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PubCon 2008 - Sessions From Day 3

Friday, 14 November 2008

It's the final day of sessions of PubCon 2008, although there are plenty more informal events planned tonight at the Palms casino and tomorrow afternoon. In the same vain as my last two posts, I have put together some highlights of the final days sessions.


E-Commerce and Shopping Cart Optimisation (Rob Snell, Ethan Giffin, Jimmy Duvall)

Jimmy Duvall was up first and gave 5 simple tips on improving eccomerce shopping optimisation -

  • Ensure every page can view the basket (or cart if you are from the states)
  • Ensure your phone number is on every page
  • Make sure you are answering the core questions on the shopping basket page (whether it be sizes or anything that might cause confusion)
  • Ensure your buyers know what stage they are in the buying process (use of steps!)
  • Ensure shipping cost is clear and visible, Jimmy rates this as the most important part of the buying process.

Jimmy then went on to share some great research carried out by their firm with regards to the biggest shopping days of the year. He asked the audience to guess which day was the highest of the year in 2006 and 2007, envitably 'cyber monday' was quoted back. He points out actually this is incorrect.

Cyber monday was around the 10th biggest shopping day of the year for both 2006 and 2007. Approximately 10 days before Christmas is generally the peak each year, depending on what day Christmas falls. It is generally the Monday which is the very peak of activity followed by the Tuesday. The Monday for the week previous to this is also bigger than cyber Monday.

So for 2008 we can predict Monday the 15th will be the peak shopping day, followed by Tuesday the 16th and then third highest activity will be the Monday before, the 8th. Certainly from own experience, Monday and Tuesday are generally the highest volume days every week with a decline towards and into the weekend before peaking again on the Monday.

Ethan Giffin was up next and gave further insights with another 5 step approach -

  1. Design for success
  2. Don't neglet your site search
  3. Shopping with trust & confidence
  4. Have a bullet proof checkout
  5. A picture can sell 1000 products

1)    Design for success

  • Important for seo and conversion
  • Follow web standards
  • Every page is not one size fits all
  • Don't forget the mini cart
  • Guide your visitors navigation

Add to cart/basket button extremely important

  • Make it obvious
  • Make it big
  • When you add to cart keep visitors on the same page

Guided navigation for many SKUs

  • Brand, price, colour etc
  • Be careful on duplication content and dilution of page rank
  • Can increase AOV

2)    Don't neglect your site search

  • Not an option an requirement
  • Google analytics site search report
  • 'No results' page as important as the sales page

3)    Shopping with trust & confidence

  • Reassure visitors
  • About page (years in the business)
  • Show major credit cards you accept
  • 3rd party endorsements
  • Hacker safe / secure shopping
  • Guarantee customer satisfaction
  • Inform of shipping policies
  • Privacy policy (nobody reads them but it adds a trust factor)

4)    Have a bullet proof checkout

  • Show customers progress
  • Eliminate distractions
  • Reduce abandonment rate
  • Proper error messages (not script errors with codes)
  • Attention to detail

5)    A picture can sell 1000 products

  • Clear crisp images
  • Different angles, multiple pictures
  • Professional shots

Rob Snell was next with 15 quick tips to make more with your online store!

  1. Tell your folks what to buy (recommendations, opinions, reviews)
  2. Give folks enough info to decide themselves (buyers guides etc)
  3. Write good product descriptions (Don't just use the manufacturers copy which everyone uses and might cause duplicate content issues)
  4. Play '20 questions' with every product
  5. Capture killer content any which way you can! (owners manuals, the packaging, press releases)
  6. Promote content for traffic and LINKS
  7. Blog to build content and LINKS
  8. Support the organisations your customers do
  9. Make all vendors link to you (dealers)
  10. Collect converting keywords (for seo/ppc)
  11. Optimise for transaction-assisting keywords, too!
  12. Put all your converting keywords on your page
  13. All keyword modifiers on page text as well (buy, discount, free, online etc)
  14. Show product text snippets on category pages (category pages often have more pagerank and closer to home, hence easier to rank)
  15. Survey your customers!

Linkfluence - How To Buy Links With Maximum Juice & Minimun Risk (Rand Fishkin, John Lessnau, Aaron Wall)

Should you buy links? Are all links paid for in some form? Googles Matt Cutts is sitting at the back of this session with a big smile on his face. John Lessnau, Rand Fishkin and Aaron Wall all take it in turns to discuss what links you can buy without getting yourself into trouble.

John Lessnau is up first and asks the question, what is a safe paid link?

  • The link should be in relevant text. People will find it hard to believe that those are paid links.
  • Ideally you want to be the only paid link on the page or site.
  • You want a lot of variation of your anchor text.
  • Although homepages are generally more powerful for link equity, deeper pages are safer
  • Links should be long term. Don't focus just on pagerank.
  • Buy links in moderation - 50-100 links max on newer sites is recommended.

