43 episodes and nearly a year later, I was delighted to be asked to be the main speaker on a topic close to my heart: offline, face-to-face networking for SEOs. The Hangout took place this past Thursday (24th July).
During the Hangout we talked about:
My networking approach, which is not to sell – just getting to know people, listening to them and answering any questions that they have. “Anti-sales is the best kind of sales.”
Going to events on your own. What’s best to do? Try and go where you know someone is going, or bring a friend with you.
How networking doesn’t have to be seen as your traditional business networking events. Networking is what you make of it. You can network at social meetups (just so long as you don’t just sell, sell, sell – that’s sleazy). Just give people help and advice.
Researching events before you go – e.g. finding out who else is attending.
Networking at events where you’re also speaking, especially in terms of keeping calm or not acting too aloof or egotistical!
Networking at conferences, of both the SEO and non-SEO variety.
Not being one of those networkers who tries to leave a conversation the moment they realise that the person they’re talking to isn’t a potential customer/client – it’s not about selling to the person in front of you, it’s about getting to know them and vice versa. “You have no idea who knows who.”
Using social media (especially LinkedIn) for following up and keeping in touch with people after you’ve met them in person.
How to handle ‘hecklers’, i.e. people who have a negative impression of SEO when you meet them.
The question “how much does a website cost?” is so similar to the question “how much does SEO cost?”, when you’ve not even been told the prospect’s industry, their goals (e.g. whether they want to rank for a really tough keyword or a few less competitive keywords) or even the URL of the site. Determining how to price yourself as a consultant – whether it be on a basis of time or the potential value/ROI offered to the client – is applicable across both industries. And getting a client to say “yes” to things can be just as tricky in SEO as it is in web design.
In addition to eight fantastic talks, there was a panel Q&A at the end, and to my terror (but also delight), the wonderful world of SEO was debated. I spent the first few minutes of my recent unified.diff talk tackling the subject of SEO’s terrible reputation – especially in the eyes of the web design/development community – and have previously blogged about how one of the best compliments I’d ever received was from a highly-respected local developer. Fortunately, while there were some stirrings of the typical “SEO is evil” type talk that we’re so used to seeing, I was really surprised and pleased to discover that the debate was handled really well. I’ll go into more detail below.
(Note: for those where it says “[Slides TBA]” for now, I’ll update the post with the slide deck embeds as-and-when they all become available.)
1) How much does a website cost? – Sean Johnson
Sean (@seanuk) kicked things off with the question from prospects that often causes the most chagrin: “how much does a website cost?” Why? Because the answer is always: “it depends!”
What’s your industry? What are your goals with the website? Do you need eCommerce functionality? Does it need a blog? This applies to SEO so, so much: What’s your industry? What are your goals? Is the site brand new? Is the site even live yet? Has SEO work been carried out before, and if so, were spammy tactics involved? How can a web designer or SEO quote effectively without knowing that type of info first? The answer is: not very effectively. Not very.
Have you ever been following the hashtag of an event or conference on Twitter that has become popular – maybe even trended – for it to suddenly become inundated with irrelevant tweets like this?
This happened at BrightonSEO and its #BrightonSEO hashtag, which I attended a few weeks ago. According to a few attendees, the event’s hashtag trended, possibly even on a national scale (can anyone confirm?). Eventually, probably as a result of the trending and the hashtag’s popularity, the spam started trickling in, with the hashtag getting hit by spammers now and again throughout the day. At one point, I think there might’ve actually been more spam tweets than normal/genuine tweets. Obviously it was ruining the hashtag, making it harder to read and follow with so much useless noise jumping in and interfering.
The perfect solution
However I noticed a pattern with the tweets and therefore a fix. All of the spam tweets used the same URL shortener: 00ey. It’s certainly not a popular URL shortener – I’d personally never seen it before – and so I realised that there was a way to follow the hashtag without the spam but also without risking missing out on or eliminating anyone else’s tweets, i.e. those of the actual attendees.
I presented it to the other conference-goers via the hashtag, getting a few mentions of thanks and a couple of RTs for my troubles, which is always nice!
The not-so-perfect solution
Sometimes you might not get so lucky, and the spammers might use a more common URL shortener. This happened with #OiConf and #smwb2b, which took place more recently. I didn’t attend the events, but I saw people complaining about the spam that the respective hashtags were receiving. Unfortunately, in both cases, the spammers were using bit.ly instead of 00.ey.
