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The Search Engine Strategies Conference is one of the largest and most comprehensive search engine focused conventions of the year. Held quarterly in different cities around the world, this spring’s conference is being held at the Metro Toronto Convention Center in the middle of the country’s largest and most diverse city. I was fortunate enough to be invited to participate as a speaker at one of the site clinic sessions.

Organized by Jupiter Media, the publishers of Search Engine Watch, and sponsored by some of the major players in search engine marketing, (such as Google), the SES conferences form an excellent environment for SEOs, webmasters, business owners and the search tools we all depend on to get together and discuss dozens of different facets of our shared advertising industry. From known names such as Google, Yahoo, MSN and Kanoodle to new innovators such as the WorldWide Broadcast Network , the spectrum of search firms is well represented.

For me, this has been like attending SEO School all over again. I have lurked in as many SEO focused conference sessions as possible in order to brush up on my skills and meet other SEOs. Listening to the people you the people you generally read is interesting, much like meeting a person face to face when you’ve only spoken on the telephone. The general message from each session I’ve attended can be easily summed up in one of two ways.

Back to the Basics & Keep it Simple
While the technologies used in creating websites is advancing rapidly, the technology search engines use to read those websites is advancing at a somewhat slower pace. Search engines can read and rank a lot more than they used to be able to, however, a design tool as commonly used as FLASH continues to elude search engine spiders. The vast majority of speakers, (myself included), have mentioned the obvious over and over&ldots; Keep your site simple and the fundamentals of your SEO campaign should fall into place. Simple titles, tags, text and site mapping continue to be the favored tools of the SEO industry. Meanwhile, website designers and the programmers who create products such as Content Management Systems and WYSIWYG based web-editors continue to push innovative boundaries in the quest to build the best tools. I was surprised to learn that other SEOs who I have constantly referred to as my gurus have the exact same ideas on working with these issues as we do at StepForth. While workaround processes exist for almost every SEO challenge, often these workarounds are very complicated and can
drive costs higher as a campaign progresses. There is one immediate workaround each speaker (myself included) have suggested time and time again&ldots; the value of simple websites and keyword enriched text. Search engines continue to love basic HTML text and well phrased links with keyword enriched anchor text. That constant has not changed since the first days of SEO and does not appear likely to change in the near future.

There was one MAJOR announcement made at SES Toronto. Last paragraph I mentioned that most spiders can not deal with FLASH based sites. At yesterday’s Design for Search Engines seminar, Gregory Markel from Infuse Creative announced that Macromedia has created an internal focus group dedicated to creating an SEO friendly version of FLASH. While this does not necessarily mean a new version of FLASH will be forthcoming, Macromedia gets quite concerned when webmasters and SEOs avoid FLASH as it is not search engine friendly. Gregory’s announcement was confirmed by SingingFish GM Karen Howe who is also working with Macromedia to solve the SEO unfriendly aspects of FLASH.

Another item that was confirmed at this conference is that Google is definitely spidering and recording information found in Adobe Acrobat documents at a level no other search tool currently meets. On the site-clinic panel I was part of, made up of three professional SEOs, each of us was quietly amazed at the number of PDF documents we found when doing quick research on audience member’s websites.

The SES conference is not all technical and business orientated. Last night, Google sponsored and hosted the highlight event of the week, the Google-Dance. The Google-Dance is basically a rave for the SEO set. I attended the first twenty minutes or so but, as I was presenting early in the day today, I decided a rave was not the smartest place to be on a night when I knew I needed sleep. This morning, the Google-Dance was the talk of the conference.

There is still a long afternoon and evening to go before SES Toronto packs up for the year. If you work in the search industry, or if you are a webmaster interested in learning a lot more about search, I strongly recommend attending one of these conferences.

This Web Marketing article was written by Jim Hedger on 4/8/2005

Jim Hedger is a writer, speaker and search engine marketing expert based in Victoria BC. Jim writes and edits full-time for StepForth and is also an editor for the Internet Search Engine Database. He has worked as an SEO for over 5 years and welcomes the opportunity to share his experience through interviews, articles and speaking engagements. He can be reached at