I attended the Small Business Marketing Unleashed conference at the beginning of this week fully expecting to learn a whole lot of good internet marketing information from a great group of speakers. And I did. However, I wasn’t expecting to become part of a warm, welcoming, and helpful community that extends beyond the two-day conference. But I did.
The Unleashed conference was all about community both in the sessions and the networking.
- I was able to network with almost all of the other attendees and build lasting relationships with many of them.
- The speakers emphasized building and marketing websites focused on the visitor, rather than the search engines.
Real-live handshakes, face-to-face conversations, and more than a few tweets
One of the pros of the internet is that we can easily connect with people all over the world. On the flip side, the con is that we spend more and more time online with virtual friends—and less time face to face. Working in the internet marketing industry naturally allows for a widely distributed client and colleague base, many of whom we never see. So I loved Unleashed because I finally got to meet many virtual friends and colleagues in person.
The crew behind Small Business Marketing Unleashed—Jennifer Laycock, Robert Clough, Rachel Phillips, and Vickie Evans of Search Engine Guide and Small Business Brief—were brilliant in starting off the conference with a speed networking and charity event. (Think speed dating with three minutes and business cards and no evaluations.) By “forcing” all of us to talk to each other, any speaker/attendee cliques that could have potentially formed were broken up from the start. Pushing us out of our comfort zones to meet new people on that first night made it a whole lot easier to do so throughout the rest of the conference.
- Internet marketers shared knowledge with business owners.
- Speakers befriended attendees.
- Neighbors asked and answered each other’s questions during sessions.
- Previously total strangers hung out talking about the industry and life in general until the wee hours of the morning.
- My Twitter tweet rate quadrupled at least as we are continuing the conversations now that we’ve returned to our homes all over the country.
As a result, I came away from the conference with a head full of knowledge and a contact list full of friends and resources willing to share ideas and input. And a whole lot of new friends.
Information-packed sessions with a focus on people
I was looking forward to Unleashed because it was a smaller conference (purposely) yet offered some of the best professionals in the industry as speakers. I knew the sessions would go into each topic in-depth and send me home armed with practical applications. And I wasn’t disappointed.
Sessions that stood out included:
Intro: SEO Success Pyramid by Matt McGee
During the overview session, Jennifer Laycock, Wendy Piersall, Matt Bailey, and Matt McGee set the tone for the rest of the conference. Jennifer made the excellent point that “search engines are like Pinocchio. They just want to be a real boy.” She meant that search engines continually try to think more and more like real people. Build and market websites geared focused on your visitors, and you will be successful in the search engines. This theme was carried on throughout the conference.
Matt McGee shared his SEO Success Pyramid, a great concept he recently developed to guide the SEO process. The pyramid has five levels:
- The foundation: has nothing do with your website. The foundation is about preparing yourself for success by ensuring that you have a unique product, good customer service, etc.
- The first steps: preparing your website for success. This includes design, usability, analytics, etc.
- Nuts and Bolts: improving on your website with content, crawlability, and contextual links.
- Reaching out: getting involved on other sites.
- What its all about: gaining trust.
I loved this concept because it’s the same thing we preach at SiteLogic: SEO is about so much more than putting keywords in appropriate places. It’s about selling something people want, building a website that is easy to use, focusing your visitor on your goal, and building a good reputation that will have longevity. Download Matt McGee’s SEO Success Pyramid for free.
Website Architecture with Stoney deGeyter
Stoney broke his presentation into three main topics:
- Domain and URL structure
- Page and document structure
- Link structure.
Stoney emphasized that the most important thing to keep in mind when building or maintaining a website is “Don’t make them think.” Make navigating and using your site as obvious and as easy as possible. If visitors can’t figure it out, they’ll just leave.
The session was filled with good technical information without being confusing to those who come from a marketing background. This laundry list of items of which to be aware is essential for any marketer or business owner who wants their website to be effective for visitors and search engines.
Building a Community with Wendy Piersall
Wendy shared methods for successfully building a community around your website. She said the most important thing to remember is WIIFM, or “What’s In It For Me?” This is the question visitors will ask themselves when they come to your website. If you answer that question well, they’ll stick around. Always remember to focus first on your visitor, and last on your own ideas.
Blogging For Business with Mack Collier
Mack, a regular contributor to Search Engine Guide and blogging expert, provided some great information in his speaking debut. As did many of the other speakers, he emphasized the importance of focusing on your visitors above all else. Mack’s elements of a great blog include:
- posting schedule
- sidebar elements
Mack strongly recommends including a picture of you and a brief bio of you on your blog. Allowing visitors to really know who you are adds to your credibility and personality and encourages them to stick around.
He also noted that blogs are great for targeting long-tail keywords.
Keywords and Content with Heather Lloyd-Martin
Seeing as Heather practically invented the concept and has a witty, energetic speaking style, she was a no-brainer to lead this session and workshop. I appreciated her focus on writing copy that focuses on the visitor and helps them to understand and navigate your site. Heather strongly emphasized that people’s decision to purchase stems from an emotional connection. She also explained that shoppers are willing to pay more if they relate to your company. Building that relationship and trust is where small businesses can really shine. Thus, it’s essential to create that emotion through your website’s copy.
Heather’s power placements for primary keywords are:
- Benefits statement based on keyphrases
- Links and anchor text
Link Building with Debra Mastaler
Debra is the queen of link building, and I was really looking forward to the opportunity to learn the secrets of the trade from her. Between the day one session and day two workshop, she blew through a ton of great information. While my brain felt a little fried at the end, I walked away with a solid understanding of how to run a link building campaign and knew exactly how to get started. At the workshop, Debra provided a “blueprint” for link building with the best methods for getting started. They include:
- searching for authority sites
- directory submissions
- article directories and content sites
- press and media links
- utility linking
- social buzz
Viral Marketing with Jennifer Laycock
I attended the viral marketing and link building workshops back to back, and came away completely inundated with great information. If you needed to know what viral marketing is, how to plan and run a campaign, and how to choose the tactics that are best for your organization, you would have been completely prepared after Jennifer’s workshop. She talked about:
- the benefits and pitfalls of viral marketing
- creating the idea
- tips for creating and running a campaign
- types of campaigns with pros, cons, and examples
- identifying influencers
- and pitching bloggers
She so well prepared us in her presentation, no one even had to ask questions!
Off and running across the internet
We are all now back home and off and running with new and improved internet marketing campaigns and tactics. Needless to say, if you weren’t at Small Business Marketing Unleashed this week, you will not want to miss out on it next year! You can expect to come away with a plan for how to best market your website online and greatly improve your organization.
- Small Business Marketing Unleashed conference website
- SBMUnleashed photos on Flickr
- Live blogging recaps of conference sessions and workshops on Search Engine Guide