MozCon Recap and Test Driving a Starship

MozCon 2014The past week, I had the joy of spending the week in Seattle to experience not only my first MozCon, but my first marketing conference. Having spent the majority of my workforce life in hospitality, most conferences were sponsored by food and beverage vendors and were dedicated to eating and drinking the latest and greatest while wandering booths pretending that you hadn’t already tried the meatballs, similar to Costco’s sample day.

Moz went above and beyond anything I could have expected.

There are so many things to mention about the conference, but I’ll recap the top five that really stood out to me.

5. Mike King – API Killah. 
This guy blew the crowd away entirely. If you were following the Twitter feed for #mozcon you would have witnessed a plethora of “I’m officially freaked out.”, “Mike King just blew my mind”, and “WTF?” tweets. He kicked things off by describing a user’s unique fingerprint they leave on each website which was interesting in itself. He then threw us down the rabbit hole of linking APIs to take that fingerprint to find out EXACTLY who each user was, their demographic, their location, their habits, etc. It was insane. Unfortunately, he didn’t also blow us away with his rap skills this year, but I’m told they’re pretty epic. You can download his slide deck from the conference here and follow him on Twitter under the handle @iPullRank.

Mike Ramsey Shuffleboard4. Mike Ramsey – Small Town Man, Doing Big Things
I had the awesome opportunity to meet Mike Ramsey before his presentation and watch him and Ed Reese clean the shuffleboard house at the Unbounce MozCrawl afterparty. The following day he gave his local search presentation and was nothing short of incredible. He creatively and seamlessly incorporated his hometown of Burley, Idaho into every aspect of his slide deck and polished it with gorgeous photography, strategic humor and even pictures of his kids (who may kick you in the face). His firm, Nifty Marketing, focuses on “making local search sexy” and they do a damn good job. Check out his slide deck here and follow the genuinely nice guy on Twitter at @MikeRamsey. He also loves Weezer. Just saying.

Tesla S3. Test Driving A Starship
I have the pleasure of living a short drive (read: long, but worth it) away from Seattle, but it is usually the best idea to cram as many things into the trip as possible. We decided to take a quick break from the conference to walk over to a little car company named Tesla to take one out for a spin. We fully warned our co-pilot that we weren’t planning on buying one for a while and she reassured us that no one is, because you simply can’t; they’re booked out on production for the next year and a half. That being said, we hopped in, played with every option on the 17″ display and took off into the streets of Seattle. With 100% of the torque going straight to the wheels, my face hurt afterwards from smiling too much.
Note: I did not get paid for this shameless plug.

MozCon At The Garage2. MozCon’s Partner Hub
Moz did a great job in picking several partners for the event who hung out outside and gave demos and information on their products. I had the opportunity to meet a lot of fun people and learn more about some of the partners that we use, or are definitely using in the future. Never once did I feel pressured to purchase anything, they simply wanted to share what they were up to and get to know their potential clients. Had great conversations and a fantastic time hanging out with Paul from Buzzstream, Oli and the Unbounce team, and Taylor from Optimizely! Look forward to seeing all of them at future events!

1. Content
I’m not sure the best way to really title this concept that was generated throughout the conference but it is a breath of fresh air. Sure, we can’t game Google search like we used to be able to, but they’re forcing to provide something the internet truly needs: Good Content. We can hate on Google and their 1000s of employed PhDs who tweak and twist their algorithm without anyone knowing the better, skewing our client’s search rankings we’ve pushed so hard to produce. We can get mad every time they name an update after an animal we will soon despise when we see at the zoo, but they’re pushing us to make a better internet. Nearly every presentation held an underlying tone that we can be as technical as we want, but in the end, just make your site better, publish something people will share, write articles readers will love and want to come back to read again. Stop worrying about the little wins and focus on the big picture. The saying I have been throwing around the office lately can sum up the greatest idea from MozCon, “Do the thing”. Time after time, we get caught in the weeds focusing on unimportant projects, or financials, or who knows what, the problem is that we ignore the main idea. #DoTheThing

0. MOZ
So I am probably breaking some sort of countdown rule by going all the way to zero, but I owe the biggest shout out to Moz for putting on a seamless conference. The production value was outstanding with incredible and entertaining videos, great music, food, shirts, and even stuffed Roger dolls. We’ll be back next year, Moz. See you all then.

