SearchLove Quotes and Cliff Notes that Will Catch You Up in No Time

Distilled's SearchLove Conference in Boston, MA November 5-6, 2012.

If you didn't get a chance to go to Boston last week for Distilled's SearchLove, you missed out. Seventeen speakers presented inbound, CRO, SEO, and content marketing magic to around 250 eager marketers at the Joseph B. Martin Conference Center at Harvard Medical Center.

What were some of the biggest ideas coming out of SearchLove, you say? I took as many notes as my iPad 2 and ZAGG keyboard could handle each day with the help of colleague Shinhee Son, and surfaced the key takeaways and quotes for you, the busy marketer, to give you a feel for the amazing insights at SearchLove.

Breaking News Panel

The breaking news panel that started day one featured the thoughts of Ian Lurie, Annie Cushing, Rob Ousbey, and Will Critchlow on the latest happenings in the industry. Of note:

  • Google's new disavow tool is generally seen as a helpful tool, but only as a measure of last resort
  • The consensus in the industry is that low-quality SEO tactics are drying up, in general
  • Black hat SEO has become a little more difficult with Penguin/Panda, but gray hat tactics have become much less effective
  • The sad truth is that paid links are probably well correlated with big brands because they're the only ones that can afford to pay for links

Creating Serendipity with Dan Shapiro

Dan Shapiro has created multiple startups, including Google acquisition, SparkBuy. In Creating Serendipity Dan shared with the audience his three biggest things to remember when increasing serendipity for startups, or as he calls it, maximizing the surface area for making good things happen:

  1. Fish in deep water. Know the right places to hang out and be willing to strike up a conversation on first class flights to and from the Valley.
  2. Triage quickly. Know who can and can't help you quickly.
  3. Learn the one magic phrase: "How can I help?"

Characteristics of a Successful Outreach Campaign with Rob Ousbey

Next up was Distilled'sRob Ousbey who talked about what makes an outreach campaign great. Marketers should approach outreach as building relationships, not just links. If you're only looking at link metrics (e.g., domain authority or number of linking root domains), you may miss out on a key niche influencer. Instead, look to build relationships with those who cover a niche, and the best links are likely to follow. 

Making Your Pitch: Writing Clear, Compelling Proposals

Having been a reader of Ian Lurie's blog for years, it was a treat to finally meet him in person and to hear him speak. In this presentation inspired by Simon Sinek's Start With Why, Ian outlined the perfect client proposal and why they should always focus on the why of both the agency and the client. Companies that are philosophically aligned will ultimately align on the what's and the how's if the why is there first. As Ian said, if you're going to use "suckage" in front of the client anyway, you might as well do it in the proposal.

Utilizing Social Media for Customer Acquisition & Retention with Jen Lopez

The cultivator and brains behind the industry-famous SEOmoz community, Jen Lopez, shared her insights on using social media and the community to support sales and retention goals. Jen presented practical ideas and case studies for how to replace paid media exposure with clever social sharing and social apps that brands can leverage. She even shared some paid social media tips that were super dumb easy, as Jen would say.

Chasing Algorithms: Think Deviously, Act Angelic, and Never get Hit by a Penalty with Wil Reynolds

Wil Reynolds of SEER Interactive was up next, and he shared his thoughts on how SEO has evolved beyond chasing algorithms to helping companies do "real company sh*t," as he says. Wil lamented that, for many, marketing has shifted too far away from building relationships and creating value to  manipulation and formulas. He likened Google's recent Penguin and Panda iterative algorithms as being more like pendulums than bullets to be dodged. Google will continue to iterate until spammy tactics can't work anymore, so it's worth it now to start investing in RCS if you haven't already.

CRO & SEO - Better Together with Mike Pantoliano

Mike Pantoliano is one of Distilled's resident CRO/Excel/Analytics experts, and he talked about the synergistic effects of CRO and SEO. Mike described the holistic benefits of thinking about SEO as your market research and CRO as your user research channels. Doing so allows you to quickly identify opportunity, develop hypotheses against it, and test your way to improvement. Mike said, "You have to identify the problems before you test." 

