Digital Marketing Conference from the North News

I’ve been invited to speak at the Ionsearch, the advanced search marketing conference is in Leeds on the 18th of April, you can still get tickets if you hurry.

It has a very impressive speaker list including; Lee Odden, Ralph Tegtmeier aka Fantomaster, Dave Synder of Blueglass (these guys consistently produce top quality stuff, Martin MacDonald of Expedia, Patrick Altoft, Kevin Gibbons and a bunch more.

There are a few people who I have not heard of and am interested in learning more about. I am glad it’s only one day though, I find my brain hoovers up so much info it very quickly gets full.

There is a guy from Google going and looks like he’s going to rave about how great and wonderful G+ is, and interestingly Nick Garner from a gambling, gaming company is going to share insights on how beneficial G+ has been for them. Always ready to be convinced.

So it should be an interesting day, say hi and chat if we meet. It’s always great hearing other peoples experiences and views, which is frankly the best part of a conference.

ThinkVisibility 2011 – It’s all about the links

This is a guest post from Claire Carlile, who had the not so dubious pleasure of attending ThinkVis this March.

Last weekend heralded the 5th ThinkVisibility, and my second visit to Leeds for this 1 day event that popped my SEO conference cherry last September. I was expecting some engaging presentations, to meet with friends old and new, and of course a modicum of debauchery. I was not disappointed.

Being of a linkbuilding persuasion one presentation in particular stood out for me, my takeaways from this detailed below.

Paddy Moogan: Let’s talk about links baby

Paddy starts by outlining his session:

  • site reviews with link suggestions
  • generic tips
  • plus some fun (shadier stuff).

Unfortunately he asked us not to blog the ‘fun stuff’ – you’ll have to pay up for a ticket to ThinkVisibility yourself for this 😉

Restaurant review website

Conduct a backlink analysis – always do this first, what type of links do you need?
Site has lots of sidebar / site wide links with 12.000 links from 383 domains, not very varied.
Needs more domain diversity.

Use link bait and ego bait.

  • start with easy wins, for example ‘top 10 restaurants in Leeds’, ‘Top 10 restaurants in London’ etc
  • get people to come to your site and see that they are listed – shortlist the ones with websites that are likely to link to you.
  • run a survey on your website and then get people to vote on which of the top 10 is the best, that way the restaurants themselves will encourage their customers and community to visit your site – extra traffic plus links. Use poll daddy.

Using twitter for links (the easy way)
You need a reasonable following on twitter.
using twitter for links

  • Check which followers have websites; you can go through these people manually, or find all your followers and csv export them using
  • Find their website URLs using , which allows you to do this without logging into twitter.

This can take a long time, but a solution can be offered by scraping 😉

Paddy talks about how to do this. Now, Paddy is not the type of chap that needs to take a humility pill, and post presentation he flagged up this post on getting links from your twitter friends that describes the process in a succinct fashion.

  • Reach out to them and ask for a link
  • Launch link bait targeted at them via twitter

This is a great way to grab link targets really quickly and easily – the list is ‘pre qualified’ in the sense that they’re already following you on twitter, and you already have a relationship with them.

NB You’ll probably want to weed your competitors out of this data (please don’t ask for links, as a slap round the face often offends)

no links given

Other ideas

  • Feature the restaurants in a newsletter
  • Promote their special offers
  • Review them on the blog

Children’s dyslexia test

Current situation – not much domain diversity, but some good strong links

Identify opportunities

  • Schools
  • Parent groups
  • Mummy bloggers (the internet is crawling with them)

mummy bloggers

I’m not sure this is the type of blogger we’re looking for….

How to find them?
start with the basics (seriously): search for “list of mummy bloggers”
when you find a good one click on ‘similar’ link in the SERPs

Use . Performs a search in twitter bios, identifies those with ‘mummy blogger’ in bio, and also gives lots if useful data including real name, location, and number of tweets, friends and followers.

Retailer reviews and vouchers

Ego bait
awards for websites
give badges to winners
do across every category

Hit wise do this very successfully.

Blue sky idea – become a review aggregator
Encourage customers to leave more reviews
act as an independent review site
let retailers use reviews on their own site, in exchange for a link

Extra Tip
Implement microformats for shop reviews – reported 14% uplift in CTR from SERPS because of rich snippets (don’t quote that!)

