Notes from PubCon (Wednesday) 2008

by Paul Wilson

 

I was told that PubCon evenings were all about staying out late and drinking your liver away. Yes, I was up late last night, but since I don’t drink I was transcribing my session notes instead for your enjoyment. Hopefully, this evening will be a little easier.

I have to admit that I am a schwag junky, and PubCon has not disappointed me. I will post all the schwag I got shortly.

PubCon Day 2: Viral Videos, Competition Analysis, Copywriting, Misc
George Wright – VP Marketing & Sales of Blendtec (Opening Speaker)

George is the mastermind behind the viral campaign of willitblend.com. I am sure many of people have seen the blender videos that will blend whatever you suggest. If not, check it out here:

YouTube Preview Image

Here are some of George’s key components in creating a viral video:

  • The video needs to be entertaining. (He points out that entertaining means worth watching, not necessarily humorous).
  • Have corporate objective
  • Sponsored by the manufacture. Don’t try to astro-turf your viral campaign. Be transparent with your users.
  • Make your videos based on real people. This makes it easy and cheap to reproduce.

Suggestions on how to make your video interactive:

  • Be sure to provide a way for your viewers to comment. YouTube has proven to be great for this form of interaction.
  • Allow a way for your viewers to be a part of the process. Willitblend has suggestions page of what to blend next.
  • Offer a simple user subscription.

Risks of a viral compaign:

  • You surrender control of the message.
  • If you are not honest, you will pay the price. (He gave an example of lying about the type of magnets they blended, and viewers called them on it.)
  • You allow for continual public scrutiny of your content.
  • You cannot control distribution.

Results from WillItBlend:

  • 65 million youtube views
  • 34th most viewed youtube video
  • 120 million views on their own website
  • Total retail blender sales up 700%
  • Brand Awareness significantly raised

Quote: “Instead of making ads, you now should try to make content.” “Success Breeds Success”
Email: gwright@blendtec.com

10:15am – Skipped out on presentations to network with vendors at the exhibit hall

11:30 – Competitive Intelligence: Know Thy Competitor Well
I walked in on this presentation when they were halfway done, due to my interaction with all the conference exhibitors. I must admit that I was sad that I missed this presentation. Just the short fragments I got from this presentation were gold. I can’t wait for the CD to come for this one.

I came at the end of William Atchison (Founder of Crawl Wall) presentation. He was talking about how to make your robot.txt a bouncer, and stopping unwanted traffic from coming to your site. A resource he offered was robottxt.org He was also very much against archive.org and recommended checking out noarchive.net to learn more about how to stop archive.org from archiving your site.

Q&A brought out a lot of good points. The panel talked about how ISPs are very weak points for security. “You can easily bribe the 16 year old high school student who is doing tech support to get the information you want on your competitor.”

William said that he is seeing a lot of fake google bots, and unless you do a reverse IP lookup on the bot you can’t distinguish them from the real deal. The IP space is much more policed than DNS, and one should use the tools for IPs over DNS.

Andy Beal shared an interesting story about how he found information on a competitor through Alexa . Alexa has a great tool that shows what websites people visit after visiting the site they are highlighting. Andy found that his competitor employees were visiting internal web projects after visiting the company’s main website. He was able to see what they were working on because it wasn’t password protected.

Quote: “Archive.org is like Hepatitis C, you can’t ever really get rid of it.” William Atchison (probably the best quote of the conference thus far.

1:30pm – Effective Action-Based Copywriting

Heather Lloyd-Martin – President of SuccessWorks
The one thing that was great about Heather’s presentation was her energy. You could tell that she loved what she did. I wish that more of the presentees had her excitement for their area of expertise.

The other great thing about Heather’s presentation is that she gave us a real life case study with her client LusterForever. It was nice to have something more than just the panelist’s thoughts.

Heather’s core thought around great content writing is to create content that is so compelling that people have to take action. To her SEO copywriting is more than just keyphrase usage. This is definitely a refreshing view, because it is not what you find on the web. In fact, I am notorious for focusing more on keyword writing than conversion writing.

However, she didn’t completely disregard the importance of utilizing keyphrases in your content. Some of her suggestions on writing for keywords are:

  • There should be 2-3 keyphrases on each page.
  • It’s okay to have keyphrases overlap throughout the site.
  • Include branding, where appropriate.

She also went into depth on how to write for page titles:

  • Titles should reflect main keyphrases on the page
  • First opportunity for conversion is at the search engine not when you hit the website
  • Think clickability
  • Keep page title length around 60 characters (with spaces)
  • She did not put the brand in the page title because LusterForever really does not have a brand
  • The industry is split on where to put the brand in the title

Heather’s take on how copy should be structured, toned, and felt:

  • Think of the target audience? Does the copy sound like what she reads/watches on TV?
  • Is the copy grammatically correct?
  • Is there “enough” text?
  • Is it engaging?
  • Is it easy to read?
  • Can I read the copy off the website and say that is how I talk?
  • Try to create longer copy whenever possible.
  • Include your keyphrases throughout the entire page.
  • There is no formula for how much text is too much, or too little (she’s tried under 250 words and has still ranked).

