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Last year, SXSW was relatively laid back. We had a couple of executives there, but for the most part it was our search and social team that was in attendance, catching tidbits of information here or there but really we were there to meet with some people outside of our core business in the automotive industry. Then, something happened. Matt Cutts from Google and Duane Forrester of Bing dropped a bombshell on the audience. They both declared that quality was moving up in he search algorithms, that quantity was going to be a bad thing, and that spammers would be roughed up in the coming weeks.
The result a month later was the Penguin algorithm as well as Bing’s unnamed variation and search engine marketing was changed forever. Some companies shut down. Others had to make dramatic changes in order to survive. We were put into a better position than ever before thanks to the change, but it still took a lot of research and testing to get it to the point that it’s at today.
This year, we’re going in heavy – the CEO, CFO, VP of Marketing, VP of Internet Marketing Products, and the Director of New Media of new media are heading down to Austin to pay close attention to everything from Facebook to Google to whatever new things are coming down the pipe. A recent operation will put me on the sidelines for this one, but that doesn’t mean I won’t be watching from afar.
What does Google have planned? This year, the same trio of Cutts, Forrester, and SEO genius Danny Sullivan are participating in the panel called “How to Rank Better in Google and Bing”. We anticipate that there will be another bomb dropped, possibly the prelude to the mythical Zebra algorithm. Regardless of what it is, it’s important for everyone in search and social to be paying very close attention to what’s happening down there. Both Google and Bing have had success using the more casual SXSW atmosphere to spark questions and launch changes because it’s not as “dangerous” as revealing things at SES, SMX, or any of the marketing-heavy conferences. SXSW is a party as much as it is a convention; the festival roots make it a safe venue to drop bombs.
What’s coming down the pipe for 2013? We’ll find out this coming week.