I was very fortunate to win a platinum pass to Affiliate Summit West from buy.at. buy.at was a Bronze Sponsor of Affiliate Summit and gave away several platinum passes on abestweb.com. Thanks buy.at, much appreciated! The conference started with the buy.at party in the Mix Lounge on the top floor the The Hotel at Mandalay Bay. Classy party. The buy.at representatives met every attendee at the entrance. The drinks and hor dourves were first class. Best of all, I got to meet many folks that I knew from previous conferences or from abestweb.
The conference started on Sunday. For the first session, I attended the Affiliate Improv, a panel of bloggers, publishers and affiliate managers. They spent most of the hour trying to brainstorm on ideas for an audience user with a surfing themed website. I noted two take aways from this session for further research:
1 – Check out WPtouch for making a wordpress blog mobile.
2. Check out ericnagle.com for posts on Building a Datafeed Site.
The next session I attended was Web Redesign by the Numbers – speaker Sharon Mostyn. The point is to understand who your visitors are before redesigning a site. Who are your visitors – new or returning? What are the goals of these visitors, what keywords do they use, what pages do they visit? When do they arrive – are they 24/7, are they seasonal? Where do they come from – search engines, social media, other places? Why do they come to your site? How do they arrive via what browser, operating system, desktop or mobile, what screen resolution are their monitors? Sharon suggested that most of this information can be gleaned from Google Analytics and Alexa. My take aways from this session:
1. Spend some time on google search picking up the completed phrases for my keywords. This is not a new Google feature but one I just haven’t spent a tremendous amount of time with.
2. There is a new Google Analytics feature in beta called In-Page Analytics which shows exact clicks within a page. It’s under the Content section. Good find!
Next I attended Making Money with Affiliate Programs for Beginners by James Martell. Even though I don’t consider myself a beginner, I found it to be a great session. Sometimes at these conferences, primarily because of the make up of the expo, you begin to think that the only people there are CPA networks. James talked about his bootcamp students with real websites promoting real products in niche areas – I liked it. James described 7 popular affiliate modles: coupon sites, shopping/comparison sites, niche review sites, loyalty, email lists, podcasting sites, and hybrid sites. Hmm, one of the takeaways from this session was to turn off the clutter in the right hand column of the site. Mine are definitely filled up with banner ads and they don’t get many clicks. So in that sense, maybe they are not detracting, something to think more about and experiment with. James also shared 5 tips for choosing profitable topics and I agree with all of them. The product should cost $150 and up, the brand should be well known, make sure the product has good reviews, make sure the merchant is reputable, and check the search volume on the product. James had many more tips, I won’t repeat them all, you can probably find them on his website jamesmartell.com
Next I attended Tips & Tricks to Increase Website Conversion by Christopher Pearson of DIYthemes.com. Christopher used his own website and the purchase plans for the Thesis theme as his example. I had recently purchased the developers version and could follow how he led me down the path of purchasing the higher end product. A couple of reasons were that it wasn’t that much more expensive than a single copy while giving me access to multiple copies and the caution that the price would go up when Thesis 2.0 comes out. Sort of unrelated, but there is another SEO product that I looked at in December for $129, if I would have known the price was going up, I would have looked harder. Now it is $499 and I can’t bring myself to pay that much (yet).
Later that evening I attended Enterprise SEO for Social Publishers. The tips from this session tended to be geared around wordpress platforms. One tip, on the Category page, be sure to have unique headers and a unique leading paragraph to avoid duplicate content. Another suggestion is to use robots.txt to disallow search engines from crawling pages such as the tags pages (again because of duplicate content). Another takeaway was to be sure to have easy share buttons (share this one facebook and the like).
On Monday, I attended Wil Reynold’s Tools for SEO Success in 2001. I have seen Wil a couple of times before and he never does the same talk twice. His sessions are packed with information. Some of the areas of change expected for 2011 include Universal Search, Brand Bias, Gooogle’s renewed spam focus, and Local Queries. Universal Search refers to the increase of distractions in the search results. A search now can include sponsored links, images, news, local listings, shopping, video, maps, and blog posts much of which shows up before the organic listings. Being number 1 in organic results, is not being at the top of the page.
One of my first takeaways from Wil’s session was to find out about Google Alerts in Google Analytics. Wil has a habit of talking fast and not going into detail, but I did look it up and its in a section of google Analytics called Intelligence (labled Beta), then pick Daily, Weekly, or Montly and Create a Custom Alert. Yes, something I need to get back to and try out.
Wil, as many others did in this conference, talked about the importance of being in local search. He also mentioned the idea of giving sponsorship to local events as a strategy to get social mentions and links. Wil also mentioned to turn Google instant on for keyword phrase research (yes, I knew that but needed a reminder).
Wil flew through some tools for SEO – scrapebox, promediacorp keyword research tool, soovle, Majestic Tools, open site explorer, Zemanta, and PostRank. So many tools, too little time.
Some other thoughts from Wil. 2011 is the the year that the un-natural link profile gets slammed. Yep, I think it started last year. The social graph impacts the link graph (not sure I got that phrase right but I believe he was saying that social links are becoming more important).
Another great SEO session was Ask the Pros with Bruce Clay, Greg Boser, Todd Friesen, and Stephan Spencer. All legends in the industry. What are the most important factors this year? Links and localization. The authority of a link is more important then the anchor text. Sites will come back when the link profile is fixed. Links do not have to be topically relevant. Links from a University for doing a presentation can be very good. Exact match keywords in a URL are not as important as people think and Google has stated that they will be dialing back the importance this year. More than 2 hypens in a domain is bad. Never do sitewide links, if inter-linking sites, put it in an about us page with a paragraph about the company. You don’t want to be on pages of sites in bad neighborhoods. Hiding ownership of a site does not work.
Someone in the audience asked about getting slapped from #1 to #50 because of paid linking. The new filtering (from Google) is less punative than in the past, the entire site is not penalized. Sometimes just phrases are penalized or a different page is shown. Once fixed, the site comes back, you don’t have to do a re-inclusion request. If paid links, they should be easy to get rid of, other links are harder. If penalized keep going forward with link building and the penalty will be diluted. There are less manual penalties now (Google doesn’t like to play whack a mole), most are algorithmic. Matt Cutts cannot see algorithmic penalties. If you are at position 50 and still have site links, that might be bad (argh, describes one of my sites).
Lots of great information to be learned at Affiliate Summit. I have summarized some of the key points that I found valuable. Now time to implement!