Highlights from Pubcon South: Day 1 summary

Austin is unlike any other US city I’ve been to – everyone’s friendly, skinny, and a hippy. It’s like I’ve stumbled into some lost tribe of British Columbians. Day one of Pubcon South was … ummm, what’s the word? Good. You can read my in-depth (not in-depth thought, just a lot of fast typing, live) live coverage in earlier posts on this blog, but here’s a recap of the juicy bits (that I managed to be around for).

Social Media Session

The social media presentation by Guillaume Bouchard was, as I expected, kick ass, but don’t take my word for it, check it out for yourself . The summary of where to place your social content and the pros/cons of each was the kind of thing people go to Pubcon to figure out.

Brand and Reputation Management Session

The brand and reputation management panel was great – we got to hear from people who really manage brands, not just push around SERPs a little. Read the recap of Tony Wright’s presentation here, he knows his stuff. Basically, if your company is really interested in brand management, be proactive and not just reactive.

Have a plan, and be aware of who is responsible for what in the face of these four types of brand nightmares:

  • physical disasters
  • financial disasters
  • ethics disasters
  • false rumors

The best tip in this session came in the Q&A, and it was a caveat more than a tip: if you’re using your real name while you do reputation management for another person, you could quite easily become a victim of their reputation, inheriting the bad into your own, so be real careful. I’m thinking that means when you do reputation management don’t ever attach your personal brand to the work.

Conversion Rate Testing and Optimization

The conversion rate testing and optimization session really had a lot of great information – sure a lot of it was checklist style stuff that you want to make sure you’re paying attention to or testing, but that’s what the people wanted to take away. The highlight tip of the session for me (because I didn’t realize it before, but it makes perfect sense) Taylor Pratt mentioning that having a promo code box on your site can damage your conversion rate. People notice and realize there is a deal somewhere that they’re not privy to, so they leave the site in an effort to find a promo code, interrupting your sale.

Brian Massey was just damn entertaining with his game-show style presentation, quizzing the audience on what types of conversion elements should be shown to which types of personas. It’s a good exercise actually, and a skill every online marketer should work on.

Overall the conversion testing panel pushed through two big ideas imho:

  • That doing personality or persona based research, and coupling that with your conversion elements is the shiznits
  • That getting someone to fill in a web-form should not be our standard measure of a conversion – it is simply one step in a larger conversion process. Change your focus to ‘post click’ and ‘post web’

Local Search Engine Optimization panel

The Local SEO panel was great with a lot of good hands on advice from real people with real businesses who compete locally. The thrust of the presentations went without some of what I feel is necessary context, so I’ll provide that now: modern local SEO involves writing for and about your community, independent of what your business is. Of course the basics of using location + business was talked about a little, but really, these guys were talking about writing up events in the community, being very generous with your outbound links, and using this content and that generosity to gently prod neighbouring sites for some reciprocal recognition (reciprocal links are not such an evil demon in the local world, especially when they’re logical).

Michael Dorausch’s description of writing for and about the Austin Marathon encapsulates this. He suggests that any local business should be doing a write-up on the marathon, and expanding on this idea, should do the keyword research to see what people in the community are searching for. Turns out some are searching for road closure information (give it to them!), some are searching for their names and where they placed in the marathon (publish a congratulations post to all who completed it, list their names!) – these little content gems add up to little bits of link love, which eventually translate into a strong, locally linked site. Once you’ve got that, a little on-site SEO can go a long way in dominating the SERPs in your business niche.

The best nugget from the local SEO panel came from the Q&A session, where somebody asked (as I was going to if they didn’t beat me to the punch) what factors go into Google’s local rankings – in other words how can I be business “a” that is returned, as opposed to business “h”?

The answers that came back are surprising, but honest: it’s based on immature things:

  • Your business brick and mortar location – the closer to Google’s idea of the city center the better
  • The number of comments and ratings that your business has in the system
  • Keyword stuffing in tags (keyword stuffing is relevant again, yeeeehaaaw as they say in Texas)
  • Get your business address out there on other sites that Google crawls, like yelp and yellow pages – literally publish your address a lot of places
  • The more content on your site the better

Now, they admit that they’re not sure which of these techniques is the most powerful (these aren’t scientist SEO’s they’re local businessmen!) but a combination of them is what is working, and so what they will continue to do, and you should too. Other great tips came for the basics of how to earn local links, read up on my live blog post from the session.

Back to the live blogging!

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