Offers t shirt printing


Identify USPs:

  • Fair-trade supplier

Use advanced search operators to identify prospects:

  • get link targets from website. For example, get a list of local campaign groups, they likely be easier to target and more likely to link out.
  • think carefully about their existing customers – who do they supply? Charities and universities would of course make great link targets.
  • be careful – don’t overdo the anchor text optimisation – stick to targeting branded terms

Link bait
i.e. Guinness world record for the most t shirts worn at one time – they could see if they could break the world record, with their own branded t shirts

Erm, they supply gifts for men. Doh.

Competitions are always a corker for easy wins.


  • – Paddy can give you a list of links from competition sites if you email him (list of 20)

Guest blogging

  • find targets and do outreach first….find the link targets, contact them, get the content, get it approved etc
  • let them know you have 4 or 5 ideas, give them the overview, if they say nothing works for them ask them what type of stuff they would like? Then you can write for them specifically, they feel special / valued and are more likely to run your copy and links
  • when you have the contact and the person says ‘yes’ – get it produced (use oDesk, textbroker etc)
  • add links to the top of the article, try and keep it at the top if you can. Higher CTR, but also Matt Cutts at pubcon gave a big hint about how google views links in bios. Position of the link on the page is v. valuable.

Pro tip for agencies

  • Find top 10 generic sites and come back to them again and again with different clients, keep a data base of these sites

Top tips for e commerce sites

  • you can submit to multiple categories and get a link from each, pricey but worth it
  • Get links to product pages by making a screen cast of the product, embed code in the bottom (sounds painful), people can use it on their sites and will create deep links to your product pages. Adfd HTML wrapper to your product page

General tips

  • If you’re a new start up get a link from in their ‘60 second start up’ posts
  • Links from journalists – use to identify journos on twitter in your area, and by niche

That’s it, phew! The other stuff was so top secret, if I told you Paddy would make me suck sick through a sweaty sock. So I’m not gonna.

See Paddy’s preso slides, and harass him on twitter.

What Mike Grehan of SES Incisive Media Should have said

Yesterday I thought I would start 2011 hitting the ground running and start blogging again.

Little did I know that I would incur the wrath of the Vice President of one of the biggest publishers and conference providers of the SEO industry.

When I wrote a few lines of my experience of SES London a couple of years ago within my post about Which SEO Conference should I go to. I didn’t think for one minute I would get such a histrionic response from such a high up executive from one of the largest B2B publishers that is Incisive Media

Indeed, as Mike pointed out in his comment quite clearly, he is the Vice President of Global Content which seems to cover leading industry websites such as SES Conference Expo, Search Engine Watch and ClickZ. Making Mike one of the most powerful movers and shakers in the SEO world.

In contrast, I’m very tiny, smaller than a “tiny grain of salt”, which Mike said is how my post should be taken. Although I run a small but highly effective link building agency and am very good at what I do, I do not have the power and connections which the Vice President of Global Content at Incisive media has.

So it was to my surprise that such a high ranking company executive would come to my humble blog to rant and rave about how insignificant I was. Fortunately I have an Elephantine thick skin and such school yard nonsense rolls like a water off a ducks back. In fact, I found his bombastic comment to be highly amusing.

But something niggled.

What if I wasn’t so dismissive of such boorish behaviour? What if I didn’t have a thick skin? And then I realised that Mike was actually displaying classic bullying tactics. Not that I felt in the slightest way bullied at the time, it really was and is a storm in a teacup. But, when you wield so much power in the industry you need to behave a little different than if you were in a World of Warcraft chat room.

Another blogger may have been quite intimidated at such comment, which resulted from mild criticism of an SEO conference which happened two years ago.

And that is what niggled.

I don’t like bullies.

I don’t like people who throw their weight around and get on their high horse to gob on the little people. Because other more sensitive bloggers are going to read this and think twice when giving a negative, but honest opinion of an SES conferences. You hardly want Mike and his gang turning up in your comments with verbal baseball bats if you are a meek and mild waif from Chipping Sodbury.

Apparently Mike does have previous form for this kind of behaviour, when I tweeted about this yesterday a few people DM’d me with juicy stories.

Which I’m saving for a future post.

And that is the point.

Social media has created a new playing field.

Gone are the times when powerful executives can instantly silence critics with a few aggressive words.

It’s changed the dynamic of reputation management.

What’s important about this is not how I feel, who gives a toss, right. But how quickly a brand can be tarnished with the erratic behaviour of one of its representatives. Not that I feel that Incisives’ brand has been tarnished. It’s far too big and powerful a corporation for that.

But, what gets posted on the Internet, stays on the Internet.

Such negative outbursts can have a drip drip effect on your brand. Although I doubt anyone took my comments that seriously. They were after all one persons view of London SES and ironically I think SES London does a fine job of putting on a conference and has some great speakers. I simply wished that more of the speakers of the conference I went to were British and less of them American, which for some people seemed to be an heretical opinion.

