Posted by willcritchlow
I want to tell you a story about one of our favourite sessions - Let’s Get Real - where we have all our speakers on stage at once. In this post, I’m going to:
Some of the earliest conferences I travelled to the US to attend were SMX West and Advanced. Back then, Danny used to have a session called Give it Up that was supposed to be more like the kind of tips, tricks and stories you would normally only hear at the bar (in exchange for delegates promising not to share the stories publicly for a month). Although the formatting is a bit broken, you can get a sense of the kind of topics covered in this Marketing Pilgrim write-up from 2007. I particularly like Matt Cutts’ story:
“Alright, I’ll tell you about my favorite spammer of 06 … When you buy a domain, you own it for a year. Usually you get hosting, or park the domain … You set name server to “lamedelegation.org.” Millions of domains are marked this way. But some are marked “lame-delegation.org” with a hyphen … This spammer … registered lame-delegation.org.”
I really liked the personal, conversational tone of the sessions and the glimpse behind the curtain. When we started running conferences, we used to end with similar sessions.
Over the years, we felt that the tips being shared weren’t helping our delegates improve their marketing skills (Danny has done some similar soul-searching). They were still fun (and often funny), but they were increasingly unuseful; not something you could go back to the office and implement.
As a result, we introduced the let’s get real panel where we invite all of our speakers on stage for a rapid-fire round of tips and ideas with the crucial difference: all of the tips should be the kind of thing delegate can go back to the office and use for themselves or their clients.
To give you an idea of the difference between a regular talk and let’s get real, check out what Wil looks like on stage giving a formal presentation:
…and what he looks like rocking at let’s get real:
Anyway, in the run-up to our next set of conferences (in March in London and May in Boston) I thought I’d go back to last year’s tips and share the most useful with all of you. Here we go!
These tips come from our most recent SearchLove conferences in London and Boston. If you’d like to watch them for yourselves, I’m giving the entire videos away for free at the end of this post. The credit for the tips goes to the individual speakers - though I’ve generally rephrased the tips in my own words - I’ve credited them as I go along:
If you routinely use tools like Hootsuite for managing your social presence between multiple team members and across multiple platforms, beware of the potential effect on the visibility of your Facebook posts. There are two big things to be aware of:
It’s an ongoing challenge to manage multiple contributors across multiple platforms and the tools are a huge part of making that possible but it’s worth experimenting to see how your reach is affected.
If you do a keyword search in Google+, the default ordering of results is heavily skewed towards heavily-shared content. By drilling into the ripples, you can find the influencers who are sharing content in any given space and who are having a particular influence on which pieces of content get widely shared.
Craig wrote an article on the power of building your filter bubble influence, and Jen’s tip is a great place to get started working out who you need to influence.
Mat is in the luxurious position of having complete control and authority over a massive site that gets loads of search visits, but nevertheless, I thought his stories were interesting and useful even if you’re running smaller sites. He talked about applying the principles of conversion rate optimisation to SEO. Take user profile pages for example (they have millions of them over at mixcloud): split them into two buckets (A and B) and make a set of changes to B designed to improve their search visibility. Treat visitors from search as “conversions” in a CRO sense and test to see if A or B is statistically better.
A short-but-sweet tip from Annie - check out webpagetest for creating videos of your website loading alongside those of your top competitors. If you have a speed problem, this is one of the most powerful tools for getting management on-side with the (often considerable) investment needed to achieve significant speed increases.
Remember Duane Forrester talking about how clean your sitemap should be? Annie suggests a simple way of checking (on small-to-medium-sized sites). Use the list mode of Screaming Frog to run through your XML sitemap and check the status code of the pages it contains.
Stephen described a simple set of three questions they include on the confirmation page at his experience days startup:
It’s important, he says, to make the answers free-form text areas. The freedom to write what they want is a critical part of the process of getting useful feedback. The idea then is that you can check in regularly and take actions to fix common issues.
Dave highlighted the example of Argos (a UK high-street retailer) who have a good example of an on-site page targeted to Argos voucher codes (in the US, I think “coupon” or “coupon codes” would be a more common search term). People are increasingly interrupting the checkout process to go and search for discount codes and the search results are typically terrible. If they fail to find anything relevant to your brand, they could easily be diverted to a competitor. By bringing them back to your own site, you reduce the drop-off of your checkout process.