Catalyst Magazine Feature – Latest Business Trends

Catalyst Magazine’s May issue features a discussion highlighting the latest in business trends. It includes an interview with me and our friends Chris Reilly from Unleashed Online Marketing and Frank Swoboda from Corner Booth Media. The article does a really nice job highlighting some of the most recent trends business owners should be aware of when it marketing their business.

Click here to read the article.

Awesome Analytics, Local Search, SEO, Social Media, & Converstion Rate Optimization Info

A big thank you to The Spokane Club and everyone that attended my presentation earlier this week at their Networking Breakfast! I really appreciated your questions, engagement, and enthusiasm. As I mentioned during our session, I want to provide additional resources for you to continue your education in the ways of analytics, SEO, local search, social media, and conversion rate testing. We covered a lot of topics in a short period of time and as a follow-up I wanted to create an awesome resource library for you. Now it’s time for you to choose your own Internet marketing adventure and learn from the best and brightest in the industry.

ANALYTICS, ANALYTICS, ANALYTICS
analytics-culture1conversions

As I’m sure you recall from my presentation, I hammered home the importance of understanding analytics. I’m not talking about “reporting” or “monthly reports” for your boss. I’m talkin’ about kick-butt, actionable analytics that teach, provide valuable insight, and inspire action. What’s workin,’ baby? What does the data tell us today? This higher level of attention to your data is not optional… if you want your business to succeed. You must “know thy data.” Here’s how:

Occam’s Razor – Awesome analyics blog from Avinash Kaushik
Web Analytics an Hour a Day – Great introduction to actionable analytics (also from Avinash)
Google Analytics Blog – Resource for understanding Google Analytics (beginner & advanced)
Google Analytics Videos – Educational videos that show how to use Google Analytics
Conversion University – A curriculum of analytics video tutorals
Analytics 2.0 [The Art of Online Accountability & Science of Customer Centricity] (Thanks Avinash!)

MAKE SURE YOUR WEB SITE CONVERTS TRAFFIC

I think it’s great when companies embrace new technologies and ways of thinking. Social media has taken the Internet marketing world by storm and generated all kinds of buzz (much of it well deserved) this year. However, I’m always wary of what I call the “Shiny Penny Syndrome.” It’s a condition where companies throw resources at the latest and greatest marketing techniques without testing and tracking what the shiny penny actually does. I’ve also seen companies completely stop doing what works (like email marketing) just because it doesn’t have that new marketing smell.

Don’t Make Me Think – Great read (really fast, too) about web site usability
Conversion Rate Experts – UK company focused solely on conversion rate optimization
108 Ways to Improve Conversion Rates (from Conversion Rate Experts)
Google Web Site Optimizer Blog (The Official Optimizer Blog)
Always Be Testing – Great book for learning A/B & Multivariate testing
Marketing Experiments – I love these guys. Their webcasts rock!

LOCAL SEARCH = LOW HANGING FRUIT

spokane-restaurants

As an Internet marketer I’m always looking for the low-hanging fruit–”the best bang-for-the-buck in the shortest period of time. And for most small and medium businesses that’s Local Search. Like I mentioned before, this doesn’t mean you stop doing everything else and go local only. It means that it’s time for a dedicated local search strategy to compliment your existing marketing efforts. Learn more from these experts:

David Mihm – Portland, OR Local Search expert & designer
2009 Local Search Ranking Factors – I’m proud to be a contributor to this research project :)
Mary Bowling – Denver, CO Local Search expert
Understanding Google Maps & Local Search – For those that want details, details, details.
Small Business SEM – Local Search + SMB Advice = Awesome!
Miriam Ellis – San Francisco, CA Local Search expert & designer
Chris Silver Smith – Cartographer & Local Search expert. Again, for folks that want the technical details.

