SEO is a minefield of misinformation, expert says

IT managers should not assume that their Web developers and designers are up to speed on the latest search engine optimization techniques, according to a search expert scheduled to speak at next month’s Search Engine Strategies 2010 conference in Toronto.

What used to work two or three years ago will now probably get you blacklisted,” said Judith Lewis, head of search for U.K.-based Project Metal, a consultancy owned by global public relations agency Next Fifteen Communications Group plc.

The world of SEO can seem esoteric, Lewis said, as it’s sometimes difficult to pick out the truth from the lies on the various blogs and other resources available online. For many IT managers thrown into Web projects, culling through the “minefield of misinformation” can often lead to out-of-date information or edgy techniques that could get their companies into serious trouble.

For example, techniques such as hiding text or “keyword stuffing” — which is the act of loading a page with keywords in the meta tags or content — were both heavily used techniques a few years ago, but now lead to a search engine ban.

Lewis said that up until recently, it was perfectly legitimate to put descriptive text into a no script tag that wasn’t necessarily in the Flash, Javascript or image files on your site. “Now, your business could be destroyed by doing that,” she said. But some sites and articles still advocate these techniques, she added.

Another challenge related to SEO, Lewis said, is being able to manage your interactions with customers through social media and networking sites. “Traditional marketers haven’t really kept up with technology,” Lewis said. She added that IT managers tasked with Web projects need to push business leaders to green light more social media projects.

To demonstrate the potential return on investment opportunities of engaging with your customers through social networks like Twitter, she said, IT leaders should start with smaller projects and use Web analytics tools to benchmark their gains.

In addition to checking out resources such as and, Lewis recommends IT professionals who are dabbling in Web development to come to next month’s SES Toronto 2010 conference. For IT people that can’t attend, she recommends perusing the list of speakers and contacting them separately to ask questions and gain insight into world of SEO.

“If you’re doing Web development or involved in any product or service that’s going to be offered online, then you need SEO to be found,” Lewis said. “No offence to Google Canada, but because the algorithm is still catching up a bit, we need to help it along as much as possible.”

Puneet Bhasin, an independent IT consultant who will be speaking on how marketers can work with developers at SES Toronto 2010, has attended SES in the past to understand the impact that SEO and marketing teams can have on IT servers and the infrastructure at large. “Remember oftentimes the marketing person asking the question doesn’t have the technical know how to implement from end to end,” he said. “We as IT professionals need to help fill in the gaps. Going to SES helped me as an IT professional put the entire picture together and build an infrastructure and development process that is conducive to organic corporate Internet growth.”

The conference, now in its seventh year, will cover pay-per-click management, keyword research, successfully merging search with social media, link building basic, video optimization, site usability, multiple site management, and SEO techniques related to mobility.

The show will also feature a keynote with Maile Ohye, senior developer programs engineer at Google Inc. This promises to give attendees an insider’s look at the search giant and its approach to supporting site owners through Webmaster Central.

SES Toronto 2010 starts on June 10 at the Hyatt Regency Toronto.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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