Google Webmaster Decay, Structured Data, Image Search & More: 9 Essential Takeaways From SMX East 2013

By Greg Finn

Having just arrived home from SMX East*, there’s no better time to recap the conference and share takeaways while still top of mind. Here are the 9 things that really stood out to me at this year’s New York City based conference.

Google Doesn't Really Care About Webmasters Anymore

I felt like I was watching an episode of Breaking Bad during Danny Sullivan's Evening Forum on Tuesday Night. Typically the panel is upbeat featuring a hyper, amped up Danny bouncing off the walls. This forum saw a dejected, frustrated, and utterly exhausted (yet still somehow funny) Danny who against all wishes is seeing the separation of Google and Webmasters.

The forum started off on the recent switch to secure search (and impending data loss for all but advertisers), then moved to the broken link economy and the mess that is nofollow and next onto the sheer lack of effort put into Webmaster Tools these days. Google has lost interest in Webmasters and nobody (but SEOs) seem to care and it’s sad. Search bloggers have tried everything to show the hypocrisy of Google, glaring recent issues but are instantly written off thanks to the perception of the industry.

This shouldn't be mixed up with an "SEO is dead" argument, it's not. It just that the communication and support of Webmasters, data and Google is declining. There are no more moves to make, there’s no going back -- Google isn’t looking out for anyone but themselves. Fade to Vince Gilligan and the end titles.

Google Doesn't Really Care About Webmaster Tools Either

In case Danny didn’t hammer this home enough, Greg Boser continued the fight on behalf of marketers on the “What’s Coming In SEO” session. He addressed the fact that Webmaster Tools is horrifically bad about showing accurate link data, yet penalizes sites for improper links.

Why show sites that have been 404ing for 3 years?

Why not help Webmasters and give them a list of all link data?

If a site is hit with a manual action, there is no useful tool that Google provides to help – why?

Unfortunately, there wasn’t even an attempt at an answer by other panelist Google’s _____. Not sure if he was the wrong person, didn’t have any answers, or frankly didn’t care – but like most other things these days information on the topic was not provided.

Google Loves Driving Traffic To Google

Move over Duane Johnson, Greg Boser is the People’s Champ and was priceless for us marketers on the "Where is Search Going" panel. He continued to uncomfortably hold Google’s feet to the fire – this time about Google’s Knowledge Graph. He brought up the point that if Google had their way, they’d keep users on Google properties at all times – and it’s our fault. They scrape data from other sources and provide it as results. From the formal Knowledge Graph display to NFL schedules in the SERPs, Google loves using other people’s content to help keep people on their properties.

Don’t like it? Stop using Google. Go directly to websites, download apps, try Bing. It’s all we can do. Kudos to Greg for not letting this all slide without a fight.

Using Is Like "Making Sweet, Sweet Love To Googlebot"

One of the most uplifting areas of the conference was the excitement over structured data and search. @elisabethos ran a panel that included Mike Arnesen of SwellPath, Jon Henshaw of Raven and Aaron Bradley of SEOskeptic that dove deep into structured data, implementation and outcomes. It prompted the Jon to compare to Google lovemaking:

The  slides (and panel) were exceptional and should be downloaded from SlideShare for any data nerds.

When Optimizing For Images, Don’t Use An Image That Currently Ranks

One of my favorite presentations was from Eli Feldblum of RankAbove who did a deep dive into Google Image search. Eli broke down the effect that the new layout had on images, how to combat the lower click through rates and had detailed case studies to back it up.

He also dropped the details that the pre-change Google Image search featured a variety of images, while the new version of Google Image search shows only images that are different than each other.

For About $700 You Can Get Close To Pro Quality For Your Video - And It's Worth It

A very striking argument came from Overit’s Lawrence Basso who slapped the audience in the face with the value of good video. He showed the transformation from Webcam video to professional video with tools that would give you change back on a $1,000 bill. His equipment recipe for success is as follows:




Now go make quality video.

Don’t Just Let Your Content Die, Extend It For A Fraction Of The Cost

One of the most impactful tips given on the panels I moderated was from Avalaunch Media's Andrew Melichor and Matt Siltala. They both talked about investing in good content and images, but also parlaying them into other forms. Take your infographic and turn it into an eBook or video. Break it out into shareable portions.

Don’t just settle with what you have! Making additional routes for content cost a fraction of the planning, R&D, design, and promotion of your initial content. There is no excuse, just go do it.

There Are Plenty Of Tools, But It's What You Do With Them That Matters

I sat in on the Big Data session and enjoyed the presentation from Aimclear’s Marty Wientrab. He took the angle of showcasing tools that can leverage search and social data, and audience demographics and characteristics. He also gave the audience a sound point of advice, don’t get enamored with just data or tools, but what you can extract from them.

Yext Has An Amazing Office & Knows How To Party

SMX After Dark is the traditional networking event / mega search party. I had been talking with colleagues about how much I miss the weird old basement venue of Mars 2112 (which has since closed).

This year the party was in the Yext office, something that sounded odd … to anyone who had never seen the Yext office before. This was an amazing space that had party rooms, foosball, karaoke, and even a Nap Room!

The party was one of the best ever featuring unlimited lobster, a dumpling bar, an ice cream bar, and search-themed drinks like the Hummingbird.

Props to the Yext team who threw a hell of a party and really went all out – thank you!

All in all, it was an awesome event with even better people in attendance. Thank you to all who came out looking forward to doing it again next year.

*Note: I do perform contract work for Third Door Media (parent company of Search Marketing Expo). I do however firmly believe that I provide unbiased opinions.

By Greg Finn


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Meet the Author

Head of Performance & Innovation / Partner

Greg Finn

Greg is the Head of Performance and Innovation for Cypress North's digital marketing team and one of the founders of our agency. In 2010, he and Matt Mombrea started Cypress North in Buffalo. Greg oversaw the opening of our second office in 2022, located in his hometown of Rochester.

As Head of Performance and Innovation, Greg co-manages our digital marketing department and works closely with our team to ensure all our clients achieve the best possible results. He is always looking for ways to test new digital marketing techniques and technology, and oversees all teaching and training efforts to ensure our agency stays ahead of the curve.

Greg is also a co-host of our weekly Marketing O'Clock podcast, where he and the team provide updates, insights, and hot takes on the latest SEO, PPC, and social media marketing news. In addition to weekly news shows, Greg hosts our Marketing O'Torial digital marketing tutorials and often co-hosts bonus Marketing O'Talk episodes that bring together panels of digital marketing experts.

With nearly two decades of experience, Greg is a known and trusted voice in the digital marketing community. He’s a contributor for Search Engine Land, a member of the Search Marketing Expo (SMX) programming team, and has been a featured speaker at some of the largest search engine conferences, including SMX, eSummit, and Pubcon. 

When he’s not working or staying updated on the latest trends, Greg enjoys watching his kids play sports and coaching their soccer team. He’s been named the runner-up “Greg of the Year” on Marketing O’Clock’s annual Clockscars Awards four years in a row. While the coveted award has evaded him for many years, Keanu Reeves has not. Greg once saw him at Gabriel's Gate tavern in Buffalo (and noted he was very tall.)