A Perfect Strangers Guide for SEOs on Mozcon Eve

July 24, 2012 · 5 comments

in Art,Internet Marketing

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I realize I set you up to hum the theme to Perfect Strangers all day. It’s totally on purpose and I promise you, I’m not trolling.

This is my second time at Mozcon and fourth time at one of SEOMoz’ or Distilled’s conferences. I group them together because they are very similar in demographic in attendance and content. They also both throw sweet parties. At this point, I’m sort of a veteran attendee and I wanted to share some observations on how to pump even more value out of Mozcon 2012 (which btw is already an insane bargain compared to other search marketing conferences). As you prepare for three days of online marketing badassery, I submit the following for your consideration:

Actionable is a Two-way Street

Speakers are tasked with loading their presentations with actionable advice and tips. The assumption is, folks will actually act on it. Having been an attendee sitting in the crowd with my head spinning and mind reeling with all the new shit being thrown at me, I know how hard it can be to maintain focus on the problems I need to solve in my own day to day without letting my mind get carried away with all cool stuff I can do with some of the tools and tips i learned. So I think a worthwhile exercise would be to write down what you’d like to accomplish/solve/learn while at Mozcon. What usually works for me is a question answer format like so (example answers in blue borrowed heavily from things demanded or asked of me by former clients or colleagues):

  • What is my biggest day-to-day challenge?
    Increasing sales volume and lowering CPAs from unpaid search.
  • Why do i think the challenge is so hard right now?
    I can’t get more budget for links or content.
    I rely on Google organic a lot and I seem to have plateaud on traffic volume.

    It’s really hard for me to tie revenue to unpaid search because i don’t have the same advanced-level of reporting as my paid/display colleagues have.
    I spend a ton of time on reporting and managing my team while not spending near as much time as i’d like on strategy.
  • What do i think i need?
    A template report i can use to convince my bosses I’m generating good revenue so I can ask for more budget.
    An automated way to do social.
    PPC-style SEO reporting (does this exist??)
    Project management software or system designed exclusively for online marketing.
    Cheap source of good links.

Keep this next to you during all sessions and leave space for notes between each question. Now check out the agenda, see if any of the sessions hint at, directly address, or seem to be related to one of your challenges or things you think you need. Put those on your daily calendar so you know not to miss them or schedule phone calls with work for those times. Think of and write down questions for each one of those sessions ahead of time – if you’re also creating the document suggested above, it helps to have this all as part of one main document.

At the end of the conference, the result should be a document that helps form the basis of an action plan you can start on right away. Here’s what the questions part of my example document might look like with notes in red after a particularly awesome conference (all hypothetical):

  • What is my biggest day-to-day challenge?
    Increasing sales volume and lowering CPAs from unpaid search - should have more channels than search, e.g. social. Talk to biz dev, product, and dev teams about adding a freemium service. Reach out to PR dept about relationships with industry news/blogs.
  • Why do i think the challenge is so hard right now?
    I can’t get more budget for links or content.- get reporting squared away to have data ready to justify expense. See your notes on Avinash’s presentation (holy ever living fuck!) and Annie Cushing’s preso (we might be able to set up our own reporting!)

    I rely on Google organic a lot and I seem to have plateaud on traffic volume.
    - see notes on the following presenters: Justin Briggs, Wil Reynolds, Mike King, Cyrus Shephard, Ian Lurie. Prioritize channel diversification for Q3.It’s really hard for me to tie revenue to unpaid search because i don’t have the same advanced-level of reporting as my paid/display colleagues have. - again, Avinash & Annie sessions. Jumpin jeebus on a pony. Potential KPIs to workshop with team: new customers from unpaid channels, share of voice in relevant communities, average order value by source, avg time on site and conversion rate by content type. See notes for more.I spend a ton of time on reporting and managing my team while not spending near as much time as i’d like on strategy. - see notes on these presenters: Tom Critchlow, Justin Briggs, Rob Ousbey, Laura Lippay. Look into RavenTools (that Alison is a good egg!) Prioritize adding outreach process and closer collaboration with PR to team mandate by end Q3.

 

  • What do i think i need?
    A template report i can use to convince my bosses I’m generating good revenue so I can ask for more budget.- copy Avinash’s example GA dashboard and tweakAn automated way to do social.- this is stupid.PPC-style SEO reporting (does this exist??) - Test Avinash dashboard and Annie’s excel reports

    Project management software or system designed exclusively for online marketing. - Take RavenTools for a spin with senior team members.