ORGANIC SEARCH ENGINE OPTIMIZATION (SEO)

There is a lot of information out there about SEO. In fact, there is so much information that it’s tough to know where you should even begin. These folks provide the best information and their content is always up to date.

SEOmoz – Free and premium levels of membership – Both are great!
SEO Book – Again, free and premium levels of membership – Great as well
Search Engine Journal – Free SEO content from a variety of SEO experts – including me starting next month
Search Engine Land – Center of the universe for all things search – Look through the categories
Vanessa Fox – She has an uncanny ability to explain complex details in very simple terms
Rand Fishkin’s HostingCon Preso – Awesome SEO explanation (and motivation for my art project)

BUT WHAT ABOUT SOCIAL MEDIA?

Don’t worry, I didn’t forget about social media. Remember, this socia media stuff is new for everybody so the importance of testing and learning from data is paramount. I think this bit of reading will provide good insight for you.

Outspoken Media – More than social media, but they cover it very well. Many good social media posts here.
Copyblogger – Read Copyblogger now! Writing is so freakin’ important. This is one of my favorite blogs!
7 Harsh Realities of Social Media Marketing – Great new post from Copyblogger
Trackur – Cool way to track social media mentions & reputation
Samepoint – See all mentions of your name or company online. A very cool social media monitoring tool.
5 Facebook Case Studies – Yes, 5 real case studies about marketing with FB.
Twitter, Tacos, & Trucks – The Story of Kogi Bar-B-Que

LIKE I SAID,… WHAT MATTERS IS HOW IT HELPS YOUR BUSINESS
Here’s an example from the presentation. I know it’s hard to believe,… but I didn’t even go to art school!
sales-funnel1

WANT MORE INFORMATION? HAVE QUESTIONS? COMMENTS? JUST LET ME KNOW.

Please feel from to leave a comment below, send an email, or contact me at my office (509-456-4350).

Contributor – 2009 Local Search Ranking Factors

I was proud to participate in David Mihm’s Local Search Ranking Factors project this year. It has quickly become one of the most anticipated articles in the Local Search industry each year.

David asked 27 Local Search experts to rate the importance of 49 criteria with respect to their influence on rankings in the Google and Yahoo Local “Universal” search algorithms. These are the factors that trigger a local map result from perceived local search queries. Since early 2008 all the major search engines now display a map for locally-focused keywords.

Gain insight into local search drivers and understand how your business can get found in Maps and increase online exposure.

Search Marketing & American Idol

How will your marketing campaigns be judged in 2009?

Yep, the economy is bad.  There is no way to sugarcoat it.  Sure, it has impacted some industries and areas more than others.  But even if it hasn’t caused a serious downturn in your market, geographic area, or your business in particular, I’d argue that fiscal caution reigns supreme at the moment.

But what does that have to do with American Idol?

Every marketing spend out there is currently being judged by the corporate version of American Idol’s Randy Jackson (as VP of Business Development) , Simon Cowel (CEO/CFO), and Paula Abdul (VP of Marketing) and new exec Kara DioGuardia (VP of Technology).  Think of this audience.  They are in your meetings.  They decide whether you live or die (at least from a project standpoint).  In a good economy, Randy (Biz Dev) is given enough rope to risk new products and experiment with new business channels.  “Yo Dawwg, I’m gonna roll with your new Facebook-but-for-lawyers-website-thing.  It could be HUUUGE!” Paula (Marketing) can argue that a new emotionally charged TV campaign will have a big impact. “Honey, it’ll be great.  Soccer Moms all over the country will be calling in to sign-up. “Kara (Technology) will be allowed to pursue the latest and greatest tech solution to save the day.  That’s all fine and dandy in a good economy.  Yes, it’s still evaluated and put to discussion.  But it’s not quite as tough.  In a bad economy, people want a sure thing.  And the final (and sometimes only) vote goes to Simon (CEO/CFO). ÂAnd guess what’s he going to look at?  Yep, the ROI. What would Simon say about your marketing campaign?

