BlueGlassX was an action-packed two-day event filled with information, networking, and probably more giggles than you would hear at most conferences. I won’t say we saved the best for last because everyone was great, and we heard from some truly fantastic presentations over the last couple of days. But I will say, for the last session, we brought out the big guns.
Director of SEO at Salesforce.com, Todd Friesen, BlueGlass President, Greg Boser, and Founder/CEO of CopyBlogger Media, Brian Clark took the stage for an anything-goes BlueGlassX session. They answered questions, offered insights, and as I suspected, cracked wise at any and every opportunity. Luckily, BlueGlass CEO Richard Zwicky was on hand to moderate and keep things in line — well, when he wasn’t joining in. Here’s what we heard, when the “don’t tweet this” sign wasn’t up that is!
Richard invited questions from the crowd for…well, anything.
There’s a lot of talk about content. Content is king, etc. What great content is and is not. You want to create great content. How do you execute?
Greg: The execution is the hardest part. We spend a lot of time iterating, streamlining, figuring out how to do it better. It’s very difficult. You need a great team of people. It’s difficult when you’re a small shop. It’s one of the reasons I came to BlueGlass. It’s hard to get the ideas to come out in execution as good as they are in your head. We spend a lot of time on ideation. Even if you don’t nail it, they’re still pretty good.
Brian: Creating the content is the easy part. Running the business is the hard part. That’s the contrast between starting out as a writer and not a black hat spammer like Greg. He’s a technical SEO genius. Never seen anyone smarter than Boser. He’s had to come to Jesus with content. He knew it was coming. I get that perspective. If you think of yourself as the New Yorker for online content — media first, then the business part. There’s a lot of people at BlueGlass who could work for any TV station, but they’re here because they see the convergence of media with marketing. You have to find people who love it too. Good content is what ever sells your stuff. Not directly, indirectly.
Todd: I’m a technical SEO. AT the same time, I work with our social team and content team to take all that data we have and get some really interesting stats on customers, etc. How do we visualize that, and make it something people will engage with? I go to Greg’s team and ask them to do it.
Brian: If I had to spend my day building links the way you guys do, I’d shoot myself. I have to be able to create content. To me, it’s like cold calling. I just built websites and the leads came to me. It’s a team building exercise, just like any other discipline. Everyone has their roles. Writers have their own roles, and you can’t underpay them anymore.
Greg: The biggest missing piece of the puzzle for me is not understanding the audience component. The web is littered with beautiful content with no one to engage with it because it hasn’t been marketed properly. Humans are the ones who generate links. I share stuff, but I don’t’ write blog posts. When you leverage someone else’s audience, you have to make sure you’re capturing some to become part of your audience. We spend a lot of time focusing on where it’s going to go, not the content itself.
Richard: The reality is, people don’t need certain content, they need a whole array. Videos, quizzes, articles—it’s not the content that’s king anymore, it’s the context. If you’re not engaging with the clients and building that relationship, doesn’t matter how much content you put out. You have to do it in the right order, at the right time. That’s something we work on actively. Our clients have diverse needs.
Todd: You also have to make sure it’s the right message in the right style. You have the online team creating content, and you get all fired up, then take it to PR where it has to go through approval, and there’s something wrong with it, and by the end, it’s lost that hook. There’s an education process from tradition to online and how it’s different from branding messaging. Not saying don’t put your logo on it, but it’s a different message between what you’re putting on a billboard and what you’re putting online.
Brian: We’ve gotten flack lately because they see people who mimic us badly, and blame us. We cant help what they’re doing. I can’t tell you what’s right of your audience; we’re doing what’s right for our audience. If you just copy us, it’s not that the content marketing sucks — you do.
Greg: Lawyers suck. Millions of pieces of content are destroyed every day by lawyers.
Chris Winfield: And a lot of the internal PR teams.
There’s been talk about optimizing for local search. How do you see industry evolving to capture brands in local search?
Greg: The organic search is extremely localized. They’ll get better representation in certain cities. Companies that don’t have brick and mortar struggle because you can’t get representation if you don’t have it. Halloween costume stores are an example. They’re only set up for a month, but they kick the regular businesses’ asses.
We have all these great link tools, but content marketing seems to be a different tool set. Is there anything we should know about?
Greg: I don’t think that’s the case. We’re big on data-driven stuff. Same tools we use for SEO can be used to map out content strategy. Lot of companies jumping on that stuff to manage content teams. We’re working on things internally to do it our way, so we don’t spend a lot of time on tools.
