A Newb’s Impression of Pubcon 2012

Pubcon Las Vegas is an annual summit of search and social media professionals, business leaders and internet marketing experts from all over the globe. This year’s conference was my first, making me a Pubcon newb. Going into the event I didn’t know what to expect but did my best to narrow down which sessions to attend.

The sessions included topics such as Google+, social media and SEO, interactive website reviews and e-commerce tactics. Many sessions had high level overviews of strategy but some went into a deep dive of tactics used to better market your website.

Below are just a handful of sessions I attended and some of the takeaways for each. If you missed the conference (shame on you!), please comment below or contact me and I’d be happy to share my thoughts or answer any questions. You can also follow me on Twitter @seanhecking

Social Signals Effect on Search

This was the first session I attended at Pubcon and was lead by Marcus Tober, Rob Garner, Carolyn Shelby. Much of it focused on recent ranking influence tests in Google as of October 2012 and compared that data to a similar test in March of 2012. Some of the session highlights include;

  • Inbound link anchor text is becoming less important in how links impact your rankings
  • Google+ is having a bigger impact on search
  • A Google +1 can get your web pages indexed in minutes rather than hours or days
  • Pinterest and Google Chrome do not appear to have an impact on indexing
  • Facebook shares in large numbers do have an impact on indexing and rankings
  • Google AuthorRank is growing, currently 1% of search results
  • Facebook is working on a search engine that could have 1/5 of search market share

Overall a great session on social and search. It’s clear Google is headed in the direction of using social signals as a ranking factor with each major update. Facebook’s search engine will give marketers another channel to consider and may shift some of their focus to optimizing for Facebook.

E-commerce Product & Non-Product Pages

Two sessions in one lead by Bryan Eisenberg and Jeffrey Eisenberg. The sessions on e-commerce optimization offered many helpful tips on improving customer experience and growing sales. Lots of great tips on improving websites including;

  • Better images generally help improve conversions
  • Product videos work well in testing
  • Longer product descriptions also help, don’t just use what manufacturers provide
  • Free shipping is a powerful tool
  • Provide alternative payment options
  • Lists of 3 and 5 generally work well for shoppers

A/B and Multivariate Testing

One of the better sessions of the week covered page testing and optimization lead by John Marshall, Tim Mayer, Chris Goward, Jason Cooper. This session helped dispel some of the myths of testing and provided tips on how to get the most out of your tests. Some main points of this session included;

  • Careful when using bounce rate for your navigational pages, the home page and category pages may not be weighted correctly in Google Analytics
  • Don’t measure just on bounce rate and conversion rate, there are many factors
  • Avoid distractions and too many options for users
  • Reduce buyer anxiety
  • Website performance/speed can effect your conversions and search engine rankings
  • Be aggressive when testing, don’t waste time with too many small changes

Low Risk High Reward Link Building

Link building has come under fire in 2012 with the recent Google Penguin updates sending many websites southward in rankings due to low quality or over optimized links. The session was lead by Russ Jones, Dixon Jones, Greg Hartnett, David Klein. Some highlights from the session include;

  • Buy a book on writing, learn how to write well to help build more links
  • Build long term authority with search engines, a small one or two paragraph article will not do
  • Use videos when possible to build links
  • Bloggers (especially women bloggers) build the most links
  • Brainstorm and build/contact lists of “connectors” to help amplify your content
  • Well researched and longer blog posts/articles provide more opportunity to gain links

More Takeaways…

  • Google Disavow Link ToolMatt Cutts from Google announced a new disavow link tool in Google Webmaster Tools to remove any unwanted spam websites linking to your website. It appears this tool may take several weeks for the link’s negative impact to be removed from your site.
  • People are the New Links – Individuals and their social media circles will be important to your website than individual links from web pages. Google AuthorRank will become a more important ranking factor in the future so be prepared.
  • Don’t Gamble with Shortcuts – There are no shortcuts to good optimization and marketing. Building your authority online takes many months, even years.

Final Thoughts

Pubcon Las Vegas 2012 was a great experience. I hope to return next year to learn more search and social strategies from the pros. What I found most remarkable about Pubcon is how accessible and friendly everyone was at the conference. I met lots of great people who were willing to share their insights and philosophy about the business. Some were new to the game and some had many years of experience since the early days of the internet.

If you have any questions or just want to learn more about ways to improve your online marketing, please don’t hesitate to contact me.