are important – but they level the playing field, so the philosophy of SEO changes.  You need to do the things they’re NOT doing to pull ahead.  Each market is probably different, so what those things are may vary.  Where Page Titles and Meta Descriptions are done for everyone, Page Speed, User Interaction, Site Size, Incoming Links, or Crawlability may affect your rankings to the point of setting you apart from the pack.

Rand Fishkin at SEOMoz shared data from their Ranking Factors Survey along with correlation data from the SEOMoz Open Site Explorer database.  He found and shared the following:

A few tactics with Strong correlation to high rankings:

  • Session IDs have a strong negative impact
  • Page response time – had a surprisingly strong correlation to ranking well
  • Keywords in title Tag
  • Keyword in H1
  • Keyword in H2
  • Keyword in URL of image (for image search as well as web search)

A few tactics that had no correlation to ranking well:

  • Page size (in MB, not necessarily in words – but more words = higher MB – so keep your pages around 150 to 250 words)
  • URL character length
  • Flash navigation didn’t factor
  • Dynamic parameters in URLs not correlated w/ rankings
  • Proximity of page to root directory, not correlated w/ rankings
  • Keyword emphasis (bold)
  • Keyword in meta description
  • Keyword in H3
  • Keyword in image alt text

As you can see,  these are a lot of the same things we’ve known over the years.  I think the newest factor on the “doing well” list is Page Response Time, and the most surprising factor on the “not doing well” list is “probably proximity of page to root directory.”  We have seen over the years the less levels of website between a page and the homepage, the better that page does ranking-wise.  That seems to not be the case with the data presented, we’re going to continue testing our sites to be sure it has no bearing for our clients.

Are Links Loosing Their Luster?

The overall opinion in the Ranking Factors Survey that Links are falling in importance.  In 2009 page level link metrics accounted for 43% of the top ranking factors, while in 2011 they account for just 22%. That’s quite a large decrease and goes in line with Google doing everything it can to find and eliminate sites with link farms and poorly placed purchased links from the index.  Links are still a big factor, but not as large as they were 2 years ago.

The Importance of Linking C Blocks

The diversity of the C-Blocks for all of your incoming links seems to correlate well to higher rankings.  A C-Block is simply defined by looking at your IP address or addresses.  If your site is hosted at:


you define the blocks like this:


So the C-Block is “78” in this case.  If most of your incoming links are from sites hosted in a similar location – and the C-Blocks (the numbers in the third octet above [CC]) are the same, your c-block diversity is low, and your links have less value.  You want to be sure that you’re getting incoming links from authority domains with IP addresses and hosting setups far away from your site’s IP.  There is no evidence of Google “penalizing” sites that have limited c-block diversity, but they’re not giving you credit for those links either.

What Will Work in the Future

This was quite an eye-opening graphic from Rand Fishkin at SEOMoz, and shows the data from 132 SEOs surveyed for the SEOmoz Annual Ranking survey.  Basically you see below what the consensus is for some top ranking factors, and if those factors will continue to be a factor, will gain importance, or will lose importance.

I’ll leave you with this graphic and all of the implications it holds for your future SEO strategies.  Are you ready for next month, next year, or the next 10-years?  The strategies needed to keep up, or surpass your competitors are ever evolving, and keeping track of what YOU need to do requires time and assistance.  Let us know if we can help!

Image courtesy SEOMoz Ranking Factors for 2011