SMX Advanced Conference Recap

SMX Advanced is an advanced search conference for those interested in all aspects of Internet Marketing. It is located in Seattle, Washington, and took place in mid-June. There are three distinct tracks to follow while at SMX Advanced. They are: Search Engine Optimization, Paid search and Social Media with Content. Additionally, there are six full day workshops to choose from that are available the day before the conference starts. Most sessions are an hour and a half, often split between three speakers.

Local University

The full day workshop I attended was called Local U Advanced; it was great. There were eight different speakers that discussed related topics to local search. Google even sent Jade Wang, who works on the Google Maps team. He had great insights into how Google Maps works, explaining in great detail so that we could learn from his experience. There is a bit of frustration in our industry regarding Google Maps and how you go about ensuring the proper information appears. Jade was great at explaining how everything works and how we can improve our listings, and those of our clients.

Local U Speakers

5 Keys to Local Search Success in 2014
Rand Fishkin

Content and Links 30 Ideas in 30 Minutes
Mary Bowling

Blending Local with Social
Will Scott

Local with Google
Jade Wang

Competitive Local (re)search
David Mihm

Location Domination Hyper-Local Insight and Action Through Analytics and Visualization
Ed Reese

The Mobile Search Ecosystem
Aaron Weiche

Are Driving Directions the New Reviews?
Mike Blumenthal

Local U Key Takeaways

By far the best session throughout the conference was done by Jade Wang, a Community Manager for Google Places. It was great to hear how this platform works, straight from the horse’s mouth. Here are some points from her presentation:

Some key points from the other presentations include:

  • Position your company as unique.
  • Have everything you post on the web on your site, even if it is on a social media account, too.
  • Make your mobile experience amazing.
  • Reduce clicks for users to reach a goal.
  • Set up an account on listing sites like Foursquare and Yelp, and be sure to add your hours of operation, as your business will rank for these listings.
  • Use real photos, not stock photos.
  • Get links on local authority sites such as universities, city sites and Chamber of Commerce sites.
  • Answer location specific questions on your site.
  • Localize your ads.
  • When creating a website, always make a stand alone page for each location.
  • Images can be tagged with location data.
  • See who is ranking for your target keywords and how they are doing it.
  • Prioritize terms based on competition and current position.
  • Use Barnacle SEO when ranking poorly for a term.
  • Segment data in Google Analytics based on location.
  • To get more positive reviews, send out a survey to your clients. In this survey, ask how they would rank the business. If they give four or five stars, forward them to a review site after completion of the survey.
  • Proximity to user is important to rank well for mobile.
  • Design and develop a responsive website.
  • Add a “get driving directions” button to your website using Google Maps.

The Periodic Table of SEO Ranking Factors

This session reviewed the ranking factors for Google Algorithm. All of the information has been inferred by research done by the presenters and is not directly from Google. Using the information presented, a website can be optimized and start to rank better.

The Periodic Table of SEO Ranking Factors Speakers

Comparing SEO Ranking Factors From 2013 to 2014
Marcus Tober

How UX Affects SEO Ranking Factors
Marianne Sweeny

SEO Success Factors
Matthew Brown

The Periodic Table of SEO Ranking Factors Takeaways

This was a very good session, but definitely for the advanced SEO expert. The presenters dug deep into the algorithm and explained what they have found to be the most important factors in ranking. Some key points from the presentations include:

  • Speed is more important now than ever.
  • Don’t overdo internal linking, especially to navigation pages.
  • Need quality content that is longer, rather than shorter.
  • Use key terms and related terms in content.
  • Social media correlation has gone down from last year.
  • Quality of links is more important than quantity of links.
  • Create a brand for your company and website.
  • Desktop and mobile results up to 34% different.
  • Bounce rate is not a factor.
  • Put key terms near beginning of title.
  • Content above the fold is more important than content below the fold.
  • Make a website layout easy and intuitive for the user, do not surprise them.
  • High image to text ratio is bad.
  • People focus on the center of the page first.
  • Scrolling should be created as an event in Google Analytics to help bounce rate.
  • Links and anchor text still work.
  • On page factors are becoming less important.
  • Description is being changed by Google more and more.
  • The Hummingbird Update changed everything.
  • Look at Google’s patents to find out what is next to change in the algorithm.