However, it was still possible to do a fix, this time with [#OiConf -bit.ly] and [#smwb2b -bit.ly] respectively, but this obviously would’ve meant that if anyone else used a bit.ly link then their tweets wouldn’t show up, either. That said, in my experience, most people tweeting at a conference aren’t necessarily always also tweeting links (they might just be tweeting things that the speakers have said), so you might only lose out on <10% of relevant, non-spam tweets.
Again, I presentedthem to the attendees via the hashtag, receiving thanks and RTs in doing so. You can see the difference between [#OiConf] and [#OiConf -bit.ly] here.
Help your fellow attendees
So the next time you’re at an event and the spam tweets start flooding in, look for a pattern. If they all contain the same URL shortener, including it in the search criteria with a minus in front of it will exclude any tweets containing it.
Try it out, and if it works, be sure to tell the other attendees! They’ll love you for it – seriously!
I was in Brighton for two nights (Thursday and Friday) for my second visit to the excellent BrightonSEO conference when I came across possibly the best customer service experience I’ve ever encountered.
I was meant to stay at a Brighton hotel* called the Artist Residence (@artistresidence). However, when I arrived on Thursday evening, we uncovered an error (my mistake, not theirs) and so the booking unfortunately couldn’t be honoured. More worryingly, they were fully-booked (including the room I’d wanted), as were most of the hotels in Brighton that weekend – I know of some people who could only just manage rooms at the Travelodge when booking just a few days before the conference.
* Yes, I’ve given them exact match anchor text. No, they’re not a client. Yes, they most absolutely deserve it!
It could’ve ended there. They could’ve said “sorry, there’s nothing we can do” and sent me on my way. But they didn’t. Chantelle and Megan of the AR told me not to panic, to sit down, relax, have a cup of coffee and that they’d look into local hotel availability for me. They searched for a few minutes and after a few possibilities, they found out that a local rental apartment was available. The apartment’s owner usually charged £100 per night and preferred minimum stays of one week, but he just so happened to have it empty for two nights and was willing to let it for £140 for both nights (instead of a total of £200). I couldn’t believe my luck. I asked how much I owed them for the coffee and they told me not to worry, it was a freebie for me. I also asked them for directions to various places – including the apartment, the conference venue and a pub where some SEOs were meeting – as well as recommendations on where to eat that evening and they were happy to help, providing a tourist map with directions/routes drawn out and destinations marked for me.
This is bearing in mind that they didn’t have to do any of this. What did they benefit from this? I wasn’t even a paying customer! Well, more on that later…
The apartment was lush. It was still central enough to be accessible to the centre of Brighton while just far away enough to escape the noise of many of the pubs and clubs. I said to the two girls that the least I could do was to visit them for breakfast both mornings.
On the Friday morning (before the conference), they asked me what I thought of the apartment, genuinely wondering how I was getting on. I grabbed breakfast from them – they happily obliged with my awkward dietary requests (I recently found out that I might be wheat and yeast intolerant, so no bread for me!) and in fact, although I asked them for something without the toast, I think they gave me an extra egg to make up for it – again, they didn’t have to. Before leaving, I asked them if I could use their bathroom. It seemed as though the didn’t really have customer/public toilets (guests could use the ones in their own rooms, I guess), so they said I could use their private/staff bathroom. Once again, they could’ve said no/sorry and that’d be that.
I then didn’t see them until the next morning, for another breakfast before leaving Brighton to head back home to Cardiff. A colleague of mine had called them on the Friday to pay for the apartment on my behalf, but not the breakfasts. At first, one of the girls said not to worry about paying for the breakfasts. However I insisted – I wasn’t going to put them out. There’s being helpful and generous, but at the end of the day they’re still a business, not a charity. Still, it was very generous of them to offer to waive the two lots of £7.50 simply because they were worried that I thought they’d been paid for when they hadn’t been.
I just couldn’t believe their generosity and their determination to make sure that I was happy and well looked-after, bearing in mind that I wasn’t even a paying customer (except for the breakfasts). They did all of the above – going to such efforts – for virtually nothing. They didn’t say “sorry, you’re on your own” or “you can’t use our bathroom” or “we can’t give you anything extra to replace the toast.” Many other service providers and/or hotels might’ve been like that though.
