This week I had the opportunity to attend Distilled’s Pro SEO conference in Boston, and I took away a plane full of insights along with learning never to try flying from foggy Ithaca, N.Y., to Boston (don’t ask).
Strategies for a Tough Industry
In the final session of the conference, SEOMoz’s Rand Fishkin battled Distilled’s Will Critchlow over strategies for a competitive industry, with both esteemed SEOs building their own Internet marketing plans and letting the audience judge the better plan (Rand won, with home-country advantage potentially playing a factor).
Rand developed a comprehensive strategy for a men’s clothing web site that involved many of his favorite tactics (including Oyster’s “Reporter Style Reviews” and Moleskine’s Artist Marketplace) and concluded with fascinating advice on making link requests.
“Ask not what they can do for you but what you can do for them,” Rand said. “Imagine a 100 percent success rate. That’s what you get when you ask what they want.”
Will countered by trying to make headway into the job industry. One of his more compelling insights involved creating a company-wide file of cool and interesting stuff.
“When you are sharing, reading and inspired by this stuff, that’s what you will make,” he said.
Coding Must Be Learned
Another salient truth of the conference involves the importance of learning code.
Dharmesh Shah of HubSpot drove that point home in his presentation, and it was significant enough to be a featured question in the speaker interview section of the conference booklet (Python was a popular answer).
Shah feels that generating images via code is a basic (relatively speaking) skill that everyone needs.
Coding is important because of how often projects handed off to a developer will never happen, so being able to tinker on your own is invaluable. That will allow you to work out the kinks and produce a meaningful project that may have been throw out on the ground floor in its original state.
Shah also explained that “simplicity trumps complexity every time” and discussed the need to “study humans as much as you study spreadsheets. Figure out why people do what they actually do.”
Distilled’s Tom Critchlow focused on the aforementioned point in his talk on affecting change in which he said, “Don’t just focus on SEO, focus on getting close to people. Makes a huge difference in getting stuff done.”
This is particularly true when it comes to long reports that nobody reads anyway. The true deliverable is change, not an end of month report, so communicating that change is more important than writing a cookie cutter report.
Infographics Are In
But info(crap)hics are not, as 97th Floor’s Chris Bennett put it in his presentation on link bait.
The key to creating the former rather than the latter involves good data and information, an aesthetically pleasing design, a topical subject, complex ideas and no false or confusing data.
Bennett cautioned that just because you can save a .doc file as a .png does not mean you know how to make an infographic. It’s a laborious task that involves a substantial amount of time and effort — that is, if you do it right.
At 97th Floor, they start with a team of both researchers and social media people in the initial brainstorming session. The social people know what’s working in this space and the researchers know what kind of information might be available to them during their research.
The process also involves discussion with the client on what they want to promote and what feature in their business or industry can become a talking point.
Bennett suggests making it simple but compelling and to avoid death by information … or lack thereof.
From there the link building communication tactic Rand discussed comes into play whereby you create linking relationships with sites in your industry.
The Next Level of Keyword Research
Keyword research starts with the premise that “what people are talking about influences what they’re searching for,” as Distilled’s Kate Morris put it.
Figuring out what people are talking about starts with perusing through Trendsmap and Google Trends but continues on with some more sophisticated tools such as Bright Edge’s competitive SEO analysis tool — which tells you what competitors are ranking for that you are not so you can build content around those keywords — and the cheaper tool SpyFu Combat.
Morris also touted the creative idea of using eHow to do the legwork to help you discover new blog post ideas. Find out what kind of keywords eHow ranks for in your niche and then write a more interesting or timely article on the topic that may attract targeted traffic.
The same theory holds true for using Google Trends so that you are writing engaging blog posts on topics people care about in your industry. This is especially good for the purpose of acquiring long-tail keywords on these relevant topics.
- Get the Facebook Open Graph Tags, as this crucial data shows what people are sharing and liking about your content.
- Be sure to add fb:admins for Insights.
- Facebook “likes” put brands in a user’s circle of trust, so be sure to take advantage of this by showing users which friends like your brand.
- Code for tracking FB social actions via Mixcloud’s Mat Clayton
- Process for moving the needle in SEO: Brainstorm, Prioritize, Action, Track.
- Be sure you are tracking internal site search, as it provides some of the best information on what visitors are not finding on your site. From there you can build pages answering those questions.
- The first movers in terms of building faster web sites will get benefits from Google as well as links.
- Look at what other people are doing in terms of titles and use them to generate your own ideas/titles on the topic.
- If information would be boring to read as an article, make it a graphic.
- If a few influential users tweet your infographic, it has a much higher chance of going viral.
- Make your infographic so useful to consumers they want to share no matter what, so don’t promote your brand (or do it very subtly).
- Learn from things other struggle with, and then make them better.