This morning BrightonSEO kicked off with a panel discussion on Search Engines hosted by Pierre Far, Dave Colpin, Martin McDonald, Rishi Lakhani and Tony Goldstone. These search engine experts were happy to answer the audience’s questions, many of which were sharp and relevant.

The Questions

The session started with a question which seems to be on everybody’s lips at the moment: ‘Is SEO dead, or are we on an evolutionary path’?

SEO has been around for some years now, but it’s still a rather young industry which is slowly but surely evolving and maturing. We are at a stage where the industry has reached a certain sophistication level with businesses and brands finally recognizing the necessity and impact SEO has. Rishi pointed out that its constantly evolving nature means there are no real, formal qualifications (even though it is commonly taught in-house), no ethical boards nor right practice regulations.

The next question asked was how to optimize on-site content. The panel immediately agreed that the following 2 components are key: social and high quality content. Okay, so social has been around for years but Google’s take on social shines a different light on the scene. Namely, the more social interaction your site generates, the higher your rankings will be.

So what makes a good social signal? Google evaluates the following:

  • What is being shared?
  • The quantity of shares
  • The pace/speed at what it gets shared
  • The number of Likes
  • The number of Followers
  • The number of Circles

Frankly put, ensure you engage with your readership via various social media channels to show the search engines that you are interacting with your audience, giving them what they want to satisfy a certain need and making them want to share it with others. This leads us straight to the second point, of high-quality content.  Once again ask yourself the following questions:

  • Who is my user?
  • Where is my user?
  • What does the user want?
  • How can I give the users what they want?

After answering these questions you should look at your site and decide on useful widgets, create rich snippets,  provide share buttons, media-rich content e.g videos, maps, etc.

Keep in mind that SEO is not a checklist where you have to do this and that to reach a certain level. There is no particular formula on best practices but right at the root/base of SEO is high-quality content. All signals will come together automatically if you provide your readership with fresh, up to date and engaging content coming from genuine resources.

Towards the end of the session some audience members asked Pierre, the Google representative, about rich-snippet spam and not provided data in Analytics. Pierre reinforced that spammers will have their rich snippets removed (but won’t penalise their sites?!) and tried to sidestep the disparity between keyword data for SEOs in Analytics accounts against provided data in PPC Adwords accounts. All in all the Q&A session provided a great start to BrightonSEO.