Keyword Research On ‘Roids! Advanced Workarounds For Vanishing Keyword Data

This session consisted of each presenter diving deep into a different tool they use to gather keyword data. Using these tools, keyword information can be gathered for a site and its competitors.

Keyword Research On ‘Roids! Advanced Workarounds For Vanishing Keyword Data Speakers

Keyword Research On ‘Roids! Advanced Workarounds For Vanishing Keyword
Christine Churchill

How To Identify New Keyword Opportunities for Already Existing Internal Content
Rae Hoffman

In a World of “Not Provided” – Keyword Research & Analytics
Chris Silver Smith

Keyword Research On ‘Roids! Advanced Workarounds For Vanishing Keyword Data Takeaways

While the insight into the tools was very well done, I think everyone who attended this session was a bit disappointed that it was simple a review of tools that most people were already familiar with. Personally, I was hoping that there would be some data appending in Google Analytics or work arounds to show the missing not provided data. Instead, they comprehensively reviewed three tools: SearchMetrics, SEMRush and HitWise. We use SEMrush here at Zion & Zion and are very happy with it.

Enhancing Search Results With Structured Data & Markup

In this session, three very knowledgeable and experienced SEOs discussed how to implement structured data, and how they have used it to their advantage. The lead SEOs from Best Buy and Disney presented examples of what they have done to improve search listings and rankings.

Enhancing Search Results With Structured Data & Markup Speakers

Which Markup Matters?
Marshall Simmonds

Structured Web of Data
Jay Myers

Managing Search, Managing Change
Jeff Preston

Enhancing Search Results With Structured Data & Markup Takeaways

This was my favorite session. Hearing what big brands are doing to succeed is the kind of insight you cannot get anywhere else. Not only did the speakers talk about what they have implemented to succeed, but they talked about their workflow and how they were able to accomplish these tasks on huge sites. Here are some notes from their presentations:

  • Google has rolled back authorship.
  • Reviews are important and should be prioritized over other markup implementation.
  • Rich snippets being displayed are an indication of how healthy and valued a site is.
  • Use article markup on blog posts.
  • Schema markup works and helps improve rankings.
  • Put markup on social media buttons so when they are shared, the correct information is displayed.
  • Implement open graph data and Twitter cards.
  • Add markup to navigation.
  • Freebase and Wikipedia are two of the places that Google pulls Knowledge Graph information from.

25 Link Acquisition & Auditing Issues For The Advanced SEO

In this session, link building was covered from front to back. Speakers covered how to get links, how to evaluate links and how to get out of a Google Link Manual Action. Link building is quickly becoming a dying art with the pressure Google has put on sites to have natural profiles. This session explained how to do it right.

25 Link Acquisition & Auditing Issues For The Advanced SEO Speakers

Avoiding Penalties From Outdated Link Building Practices
Kaila Strong

3 Pronged Approach To Link Acquisition Via Content Marketing And How To Avoid Link Risks
Prashant Puri

The Advanced SEO’s Guide To Link Penalties And Clean Ups
Rob Woods

25 Link Acquisition & Auditing Issues For The Advanced SEO Takeaways

Link building is a tricky topic and must be done correctly, or the repercussions can be devastating. The strategies and tools that were mentioned in this session are very helpful in a white hat strategy. The presentation about recovering from a penalty was very detailed, and gave a path for a site to follow to recover from one of these penalties. Some key points from this session include:

  • Use unlinked brand mentions for link building.
  • Use resources and link pages for link building.
  • Find the right person to reach out to.
  • Use advanced search parameters in Google Search to find sites.
  • Link Research Tools is a great tool to check quality of a link.
  • Uber suggest is a good tool for keyword research.
  • Grepwords is a good tool for keyword research.
  • If you have a link penalty, review Rob Woods’ slides.

