Sponsorship for Cardiff SEO Meet isn’t really that big a thing. For the first three events, there weren’t any sponsors – I paid for it myself (well, Morgan Online Marketing paid for it, technically). But then our first venue was a bar, where people could buy their own food and drink if they wanted to. When we moved venues to somewhere where I needed to provide my own food and drink, the costs shot up. I wanted to keep the entry fee free, so I couldn’t recoup money that way. Therefore I knew that I’d need sponsors to help cover those costs, and a few people I know were happy to oblige.
It’s simple: for £100, your sponsorship goes towards food & drink costs. In return, you get a link from the Meetup group and event page, a mention in the announcement email that goes to all of the group’s members, various tweet ‘shout-outs’ before and after the event, your logo on the absolutely massive screen, and a couple of shout-outs/thank you’s at the event. In my eyes, that’s a pretty decent deal. We get about 40-50 people to each event, which isn’t especially a huge number, but it’s not tiny either. The Meetup group has over 300 members as well.
So far, most of our sponsors have been local (and local-ish) freelancers, agencies and fellow event organisers – I’ll list them here, as I want to thank them again for their support to date: HQ SEO, Cardiff Digital, Xanthe Studios, All Things Web® and Traffic Jam Media (and not forgetting Tramshed Tech for being our venue sponsor). I casually joked with someone though that it’d be awesome if one of the big global SEO software providers expressed interest in becoming a sponsor.
Weirdly enough, a few days later… one of the big global SEO software providers expressed interest in becoming a sponsor. They sponsor a lot of the bigger events worldwide, and (somehow) my piddly little meetup had gotten onto their radar. I was elated.
I’m a big fan of Kelvin, not only because he runs an incredible conference and has been crazy enough to let me speak at it (not just once, but twice), but because he’s a great guy as well. And as an SEO event organiser myself, I’m always curious to know the thinking behind brightonSEO, how he runs the event and where he wants to take it in the future.
To be honest, whether you’re an event organiser yourself, or just a big fan of brightonSEO (who isn’t?), it’s probably worth reading the whole AMA from start to finish, as there are tips and insights sprinkled throughout. But if you’re a busy guy/gal then here are my three biggest takeaways:
1) On starting a conference: start small and scale up
A few new SEO/digital conferences have sprouted up in the UK in recent months, which is fine, but to aspiring conference organisers, Kelvin’s advice is to start small:
I’d always start with something small and then scale rather than launching big. If gives you a chance to test and learn and make mistakes when not very many people are watching. Think of your first event as an MVP.
I can relate to this, as I’m not sure where to take Cardiff SEO Meet at the moment (an all-dayer event does sound tempting…), but at the very least, it’s good to know that small beginnings are the sensible way to go anyway.
2) On hiring speakers: seek out speakers (not vice versa)
It’s very easy to simply accept the speakers who approach you as an organiser, but Kelvin’s method is different:
Keeping an eye on blog posts people are sharing is a key one but I love scouring through our attendee list and looking for people who might have a good perspective and then stalking them online a bit.
Only giving slots to people who put themselves forward can lead to only attracting certain kinds of speakers.
I like this as it naturally leads to a variety of speakers, and perhaps those who aren’t even ‘natural’ speakers. And there is the risk that the people that approach event organisers offering to speak and doing so all over the shop – not just for your event.
However, if you do approach Kelvin and ask to speak (which – to be fair – is how I got to speak at brightonSEO both times), at least have a talk idea at-the-ready:
In terms of pitching to speak, have a talk idea ready to go. Much easier for me to say yes to a interesting talk title than a vague “I’d like to talk”.
3) On what talks to have: some SEO topics are important, but variety is good
This is an interesting one as I’ve always admired Kelvin for booking non-SEO talks at an SEO event, or at least talks that closely align with SEO (such as UX, etc.). But it’s still really important to have some types of SEO talks:
People expect decent technical talks and link building talks. If we don’t programme those people won’t come back.
However Kelvin argues that some of the non-SEO talks are the ones that stay with people – the problem with SEO talks (as is the case with some elements of SEO) is that there’s a ‘here-today-gone-tomorrow’ feeling about them:
Talks from people like Dave [Trott] and Rory [Sutherland] are the kind that sit in the back of your mind for years to come, whereas the learning about the latest SERP feature you’ll use immediately but it’s value will go down over time.
Our job is to get the right mixture between the practical talks and the inspirational/theoretical ones. Which is something I know we and other events have been criticised for in the past.
Kelvin’s clearly not backing down with this way of thinking, given what’s coming up at next month’s event:
Got three different academics talking this time round about machine learning that might not be mass appeal but pretty sure will get a great receptions.
A while back in a post on State of Digital, I argued that running events is a good way to get inbound links, which can help on the SEO front. Running the event has been a good way to practice what I preach – and not only has it helped in gaining links, it’s helped in numerous other ways, too.
The benefits of running a local meetup
In this post I wanted to talk about what Cardiff SEO Meet has achieved so far (links or otherwise), and tease potential future plans…
It’s helped me to get links
When I launched the meetup, a couple of local publications covered it:
In addition to linking to Cardiff SEO Meet’s Meetup group page, they linked to MOM (my freelance site) as well – a nice added bonus, which I wasn’t expecting. Even if they’d only linked to the former, it links to the latter, so I would’ve got some ‘link juice’ anyhow. But a direct link was even better.
At least I wasn’t talking rubbish in my StOD post eh? Hehe.
