Best of PubCon 2009

Best Lines:

  • Carolyn Shelby: I don’t usually no-follow. I only do it if it’s somebody I really hate and I use it as sort of a digital middle finger ‘Hi’
  • Lawrence Coburn: Sharing is Caring but Google is King. Search: 97%. Social 0.55%
  • Joe Laratro: [After giving URLs for Google & Bing Webmaster tools] You should also use Y! Site Explorer. It’s a long URL, you can just Google it.
  • Michael Gray: The first LinkBait was when Moses came down with that Top 10 List. LinkBait is not going away.
  • Tony Hsieh: We ask people on interviews “On a scale of 1 to 10, how lucky are you?” We don’t hire the ones with low numbers because we don’t want them bringing their unluckiness. [Great idea. People who think they’re unlucky are generally not the people who succeed.]
  • Catfish Comstock: MegaSite SEO is not for faint of heart or weak. If you’re one of those, PPC is down the hall
  • Bob Brisco: I’m astounded by how many people don’t think we look at the bottom line when valuating a company.

Best Lessons:

  • Matt Tuens: You need to become THE AUTHORITY in your space. All else follows. [This dovetails what Bob Brisco was saying and is my main takeway of the conference.]
  • Joe Laratro, (crediting Jim Boykin from Putting links next to links to Authority Sites makes those links more authoritative in the eyes of both users and search engines.
  • Michael Gray, (crediting Rand Fishkin from SEO Moz). Know the Linkerati. Understand what the most powerful linkers link to.
  • Wil Reynolds: Get in early on changes in terminology, e.g. environmentally friendly -> eco friendly. Use Google Insights, competitors’ press releases.
  • Jill Sampsey: Use seasonal URLs like HolidaySpecials, not HolidaySpecials2009. Much better when 2010 comes around.
  • Bob Brisco: Passion is the 6th, transcendental factor for great sites. But that’s not instead of the first 5: Focus, Unique, Monetizable, Community, Content
  • Matt Cutts: Site speed going be an important factor in 2010

Most Surprising Analyses:

  • Bruce Clay: We scanned a newspaper article into a JPG, and put it in a PDF. Google indexed the words. They have the technology to index words from non-text sources. They’re redefining content. You need to create great stuff in engaging formats.
  • Bruce Clay: Multiple links from one page to another? No-following one No-follows them all. First link with a non stop-word determines the link text. [Other experts challenged this. Matt Cutts said that he didn’t think this was true, and would check on it.]
  • Rand Fishkin: We’ve found that the Topicality of a Link isn’t that important for Ranking. The old Ask / Teoma model was very focused on this, but Google isn’t. [My experience: Rand is dead on. An Ask guy once told us ( that if we wanted to rank we needed more topical links. My (admittedly biased) view is that Google’s acceptance of broad horizontal sites is one of the things that makes it so much better than its competitors].

Best Scheduling

  • Having Matt Cutts at one session while the only “Rogue SEO” session, as well as a Link Buying session, were elsewhere.

Worst Scheduling

  • Having the two main Content sessions — Winning tactics for Content Creation & Optimizing Forums for Search & User Generated Content — at the same time.

Best Keynotes:

  1. Bob Brisco: Hsieh (below) was inspirational. But Brisco put things in context. The vast majority of brilliant & inspired entrepreneurs fail. Gave lots of good numbers & info (for details see Bob Brisco PubCon Keynote)
  2. Tony Hsieh: The Zappos CEO was fantastic. Most inspirational keynote I’ve ever heard (more at Tony Hsieh PubCon Keynote). But I thought it was misleading. There’s a survivors bias here. Tens of thousands of people with just as much passion and commitment fail.Sorry, I loved the story but found it simplistic. Or maybe I read too much Nassim Taleb.

Best Speakers

  • Best: Marty Weintraub, Lawrence Coburn, Rand Fishkin, Joanna Lord, Scott Stratten
  • Fantastic: Jon Henshaw, Jim Boykin, Matt Tuens, Aaron Wall, Bruce Clay, Lee Odden, Christine Churchill, Dustin Woodward, Heather Lloyd Martin, Michael Gray, Ian Lurie, Roger Dooley, Todd Mallicoat, Ted Ulle, Ricci Neer, Bob Brisco, Barry Schwartz, Anna Talerico, Todd Friesen, Michael Streko, Matt Cutts
  • Very, very good: Jessica Bowman, Wil Reynolds, Craig Paddock, Mark Jackson, Jill Sampsey, Scott Polk, Tony Adam, Matt Craine, Aaron Kronis, Elisabeth Osmeloski

[Note: From personal experience, from listening to others, and from monitoring Twitter. Help me out if I missed great speakers]

Best Yogiism:

  • Roger Dooley: When you’re promoting your site … don’t promote. [Self-contradictory, but true. Build relationships, help others.]