You&A With Matt Cutts

The Q & A session with Matt Cutts was great and provided a lot of insight on how Google ranks pages. It was great to be able to ask Matt questions and get answers to our problems. Some things to note from this session include:

  • There is a payday load update coming.
  • There are over 500 algorithms that affect a sites’ ranking.
  • Use Google Webmaster Tools to ensure a site move was done correctly.
  • Author Rank is important and will be used in the algorithm in the future.
  • Responsive websites are best.
  • Make mobile usage a priority.
  • Use auto complete on all forms.
  • Make your site faster. Sites that load slowly (over 20 seconds) will see a small drop in rankings.
  • Link Building as a service is inherently a risk.
  • Having an encrypted site will be a ranking factor at some point in the future.

Advanced Technical SEO Issues

This session dove deep into technical SEO and was definitely for the advanced SEO expert. Maile Ohye, Google’s Senior Developer Programs Engineer was there to answer questions and present on what Google likes to see.

Advanced Technical SEO Issues Speakers

Advanced Technical SEO Issues
Maile Ohye

AJAX Crawlability In A Responsive Publishing World
Eric Wu

How To Improve Indexing And Crawlability For SEO
Bill Hunt

Advanced Technical SEO Issues Takeaways

This was my second favorite session of the conference. It really opened my eyes to the power of AJAX, and how it can be difficult for search engines to crawl. All three of these speakers really know what they are talking about and have had years of experience in the industry. Some of the key takeaways from this session include:

  • Do not block JavaScript or CSS files. Google will use these to render pages.
  • Make sure modals are viewable on mobile.
  • Use SSL on every site, Google really wants this.
  • Do not have both HTTP and HTTPS active.
  • Update Rel Canonicals when switching form HTTP to HTTPS.
  • Infinite scroll is good for mobile. Be sure to have crawlable links to each page and use rel previous and rel next.
  • Push state can be used to update page URLS.
  • Can I Use is a great site for testing.
  • Be sure to have only one image for all screen sizes, even on responsive sites. Do not have the same picture in multiple sizes.
  • Make Google’s life easy by marking up code, having sitemaps, using rel canonical and having clean code.
  • A 1 Sitemap Generator is a good tool to create sitemaps.

Innovative Success Metrics For SEO

This session went over how SEOs can show the value of their work. We looked at segments and KPIs that one can use to show improvement. The three speakers were all very experienced in terms of presenting to clients.

Innovative Success Metrics For SEO Speakers

With Disruption Comes Opportunity: Proving SEO Value In A Not Provided World
Jeff Sauer

SEO Success Metrics Of The Future
Kerry Dean

Innovative Success Metrics For SEO
Cory Haldeman

Innovative Success Metrics For SEO Takeaways

This was a good session, however because it was at the very end of the conference, attendance was low and the audience seemed a bit burnt out. The metrics the presenter covered were very intuitive and thought provoking. Overall, everyone agreed that the data needs to tell a story that can be easily understood by C level employees. Some key points in this session include:

  • To help alleviate not provided in Google Analytics, use landing page s a secondary dimension for keyword data to find what set of keywords people could be using. A filter can be used to append the landing page to not provided data.
  • Set up a Google Analytics event for when someone scrolls to help calculate bounce rate more accurately.
  • Focus on actionable KPIs.
  • Can use SEMRush to pull historical keyword data.
  • Use assisted conversion in Google Analytics.
  • Need to tell a story.
  • How users search is how people think.
  • Use competitors as a motivator.
  • Help the company achieve goals.


The SMX Advanced conference is a must for anyone who is in this industry. The speakers are thought leaders in their subject matters and great presenters. The workshops before the conference are well worth the time and money. If you are on the fence about this conference, take my advice and attend. Some of the major themes from the conference include:

  • Encryption of websites will become a ranking factor at some point.
  • Do not block CSS and JavaScript files.
  • Apps are on the way to being in search results.
  • Structured data helps rankings and helps determine what is displayed in search.
  • Tell a story with data that resonates with company goals.
  • Mobile is, and will continue to be, important.


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