It’s helped me to meet potential clients
Another pleasant off-shoot of announcing the meetup: someone I knew at my office location (not a part of Welsh ICE, but based in the same building) got in touch saying that they saw me announce it, that they didn’t realise I was an SEO, and that they’d like to have a chat. So simply announcing the event got interest from a potential client. Nothing came of it immediately unfortunately, but we’ve kept in touch, so something could come of it in the future – “never say never,” as they say. They’re a pretty sizeable, £1M+ turnover business, so a nice client if it does come on-board.
It’s resulted in a potential shadowing/secondment opportunity
For a while now I’ve considered hiring staff and growing MOM into a full-on SEO agency. I’d been considering a few options – such as Jobs Growth Wales, GO Wales, etc. – when a low risk, dip-your-toe-in-the-water opportunity came up. One of the attendees of the first few meetups is a junior SEO working in-house for a local company, and he suggested shadowing me. It’s win-win: he learns more SEO tricks of the trade from a more experienced SEO (and takes that back to his employer), while I get a taste of being an employer. It’s still in-the-works but we’re hoping to work something out early next year.
In the three years I’ve been running MOM, one of the things I’m proudest of is the fact that I’ve spent very little on marketing. As the majority of enquiries come to me via SEO (fittingly!), social media and word-of-mouth, I don’t spend any money on advertising, except for business cards and Cardiff SEO Meet (which I run and pay for all myself, but put MOM as an event sponsor in return).
The only other exception? Award submissions.
Over the past year I submitted an SEO/content campaign that I created last year to multiple awards organisations. All of them operate a ‘pay-to-enter’ type model, so none of them were free to submit to. This is fine for fancypants agencies who can quite readily and easily splurge, but for a li’l solo consultant like me, it’s a heck of a business expense – especially if it doesn’t end up paying off.
In this post I talk about where I submitted the campaign, how much it all cost, what it amounted to in the end, where I went right/wrong, and whether it’s put me off or encouraged me to do this all again…
Awards of every type…
I was darn proud of CR 25. In the process of putting it all together, I thought to myself “ooo, this could be award-worthy” as it showcased lots of different types and styles of content, ranging from expert roundups and infographics to interactive timelines and multiple-choice quizzes. And we did it all really cheaply, too.
Once the dust settled, I eyed up all the potential awards that were applicable:
Canmol Wales Marketing Awards 2015
UK Search Awards 2015
Recruiter Awards 2016
EU Search Awards 2016
The Drum Search Awards 2016
There were two others as well (Content Marketing Awards 2015 and The Drum Content Awards 2016), but I eventually decided against them.
As you can see above, the list of organisations was a nice mix of local (Wales-focused), industry-specific for the client (recruitment), and industry-specific for me (SEO).
Yesterday (21st April 2016) I spent the day at Online Influence (Oi) Conference 2016 (@OiConf / #OiConf) in Cardiff, with Oi and Freshwater UK sorting me out with a blogger pass (thanks guys)! While most people call it a social media conference (and social media marketing is a big part of it), it covers a range of digital marketing elements, including video, content and user behaviour. Even SEO got a mention or two. 🙂
I have a confession to make though: I went last year, but had a bad experience. I think it was rotten luck… While the kick-off keynote was fantastic, I went to a few bad talks (speakers arguing, tech problems, sales pitches, etc.), lunch was a disaster (I couldn’t eat what was on offer due to food allergies), and there was of course the infamous #panelgate, when the awesome Miranda Bishop (@Miranda_Bishop) challenged – and subsequently joined(!) – the all-male panel at the end of the day.
This year though? Much, much better. The calibre of talks was high, and I took a lot away from them – I’d say that each talk gave me at least one or two holy-crap-I-didn’t-think-of-that takeaways that are useful to me.
Here are the talks that I went to, along with the main takeaways I took from them:
Leaping out of the feed (or don’t let your content be an octopus)
Simon Low, BuzzFeed
The opening keynote was from Simon Low of BuzzFeed. Now I’m not a big fan of BuzzFeed, but 6 billion monthly visits?! You can’t argue with that.
Fair play, it was a cracking talk – a great way to start the day. Some standout make-you-think takeaways for me:
Traditionally, most content creators pour their heart and soul into creating great content but make little effort to promote it – Simon argued that it’s a 90/10 split. BuzzFeed however spend 50% of their time creating their content and 50% promoting it. They realise that great content doesn’t just get ‘found’, and that you have to put the effort in.
They also take the time to translate stories into multiple languages, which helps to spread their reach further.
During the Q&A, someone asked about the times when things don’t go well when BuzzFeed work with brands. Simon replied by saying that the more that the brand is courageous (and that they don’t ‘sanetise’ what BuzzFeed are doing), the higher the chance of success.
SxSW ’17: why you need to go and how to validate the cost
Gabby Shaw, ADLIB Recruitment
I was interested in the Meltwater talk (“Digital influence: 4 steps towards getting it, guiding it and growing it”), which was taking place at the same time, but a little bird told me that all the Track A (main hall) talks were being filmed and uploaded online at a later date, so I decided to be strategic and visit other talks in other rooms. That said, I’ve always had an interest in going to SxSW, as I know a few people who have gone over the years.
Gabby talked about the benefits of going, but also made it clear that it can be a costly affair – not just the ‘hard’ costs (plane ticket, accommodation, etc.) but also the ‘soft’ costs, which people often forget about (time out of the office, less chance to liaise with colleagues and clients, etc.).