Establishing a Framework for SEO Audits with Annie Cushing

SEER Interactive's Annie Cushing is a utility pack rat within the SEO industry, known for creating SEO resource spreadsheets with hundreds of tools in them. Her session was equal parts strategy and process when it comes to performing SEO audits. Remember: dirty sitemaps are bad, so keep them clean using handy tools such as Google Analytics filters, ahrefs, Screaming Frog, and Annie's website audit checklist.

How to get Attention, Links and Sales for a Scrappy Startup

One of my favorite sessions of SearchLove was the content marketing and outreach lesson from a CRO, presented by Conversion Factory's Stephen Pavlovich. Stephen shared his experiences as a scrappy UK startup founder in most notably how he got Simon Pegg to tweet about the Zombie Boot Camp offered by How could you not love a startup with a product line featuring the ultimate zombie survival experience?

Content Strategies that Work with Eytan Seidman

Eytan Seidman looked at the travel website space and wasn't impressed when he started In addition to creating the best reviews of hotels anywhere (often including hundreds of photos for each location), Oyster has branched out to publish some of the best content about hotels, period. This helpful session illustrated how a brand's editorial sweet spot can span multiple industries through clever mash-ups and by using arbitrage to land more and more content deals in major publications. 

The Need to Know of Local SEO with David Mihm's David Mihm is probably the industry's best-known local SEO. He opened day two of SearchLove with an amazing amount of local knowledge. David showed an especially helpful set of visuals that illustrated Google's local algorithm evolution over time. Local citations and city center have given away to links and proximity to the user (aided by smartphone adoption), and now social media and reviews are playing large part of the equation, too. 

Leveraging PR to get Big Links with Lexi Mills

Distilled's clever Head of PR, Lexi Mills, presented on the wonderful overlap and synergy between PR and SEO in this session. Lexi's examples of setting Google Alerts for terms related to evergreen content showed how it's all about the angle. Pro tip: news-jacking diverts attention from a pop-culture event to your brand if done well. Just make sure you target events people have positive feelings around.

Reinclusion Afterlife with Mike King

When I heard about iAcquire getting banned from Google's index earlier this year, I thought, "Boy what I wouldn't give to be a fly on the wall when that went down." Little did I know that Mike King's presentation would be about just that. And as a bonus, Mike's presentation was visually gorgeous and set to the tune of Rocky. It's remarkable the transition that Mike King has been able to execute with transparency over at iAcquire, and I hope his bosses appreciate it.

Concepts and Practices of Efficiency, Scale and Value with Ben Wills

In perhaps what was the most philosophical of all SearchLove sessions, Ontolo's Ben Wills shared his thoughts on what it means for a brand to be efficient. His simple slides and images of a wardrobe that consisted simply of two different types of t-shirts drove home his points about continuing to remove parts of the brand experience until all that remains is the brand itself. 

Penguin Penalties: Diagnosis and Recovery with Todd Friesen

Long-time SEO industry notable Todd Friesen, now head of in-house SEO at Salesforce, shared his opinions on Google as a whole and what to do if the Penguin algorithm updates have affected your site. In general, Todd recommended getting as clean as possible by performing a comprehensive backlink audit, performing due diligence to remove bad links, and only then submitting a reconsideration request to Google. The best part of this presentation was Todd's meandering thoughts about Google and its relationship with SEOs.

How to Win at Mobile SEO with Cindry Krum

For all the questions I had about mobile SEO coming into this session, I walked away knowing one thing for sure: Mobile Moxie's Cindy Krum knows a lot about mobile SEO. Cindy shared her thoughts on mobile/desktop hybrid websites, responsive design, all the necessary detail to optimize for mobile. This is one area to continue to explore personally, as I didn't realize how quickly mobile SEO was actually moving. 

Marketing Hacks with Mat Clayton

Music service is run by Mat Clayton and a handful of others through their appreciation for music and sheer marketing gumption. Mat's first great tip was to map your business' accounting system to your customer's user states, with daily active users being an indicator of success. When this metrics starts to decline, Mat says, retention  ill soon start to suffer as well. Your ultimate goal is to create a product that people are addicted to, and then your customers will do your marketing for you.

Unfortunately we had to leave just as Rand and Will about to battle in the last of their famous head-to-head SEO site audit duels.

Were you at SearchLove? What was your favorite part of the conference? Is there something you plan on implementing right away?