Earlier in this post, I said that they didn’t benefit from all this. For me, this post serves three purposes. Firstly, to document an example of what I’d consider to be excellent customer service, some of the best I’ve ever known. Secondly, I probably can’t justify a legitimate TripAdvisor review, seeing as I haven’t actually stayed there, so this post counts as a sort of standalone, unofficial review. And therefore thirdly, to also explain what they have gotten from all this:
A loyal customer for life – if I ever visit Brighton again (and I’m sure that I will for future BrightonSEO conferences), I know where I’ll be staying, no hesitation.
A loyal referrer – if I know anyone who’s visiting Brighton and looking for a hotel, I’ll know which hotel to recommend to them.
A direct link with exact match anchor text (within this post), which’ll help with their SEO. If this post becomes popular, they’ll get second-degree links, making it even stronger from an SEO point of view.
A number of @mentions via my Twitter profile, including a few tweets mentioning the AR and the #BrightonSEO hashtag within the same tweet, so that conference-goers would see it, too (example).
When I do go again, I’ll then be able to leave a review on TripAdvisor afterwards, which I’m sure will no doubt be glowingly positive and another 5-starrer to add to their list of satisfied customers.
Recently, Wil Reynolds said that in order to succeed in SEO, companies need to “do real company shit.” Although he spoke in the context of link building, it’s so easily transferable to any and all areas of a company’s existence – to online marketing, marketing, running a business in general or – in this case – customer service.
This, my friends, in my opinion, was real company shit. A lot of companies can (and should) learn by their example. Make the effort to make your customers smile, even if you go out of your way to do so. You will not regret it. You will be rewarded.
While Andrew tweeted like a madman (this tweet sums it up well!), I made a ton of notes, equalling 1,000 words – good fun on an iPad, let me tell you…!
Anyway, here are my top 10 takeaways from the event:
1. Bing: Social is a “strong signal” for content Talk:Panel – Ask the Engines with Pierre Far, Dave Coplin, Martin McDonald, Rishi Lakhani & Tony Goldstone
Straight from the horse’s mouth – Bing’s Director of Search Dave Coplin explained that social is used as a ranking signal in Bing. He even specified that they definitely take Facebook and Twitter into account, and those whose efforts are “bloody good” will be rewarded with better rankings.
2. ISO DateTime gives search engines context to dates Talk:Microformats & SEO – Glenn Jones, @glennjones
I’m still fairly new to the head-scratching-inducing world of schema.org and rich snippets, but I thought it was cool that “ISO DateTime” can give context to dates that search engines will understand. With so many ways to write a date (17th Apr 2012, 17/04/12, 2012-04-17, and so on), it can be used to clarify a date in one standard format. It can even be used when a date isn’t actually written, but a date is still suggested (e.g. “next Tuesday”).
Glenn’s slides can be found here. See slide 17 for more info.
3. What info to include when reporting on online PR Talk:How you can get BIG links from BIG media sites – Lexi Mills, @leximills
Lexi’s talk was by far my favourite at the event. In terms of reporting on online PR efforts, one should consider including:
Domain Authority of the site (not PageRank of the page: the article/content will be brand new on the site – as a brand new page – and therefore PageRank will be low (n/a) for that page to begin with, so for that reason, DA is a more sensible metric to use),
Whether the link is dofollow or nofollow,
Whether the link is an image or text,
The anchor text of the link.
I think the same easily applies to guest blogging as well.
Another gem from Lexi. Keep an eye on the above hashtags for an opportunity to strike.
My tip: Want to filter it by industry? Add a keyword after each one, e.g. #journorequest fashion. You could have one (or a few) per client/site.
5. Tell clients their month-average ranking as well as/instead of their current ranking Talk:Maximizing your SEO Agencies – James Owen, @jamesoSEO
It’s happened to all of us… When we give our client their end-of-month report, they’ve performed consistently well all month, and then Sod’s Law strikes and on the 29th or 30th they’ll drop a few places. We give them their current rank and they wonder it’s been like that the whole time…
In those situations, it might also be worth including their average ranking over the month, so that you can say “yes, it is nth right now, but look at where it was before…!” Especially handy if it’s a temporary dip.
6. Say “Did I explain that clearly?” instead of “Did that make sense?” or “Did you get that?” Talk:Sell the Sizzle, Not The Search: Tactics for Appeasing Marketing Directors – Chelsea Blacker, @ChelseaBlacker
This is very timely for me. I’ve been meaning to write a post about sales/networking tips for non-sales people, and although Chelsea’s talk was applied to Marketing Directors and others within an organisation, I think it applies to any/all environments involving laymen.
