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Toronto Search Engine Strategies Conference

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In: Articles

By Rudy Limeback

Published on May 25, 2005

Earlier this month, JupiterMedia’s two-day Search Engine Strategies Conference came to Toronto, giving me a “don’t miss” opportunity to learn the latest in search engine optimization without incurring travel expenses (always attractive to a freelancer). For me, it was a valuable conference and a great experience.

My Web development background began with writing HTML for Netscape 1, and I’ve used search engines since the first days of Lycos, Excite and AltaVista. Even if you haven’t been on the Web as long, you’ve likely collected search engine information and advice—perhaps some of it conflicting—on how to get good search engine results for your Web sites.

But how much of what we’ve picked up over the years is really useful today? Search engines have certainly evolved; have we? My objective attending this conference was to catch up to the “state of the art” of search engine optimization (SEO), as well as to review the conference for Digital Web Magazine readers so those of you who, like me, aren’t search engine specialists, can decide whether to go. (The conference is presented in several cities around the world. Check the Search Engine Strategies site for details.)

The first thing you need to do when entering the search engine marketing (SEM) world is learn the jargon. The topic itself is usually broken down into two components:

You should also know about search engine results pages (SERPs), and “organic” listings, which are listings the search engines find by themselves, as opposed to paid listings, which are usually shown separately from organic listings on the SERPs. Finally, PageRank (named after Larry Page, a Google founder) indicates the importance of a page. PageRank has gotten a lot of attention in recent years, but according to at least one speaker at the conference, it is losing its relevance.

SEO Strategies

The individual sessions provided numerous handy tips and insights. Here are samples from my notes:

Future Directions

The major search engines are becoming smarter and their algorithms more intelligent. Google recently purchased a domain name registrar, and now has access to the entire domain name database. Google can now capture the following information:

Combined with data obtained by the Googlebot (number of pages in the site, content, and links to and from these pages), this domain information could be quite revealing. Authoritative and stable domains are often paid for several years in advance, while “doorway” or “throwaway” domains usually have real sites behind them only for a year or less. Presumably, Google could make conclusions about what the site is actually being used for, and rank it higher based on its stability. In fact, Google has filed a patent claim for this historical analysis, details of which you can read in the article Google's Patent: Information Retrieval Based on Historical Data.

Case Study

The presentation by National Instruments offered a fascinating account of SEO. Because most sites have competitors, not only for products and services, but also for the same keyword space, maintaining a high search engine ranking for your site for your keywords over longer periods of time takes work. And that’s the problem. To compete with the “algorithm chasers” as they tweak their SEO techniques and occasionally overtake you in the rankings, you have to expend time and energy. You have to become an expert on what works in which search engines. And then when the search engines change their algorithms, you have to change your techniques and start over.

The strategy that National Instruments adopted was not to play that game. Instead, they decided to regard all search engines as black boxes, and concentrate on creating the most relevant content. They implemented an in-house enterprise content grading system based on the FAST engine. Authors place their chosen keywords into META tags, submit pages to the grading system and receive a relevancy score. If the score is unacceptable, authors refine the content and resubmit until it hits a desired level before publishing the page to the site.

The benefit? Significant cost savings from not having to train authors how to be SEO specialists, as well as pages that consistently rank higher than competitors’ pages for the chosen keywords, simply because the content has been optimized for those keywords.


The best part of attending a conference like this is the swag. Uh oh, did I just say that out loud?

In addition to the information-packed sessions, a key benefit of attending a conference is the opportunity to meet peers and presenters informally. After presentations, between sessions, at coffee break and lunch times, and—if you’re friendly enough—in the evening of the first day, you can compare notes and ideas, ask questions, and generally get a feel for where things are going. There’s a lot of opportunity, and let’s face it, it’s more fun than digging up the same information, via, um, you know, search engines…

The Search Engine Strategies Conference gets my recommendation.

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Related Topics: Search Engine Optimization (SEO), Search, E-Marketing


Rudy Limeback is Digital Web Magazine's Database Consultant and was Technical Editor for about six years, responsible for posting articles to the site using valid HTML.

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