Hopefully, he wouldn’t be this harsh

Search Engine Marketing (both SEO & PPC) Continue to Provide ROI

Fortunately, for search engine marketers, ROI can be easy calculate for the Simon’s of the business world.  In fact, a recent article from Enquiro discusses how search engine marketing (primarily from Google’s perspective) is still growing despite poor market conditions.  Here’s an excerpt:

Despite one of the worst economic years in recent memory, Google showed 23% growth in revenues. During the same time period every other economic metric went into free fall. Consumer confidence plunged to its lowest levels ever. Retails sales and online sales both hit the skids. Let’s not even talk about home sales. The Dow Jones is down 40% in the past year. The economy didn’t just slow down. It screeched to a halt. But in this same time, search kept plugging through without a hiccup. Did the astronomical growth continue? No, but 23% is pretty damn good in anyone’s books.

The article then went on to say:

So, when we hit bottom and start climbing out of this economic black hole, Search will have consolidated its position as the most accountable of marketing channels. It will form the basis of a new marketing model: consumer driven, immediate, measurable, effective, interactive.

Search Engine Marketing is consumer driven, measurable, & effective.

A completely non-scientific inquiry search engine marketing professionals (myself and people I know and trust in the industry) has shown that we are busier than we have ever been. A big part is due to our unique ability to prove that we are improving business for our clients.  It’s not a gut-check.  It’s not a demographic guide that says we likely reached 17% of our target audience.  It’s detailed analytics showing how we provide value and increase revenue.  In addition to the obvious, we are also able to make insightful recommendations to help aspects of your business we aren’t even managing.  But don’t take my (somewhat un-objective) word for it:

Marketing Sherpa’s Recent Internet Marketing ROI Survey

Web Pro News’ Top Internet Marketing Strategies

Search Engine Optimization came in first place with 36% of respondents indicating SEO was likely to be the most important online advertising channel. Blogging came a close second at 33% and Pay per Click (PPC) advertising came third with 26%. These three marketing channels, which are the mainstay services offered by search marketing firms, tend to offer the strongest returns on monies invested by the advertiser.

And to give you an idea of the wide variety of options on the table, nearly 500 marketing professionals were polled last November by public relations expert Lee Odden about the Internet marketing strategies and tactics they would be employing in the next six months.  Their responses are quite interesting.

All of this data helps me remain confident in my belief that search engine marketing (SEO & PPC) will make it out of Hollywood week and continue its trek to the finals despite the worst economy in decades. Oh yeah, when we win you (our clients) win, too.  That’s why we’re in business in the first place.

Affiliate Link Value

For quite a while now I’ve held the belief that affiliate links were viewed no differently than paid links in the eyes of the search engines. Sure, there are countless affiliate links that pass link juice (just like many paid links). It’s just that I assumed this was a little loophole that would be closed any minute now and considered risky behavior. I mean,… affiliate links are paid endorsements by default. Sure, plenty of niche paid links fly under the radar, but a free pass for all affiliate links? Really? During SMX East last week search engineers from Google, Yahoo! and Microsoft all answered questions posed by the audience and filtered by moderator, Danny Sullivan. Their response to how the search engines viewed affiliate links blew me away:

“Shockingly, when asked point blank if affiliate programs that employed juice-passing links (those not using nofollow) were against guidelines or if they would be discounted, the engineers all agreed with the position taken by Sean Suchter of Yahoo!. He said, in no uncertain terms, that if affiliate links came from valuable, relevant, trust-worthy sources – bloggers endorsing a product, affiliates of high quality, etc. – they would be counted in link algorithms. Aaron from Google and Nathan from Microsoft both agreed that good affiliate links would be counted by their engines and that it was not necessary to mark these with a nofollow or other method of blocking link value.”

This is going to radically change how the SEO community views paid… er, I mean affiliate links. I do see their point, however. There are plenty of affiliate sites that provide great value. It will be interesting how “high quality” will be defined by the search engines. Here’s a recap of the top six takeaways from this session courtesy of SEOmoz. It’s worth checking out.