After that first post on my views of the conference I was half expecting to get the, “after we saved your asses in World War 2 you should be grateful.”

And of course this comes after the Gulf disaster when millions of gallons of British Oil became polluted with American shrimp.

For those who didn’t get it, the above two sentences were ironic and not meant to be taken seriously.

But the problem remains, how do you respond to negative criticism of your product, service or brand online.

This leads me to the headline of this post.

What Mike Should have said.

He should have said something like,

“Whilst I respect your right as a attendee of SES London to express your full and frank opinion I absolutely and utterly disagree with your characterisation of what you experienced. Whilst it may be true you saw what you saw, the majority of the conference attendees found the overall experience of London SES to be useful, interesting, and well worth the admittance price. We value every attendee who visits our conferences and attempt to deliver the best possible conference experience we can muster.

Please accept our apologies for any deficiency in our desire to deliver the best SEO conference experience London can get and give us another chance to show you how good we are. To this end I am sending you two free passes to a show of your choice.”

Can you see the difference between that and, “I recommend that any reader of your post take it with the tiny grain of salt it’s hardly even worth.” Which is part of the comment which was left.

When dealing with a critic never get personal, it’s silly and will make your organisation look shabby and purile.

It’s simply a case of being:

  • Courteous
  • Firm
  • Clear
  • Professional
  • Open to all criticism
  • Expressing a desire to deliver amazing customer service
  • Valuing all opinion (even when it’s from a numpty like me)

If you have mission statement of striving for customer excellence, then make sure it’s known.

Absolutely confront your critics and even post on their blog, but the aim is to negate further negative comments and ultimately turn the critic into a raving fan.

By using social media you can quickly and effectively nip in the bud any tarnishing of your brand, but it has to be handled in a specific way and not like your some drunken gob-shite in a bar room brawl.

A few people may respect you if you come over like a rabid fan at a cage fighting expo, and indeed the tone of my blog can be that of a scabrous old hag who nips away at its targets with the one snaggled tooth left in her head. But, that’s this blog. I don’t represent a huge publishing corporation.

If anyone thinks, “who the hell are you to be gobbing off with your manky old blog?” You are probably right, I am but a humble blogger who has a very small, but highly effective link building agency. This blog is absolutely a skanky example of someone who does not have the time nor inclination to update the design or properly implement SEO on it.

But I feel I don’t really need to.

I have no problem with being honest about my own and my blogs failings. What’s important to me and I think to a lot of people is credibility and authenticity.

The immediacy and hard light of social media enables us to sniff out the bullshitters. You can actually get quite far in life by bullshitting and crawling up the odd arseole, but I don’t have the skill set for that.

So I simply have to rely on telling it how it is and hoping people take it on face value. Of course I am not naive to believe that you can’t get somewhere in life by not greasing the tracks, one has to only cast a quick gaze and the sycophancy and cliques that inhabit the SEO world to see that it helps. As it does in any other sector, it’s human nature to gravitate to people who share similar opinions and who only say nice things about you.

But, nepotistic behaviour exists to negate excellence.

And people do notice.

Now, some may say I am simply going to “lose friends and alienate people”, as Mike mentioned in his comment. I am not sure if he is saying,” be friendly towards me and don’t alienate me and I will give you goodies”, which appears to be the subtext of what he is saying.

And indeed, I do seem to be getting out the can of petrol and burning bridges, which will probably get banned from SES or at least never invited to speak at SES London.
But, is that really who it works? I would have thought people were chosen on their ability to deliver a highly rewarding and interesting presentation than on their ability to kiss ass and make friends. Isn’t that how a great conference experience is created.

If I’m told, “well you really are a crappy presenter and know nothing of what you speak about”. Which is a point that some may agree with, although I have spoken at a number of SEO conferences such as SMX London,twice, plus I gave a one and a half hour training sessions on social media at SMX, also presented at A4u and SASCON and been invited to hold numerous social media and link building training workshops.

So, I’m not really worried in that side of my ability. But I guess I am not going to win the kiss ass of the year award.

I have written quite a few words on this subject, mainly because reputation management is crucial in this “instant publish” world of social media we live in and I hope I have highlighted and interesting case study on how not to behave when you feel you are under attack.

Mikes’ comment did raise a number of issues that are quite interesting and need to be explored. So in the next few days I will be regularly posting regarding this subject and as London SES is coming up, highly topical.

