PubCon Las Vegas 2014 – Sessions Overview Day 1

1 PubCon and Las Vegas make up for a pretty tempting combination for all digital marketers out there. Given that gambling often resembles SEOs’ constant struggle to predict and outsmart search engine algorithms, Las Vegas is the perfect place to organize an SEO conference. Already in its teens (15 year old) PubCon attracts experts in variety of digital marketing fields: Organic SEO, Content Marketing, Reputation Management, Social Media Marketing, Link Building, Affiliate Marketing, Penalty Recovery, Local and Mobile SEO, PPC and overall SEM. The content offered is massive, the session topics – hot and engaging, the speakers – knowledgeable and respected in their field, but enough with the tease lets move on to Day 1 of PubCon 2014!


Keynote: Buyer Legends

by Jeffrey Eisenberg @JeffreyGroks

The first keynote speaker at the conference, Jeffrey Eisenberg, stepped in to cover for Ted Murphy, who was unable to make it for the opening. Regardless of this unplanned change in the festival agenda the first presentation really impressed the audience.

The main concept introduced by Jeff, namely the “buyer legends” highlights the importance of storytelling in our relationship with customers. Storytelling, in his words, is the easiest way to connect with your target audience; it ensures greater engagement, and takes into account the fact that “Conversion is a journey, not a destination”.

Learning to segment your audience depending on their motivation, knowledge, needs, purchase history and preferences is what Jeff thinks will help you come up with the best story to address them with. Once you have improved your communication techniques, your audience will be well-aware of the big picture, and this will automatically boost the execution and testing stage of your marketing strategy. Needless to say the improved customer experience would result in higher conversions and return on investment.

3Google Penalty RemovalGoogle Penalty Recovery

Gareth Hoyle @search_magician

Shahid Awan @shahidawan

Marie Haynes @Marie_Haynes

Moderator: Arnie Kuenn

The first official session of the conference started big. The joint presentation of Marie, Gareth and Shahid was a real masterpiece from start to end. From the cartoonish profile images that each of them had assigned to their own slides to the organized steady pace of the whole panel discussion the four penalty recovery experts managed to keep the audience focused and intrigued throughout the whole session. The info rich presentation focused on Google Manual Penalties and the steps required to take in order to recover from them.

Gareth started outlining the process of how to understand whether you are facing a Manual Penalty:

  •  By  monitoring your traffic via your Google Analytics account and comparing the metrics to the major Google algo updates. It is an essential check-up that will help you understand whether you are facing an algorithmic penalty or a Manual Penalty when dealing with organic traffic loss.
  • By checking your WMT (Webmaster Tools Account) for any notifications from Google. Marie actually added a pretty interesting insight to that: you may not always get a manual action notification even if your site has been manually penalized. Sometimes the manual penalty message can show in your WMT account a couple of weeks or even a month after the actual penalty has taken effect. Thus the need to be extra vigilant and to regularly monitor your website traffic.

The action plan for manual penalty removal, as defined by Marrie, Gareth and Shahid follows the 5 main steps:

  1. Data gathering – automate this stage: use several tools as to obtain as much information as possible on your inbound link profile: Google and Bing WMT, MajesticSEO, Ahrefs, Opensite Explorer, etc.
  2. Data analysis – choose between manual vs tool-based analysis. While Gareth relies mostly on tools to cover for this stage, Marie insists on doing everything manually. Regardless of which approach you’d choose here are the key things you should keep an eye on:

a) Every link that has been created or appears to look as if created for SEO should be removed.

b) Be careful with exact match or excessive commercial anchor text (diversity is required). Capitalized anchor text gives out wrong signals.

c) Home page vs deep page inbound links (usually the home page receives the higher % of inbound links, nevertheless your deep pages should also receive certain referrals from external sources.

d) TLD’s geo location and website language – it is a commonsense to receive referrals from websites from your own country/area or at least such that use the same language you do on your site – (excessive amount of links pointing to your site from Chinese and Arabic sites if your site is for plumbing services in Manchester could be an alarming signal for Google).

e) Sitewide links – understand the reason they exist and fix the issue if necessary (e.g. blog-roll or footer links are not recommended referrals).

f) And of course be careful with deindexed/penalized sites that link t your domain, as well as other spammy sources like article directories, bookmark&submit links, etc.

Tip 1: If you are doing manual audit of your baclklinks: examine a link per each domain: if the link looks spammy disavow at domain level.

Tip 2: Disavow each link that you cannot find on the page that links to you.

Tip 3: Ignore the nofollow links.