    Cheap source of good links. - take some budget from existing link subscriptions and use to purchase 30-day subscriptions for influencers as proof of concept for freemium product. See notes on Mike King, Richard Baxter, and Wil Reynolds for finding influencers. Do real company shit!

Optimizing Face Time

If you follow the #mozcon hashtag or have RSVP’d to the Mozcon Google+ event, you’ll see the different types of folk that’ll be at the conference. If you’re really clever, you’ll find some people who work in the same indsutry, niche, or fulfillment model (in-house, agency etc) who may be dealing with the same issues you are. Add them on Google+. Tweet @ them before and during the conference. Start building a context and a pretext for getting some face time with these folks during the conference so you can share relevant experiences and maybe even help each other solve the problems common to your areas.

In my experience, no one goes to a conference like Mozcon because they suck at their job; they go because they’re in charge of solving really tough online marketing challenges. Few people I know earn that responsibility by being a dummy. Sometimes the answer to your specific question and your specific challenge can be found in the crowd instead of the podium. So seek out colleagues and ask for some time during breaks or meals to network and talk shop.

If you’ve made it a point to write down questions ahead of presentations, you’ve already done some work to optimize your face time with presenters. If you don’t get a chance to ask a question during a presenter’s session, be mindful that there’ll likely be a line snaking down the aisle during the next break full of people in your exact predicament. Consequently, the speaker might not be able to really dive down with you or give you a super-complete answer without screwing other people out of their chance to get their questions answered. If this happens, a workaround I might recommend is tapping into the speakers workforce.

SEER on Google+ The SEER team are incredibly helpful.

 

For example, if you’ve got a follow-up on a tool that Wil Reynolds showed in his preso and he’s already got a line 15-deep with 5 minutes left in the break, tweet at the SEER team or ask your question on Google+ and mention the SEER team. A speakers team is usually highly engaged in the development and testing of new tools and techniques that are being presented so there’s a good chance someone will be willing and able to help. When this isn’t an option and you can’t get in front of the speaker for some reason, use the #mozcon hashtag strategically. Take a snap poll and see if anyone else is wondering the same thing you are. If you get a decent groundswell, make sure Roger and the Moz team see the demand. Maybe the emcee could follow up with the speaker and relay the answer between sessions. Who knows, maybe the speaker could be motivated to blog the answer to your quesiton if it’s complex enough.

Face time doesn’t just happen at the conference, obviously. The parties are a great way to build a stronger, deeper professional network you can rely on well after the conference is over. But I submit (as have others) that these events aren’t always the best time to talk shop or get those unanswered questions addressed. Ever been to a birthday party where you don’t know anyone and the standard opener, no matter who you talk to, is, “So what do you do?” It’s a nightmare. You’ll have the same conversation all night. A hundred times. About work. Instead, try looking at these events as an opportunity to make lasting friendships.

I’m not exactly great at friend-making as I’ve got all the social grace of a room-clearing fart but as I understand it, making connections based on things you’re passionate about is the best way to go. Last year I talked hip-hop with a bunch of people for half an hour. I played Street Fighter with another guy and talked soccer with someone else right after. Still in touch with most of those people; I’m lucky to call a few of them friends today. I think my standard opener this year might be, “Who’s your favorite Simpson’s character – and if you say Homer, i’m gonna belt you.” Still working on it…

Nothing’s Gonna Stop You Now

So what do you get when you put strangers with a single common thread and almost nothing else in common together? If you channel your inner cousin Larry during the conference, your thoughtful and pragmatic approach will help you get the absolute most out of the sessions. If allow yourself to be Balki at the parties and approach getting to know your colleagues in an open-minded, enthusiastic, and genuine way while being comically unaware of just how godamn weird you are, you’ll be in a position to make lasting connections with like-minded people. So stand tall on the wings of your dreams, people. Despite the rain, thunder, wind and hail of Seattle’s Summer weather, we’re all bound for better days. (And yes: this paragraph just happened.)

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Corey July 24, 2012 at 3:02 pm

TL;DR

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Dave July 24, 2012 at 4:13 pm

Bite me, Eulas.

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Jeremy Kuhnke August 3, 2012 at 11:13 am

Good advice Dave. I think I may require any one that asks for a budget to attend a conference like this to provide with their set of questions they expect to have answered before I approve it – make sure that they and the company get the most value possible from the event.

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Andrew Freeman July 7, 2013 at 4:37 pm

I know this was from last years Mozcon, but I really like the advice here. I am definitely going to have to sit down and try to figure out ahead of time exactly what I want answering.

Unfortunately, I don’t think I will get to the party this year, but I still agree that there is a need to reach out and make friends for the future.

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