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SES San Jose 2009 Day 2 Recap: Google, Google, and more Google.

Day two started right where Day one left off, with tons of more informative sessions.  Unfortunately, we only have two people from PPC-Advice.com covering the conference, which means we can only cover 2 of a possible 5 simultaneous tracks, hopefully next year we can get more people to come along.

Speaking of next year, the organizers of the show have already scheduled next year’s Silicon Valley show for outside of the valley, but within the bay Area.  Next year, SES will be coming from San Francisco, and no one could be happier about that than me.  Apparently, organizers, sponsors, speakers, and the engines themselves have all agreed – San Jose is hard to get to, has zero night-life, and is about the same distance from the major engine’s HQ’s in the valley.  Sweeeeeet.Session 1: 9:00AM Duplicate Content and Multiple Site Issues

Let’s just lay one issue to rest right now, there are a lot of people trying to game the engines with duplicate content.  It’s considered somewhat of a Black Hat SEO relic at this point, the engines know which sites these are, they know the intent, they penalize those sites in the rankings.  For those of us with real problems in duplicate content, come real solutions and maybe a few assurances made by the engines about trends in their algorithms.

1.  All major engines have accepted the canonical tag for duplicate content.
2.  All major engines will still respect robots.txt and 301 redirects.
3.  All major engines accept that companies may have similar content on alternate sites due to geography, market, language, or even CMS features, and have solutions to deal with that.
4.  Duplicate content is only bad when it’s detected as “malicious” or “manipulative” to SERPs.

Shari Thurow was strong in this session, she really carried the bulk of the fundamentals, paving the way for the engines to have their say.  Her main concern which she echoed continuously was the fact that duplicate content counts towards the number of pages indexed by any given engine at a time.  Therefore, you’re shooting yourself in the foot with dupes, if the engines ignore unique pages deeper in the site, or that occur after all those dupes.  Strong point.

Marty Weintraub.  I’m not sure whether he had much to say, because his presentation style, albeit loud and boisterous, was fragmented and borderline schizophrenic. Sorry dude, it woke everyone up, but also tuned everyone out to the meaning behind the material.

Thankfully, all three Engines were represented.  Greg Grothaus from Google, Ivan Davtchev from Yahoo, and Sasi Parthasarathy from Bing.  The take-home message was the same, and echoed Shari.  If you don’t pick the content you want indexed, the engines will, and if you have dupes you’ll loose out on additional pages that CAN be indexed.

A few interesting exceptions in when duplicate content is okay, and actually allowed.  News aggregator sites (read: not scraper sites), but services like Marketwire, PR News, etc. and their affiliates and news partners get a pass.  So it all comes down to site architecture at that point: solid SEO = top rankings, let the best service win.

Session 2: 10:45AM Google Sponsored Site Search

Nitin Mangtani, Lead Product Manager for Google Site Search lead this session as the lone Wolf.  Some interesting facts and figures from this session included:

  • When navigation fails, 50% of users will turn to search.
  • 71% of 2000 shoppers used searches to find products.
  • 90% of customers that purcahse said they used site search to help their decision.

That makes sense.  With decision-making conversion funnels occuring outside of your site, it’s totally feasible that users will search for EXACTLY what they need once they decide to purchase from you.  So, making your Site Search as robust and relevant as possible is extremely important in achieving those quick-wins.

Keynote: 1:00PM Nicholas Fox, Google

I kind of feel bad for Nick Fox, but I also kind of don’t.  With the pomp and pageantry of a keynote address at such a niche conference, expectation is extremely high.  What was delivered in his address was nothing – absolutely nothing – anyone already didn’t know about Google, it’s products, the industry, etc.  So I don’t feel that bad that his speech tanked and people walked out.

Last year set a dangerous precedent.  Kevin Ryan, Matt Cutts, and some other people that I can’t recall at the moment, talking about advancements in technology and where we’re going.  An open discussion that was extremely well-received, and somewhat visionary.

This year, Nick had a definite script he had to follow, whether that was his perogative or not, it just didn’t work.

Session 3: 2:30PM Google Adwords, Google Analytics, Website Optimizer: Secrets Revealed!

Despite the negative tweets during Nick Fox’s keynote about having enough from Google, this session could have easily been the most popular event during the show thus far.  With nary an empty seat in the house, Google products were on display.

Ariel Bardin, Product Management Director for Adwords started the show, with some high-level discussions on recent improvements made to the Adwords user interface.  If you haven’t seen this yet, check out the overview of new Google Adwords interface changes Google posted. Some of the highlights include:

  • Filters for keywords to find needles in your haystack
  • Bid simulator, which helps you go back in time to see what changes in keyword bidding in the past would have meant for conversions, revenue, etc.
  • Custom alerts (self explanatory)
  • Spreadsheet editing for keywords, using spreadsheet formulae (oh my!)
  • Location extensions for local business ads, proximity detection and address inclusion

Next up, Google Analytics.  Not much new, aside from the relatively recent changes in user interface, plus event tracking for goals, rather than Page View goals.

Google Website Optimizer is next.  Despite the ease of use, and chagnes made to the interface, few people will likely to have even tried the product yet.  Last year, the GWO team introduced pruning, or the ability to turn off poorly performing elements in a test while the test is still running.  This year, Google announced “auto-pruning”, which when enabled will proactively disable poorly performing test elements.

Using Google Website Optimizer, YouTube was able to increase user registration conversions by over 15% in their tests.

From there, the traditional session format turned into a science fair.  With over 40 Googlers on hand for the afternoon, tables were setup for each of their products and specialty functions, such as Adwords API, Bulk Editor, Web Analytics, and Website Optimizer.  Brilliant move for addressing the throngs of visitor questions, instead of having to suffer through an extended Q&A.  But alas, no freebies this year… WAH Wah wahhhhh.

Session 4: 4:00PM Real World Multivariate Testing

Some industry heavyweights on this panel: Trevor Claiborne, Google Website Optimizer Product Marketing Manager, Jim McDonald, Sr. Online Marketing Manager of Match.com, Ayat Shukairy of Invesp Consulting, and David Sprinkle, Director of Analytics and Insights for Acronym Media.

Clear leader of the most useful discussion on this panel, for me, would have to be Jim McDonald.  But as I mentioned in an unrelated tweet, you have to walk the line and balance being a constructive change agent and a digital refugee.  One of the hardest things to overcome is design by committee, but once you estbliash easy wins early with the benefits of testing, corporate culture has the potential to change quickly.

Trevor Claiborne had some interesting speaking points as well.  He actually ran through some real-life tests that were setup on the signup page for Google Website Optimizer.  For a useful techy guide, visit google.com/websiteoptimizer/techieguide for the PDF.

That rounds out day 2 at SES San Jose 2009.  Unfortunately, I’ll be flying out of San Jose tomorrow morning, so I won’t be able to cover events first hand, but will check in with a few people on their impressions to close out the show.

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