My first Think Visibility
Greeted by stacks and stacks of bacon sandwiches when I arrived at the Think Vis conference at Leeds’ swanky Alea casino, all my expectations were instantly surpassed. What can I say? I’m easily pleased (and was horribly hungover). So after chowing down on some much-needed grease and plying myself with three cups of tea (and, er, a couple of naughty biscuits), we were called into the top room by our convivial host, Dom Hodgson.
A fresh-faced (well…) newbie to the whole affair, my first Think Vis conference got off to a good start – the attendees I’d briefly spoken to that morning were really friendly, the bacon sandwiches and tea on offer made me feel like a new woman, and Dom just bloody loves it.
Accompanied by my venerable colleagues Doug Radburn and Julian Kay, I attended the first talk about the relationship between Championship Manager and SEO. Being a girl who’s not really into football in any way, shape or form, the football connexion didn’t make a lot of sense to me… But the presenter, Kelvin Newman, did make me laugh several times and appeared to be knowledgeable about the beautiful game and its relationship to SEO. Doug and Jules assure me that this link was very valid and that they could indeed see the correlation.
For me, the interesting stuff was Kelvin’s explanation of how emotion plays a much bigger role in the human decision-making process than we might think, which was supported by evidence from a study involving aroused and non-aroused male students that illustrated his theory rather well. And that’s all the detail I’m going to go into here – you’ll have to read Freakonomics for the gory/sexy details. So Kelvin explained that by combining the likes of football game theory, behavioural economics and chaos theory – aka the Google algorithm – you can discover new opportunities in SEO. Oh, and he explained why the radar charts used in Champ Man rule – tag your tweets with #radarsarerad and he’ll send you some stuff on it.
More tea, and then it was time to return to the bottom room for Pete Wailes’ talk on how to become an SEO business ninja. Here, Pete talked about the four areas involved in many aspects of the SEO industry’s various disciplines: innovative vs. imitative, and one time vs. repetitive. Pete displayed a profound appreciation and respect for the psychology behind SEO and its devotees – something that I also fully subscribe to. In a nutshell, what he was saying was that employers in the SEO industry need to be mindful of the fact that if they charge their staff with long stints of repetitive tasks (which, let’s face it, can often make up a large portion of our workload), they’re going to get very little out of them. Break it up and make a concerted and consistent effort to make the working day fun, however, and staff productivity will be maintained at a much higher level throughout the day. Foosball table then, yeah Vin?
After some ropey (/hilarious) lunchtime entertainment with a spangly-suited Dom, we went along to Jennifer O’Grady’s talk about her PR company’s client, The Rock. No, no, not the wrestler, unfortunately – but Bury’s first open air ‘shopping and entertainment destination’. Jennifer went through the trials and tribulations of how she and her team took its online media campaign offline… Managing to then bring it back online again. And having been approached just two weeks before the centre’s launch, the Manchester-based PR agency was well and truly up against it. What I loved about Jennifer’s presentation was that she talked not only about the company’s success and how it triumphed against the odds, but also how it failed, learnt from these failures and actually went on to capitalise on them.
Jennifer’s talk was my personal favourite of the day, simply because my role as a content writer and Competwition champ has somewhat developed since starting at Branded3; increasingly, my team and I are required to come up with creative social media marketing solutions for a really diverse and challenging range of clients – so for this reason, the content here was extremely relevant to me. It can also be a little daunting to start with a blank canvas and wonder whether or not any of the kooky ideas you come up with will actually fly; Jennifer imparted two very useful and reassuring pieces of advice here: 1) if it makes you cringe, it’s probably going to make them cringe too, and 2) the only way to learn is by making mistakes.
Next, Glyn Wintle’s WordPress Security 101. Dividing the room into those who understood the lingo and those who really, really didn’t, I was in the latter half of the demographic. While Doug and Jules giggled knowingly and often at Glyn’s computer-nerd-specific jokes, I’m afraid I took very little from this seminar, other than that Glyn is a funny chap who knows a lot about coding. (Is that what you call it?)
Jane Copland’s Monetising through Community seminar examined several community sites that weren’t capitalising the way they could and should on their audience’s willingness to spend money on related products. Jane’s main point was that if you have a captive audience that’s genuinely interested in the site’s content (Last FM and Fitocracy being the two most memorable examples), then why wouldn’t you monetise the site by subtly marketing specific products or services to them? Jane explained that the customer, in fact, often wants to buy onsite but is forced to buy elsewhere. While this talk didn’t exactly provide take away advice or tips, I agreed wholeheartedly with what she was talking about and could certainly relate to her teachings, having occasionally been one of those disappointed customers myself.
And finally, a panel chat with Nichola Stott, Kelvin Newman and Pete Wailes. One of the first topics to be brought to the fore was whether or not you could perform a successful SEO campaign without link building – of which the outcome was “not really, but yeah, probably”. Another was Facebook’s edgerank, an algorithm used to determine appearances in news feeds, wherein Kelvin suggested that SEOs are perfectly placed manipulate it, that we should be doing so now before things get too complex, and that this topic is definitely one to watch. There was also some speculation as to the future of the SEOer as we know him/her, of which the prognosis was that roles will continue to diversify and become much more specialised – but that we certainly won’t disappear (phew!).
So, all in all? I really enjoyed my first Think Vis. I loved the bacon sandwiches, the tea, the biscuits, the pick ‘n’ mix, the Lego men, and the company. But especially the pick ‘n’ mix. Being the social butterfly I am, I made social arrangements either side of the conference which meant that I couldn’t go to either the pre- or the after party, which, on hindsight, was a rum decision. So lesson learned – next time, I’ll make sure I a) stick around to join my colleagues and fellow delegates in a nerdy knees-up, b) not attend any seminars aimed at football fans or developers (sorry Kelvin & Glyn) – and c) nick more pick ‘n’ mix.
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