Rand takes a slightly different perspective on the subject and entitles his presentation as "How to Buy Links Without Buying Links" -

  • Event sponsorships (local, industry relevant)
  • Charitable donations
  • Website purchases
  • Content buying (301 some pages of sites to your own)
  • Viral/Linkerati traffic buying
  • Blog/product reviews (send free stuff, meet face to face, offer trials)
  • Content partnerships
  • Blog incubation (paid for blogs to write content about your message)

Aaron Wall looks at alternatives to 'traditional' link buys -

  • Syndicate content (Write for other authority sites and link back to your own)
  • Barter (Give stuff away, discounts, reviews)
  • Buy competing websites (301 or build up content and link back)
  • Social interaction (Everything from speaking at a conference to networking)
  • Public relations and follow up publicity
  • Use Adwords to build links (create a campaign around high volume low competition terms relevant to your topic with lots of information that might in turn get links)
  • Directories (Yahoo,, BOTW, Joe Ant)
  • Sponsor events
  • Contests and award programs
  • Donations
  • Widgets
  • Affiliate programs (Try and get 301 redirects). From my experience most of the UK affiliate networks use 302 redirects. If you have your own affiliate program set up inhouse you can of course control this and make it a 301. It might upset your affiliates though (why do they want to help you rank when they are making money from doing it themselves for you?), so some are a little sneaky. Take Amazon who cloak by only showing Googlebot the 301 via useragent. Clever? Or is it down to their brand weight that they can get away with it?

Link locations are important -

Google sees code higher up the page as more important, so much the same with link weighting. Yahoo's Piryank Garg said that irrelevant links on the bottom of the page don't count in their rankings. Microsoft also has its own BrowseRank research which suggests links which will get clicked less like those at the bottom of the page should pass less equity.

Key Take Aways -

- There is a blurred line between acceptable paid links and those that might get you in trouble
- Obvious direct text links with many others on the same page are the highest risk. Large quantities or to much of the same (unatural) anchor text to closely aligned to your page is also a sign.
- You need to be careful buying links purely for 'pagerank' or ranking benefit. Always make sure any links have another more genuine side to them which is not solely for ranking
- Google encourages you to rat out competitors and uses remote quality raters
- There is not one rule for everyone

Interesting session, although there are always exceptions to every rule and a lot of what action is actually taken if you are caught buying links depends on the site and brand. Rand Fishkin spoke about a discussion he had recently with a Google engineer who came accross one particular site buying links in quite an obvious manner. The site however was a great site in terms of content, user experience, the product offering and in every other way this site deserved it's high position in the serps. So it comes down to the question - Do Google penalise a site like that and strip it from their index? Negatively effecting their own search results? The impression that was given was that this kind of situation is certainly not one Google would prioritise over say a site which offers a bad user experience or is an unknown brand.

Personally I see websites ranking extremely well using well known link buying networks (Digital Point Co-op) low quality, high quantity links with the same anchor text and clearly bought links from .edu spam sub domains as examples. All of the kind of places you should not be buying links from, all old school techniques that go against the search engines guidelines and should not in theory either work or go without punishment. But some do work, at least at the moment - so the line is very blurred and punishments not always equal.

Super Session - Search Engines & Webmasters - AKA The Search Engine Smackdown (Matt Cutts, Sean Suchter, Nathan Buggia, Erik Collier)

Final session of the day and the biggest in terms of numbers. There is a representative from each of the search engines who will discuss their current state and where they are heading.

Nathan Buggia from Live search is up first -

  • He believes the best search results are truely about relevance
  • Some queries he believes they are ahead of Google and Yahoo
  • Argues it's also about freshness and depth of content
  • Argues they are getting better are understanding query types (research, shopping, navigational). Not sure I agree with the navigational queries part, these few improvements might be manual in my opinion. Still examples like this and this which are not great.

Specific improvements will be -

  • Improving their crawling performance (compression and if modfied since)
  • Leading to a more efficient crawl (Yahoo should take some notes...)
  • Argues best search results isn't down to the algo - it's down to tools. Webmaster & trouble shooting tools.
  • Innovations in their business model - Cashback, Project Silk Road, Live search API

Sean Suchter from Yahoo is up next (they are keeping Cutts till last then) -

  • Currently a limited choice with the big three dominating the market. Site owners or searchers therefore can't excert influence.
  • Yahoo want to move from a simple presentation to a more useful structured presentation when appropriate for the task the user is trying to accomplish (personalisation, universal, behavioural)
  • Spoke about their new innovation BOSS - build an open search service. They plan to open this up completely so people can have interact with the query handling and crawling and use it directly.

Matt Cutts from Google is last on to speak about the state of the index -

  • He's extremely happy with Chrome and Android developments
  • Google are better at translation, voice recognition, Google suggest, personalisation and universal/vertical results
  • Improvements in flash and PDF crawling/indexing
  • Google ad planner now gives demographic data
  • Extra tools (404 errors with external links as an example in WMC)
  • Advanced segmentation of analytics data
  • Webmaster APIs for hosters and Gdata

Matt is also particulary proud of the improved webmaster communication. More blogging, videos, more messages in WMC if caught spamming or malware.

Matt predicts 2009 will see illegal hacking more common and blackhats moving to more illegal forms rather than just hidden links spam.

That's all from PubCon, until next year!



Thanks micheal for that well researched and thought out spam, let me guess, you work for Netcallidus?

Thanks Dan for this summary, looks like it was really useful and I'm very jealous back here in the office :)


Perhaps a better name for those spammers at netcallidus would be "Netcareless". I think this is an example of their "arsend" link building.

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