Posted on March 21, 2014 by Jason Wright What We Experienced and Why It Matters to You Photo provided by Kevin Getch. It was a cold, dark and stormy night. The wind kissed the blossoming cherry trees and……okay, seriously I’m here to talk about SMX West! Having never been to an SMX West conference, my expectations weren’t very high. I knew there were going to be a looooot of smart people on deck like Danny Sullivan and Rand Fishkin, but little did I know that in just three days my team and I would make a whole lot of new friends and take away some critical components to be applied to any clients online strategy. With over 120 speakers set to take the stage over three days, it was tough to decide where to spend your time. Different topic tracks opened the door for learning and discussing everything from video marketing to content strategy and social media best practices. I sat in the first or second row whenever I could and soon realized I was surrounded by some of the brightest marketers and content contributors in the country. It’s both a humbling and gratifying experience. While a little wet behind the (conference) ears, I settled on tweeting out key facts or comments from the various talks as a way of both capturing and sharing the information with my peers. Before I knew it, I caught the Twitter bug and ended up live tweeting a good portion of the sessions I sat it in on. When I wasn’t battling for live tweeting supremacy, Greg Gifford, Lisa Williams, Akvilė Harlow and others had my back by sharing information we could take home and apply to any business. Exciting Takeaways That’d Make Matt Cutts and Rand Fishkin Proud – What You Need To Know Content Marketing Strategy Kevin Getch and Matt Cutts When Google started devaluing (once totally legit) artificial link building and low quality article distribution via Panda and Penguin updates, we ran…and probably screamed a little (and cried a lot). We rocked in the corner then picked ourselves back up to focus on something new, fresh and completely white hat search engine optimization. It was then that, an entire industry exploded with content strategy plans, aggressive blog writing campaigns and more. While these are all (hopefully) great pieces of work, that’s not always the case. After comments made by Matt Cutts in, Meet the Search Engines, it seemed pretty clear to me that those who are going to be awarded the most will have a strong organic link profile and really interesting content where quality becomes the prime directive over quantity. Though, we may never know for sure how much content is too much, we can bet on the human element (thanks Justin Sanger). Meaning, people get bored fast and to maintain interest you have to inspire the reader to stick around (lookin’ at you). Bottom Line: Create rich, exciting and entertaining content you have both researched and produced based on what your visitors are most interested in. Think about how you could use long-form content to your advantage and don’t be afraid to go back and update well-performing articles, blog entries and other relevant content. Brand Strategy & Public Relations The days of ranking a website well just because you had optimized some title tags are over. Getting placed organically in search has become a giant pain in tail for most. As a business owner or marketer, sure, there are some things you can still do to help build placement on search, but the industry has changed largely in the direction of brand strategy. Matt Cutts, Duane Forrester and Danny Sullivan Competing for a top spot on search means you’re doing more than building a great website. You now have to think about positioning yourself as an authoritative figure in the industry through other means. You can do this by getting yourself or your team out into the community. Create an “involved” culture where you and the rest of your team become a part of your strategy. Don’t underestimate the power of social media and other resources. Be in as many places as you can without overstretching your organization. Think about how you can use free online tools to generate basic videos that answer questions from followers or verbalize your blog entries. Bottom Line: Get out there. Really. Get involved in the community and be active in social media. Discover who you are, settle on a direction and keep working towards building your brand. Social Media Best Practices Early on I attended a great presentation by Jennifer Lopez of Moz. She shared some insights into best practices and etiquette for social media and she wasn’t alone. Other presenters honed in on the purpose of social media which at its core, is about starting a conversation. Blasting out updates and tweets you aren’t passionate about to your followers is not something that’s going to yield a whole lot of results. Information you share with the world should be interesting, unique and sometimes surprising. Think about how you can leverage the power of Twitter, Facebook and other platforms by using OpenGraph. Use images associated with posts to help drive action or interest. Get involved in other conversations happening on the web. Build a community who becomes dedicated to your brand and tailor content to them. When a complaint erupts online, do your best to head it off and message those parties directly to avoid a potential PR nightmare. Understand when to use hash tags and tag people in your posts to get the conversation going. Bottom Line: Be present in the moment. Don’t allow yourself or your organization to assimilate into the vast pool of worthless information. Don’t become the Borg! (…see what I did there?). Be cool, be fresh and most importantly, live and breathe your brand. Kevin Getch speaking with John Rampton from Search Engine Journal WRAPPING UP 3 DAYS 243 PERSONAL TWEETS AND 12,000+ OVERALL #SMX MENTIONS What a great opportunity and a wonderful experience to meet many industry leaders, share strategies, shake hands with people as far away as South Africa, talk one-on-one with Matt Cutts and Duane Forrester all while coming home with some great information to help business succeed online. At lot happened on Twitter in three days and while we talked a lot business, there was never a dull moment. Jennifer Lopez, Ric Dragon, Lisa Buyer, Danny Sullivan and many others kept it light, fun and exciting. Kevin Getch spoke one on one with Matt Cutts and we shared stores with AJ Kohn. If you get a chance, check out Greg Gifford’s awesome presentation loaded with a ton of movie references. There’s a lot more to say, but I can’t go on forever! Here are some of my favorite (serious) tweets from SMX West: You’re more likely to get hit by lightning than go viral on @YouTube. I joke but @rj_kosinski says viral is hard #smx pic.twitter.com/q5yLdxQeqq — Danny Sullivan (@dannysullivan) March 11, 2014 @mattcutts @dannysullivan & Amit Singhal taking a Selfie at #SMX West. Priceless. pic.twitter.com/x2kNDMv9aJ — Kevin Getch (@KevinGetch) March 12, 2014 Hummingbird is not only a complete search system on its own, it’s the foundation for what we’ll build in the future @theamitsinghal #smx — Greg Gifford (@GregGifford) March 12, 2014 Quoting: Links are the result, not the goal. #smx — AJ Kohn (@ajkohn) March 12, 2014 #SMX#23D panel selfie! With @monicawright @jennita @lisabuyer @SEOPollyAnna pic.twitter.com/vZEaGrcTKd — Ric Dragon (@RicDragon) March 12, 2014 SMX West Speaker Photographs SMX West Conference Resources Whiteboard Interview – Google’s Matt Cutts on Redirects, Trust + More 10 Key Takeaways From Meet The Search Engines @ SMX West SMX West Conference Information Presentation Slideshows From SMX West Live Blog: Head Of Google Search Amit Singhal Keynote At SMX West 2014 My “Meet The Search Engines” SMX West 2014 Takeaways …And there you have it, my wrap of SMX West. For those who attended, I hope to see you all again very soon!