Ten Things I Learned at SEMpdx SearchFest ‘08

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I had the pleasure of attending SEMpdx SearchFest ’08 at the Oregon Zoo in Portland. As SEMpdx President, I was active in planning and participating in SearchFest, so I wasn’t able to take detailed notes (like I did at OMS or will at SES NYC next week). I was able to compile a list of 10 things I learned while at SearchFest, for Search Marketing Standard readers:

- According to SearchFest keynote Rand Fishkin, the first anchor text is the one that passes link juice. It could be ALT tags so make sure the first link is really relevant and fulfills the needs of your page.

- According to Rand and other presenters, search personalization (and the long tail) have affected rankings to a degree where it may not be worth tracking keyword rankings.

- According to Aaron Kahlow, focus on minimizing drop-off at the beginning of the conversion funnel vs. at the shopping cart level. A slight increase there will boost results throughout the process.

- Microsoft is rolling out a handful of new tools, giving Google a run for the money, including a new Excel keyword research tool, keyword extraction (from a given page), keyword suggestions based on competitive purchases, buzz-related keywords and more accurate forecasts based on actual historic traffic.

- According to Steve Kemper, Google has less than half of the market share of Baidu in China (60% of market share in China and 3rd most popular site globally), in part because Google is too difficult for Chinese to spell.

- According to Stoney DeGeyter, not every page needs a META description. Pages with long tail keyword phrases may benefit from search engines creating the description automatically.

- According to John Andrews, design your inquiry form to save as each line is filled out, so that incomplete forms can be followed up on by the sales team. This requires re-prioritizing form items for maximum conversion opportunities.

- To maximize conversions, build a Web site based on visitor needs not business needs… even if it means redesigning the entire Web site. Same is true for SEO; if the site isn’t well-designed from the start, optimizing it is likely a waste of time.

- Social Media is changing the game; it offers benefits across the board: brand awareness, direct traffic and visibility in organic search results (especially multimedia in Universal Search).

For those of you unable to attend, we’ve posted SearchFest ’08 presentations on our blog, SEMPortland.com. Look for updates from SEMpdx SearchFest ’09 next year.

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  1. 11: Rand Fishkin uses more Powerpoint slides than anyone. Also, proves that you can use many slides in a presentation if done correctly. 12: Does Paul Colligan like Twitter? You Bet he does. 13: Marty Weintraub is insane--in a good way.

  2. Hi Kent - some good 'insider' tips that are [probably] not common knowledge, but surely ... "build a Web site based on visitor needs not business needs" ... should be at the top of any criteria/objectives for web site development? I will concede, however, that it isn't [top of the list] and so applaud its inclusion on lists like yours.

  3. This was my favorite point: According to SearchFest keynote Rand Fishkin, the first anchor text is the one that passes link juice. It could be ALT tags so make sure the first link is really relevant and fulfills the needs of your page. Excellent post overall! Thanks for sharing.