Hannah pointed out how close to converting someone is when they check out your FAQ or T&C pages. When was the last time you read those kinds of page for fun? And yet, so many of us make those pages impenetrable to humans, give them tiny font, even make the navigation non-standard so that it’s hard to get back to the money pages. Don’t do that, says Hannah, quite rightly. (While we’re talking about it, I love the 500px terms and conditions - lawyer and human friendly.)
Not everyone knew Patrick at our conference - he’s the second-from-top-ranked user on Hacker News under the username patio11. Although his presentation covered a wide range of tips for conversion improvement, it was his email tips that stuck with me and changed our campaigns - literally as soon as I got back to the office.
His top tip was to encourage people to reply to your email marketing. There’s a temptation to think that this is a bad thing and some companies go so far as to send email marketing from a no-reply@ address. By simply ending with the line “Hit reply if you have any questions - I read them all”, you can increase engagement, sell more, get instant feedback and generally get closer to your community. I can vouch for this; we’ve been adding this to most of our emails since Patrick gave away this tip, and I can’t count the number of positive reactions it’s caused.
It’s closely related to his second tip: to give customer services a name and a face. He relates the story of a specific customer services rep who has received three marriage proposals in the last year. No one’s gone that far for me, but they have certainly seemed to appreciate the ability to chat 1:1.
Everyone who’s been kicking around for a while has a bunch of email addresses they can’t use. The better you are at observing best practices for email list growth, the more you will find yourself with lists of email addresses for people who haven’t opted in to hear from you.
With Facebook retargeting, you can put those email addresses to good use. Use your list of “interested but not opted-in” to build your advertising presence.
Paul’s tip overlapped email marketing and outreach with a suggestion to test different beginnings for your subject lines. In particular, “RE:” can garner much higher open rates by playing on the appearance of an ongoing conversation.
Stephen has talked before about the power of Evernote for saving and browsing a swipe file. Since it offers the ability to add notes by email, he recommends subscribing to competitors’ email lists and using gmail filters to direct their emails into your Evernote account. Do this well in advance of needing it of course, and then when a particularly significant time of year is approaching (Valentine’s day for a flower retailer for example), you have a ready-made swipe file of all the things your competitors did this time last year.
When you have close partnerships with other companies whose audiences’ interests overlap closely with those of your customers and clients, you can quickly grow your retargeting pool by including your pixel on their site. Add them into their own group so that you can run dedicated advertising to draw them into your own site and content.
The demographic targeting options for Facebook advertising are well known. By running tightly-targeted adverts driving visitors to your own landing pages, you can cookie those visitors with dedicated retargeting pixels that group them into buckets of people with similar interests. This gives you a powerful weapon for future content marketing (particularly at the agency level where having this kind of retargeting pool can be reused across multiple clients).
Don’t think only of retargeting being for driving conversions; it can be useful post-conversion, as well. Guy advocated adding a retargeting pixel to your confirmation page so that you have a bucket of people who have bought from you. What should you do with this information? One example use-case Guy mentioned was to ask for reviews of the product purchased to drive rich content on your site.
You’re all familiar with Help A Reporter Out (HARO), right? Realising that the content his clients are producing is often journalistic, Wil realised that they could be the reporter as well as the user of HARO. He’s had success with soliciting content input from small business owners via HARO - especially photo / image-based content for inclusion in rich posts.
As the technology underpinning our creative work has become more modern, we occasionally trip up against news rooms stuck using outdated operating systems and browsers. In these cases, they sometimes can’t access fancy animated graphics, etc. Lexi recommended including a short screencast in your journalist pitches to make it easier to see on any platform.
Rand decided to cover some areas that are closer to the things that have been taking up his personal time recently, particularly on the management front. One of the things that he talked about was also something he has written about in the context of wider team structure; namely, the need for strong career opportunities in your company for “individual contributors.” He pointed out the need for there always to be progression opportunities for your best people other than forcing them into management if that isn’t their goal.
Rand used the example of Avinash as being someone that many of his team look up to. Rand’s relationship with Avinash means that he has a chance of getting him to share great things written by the SEOmoz team. By doing this with great content and in a transparent way (“it would mean the world to X to hear that you had read their stuff”), he cements both relationships.