Brian: How do I avoid not pimping my own shit here? Scribe is designed for writers who want to be creative, but still keep them focused on business goals. It’s for the writer, not the hardcore SEO. Those people become more important when you have a content -focused strategy. End of commercial.
Richard: We have some great tools. All companies use tools to fill a need. They need help. They build a tool out for a single business need. A great platform is built by making that tool and then growing it into a solution for the industry. You used to be able to do everything — paid organic, it didn’t matter. The specializations occurred, and we started developing tools to fill those gaps. Our business and skills have to continue to evolve.
Imagine that you pull together some great content and you have a niche audience. How do you take it to the next level? The next level of readers?
Greg: That’s another thing that companies struggle with. We run into that a lot, too, working with companies in niches or small verticals. They want this amazing mass distribution. It doesn’t work that way. The topic has to be broader to get the broader reach. You have to step up the food chain level or two to tie into your business, and find the topics that are still relevant. We’re doing more and more localized outreach to generate local buzz, PR, and leads for the client. Take that topic and expand it. You have to straddle the line between micro-focused ideas and big-picture stuff.
Todd: For a small corner of the market, if you’re already hitting everyone in your market REPEAT. Why do you want to go outside that market? So I get more links, let’s cut to the chase, we’re still SEOs. Ultimately, that’s’ why we do this. The side effect is we’re going to get links to our websites. The other stuff is dangerous, regardless of the tools we’re using. When you’ve saturated your vertical, you need to figure out what you need to do. Up one layer, or out to the side. If you want to sell more products, go to Amazon and see how they’re selling similar products.
Greg: That’s data mining.
Brian: What you’re trying to do is sell more stuff, depending on your model. We have a general blog audience that grows on its own. Once you have a minimum viable audience, it grows on its own. Then we drive people to our newsletter. It’s also our primary non-customer sales channel. We created a better relationship that converts people into customers. We’re not a one-product company on purpose. We want to sell more things. We have WordPress themes. This is all basic business model stuff as opposed to attraction stuff. You’re not constantly hunting for new stuff, you’re trying to grow your business bigger. Look at your audience first. How do we give them more value that brings more value to us? It’s just business.
Todd: You may just be selling a product, and you may not have something as high-level as what Brian is taking about. But you have something with recurring use, so you offer subscription sign-up. Amazon is doing that. You save a dollar or something by signing up for subscriptions. Then people forget about it. I have a stash of protein shakes in my apartment right now. I have the zombie apocalypse supply of protein shakes.
Where do you think Google’s headed from here? What’s the next big thing on the horizon we should watch out for?
Greg: Authorship. Based on how I’ve see it evolve, they’re very committed to it. Their most recent patent updates talk about not just the author, but weighing the links in that content heavier. It becomes a better signal over time. You may have a lot of followers or authority in the SEO world, but if you write about home furnishings, maybe not so much. That’s what we’re focusing on.
Brian: Next year on CopyBlogger, you’ll see us pounding Authorship into the ground because we write for writers. If you’re not a subject matter expert, you need to hire a writer. It goes beyond site authority because your authorship follows you around. It’s hiring a rockstar writer. You’d have to offer me so much money that it would never be worth it to me to link to you. But if I like you, then I’ll probably do that anyway.
Greg: You’re going to see the demise of the anonymous content writer. That model is on its way out. You can wage war. It’s easy for you to embrace authorship. Start leveraging your reach and your value. Authors can make more money. You ‘re not going to put your face on something that’s crap. You can have a lot of followers, but they’re looking for the interaction and linkage. If you’re putting out crap and no one’s linking to it, it doesn’t matter how many followers you have. Google has always struggled with content authority. That’s how Forbes got away with the mesothelioma stuff for so long. That doesn’t mean content about lung cancer shouldn’t rank.
Brian: It makes sense. They’re trying to mimic authority online. Authorship is the best idea I’ve seen so far to say this is a real person, and they’re a real expert. You can’t be an expert about everything. You’ve got to be focused. They’re getting better at it.
Todd: The problem I gave with authorship is we know about it, but the world doesn’t know about it. People who’ve been blogging away, maybe they have good authority, they’re good writers, they deserve traffic, but they don’t know how to implement this. There are still some holes with authorship. I also see huge authority figures who aren’t authors, but come somewhere and write a piece, and it goes up without authorship. What happens to those pieces? Do they get bounced out? There’s still a few moving parts to be balanced out.
