Thoughts from Pubcon, Day One

Started in London with only 75 people in 1999, Pubcon kicked off today in Vegas. Today, attendance routinely reaches the thousands. From its humble beginnings, Pubcon has become the premier social media and optimization conference. (See my interview here with Lane Ellis.) Here are some thoughts from day one.

Gareth Hoyle (co-founder / CEO, LinkRisk), Shahid Awan (Global Head of SEO, Wimdu) and Marie Haynes (Owner, HIS Web Marketing) hosted a panel on dealing with manual Google penalties. The trio provided tips for handling negative SEO and suspect links. Generally speaking, the group recommended a hybrid approach when dealing with suspect links. Fuse art with science when determining if a link is suspect. What's more, remember that you're (probably) sending a note to a human being. Ask politely for a link to be removed before invoking the disavow tool.

Mindset Digital founder Debra Jasper gave a fast-paced talk on the power of being visual, a subject near and dear to my heart. She raced through nearly 170 slides in 30 minutes. Jasper's videos demonstrated how many brands have changed their marketing techniques in the last fifteen years. Case in point: Charles Schwab's recent Talk to Chuck commercials are much more visual, informal, and social than their relatively stuffy predecessors. This is in direct response to consumer trends. We're not looking for companies and brands to talk "at" us. We want to engage in conversations, and credit the brokerage firm for recognizing that.

I'm no marketing or SEO expert, but I know enough to be dangerous. I didn't know, for instance, about how heat maps demonstrate how viewers look at information on the web (read: f-shaped heat maps). An example is shown below:


I did a little digging after the session and learned that its ramifications are huge. As 
  • Users won't read your text thoroughly in a word-by-word manner. Exhaustive reading is rare, especially when prospective customers are conducting their initial research to compile a shortlist of vendors. Yes, some people will read more, but most won't.
  • The first two paragraphs must state the most important information. There's some hope that users will actually read this material, though they'll probably read more of the first paragraph than the second. Start subheads, paragraphs, and bullet points with information-carrying words that users will notice when scanning down the left side of your content in the final stem of their F-behavior. They'll read the third word on a line much less often than the first two words.
  • I've never done any eye tracking of users on my site and maybe I should look into it. I'd hate to be a slave to keywords, but incorporating more data and science to increase the "stickiness" of my site can't hurt. I expect to learn more about these topics and others over the next few days.