How to craft your “Benefits Statements” for your website:

  • Why would someone buy from you rather than the competitor?
  • No matter how analytical we think that we are, purchasing is an emotional decision.
  • Always remember that emotion drives sales (What’s in it for me).

Be sure to have your “Call to Action” in all your writing:

  • What is the reader suppose to do?
  • Important places to put your keyphrases (your headlines and benefit statements)

I was very impressed with Heather’s overall assessment on copywriting and SEO. I particularly feel that she hit the nail on the head with benefit statements. I feel that a lot people really do push this as much as they should.

Jill Whalen – CEO of HighRankings.com
Jill’s presentation on SEO Copywriting followed a similar format to what she presented yesterday. Basically, she showed what SEO Copywriting is and what it is not.

What SEO copywriting is NOT (according to Jill):

  • …focusing on writing a certain number of words
  • …bolding and/or italicizing keywords in your content
  • …writing to a specific keyword density
  • …optimizing for just one phrase
  • …repeating keywords a certain # of times

Remember this:

  • Search engines don’t know you
  • Website are not online brochures
  • Assume visitors never heard of you

Every page must provide:

  • Specific info on exactly what it offers
  • Plain language that naturally uses keyword phrases

What is Good Content:

  • The regular pages of your site
  • Speaks to your target audience
  • Solves problems
  • Answers questions
  • Provides information

SEO Writing Tips:

  • Be descriptive
  • Find generic words and replace them with keywords

I really appreciated Jill’s tips. I don’t think people focus enough on being descriptive. In fact, I think we would have a much different web if we told everyone that Google would rank you better if you were more descriptive (oh wait, isn’t that what LSI is?).

However, I am not sure I am completely on board with Jill’s assessment on keyword density. Her opinion on it was that it wasn’t necessary for SEO copywriting. I asked her in Q&A what evidence she had to support this assumption. Her reply was that she had 13 years in the field as evidence enough. The answer to me was like having your mother tell you that she was right because she is your mother. Not that I discredit Jill’s background, but in a business where SEO is anctidotal at best it is always nice to have some data to support your claims.

2:50pm – Local Search Optimization

I had to go to my car to dump off all my schwag. Unfortunately, the free parking is located in New Zealand! I came in on the end of the presentation when they were connecting everyone who were in similar industries in order to do reciprocal linking.

4:10pm – Five Bloggers and a Microphone – What’s The Worst That Can Happen?
This was an interesting panel. Basically, it was open mike for anyone to talk and ask questions. I am glad I stayed until the end because that is when all the good stuff began to come out.

Question: How much did social media play in the recent presidential campaign?
The discussion was mainly around Obama’s successful use of using social media.

Question: What are some of your tips for corporate bloggers?
Andy Beal: Interviewed Bob Pearson of Godaddy and he stated that he treats their blog as if it is a product. Also, if you don’t have an opinion you might as well as be a news rss feed. Have an opinion.
Michael McDonald: Don’t stop blogging! You do more damage when you start blogging and then six months down the road you stop.
Lee Odden: Offer incentives in order to keep people blogging. This helps particularly if someone is replaced.
Jane Copland: Have goals and objectives to meet.

Question: What do you see as the future of blogs? (this was my question)
Michael McDonald: Companies need to become publishers if they are going to take advantage of the future.
Andy Beal: Blogs have gone mainstream. Blogs have become sanitized by the masses. I don’t see any major drastic changes concerning blogs themselves. Twitter has become popular. I see more innovation on platforms. Mainstream media and blogs are blurring together. I don’t see anything replacing blogging.
Barry Schwartz: How many feel blogs are dying [no hands were raised]? I recommend you just keep testing.

Question: How do you have a life off the web?
Barry Schwartz: I have a strict regiment, I am up by 5am and done by 9am.
Andy Beal: I just didn’t want to have to compete with the news agencies in breaking news. I don’t get up until 9am.

Question: What are some tips for being successful with a blog?
Barry Schwartz: Be consistent, you never know what’s going to become popular.
Lee Odden: Write about things you are passionate about. If you wrote a post that was popular write a follow-up.
Michael McDonald: Be passionate and be consistent.
Jane Copland: Have personality and add pictures.
Andy Beal: Focus on the title of the post. The title is what people see in the rss feeder. I am not opposed about being cryptic in my titles.

Question: How do you get into Google News?
This question set off a passionate debate between Andy and Barry. Apparently, they had several blogs post back and forth on the subject.
Andy’s suggestions on how to get into Google News

  • Have multiple authors
  • Have a professional look and feel
  • Don’t look like a blog
  • URL structure (numbers at the end – not sure what this means)

Andy further gave an example about a friend of his named “Randy Deal.” Andy, I mean, Randy had to go through these steps in order to get into google news.

  • Needed to prove he was more than a blog
  • Had to have a editorial policy
  • Had to show that he had multiple writers who were writing 90% of the content.
  • Had to have a unique url (I assume he was talking about not have a subdomain).

Andy felt that getting into Google news was really worth it. There is no official policy, there is no official review. It is manual review. He gets about 200 uniques a day. He strongly felt that you needed to have the year, the month, the day in the URL in order to avoid the United Airlines fiasco.

At the end of it all I went up to Barry and he showed me how to get into techmeme’s news. All in all, it was a great session. I probably gained more from this session than most.

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