After exploding someone’s head with overly-technical information, I’ll often say something like “do you know what I mean?”, which might leave the listener feeling a little silly (albeit unintentionally). However “did I explain that clearly?” is a softer approach and – chances are – I probably didn’t explain it clearly, so more accurate, too.
For me personally, this has been one of the most valuable takeaways of the event. Thank you Chelsea!
7. Use competitor downtime to your advantage… Talk:Enterprise SEO Titties (was that a typo or the actual title of the event in the end?!) – Tony King, @ToastedTeacake
All’s fair in love, war and search…
We all know that competitors bid on each others’ brand terms using PPC (especially big brands), in an attempt to cheekily pinch each other’s traffic before it reaches the site. But Tony made a very good point – if you notice that one of your main competitors is experiencing website downtime, increase your bids on those terms. That’s the time to strike, offering yourself as a (functioning) alternative to frustrated customers who could use you instead of waiting for their usual port-of-call website to get themselves sorted and fixed…
It’s cheeky as hell (although brilliant, mind you), but hey – they’d probably do it to you, too!
8. Shape your response to emotional highs (and use SEO and PPC accordingly) Talk:SEO & PPC Working Together in Harmony – Tim, @JellyfishAgency
Use SEO and PPC together, but for different reasons. As PPC can be turned on and off very quickly and ads can be shown at certain times of the day, it can be used to drive people to a website at a time when they might be feeling an “emotional high,” as Tim put it. Don’t just rely on SEO, when PPC could be used to draw in additional traffic that may be more inclined to read/react/buy compared to usual.
EDIT: Sorry, it was Tim who was speaking, not Craig! Cheers to @JellyfishAgency for clarifying!
9. Author Rank could be swayed by industry Talk:I Believe Authors are the Future – James Carson, @mrjamescarson
James’ talk was interesting – it’s early days for the likes of Author Rank, rel=author, etc., but it’s clear that Google is becoming more and more fixated in this area as time goes on.
James has a theory that in the future, Author Rank could differ by industry. Rather than a well-respected, high-ranking author always ranking well no matter what they publish, Author Rank could be determined by the consistency of what they publish by industry, based on their previous successes. For example, if a famous fashion blogger suddenly blogged about football, it may not necessarily rank well – even if their fashion posts usually do – because it is inconsistent of what they’re known and respected for.
10. Mascots can cause a reaction (but be a distraction) Talk:I appear to have started a sweetshop (and advertising company) – Dom Hodgson, @Thehodge
Dom easily wins the award for the most entertaining talk of the day (as I’m sure fellow attendeanales reading this will agree…)
Dom originally used a mascot – a “f***ing squirrel,” as he so eloquently put it! – on the first design of his sweet shop website. Although they had a lot of social media mentions revolving around said mascot to begin with (“did that squirrel just f***ing wink at me?!”), showing initial promising signs that his(?) inclusion was a good move, they decided to “kill” the squirrel and eventually removed it from the site. Why? Because an eye-tracking test showed that visitors were distracted by the squirrel, and in some cases it might’ve been such a distraction that it was putting some customers off from buying anything.
I found this fascinating. It just goes to show that even if people say something positive via social, it may not actually be a positive for the website or company.
11./Bonus: Advanced Search String Queries for SEO Talk:Word from a Sponsor – Analytics SEO, @analyticsseo
Ok, so I lied – I’ve included an 11th takeaway, as while writing this post, I remembered another good takeaway from one of the sponsors – Analytics SEO – who used their ‘sponsor message’ section to share their list of advanced search string queries for SEO.
So that’s it! That’s some of the words from the 1,000-word tome that’s left me with aching fingertips and a low iPad battery…
I’d like to take the opportunity to thank a few people:
Analytics SEO, who ran the ticket competition and therefore the whole reason I managed to go,
Kelvin (@kelvinnewman), the event’s organiser, for his help and patience with the infamous ‘ticket confusion’ on Thursday,
The man who bought me a shot of sambuca because I apologised for accidentally queue-jumping him at the bar at the afterparty. Alcohol + poor memory (generally) = I’ve forgotten your name, but if you tweet me and remind me then I’ll edit this post and link to you as promised. (And before anyone tries pulling a fast one, I’ll know the name when I see it!),
The magician (@mcrmagic), for blowing my mind to smithereens.
Oh and for anyone reading this who enjoyed the karaoke at the afterparty, I’m the guy who sang the Foo Fighters song. I apologise for the high bits!
EDIT (03/05/12): I thought I’d share this awesome infographic as well…