SphinnCon is coming back to Israel on January 9, 2011, and it’s a conference that I think any one who is serious about search marketing should seriously consider attending.
What is SphinnCon?
Have you ever heard of SMX? Well, SMX (Search Marketing Expo) is “the [my bold] original and best search marketing event.” We in Israel are lucky since SphinnCon is a unique SMX-related event that takes place outside of the US, and as far as I know it so far has only happened here.
SphinnCon Israel is the premier networking event designed for SEOs, SEMs, SMOs and affiliate marketers to exchange ideas, influence the industry and build their networks. Get a full day of sessions and keynotes (and snacks) from some of the industry’s leading experts, from Israel and abroad. For example, this year’s speakers include Sam Michaelson from Five Blocks (who’s always entertaining), Olivier Amar from PointUp Media, Branko Rihtman (active on Twitter as @neyne) from Whiteweb, Dixon Jones from Receptional Ltd., Eli Feldblum from RankAbove, Kevin Gibbons from SEOptimise, and more. Chris Sherman, the Executive Editor Search Engine Land & President of Searchwise, is also coming, which is cool, along with Kaspar Szymanski, Google Search Quality Strategist from Google Dublin Office. What a lineup!
The whole thing is being programmed by the awesome Barry Schwartz (also known as @RustyBrick), who is a leading personality in the world of search engine marketing thanks to his work at RustyBrick, his very popular site The Search Engine Roundtable (which just got a site redo on a custom CMS – check it out), and his multitudinous writings on Search Engine Land.
(I’ve always wanted to use the word “multitudinous” and now I have. Success.)
And I’m speaking there…
I’m speaking on the first and last panels at the conference: at 9 am on SEO Tips, and at 4:30 pm I’m moderating the panel on Social Media in SEM & Search. Which basically means I’ll be there all day! See the full schedule.
How to register
If all of this sounds good, you can register here. Attendance costs $100, which is not cheap for an Israeli conference, but considering it’s an SMX conference, and the leading people from the industry who are coming from overseas and Israel, and how useful and enjoyable the last SphinnCons were (see my posts reviewing the previous SphinnCon events), it’s worth considering.
Yesterday was the second time Sphinncon took place in Israel. Sphinncon is “a version of the Search Marketing Expo (SMX) Conference, but tailored as more of a low impact and more social gathering for search marketers” (taken from the event booklet). Barry Schwartz from Search Engine Roundtable, Search Engine Land, and RustyBrick, was the organizer, and the Jerusalem College of Technology provided the venue.
I really enjoyed the event and here’s why:
- It was in Jerusalem: We Jerusalemites are always schlepping to Tel Aviv for internet and technology related events.
- Good networking: The crowd was awesome. I had a great time schmoozing.
- Impressive panelists: I may not have had to schlep, but some pretty amazing speakers did schlep from around the world to come to this event, like Vanessa Fox, Dixon Jones from Majestic SEO, and Tomer Honen from Google’s Ireland office.
- Good food: Especially the caesar salad and the hot chocolate cake thingy. Yes, I’m shallow. And the fact that I got a free pen really made this event aces in my book.
- Funny people: Sam Michelson from Five Blocks did not disappoint. His title slide said he was going to talk about “Reputation Management for the Mossad.” Turns out he was kidding (though right now they probably could use some rep management). Loved that. Gil Reich from Answers.com was pretty entertaining too (check out his post about the best everything at Sphinncon).
Here’s what I think could be better:
- More useful content from the speakers. I did learn a few new things, but the presentations I heard were nice but kind of fluffy. I got the feeling that the speakers didn’t want to share any really valuable information with the audience.
Check out Barry’s run-down of the event for more details, speaker information, and photos.
Update: I forgot to mention something very important. The last Sphinncon didn’t have any women panelists or speakers, and although I thought the event was great, that bugged me and I wrote about it. For some magical Google reason, if you search for the term Sphinncon Israel, that post is always in the top 10 results. Anyways, this Sphinncon really made up for that with a good number of women panelists. I wouldn’t say it was 50-50, but I think this industry is not 50-50. A quick glance at the crowd certainly seemed to indicate that this is a guy-dominated industry, which is fine, but it was nice to see women represented too. So thanks Barry!
WordPress for social media and SEO
I was on a panel about social media with Vanessa Fox, Debra Askanase and Roi Carthy. I spoke about how to set up WordPress to be the hub of your social media and SEO activity. Here are the main points. The presentation is embedded further on:
- Your internet presence must be based on a hub which is your blog, or website combined with a blog. WordPress is a great platform for creating that blog or website/blog.
- WordPress is great for SEO. Yes, there was recently a kind of “WordPress SEO showdown” between Michael Gray and Robert Rolfe about whether WordPress really is good for SEO. Rolfe says it’s not because the permalinks (URLs) that you can set up are limited and not perfect from an SEO point of view. Gray says that WP is not perfect, but its benefits outweigh the disadvantages.