Tip 4: Consider nofollowing certain links instead of removing them altogether. However if those links are pretty undermining disavow them for good – there’s always a chance that the given webmasters could decide to change them to dofollow ones.


  1. Link removal – try to remove the unwanted (“unnatural”) links first and list the remaining ones in the disavow file:

a) Do a manual friendly outreach to webmasters and inform them of the urls that point to your site.

b) Create 2 email templates: 1 for link removal and 1 for link nofollow request.

c) Document everything in a Google document (include comments on the process).

Tip 1: Create a dedicated email account for the outreach.

Tip 2: Request nofollow when website is not of high risk.

Tip 3: If a webmaster confirms that a link has been removed, really verify whether this is true.

  1. Disavow file creation

a) Disavow at domain level on the majority of cases.

b) Ensure you submit the right format: UTF-8 text file and do not include any comments in it – the file will not be read by human, it’s automatically processed instead.

  1. Reconsideration request – explain in details your loss, your actions and strategy to remove bad links, mention your regret and desire to make it up for it.

4Life past penalty If you fail on the first try, do not give up and repeat the process, but this time be more thorough in your analysis and work.  When you finally manage to free your site from the Google penalty you are up for some hard work. Gareth uses a pretty suitable analogy to explain life past penalty: “It’s like cheating on your wife: she might take you back, but she won’t trust you the same.”

Recommended tools:

Spamflag – a Chrome extension that helps you quickly locate a backlink on a given page.

Scrapebox – a tool that comes in handy in the backlink evaluation process.

Searchmetrics – a comprehensive tool that is particularly useful for its link updates.

Semantic Web, Knowledge Graph, and Other Changes to SERPs

Carrie Hill @CarrieHill

Bill Slawski @bill_slawski

Moderator: Ethan Griffin

The next session was again part of the Organic SEO series and as you can easily guess by its title its key speaker was the industry authority in everything Google patent and semantic search related – Bill Slawski. His talk was much engaging as initially expected, but we will come to that later. The panel kicked off with the insightful presentation of Carrie Hill. She pointed out the importance of incorporating when optimizing the business data for the Google’s Knowledge Graph. Some useful takeaways  from her presentation: seo not a bandage

  • Semantic markup could only contribute to your online visibility if your on-site elements (site architecture, content, keywords, internal linking) are well-balanced and optimized.
  • Use semantic markup for recipes to optimize for Pinterest.
  • Set up Sitelinks search box for better exposure in SERPs.
  • Use the Action Markup introduced in April 2014 – RSVP within Email, Open link in an App, Listen to Music.

Bill Slawski on the other hand gave a detailed background on the Google Semantic search. Among the most intriguing points he made were:

  • The initial semantic project was called Google Sets and it was later on substituted for the current version of the Carousel.
  • Google Maps show signs that links aren’t the only ones important in rankings (the geo location and mentions are taken into greater consideration too).


Keyword Research

Craig Paddock

Bill Hunt @billhunt

Moderator: Elmer Boutin

Craig Paddock reminded that after the Hummingbird update the keyword research process should be revised completely and people should focus more on content research instead. As he explained whether Google user types the “boxing equipment” or “boxing gear” query, the search engine renders the same results given that it comprehends the actual intent of the query. He gave away some pretty useful tips like: no keyword research

  • Don’t obsess over individual keyphrase rankings.
  • When assessing the success of an SEO project one should base his assumptions on an organic traffic report per URL, instead of on a report that examines selected keywords.
  • Save your Google Webmaster Tools monthly reports because the historical data in GWT dates back to 90 days only.
  • Associate your GWT data with your Google Analytics and access GWT data in your GA for a more detailed view of your website stats.
  • Use the queries placed in your site search to get an idea of what keywords your targeted customers use to find the products/services/info they need.
  • Include a site search even on your 404 error page template.
  • Link your GWT to your Google Adwords account to get a combined organic and paid report.
  • Google Instant suggest is geo-targeted but could be used for keyword brainstorming. Special Tip! Include underscore in your keyphrase to get more variations of that keyphrase.
  • The YouTube keyword tool is no longer a useful resource – it shows up to 25 keyphrases only.
  • Google Keyword Planner shows exact match kws only.
  • Use paid search data to guide your organic campaign.

The much informative session continued with Bill Hunt’s slide deck that built up to the great tips already shared by Craig:

  • Create accounts in GWT for all your subfolders on your website in order to extract more keyword data.
  • Brainstorm for kws by:

– thinking how you want to be found

– listing all your categories and products (their attributes, features and related functions)

– monitoring your on-site search

– monitoring the current kws that drive visitors to the site (GA).