To be clear, please don’t let this post affect your decision to go to London SES or any other conference. My reaction is simply about the way my view was handled. It’s a great SEO conference and a lot of respected people speak there and share good stuff. It can be a highly valuable experience and a great networking experience and as I said in my post, the good stuff gets talked about in the bar afterwards as the presentations tend to give away knowledge you can pick up on blogs, which I hardly think is a revelation.

But, who has time to read SEO blogs?

Which SEO Conference should I go to

This post began as a comment on The 5 must go to UK SEO conferences in 2011, but the comment soon grew too large, so I decided to put it here.

Having spoke at a few of the conferences on the list and been to others, I quickly found out that each one is good for different things. Although, I don’t schlep to many conferences these days they can be great fun and a great way for a service provider to pick up a few clients.

The post covered a poll on the following UK conferences.

1) SES London – February 22nd – February 25th
2) Sascon – May 19th – 20th
3) ProSEO – TBC (October 2011)
4) Think Visibility – March 5th 2011
5) A4U Expo – October 2011 (TBC)
6) International Search Summit – May 2011 (TBC)
7) Ad-tech – 21st/22nd September
8) SMX London – 16th/17th May 2011

As a way of learning it can be very tasty, but don’t get too excited over presentations, which are mostly rehashed blog posts or a sales massage for the speakers services/product/. You can easily get the knowledge elsewhere and there are better ways to fill your knowledge sack at an seo conference.

If you are a business seeking to sup from the cup of secret SEO knowledge, use the conference to get a free consultation. As soon as the speakers finish rush the stage to grab the ear hole of the guru/expert/meister and lay down an ego smoothing bit of flattery, it’s amazing how well this works (especially with me). And then hit them with a specific problem you are having with your online marketing.

The thing is, the real seo knowledge hounds are not in it for the money, they love solving the problems and love being thrown a bone to chew on. Remember, a lot of these guys charge £150 plus an hour for their time and most are picky about taking on new clients, so whatever time you get with them is going to be worth the conference fee.

The next step is to find which watering hole the speakers are going to be sucking up the booze. You will find there are always a hard core of speakers hanging around and these guys love to chew the fat and give away the juice over a pint. You mean they don’t do it in their presentations? Of course they bloody don’t, do you really think an unpaid speaker is going to dish the goodies onto your lap all hot and sticky. They keep those tasty morsels for the guys who pay them £10k a month for SEO services.

Another thing to look out for when choosing a conference is that the most expensive is not usually the best. A lot of conference speakers are chosen by mutual arse scratching rather than their ability to wrap complex issues into a 10 min presentation and make it simple enough for someone who sells something like Chocolate Cheese online.

Another tip is to do research on the speakers and pick the ones that you really like and shoot them off an email saying you are looking forward to seeing them. Don’t try to get an hours worth of consultation for the price of a coffee (if you get the label of a cheapskate it wont disappear quickly), but think of it as laying the ground work for a longer term relationship. Just like in any industry the good service providers are constantly busy and so you need to sell yourself a bit to get them to take you on as a client.

Switching back to those of you who want to carve out a nook in the crowded SEO agency space, a conference is a great place to go to help develop your brand and sniff out who really knows their stuff. For networking I would recommend the smaller, Northern conferences. If you are a Brit you will get more out of the ones not dominated by the Americans. If you are an American it’s a great way to get a tax free trip to the UK.

The point being, if you network with the British rather than the Americans you are more likely to bond and see the people again, making it more likely that they will do you a solid. I remember sitting in front an SES London keynote panel and realising everyone one of the 5 speakers were American and then when going to break bread at the London SEO bash that night, seeing a bunch of our colonial cousins hunkered down having a private dinner. Wagons circled, natives shot on sight.
Meanwhile, at London SEO the party was in full swing and it was a great opportunity to network with people who live just down the road.

And lets face it, Americans are just British people with irony removed and lots of guns in the pick up truck (boy, you’re going to hell for that one). Hmmm, I seem to have been reading too much Jeremy Clarkson lately.

For business and for service providers, don’t get star struck. I realise some would like to stroke the hem of Rand Fishkins’ garment or feel the huge knowledge sack of Aaron Wall, but most of the uber gurus get quickly swept away in a messianic, Pythonesque crowd surge. Whilst others mutter, “He’s not the Messiah, he’s a very naughty boy”.

And of course, a lot of these guys are popular because they are brilliant at SEO and marketing, it’s just a conference is not the best place to schmooze the uber guru.

So, back to the question, which seo conference should I go to? It’s really a question only you can answer as it depends on what you are after.

But to be honest, the best SEO conference to go to this year is the Cornwall SEO Conference of 2011 😉