Sidenote: before I got up to speak Barry told the audience he wanted them to see something. Then he searched for the term Sphinncon Israel in Google and our blog post about Sphinncon Israel two years ago appears on the first page.
- Social media should be used in conjunction with SEO, and vice versa. If you use the tactics of one without the other, you are missing out on a lot of untapped internet goodness like more keyword opportunities, diverse traffic streams, link building, long tail keywords, etc.
- Some good tools for integrating social media are Chat Catcher that aggregates all the conversation taking place about a post and publishing that conversation as comments on your blog; facebook fan box and facebook connect; flickr galleries, YouTube galleries; LinkedIn TypePad application called BlogLink for displaying an RSS feed on your LinkedIn profile – this app is better than the WordPress one because the WP one is limited to one WP rss feed while the TypePad app allows you to pull in any RSS feed.
- Track your feed subscriber stats with Feedburner. Make sure that auto-detect for feeds will find your feedburner feed URL, not the built-in WordPress feed URL. Can use a plugin, htaccess, or hard-code the header.php file.
- Don’t forget about email. Use RSS-to-email service to make your life easier. Feedburner is free but you can’t brand your mailings or add people to the list; MailChimp allows you to brand your mailings and add people to your mailing list, gives you more control.
- Track how you’re doing socially with the following tools: bit.ly for tracking how many people clicked on tiny URLs you posted on twitter etc.; tweetmeme; Topsy (check out the Topsy page for Sphinncon); PostRank
- Hootsuite allows you to fire and forget the sharing of your blog RSS feed with your various twitter profiles, facebook profile, facebook fan page, and LinkedIn.
- Don’t leave the growing mobile user demographic out in the cold: easily make a mobile version of your WordPress site with the WPtouch plugin.
- WordPress is itself a social network thanks to BuddyPress which allows you to create a social network on the WP platform. The most recent version of BuddyPress can be used on a single installation of WordPress, as opposed to only being compatible with WPMU (multi-user WordPress).
- WordPress and SEO – WordPress makes it easy to implement a lot of the SEO basics, like rel=canonical meta tags, redirect all pages to with or without www, add an XML sitemap. The All in One SEO Pack plugin helps you manage page and post title structure site-wide, control meta-descriptions, no-follow areas of the site like categories, and more. Yoast’s Meta Robots Tag overlaps a bit with All in One SEO, but it offers additional features too.
- Google recently started to display breadcrumbs in search results. Add breadcrumbs to your site with a plugin or by modifing your functions.php file.
- Check for broken links in your site, and correct them on the spot, with the Broken Link Checker WordPress plugin.
- Easily add internal links with SEO Smart Links plugin that allows you to enter a word, and then tell the system that whenever that word appears on the site, it should link to a specific page. There are quite a lot more plugins that I mention, but why not view them yourself in the presentation embedded below.
- Optimize your site for speed – the speed with which a page loads is apparently considered for its ranking. Therefore, you need to speed up your pages. Check out the presentation for some ways how.
- You also need to secure your WordPress site against hackers. Some ideas for that are in the presentation too.
Ironically, even though I mention all the plugins above, if you really want to promote your site online, it shouldn’t be running too many plugins since that can seriously slow the site down. Many of the plugins I mentioned can be run briefly to accomplish something, and then deactivated once you don’t need them to do their deed anymore.
Here’s the presentation:
I know this is way overdue, but I actually have to work sometimes. So apologies.I already wrote a general overview of SphinnCon Israel. The next four posts will cover the sessions, and the information that I thought was most interesting and useful.
Barry Schwartz from Rusty Brick and Search Engine Roundtable kicked off the event with an introductory presentation. He explained that he was here for his nephew’s bar mitzvah, and the event was planned around that. So a big thanks to his nephew for being born 13 years ago. Also, as I mentioned in my previous post on SphinnCon Israel, he is hoping to hold a much bigger event, on the scale of SMX, in Tel Aviv.
Here is a summary of Barry’s introduction. Scroll down to see it in video:
Google’s secret for good SEO: good content
As I mentioned in my previous post, an Israeli Google representative in Dublin sent a little video to us to wish us luck at the conference. He gave us the official Google “secret” for getting good search engine results
- Good content
- Use Google Webmaster Tools to make sure your site is running properly.
The people on the panels seemed to think there’s a bit more one can do to rank better in the SERPs.
Paid Text Links
Matt Cutts went on record for the first time in September 2005 saying that he doesn’t like text links. In October 2006, he warned about a possible penalty for text links. The penalty came in Oct. 2007, when many bloggers and sites saw their PageRank drop.
Barry said that the Google toolbar shows a different page rank than Google actually uses in their algorithms. So it’s possible that you see a public PageRank of 4, but in fact your value according to Google may be higher or lower. So in fact, we could just ignore PageRank, and go along doing our best to build up our sites with good content.
PPC and Adwords
PPC is seeing steady inflation. The cost per keyword increased 25% over the past six months. Why?
- Click fraud, which is increasing. Click fraud in content networks is higher.