Best Interaction:

  • Carolyn Shelby: How many of you are getting less than 80% of their traffic from Google? [One hand went up]
  • Matt Cutts: [After seeing more hands than expected about people who had recently checked their WebMaster tools] Wow! Most people aren’t as smart, savvy, and might I add good looking as you guys.

Worst Interaction:

  • Joe Laratro: How many of you completely trust Google with all your data, Analytics, WebMaster tools, gmail. [Lots of hands] So how many of you want 3rd party tools? [Hey dude, way to manipulate. Next time leave out words like “completely.” If you had asked how many “completely mistrust” you’d have gotten the opposite result. Keep it fair, dude].

Best Keyword Research Advice:

  • Carolyn Shelby: I have my 13 year old daughter have her friends come over with their laptops. I bring the pizza. I show them pictures and say “how would you describe this?” [Do all 13 year olds have laptops?]

Best Moderator

  • Vanessa Fox: 5 minutes before opening 1st session of the morning asks “Who has a headache” and offers aspirin. [Might have been Andy Beal’s initiative. Also his aspirin].
  • Rand Fishkin: Even filled in admirably for a missing speaker.

Best Presentation Title:

  • Michael Bonfils: How to screw up your international search campaigns. Started with quote “It is a mistake to suppose that people succeed through success; they often succeed through failures.” Not sure what that means, but I suspect there’s a lot of truth in it.
  • Ted Ulle: Don’t build a Frankensite

Things You Don’t Think About

  • Michael Gray: We worked with a law firm. One partner died, they added a new partner, had to change the domain name. [made me wonder … are law firms going to be slower to change their names because they’re afraid of losing SEO value when changing their domain name?]

Never Mind:

  • Joe Laratro: You can follow me on Twitter. I won’t follow you back. I don’t write very much that’s interesting so there’s really no reason to follow me.

Best Pre-Conference Advice:

  • Heather Lloyd Martin: If a speaker gave you a tip that rocked your SEM world, let him or her know. Speakers love to know when they’ve helped someone (otherwise, we wouldn’t be speaking!). A short “Thanks for the tip on X” is fantastic feedback. And besides, you’ll make their day (from PubCon Tips). [Dovetails with a point Ted Ulle made about community management: Give praise generously. Quoted Tom Peters “Catch someone doing something right.” On a personal note, I’m the world’s most awkward networker. But I’ve been following the rule “if you think somebody did something awesome, tell them.” So since I’ve been following many of these people’s blogs and listening to their presentations, I’ve been able to compliment people on their great work. Even people that you don’t think need any more validation always appreciate it.]
  • Dr Pete: Bring a sweater. From 7 Tips for Surviving PubCon. It’s cold inside. Note that this contradicts advice from the Most Frightening Man on the Internet (he’s not really dangerous) who says in a great conference tip video that your blood alcohol level should be high enough that you can skinny dip in the Arctic. So the sweater may only be relevant if you’re sober. [Update: It was cold part of Training Day. After that it was fine. Or maybe I had more to drink than I thought (unlikely). Still a good idea.]

Most Misleading Session Description:

  • In House SEO: The session was described as “If you have a do-it-yourself attitude … our panelists … will reveal the best tips, tools, and techniques for doing SEO in house …” I was expecting SEO tips. Nope. Should have been described as “Internal politics on how to work through organizational obstacles to accomplish your SEO goals.” Good session, but not one I would have attended. I’d have gotten more out of the Twitter session which seemed to have been rocking.
  • Get Your Site On The Road: Was supposed to discuss “.. iPhone app, Facebook app ..” Nope. Not a bad session. Maybe if the description and the session were in synch the right people would have been there, instead of people who would have benefited more somewhere else.
  • International & European Site Optimization: Hey, if the session is going to be mostly about Baidu and China, how about letting me know that so I can go to a different session?
  • Top 50 Site Ideas We’ve Ever Seen: Good session. Glad I attended. But had absolutely nothing to do with the title.

Best ‘Haven’t Heard That In Decades’ Music:

  • Zanzibar: Lots of Billy Joel songs I hadn’t heard in years. “Rose he knows he’s such a credit to the game.” The irony always cracks me up. Lisa Barone complained that she never heard of these songs. Kids today.
  • Take Me to the Pilot: And now I can’t get the song out of my head.

Best Coverage:

  • SEO Roundtable: Fantastic live coverage of PubCon. Great feed of what the smartest people in the room were recording at the time, multiple people covering most of the sessions.
  • Outspoken Media: Great PubCon session recaps from Lisa Barone.

Did I miss anything? Let me know through Comments or Twitter @GilR. Thanx!

Also in this series: Best of SMX Advanced 2009