  • Assess your website performance by monitoring organic visitors and traffic changes per URL.
  • Use site search queries for content creation ideas.

Recommended tools: – generates local adwords and keywords lists per zipcode, radius and desired kw.

Taming Algo Chaos and [NOT PROVIDED]

Bruce Clay @BruceClayInc

Prashant Puri @puriprashant

Jake Bohall @jakebohall

Moderator: Carolyn Shelby

As you can see the sessions on the first day of PubCon were loaded with useful info and so was the next panel in line: Taming the Algo Chaos. It covered the “keyword not provided” issue and even if there were some info overlaps with the previous session, it surely brought up some great extra insights. Below you could read the unique  to this session tips that would help you catch up with the algo race.

Bruce Clay shared an interesting opinion with the audience: he insisted that the “not provided” problem was on the table much earlier than the past September (when Google made all searches secure regardless of whether you were logged in or not). He stated that given that Google search results are both personalized (based on search history and user profile) and localized the keywords rendered by Google  had been highly unreliable and biased for quite some years. In this train of thoughts he urged the webmasters to seek for a way to create content that would make up for their keyword data loss and that would respond to the most popular queries of their targeted customers. provided was a fallacy Among the interesting tips he shared were:

  • You can obtain unbiased ranking data from the paid Google API.
  • Calculate the long-tail traffic to page: Long-tail = total traffic to page – keyword traffic.

Prashant Puri went on with the keyword analysis and focused on the importance of storing and revising historical  traffic data from GA and GWT. He accented on how to improve landing page perforce and to better understand the attribution model. His great advice included:

  • Optimize keywords that aren’t ranking but have a high Page Value.
  • Remember to avoid last click attribution. Many of the conversions could happen on  the first click, but still there is a significant amount of such that have multiple click attribution.

Jake Bohall was the last presenter of this great panel and he wrapped it up with a more general overview of the confusion and frustration that Google creates among the webmasters with its constant changes in guidelines and algorithms.  He mentioned the common requirements for having a healthy and thriving website: quality unique relevant content that responds to customers’ needs and queries, markup to adapt to the semantic evolution of the search, quality inbound link profile (bad links should be “trimmed” periodically), and targeted Adwords campaigns if unable to respond to the rapid changes.

Recommended tools:

Searchmetrics – helps you get better understanding of long-tail keywords, cpc and landing page performance.

Remove’em – offers backlink evaluation & anchor text report.

Social Media The Great Equalizer

Elmer Boutin @rehor

Ajit Sivadasan @ajitsivadasan

Moderator: Ashley Ward

Here comes the final session for Day 1 and while the topic appears to be less heavy at first glance, the speakers pointed out some pretty important issues related to Reputation Management.

Elmer Boutin was a delight to listen to and after meeting him in person at the PubCon Labs, I can conclude that his expertise in online rep. is so extensive that I doubt that he would not find a creative approach to saving a struggling business from any online reputation threat (from envious trolls to well-planned defamatory attacks led by angry customers or falling behind competitors). reputation management He offered a great guide on how to protect one’s online reputation by covering 3 major components: domain defense, reputation defense, content defense. The key things  to remember are:

  • Offer the best quality possible as it comes to your products, services and customer experience.
  • Buy “negative” domains.
  • “It’s not so much what others say about you, it’s more about how you respond to them.”
  • Respond to your customers/peers in social medias.
  • Don’t panic, but try to conclude what kind of person you are dealing with (anti-user or frustrated customer). Check the history of his comments, his reach and influence, look up his name in the search engines, review sites and social medias for more info.
  • Verify if the given anti-user has created fake profiles (competitors can indulge in such offensive practices as well).
  • Beware of trolls – in contrast to anti-users, trolls just enjoy fighting and don’t look forward to the resolution of a certain issue.
  • Reach out to the complainer up to three times – if he does not respond reasonably or he does not respond at all , stop trying to reason with him.
  • Assess whether the given person is a real threat to the company: if he has low social media oureach/audience you could ignore them.

Ajit Sivadasan stepped in to add a great insight on the issue: “Let customers be part of the story”. As he shares: “people like talking about themselves”, by letting them talk about your product/brand you present them with an opportunity to satisfy this hidden desire. What is more important it is namely the emotional desire that affects us on a deeper level – thus you should learn to connect with people on a more personal level as to nourish stronger bond and brand loyalty. Below follow some further pro tips from Ajit:

  • Create Social validation and increase viral reach.
  • Give people experiences they want to participate in and share.
  • Entertain first, sell second.
  • Reward engagement.

“Engagement can build emotional connection”.

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