Justin pointed out that, for the bigger conferences, if you pitch a session topic and that topic is chosen to be a panel, you are 99% certain to get asked to be involved. So pitch great topics with credibility. He ran through a personal example - from writing an epic blog post and using it to pitch a competitor analysis panel at a major show. If you don’t know Justin’s background, you should read his personal post first time, every time, that explains just what an incredible journey his has been. It’ll definitely make you think you can up your own game.
In a lightning-quick tip, Paul recommended that if you run a WordPress site, you should run WPScan against your own site to check for any vulnerabilities. With the increase in hacking for SEO alongside exploits generally for all kinds of other reasons, it’s going to be increasingly important to lock down your stuff.
Mat and his team built a simple script to take a screenshot of the main pages of their competitors every day. He told a story about how they actually found it easier than their competitors to know which changes were working for them. I recommend reading about webkit2png and PhantomJS if you want to try this out for yourself.
As we all get better at making “big content” that is closely on-brand rather than just classic “internet bait” (something I know Mark and his team have been working on a lot recently), it makes more and more sense to integrate that great content into your normal website. In particular, try putting your top-performing content on your about page for two reasons: you drive people to your about page where they learn about your company, and potential clients wanting to learn more about your company get treated to your absolute best content.
Lisa described the positive results they have seen from having link developers build out rich online profiles, with posts they’ve written, authorship information, photos, and biographical information. Outreach works so much better when it comes from people who are (and seem) real.
Rob described a hackday project he built called Get Out Call. Based on the Twilio API, it is designed to let you send a text scheduling a call to your cell phone to get you out of sticky situations. The power of the API means that this was phenomenally easy to hack together but a big part of the PR value comes from the fact that it is built on a service provided by a hot startup. By letting them know that he had built it, he got their PR team to hook him (and Distilled) up with coverage.
If you do any Google Display Network video advertising, you get to include overlay links on your YouTube videos directing people to your own website. If you have an active YouTube channel, you should sign up and spend a small amount before pausing your campaign; even after you have paused, you can continue to have a clickable area on your YouTube videos. You can see this in action on the Distilled YouTube channel where we have a DistilledU video that we used to run advertising for. Even now that we’ve stopped, there is still a clickable link to the Distilled website.
David expanded on a tip Will Scott gives for businesses interacting on Facebook: where you can interact as a page (read: business) instead of as a person. Will talks about leaving useful comments on the stories of the local newspaper or other local entities. David expanded this tip to Google+. In the same way as with Facebook, an admin of a business page can choose to browse Google+ as that business. That means you can leave reviews as a business. This is even more useful than commenting on Facebook because it is less transient. Not only are there fewer reviews than comments, but they are on static pages and the most helpful reviews tend to rank towards the top all the time. The example he gave was that if you are a hotelier in Edinburgh, and you do a search for Edinburgh, you see Edinburgh Castle as one of the top places listed. By leaving a comment along the lines of “the top 5 things my guests love about the castle,” you gain permanent mind share on the most prominent points of interest in your town.
We record all the sessions at our conferences and make them available to buy (as well as bundling them with DistilledU subscriptions). Although I’ve included many of the tips from the let’s get real sessions above, I wanted to give you all the chance to see the whole sessions; I left out a few juicy tips for the interested reader to find and I think it’s always great to watch the dynamic of people on stage.
So, I’m giving you all access to the videos of both London and Boston absolutely free.
The way our video hosting is set up means that the only way I can get you access is by giving you 100% discount codes to “buy” them on our store. Just a heads-up:
Incidentally, I’ve added full transcripts to both videos on our site thanks to SpeechPad.
Similarly, get Boston’s Let’s Get Real 2012 by registering for a free account and entering MOZREAL2013 at checkout.
At this point, I’m obviously hoping that you are all so excited about the great content getting shared at these conferences that you simply can’t wait to come to one.
Luckily, we have two conferences coming up (again, in London and Boston), and SEOmoz PRO members can use a PRO perk to get free videos added to any ticket purchases (see the bottom of that page).
Just in case there’s any lingering doubt in your mind, I’ll leave you with a party photo :)
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