Greg: It meshes well with other signals. Those become business decisions. The short-term benefit of the click-through rate is much higher just by having that picture [of the author] there. Right now, you’re special if you have the picture. It’s still a minority. Now when you’re logged in, they’re showing you less data about people you know because they want you to find new authors and new people, and leverage the Google+ thing.
Richard: Take it a step further and go back to the local session from this morning. In the future, I could write a review for a business, but someone on the west coast of Canada is unlikely to be writing a review for a real estate agent in Florida, so the context is important. People didn’t used to think about link building with geography as a factor.
Greg: Geotracking makes so much sense for that. There’s so much of it that’s bad, but that’ll be kind of cool.
Todd: So author tags and content. Thanks for coming to BlueGlassX!
If I have my work site, my personal site, maybe a few hobby sites…do I go back and claim authorship on everything? Do we filter out low-quality content?
Greg: I would roll it out in small chunks. Getting your name attached to as much historical stuff can give that content a shot in the arm.
What should SEOs do better in 2013 to communicate to the larger business world that we can help them succeed?
Greg: I don’t spend time on that. They either know it or they don’t, and I just move on. Brian’s been preaching this for years. I’ve seen a big uptick in larger organizations doing content. If those companies don’t get it, it doesn’t make sense to try to explain it to them. They’ll be getting their asses kicked by those who did, and that’s who I’ll be working for.
Brian: It’s still really early days. I’ve been preaching it for seven years, but that’s a short period of time for transformation. It will become the way online marketing will become. Content’s not a fad. You don’t go backwards from this. Our job is to either be a pioneer, or serve the pioneers. If people have objections, let them object.
Greg: Google helped a lot with Penguin.
As bloggers become savvier, more people will be willing to pay them, and that conflicts with what Google wants. What’s the thinking around that?
Greg: There will always be that tier of blogs that have perceived algorithmic value. The tier of sites we strive to get stuff on for clients don’t do that. They make their money tenfold from the content. A lot of those sites don’t want money either because they know companies like us will promote it. On top of the content, they’re getting free marketing support. It works out great on both sides. Bu if you have a checkbook — someone will always take the brown bag of cash.
Brian: It’s just that basic. I would never jeopardize my company that way. We built our business on popular posts.
Greg: How much content do you have sitting around in your archives that could be repurposed?
Todd: Stuff recycles all the time. You’ll see stuff redone all the time because it just didn’t go to the right person the first time.
Brian: I think the visual content is definitely growing. It may not be the traditional infographic because a lot of people beat it to death and did it badly. But the pros will come up with something else.
With video, do you see authorship being able to translate into that? I want to build myself up as an authority in this niche with this specific topic, and I want to offer multiple ways to consume content.
Brian: You need to have a transcript created. We make the transcript part of the post.
Greg: Then tie it to the same account that you have authorship with.
To close it up — 30 seconds each. What would you do right now leaving here? Where should people be spending their time in the next 3 months?
Greg: Follow up with human relationships in the real world. This whole business is about that. I’m a better SEO because my Rolodex is bigger. When I have a question I don’t know the answer to, I have people I can call.
Todd: Yesterday, I saw a story about a kid with Asperger’s Syndrome who wanted a train set from Lego. He saved money for two years, went to buy it, and found it had been discontinued. He wrote them a letter, they said sorry they didn’t make it anymore. But soon after, they found a brand new set, and sent it to him. That thing is everywhere, right? But one place I didn’t find it — Lego. Nowhere. Go through the hate mail you have and find someone who’s pissed off and send them something.
Brian: Follow up on what they both said. The essence of business, society, and civilization is to give people what they want. Be generous. That’s where we’ve seen the last decade with the emergence of social media, the status that comes with sharing cool stuff. After 2008 and the Wall Street collapse. Generous companies are shared and loved and they grow because they’re perceived to be what they are. We live in a low-trust world. Just give people more than you think you ought to, and you’re probably on the right track. That’s in essence what content marketing is. All you’re doing is being a good person. If that doesn’t appeal to you, it’s going to be difficult to compete with others who are doing that.
Richard: There’s a lot of garbage out there, but there’s also a lot of good. Focus on completing the circle, doing it right, move on instead of doing it half-assed. We should all just wake up and do that ll the time.
So whaddaya think? Did you learn something? Find a new tactic to try? You don’t have to attend vicariously through our blog and Twitter. Come join us at BlueGlass LA! See for yourself what everyone’s talking about. We hope to see you there!