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6 Most-Abused Words at SES San Jose 2009

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Just got back from SES San Jose. It was a great show in a lot of ways, but some folks were flinging words around like they actually knew what they meant (but didn’t).
Rather than directly humiliate someone, I’ve compiled a list of terms, the most common abuses I heard, and any corrections needed. If you’re speaking at SES next year, please print this out and memorize it, first:
Attribution: Repeated 999999 times, used correctly about 10 of those. In web analytics, attribution is assignment of an event to a source. It does not mean any of the following: Improving sales (Overheard: “I attributed sales 90%”); distribution (Overheard: “The bell curve shows attribution among the population”); something you’re only supposed to do in private. I made that last one up.
Black hat: Folks referred to any form of link building as black hat; social profile building as social media black hat; all cloaking as black hat; to themselves as black hat if they thought it’d improve their status at a party. Trust me, until you’ve 50 laptops all set up via a proxy servers so you can Digg something to the front page (and no, I have NEVER done this) you are not black hat. Unless you know what a Markov Chain is, or you have a pyramid linking network of, oh, 500 sites, chances are you’re not black hat, either.
Engagement: Properly used in most instances, but repeated so many times I started to feel like I was reading an over-optimized web page. “Engagement is critical so you need to engage with users via engaging site features for best engagement”. I was ready to tear out my eardrums by day 3.
Hits: Amazingly, people STILL say “I got 500 hits on my web site!”. While I’m understanding if you’re not a web marketer, I heard at least 3 panelists use the term. No wonder we’re in a deep recession. A ‘hit’ is one file downloaded from your server, one time. A web page with 8 images counts as 9 hits (the .html file plus the 8 images) if a browser visits the page. So ‘hits’ are an awful measure of site traffic. Read up and you can figure it out.
ROI: Say ‘ROI’ to me 3 times fast and see what happens.
Semantic SEO: Do me a favor? If you think ‘semantic SEO’ means ‘add more keywords to the page’, keep it to yourself. If that is what semantic SEO really is, than we all do it, all the time. Somehow, though, I think semantic SEO is more about using structural elements to reinforce the meaning of a page.
That’s all that occurs to me in my current sleep-deprived state. Which, all told, means it was a pretty good conference.

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Ian Lurie is CEO and founder of Portent and the EVP of Marketing Services at Clearlink. He's been a digital marketer since the days of AOL and Compuserve (25 years, if you're counting). He's recorded training for Lynda.com, writes regularly for the Portent Blog and has been published on AllThingsD, Smashing Magazine, and TechCrunch. Ian speaks at conferences around the world, including SearchLove, MozCon, Seattle Interactive Conference and ad:Tech. He has published has published several books about business and marketing: One Trick Ponies Get Shot, available on Kindle, The Web Marketing All-In-One Desk Reference for Dummies, and Conversation Marketing. Follow him on Twitter at portentint, and on LinkedIn at LinkedIn.com/in/ianlurie.

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