I b-lined for the coffee station, desperate for a caffeine boost to help me push through the morning sessions. After filling my cup and snagging a tasty muffin, I settled into the main conference room to catch the keynote for the day.
Moderator Joe Laratro guided the conversation with a series of poignant questions designed to get Daniel and Tim’s thoughts on a variety of topical issues.
Google’s Farmer update was the first topic. Dan theorized that the Farmer update is Google trying to determine if content is unique and substantial. The main take away here for me, was to think long and hard about the quality of your content. Tim felt that quality was partially defined by the content available for a specific keyword. In other words, if there’s only low quality content available for a certain keyword the bar may be lower than you would normally shoot for.
Joe then asked what Dan and Tim thought about the attitudes of search engines toward the search engine marketing community. Dan felt they were apathetic because of their own internal distractions and obligations. He asked the audience “Is anyone from Google even here?”. Eyes darted around for a raised hand or the random squirming Google representative avoiding being called out, but no one flinched.
When asked if big companies are treated differently by search engines, Tim pointed out that users expect to see big brands listed in SERPs. He thought that because of this expectation, if big companies like JC Penny where not show in SERPs this would translate into a poor user experience. This, he felt, made it obvious that big companies are treated differently than smaller sites.
This was a great session for anyone running a WordPress website. Once the speakers got through the obligatory “the title is the most important SEO factor” type advice, there was some serious meat for the advanced WordPress SEO.
Much like his comically over-sized picture on the session’s official web page, Chris Pearson’s bigger than life WordPress SEO expertise eclipsed the other speakers and turned the session a bit into the Chris Pearson show.
Michael David recommended using the AllinoneSEO plugin, but Chris made a compelling argument that functionality like this should be handled at the theme level. His thought was that plugins slow your site down and as we all know, page load time will affect your rankings in search engines.
Lisa Brown reminded everyone to use permalinks and to un-check “hide my site from search engines” in WordPress.
Chris preached about his method of less-is-more with WordPress SEO. This basically involves going through your web pages and removing elements that are not necessary. Not only does this remove distractions for your visitors but it can improve your page load times and give you a lift in the SERPs. Chris also pointed out that every plugin on your site loads every time a page is called. He advocated sparse use of plugins to help speed up your website.
Kate ONeill laid out the basics of coming up with a hypothesis to use as the base line for your A/B testing. Her main theme was to come up with a story for your hypothesis formulated by empathy for what the user is trying to accomplish (it’s different than what you want) and measurable metrics to back up your hypothesis. The concept of creating a story, will help you convey the goal of your campaign in terms you and other people in your organization can understand. Simply saying “a red button will convert better than a green button” just won’t do it.
Brian Massey’s humorous high school chemistry laden presentation covered the importance of using videos on your landing pages. He advised webmasters to remove distractions from landing pages otherwise your visitors “Argon” (yuk, yuk).
Janet Driscoll Miller reminded everyone of many of the things you can test with A/B testing including titles, button colors, page layout, copy, images and videos. She also pointed out that Google Website Optimizer only picks winners based on total conversions and not revenue. For the complete picture, use Google Analytics to see which landing page actually scored you the most dough.
Chris advocated the use of country specific TLDs when marketing your product or service in other countries. He recommended the use of 7 localized pages (language, currency etc) for each country specific TLD and links to your normal .com web pages to help round out your site and facilitate your conversions.
Ted encouraged everyone to avoid thinking of website organization like your company organizes information, your catelog is organized, the content creator organizes information or how any one person would organize information. He stressed that information should be organized how your customers expect the information to be organized.
Ted shared how he approaches organizing content on a website. He starts by using a maximum of 7 items in the top navigation (no drop down menus) and then invites random people not connected to the company to say what main categories they would use to classify specific content. This helps provide insight into where people expect your content to be located.
Half useful tips and half scare-the-heck-out-you, this session was an eye opening window into the world of black hat SEO techniques.
Giovanni shared a few errr… gray hat techniques including putting links in Flickr descriptions which describe the content owner rather than promoting a specific website. He pointed out that this was within Flickr’s terms of service. He also recommended the use of HideMyIP and HideMyMac when logging into multiple Facebook accounts to help avoid Facebook filters to help prevent people from logging into too many Facebook profiles from the same computer.
Carolyn Shelby recommended the use of BlackSheep to help hide your wifi traffic from FireSheep (wifi sniffer) in addition to building a war chest so you’ll be prepared in the event of an attack on your website. She also seemed to recommend that you host your own server infrastructure so you can control access. I personally don’t agree with this, mainly because a good data center will have higher security than most people can afford on their own and I have yet to see an in-house data room with redundant UPS, HVAC and Internet connections. For me the trade off in redundancy far outweighs the risk of someone using social engineering to gain access to your locked server cabinet or cage (correct me if I’m wrong Carolyn).
Brett reminded everyone of the unofficial definition of SPAM (sites positioned above me) in addition to recommending everyone watch back links for links from bad neighborhoods purchased by competitors.
PubCon Austin delivered the high-caliber speakers and networking one would expect from PubCon. The speakers, moderators and staff where friendly, approachable and helpful. If you didn’t get a chance to make it to Austin, make sure to block out your calendar for Pubcon Vegas in November! If you were at PubCon Austin and you’re staying for SXSWi, hit me up @David_Vogelpohl!