- More competition, which means more people don’t know what they’re doing and are bidding too high.
- General economic factors – things cost more.
- New PPC algorithms
Barry spoke a bit about things going viral, and said that the first ever viral success was the The Hamster Dance, a little video of dancing hamsters that was sent around via email. This brought to mind the most watched video on YouTube: The Evolution of Dance, which currently has been viewed over 74 million times. I think these two examples of what humans are attracted to is an interesting (worrying?) commentary on human nature.
That’s all for now. I hope I’ll get the next part up next week. Here are the videos:
And…The Evolution of Dance (I couldn’t resist)
As I wrote a few days ago, SphinnCon came to Israel this week on February 5 in the form of SphinnCon Israel. It turns out that this wasn’t only the first SphinnCon in Israel, but it was the first SphinnCon ever! So, this is yet another example of a first for Israel, kind of like how the first WordPress conference, WordCamp, to take place outside of the US took place in Israel.
I took extensive notes at each session, which I had planned to live-blog but couldn’t due to a minor technical difficulty: no wireless internet. I will post the summaries over the next few days, but in the meantime, here is a summary of the entire event, and some related links:
Sphinn is pronounced Spin
One of the most important lessons from this conference was that Sphinn is actually not pronounced Sfin, but Spin. Go figure.
Google sent greeting video from Dublin
After Barry Schwartz’s introductions, we got to see a video sent specially to us from Google in Dublin. Alon, the Google rep in the video, tells us how excited he is that SphinnCon has come to Israel, and he gave us an SEO tip straight from the Google guidebook: write good content. I can see how that tip is in Google’s interest, since they would love the web to be a big database of useful information that users are searching for, but after this conference it seems that there are a few other things you can do to promote your site too.
Anyways, here’s the video (Hebrew):
The food was delicious
I don’t know who the caterer was, but the food was great and plentiful. Did I hear you scoff? Food is important, excuse me.
This was a test event for something bigger next year
SphinnCon Israel was an attempt to test the waters to get an idea of the potential interest in a bigger SEO conference on the scale of SMX next year in Tel Aviv. From what I could see and from what the organizers told me, SphinnCon Israel was a huge success. The registration for the 165 spots quickly filled up, and they added another 15 seats, and were still getting requests from people to join! They barely advertised, and yet word-of-mouth spread the news quite quickly and widely.
In addition, the event succeeded despite the fact that it took place in Jerusalem. Don’t get me wrong – I love Jerusalem. But most technology-related events take place in Tel Aviv, which is the heart of Israel’s hi-tech sector. Tel Avivians aren’t big fans of coming to Jerusalem, and yet they came in droves, and more would have come if there had been room.
So hopefully this all means that we can look forward to a really great event next year!
The panels were excellent
There were three panels:
- SEO Panel: Paid Links & Penalties
- PPC Panel: Will the PPC Model Hold Up as Click Prices Rise?
- Social Panel: Should You Social?
I thought that the panels were done really well. Each panel began with a short presentation by one panelist, and then the rest of the session was made up of Q&A. This was a great format since it kept people’s attention, and ensured that the audience learned about issues that really interested them. I learned a lot, and the panels helped me take my jumble of knowledge on SEO and make some order of it, which I appreciated.
I didn’t go to the After Hours Party in Tel Aviv, but I’m sure it was nice too.
We got free t-shirts that said “The First SphinnCon Evar”
Yes, “Evar.” I think someone forgot to do a spell-check.
There were women in the audience…
Yes, the “no women on the panels” issue again. The organizers explained to me that they really tried to get women on the panels. I really don’t blame them for this. It seems to be a global problem: Jeremiah Owyang wrote about it recently on his blog, and the comments reflect the depth of the problem. See, for example, Lena West who says:
I simply DO NOT BUY the story that conference organizers give when they say there are no women available. I know how the game works. These â€˜organizersâ€™ ask the other speakers for recommendations and men refer other men. Thatâ€™s the deal. I just spoke at an event in Miami and I recommended three of the speakers. Heck, it makes a very busy job easier to just go on recommendationsâ€¦why wouldnâ€™t they?
Ok, nuf about that.
Related Links and Resources:
These links will help you get a picture of what the conference was like:
Panel Presentations (available for download in PDF format on the SphinnCon Israel page)
SphinnCon Israel 2008 Recap – this post has links to most of the blogs that wrote about the conference, and most of the flickr photos.
British Yosef’s photos (really professional)
Jerusalem College of Technology
The event organizers:
Third Door Media
Videos (from YBO Interactive):
(Top photo from British Yosef’s photos.)
SphinnCon Israel is sold out! SphinnCon Israel is a SphinnCon networking event focused on search and internet marketing, and is taking place this coming Tuesday, February 5 at the Jerusalem College of Technology (also known as Machon Lev). This event is exciting thanks to the incredible lineup, with representatives from well-known international companies like Google, TechCrunch, Kenshoo and Yedda (see my previous interview with Yedda’s Lior Haner, who will be speaking at the conference), and thanks to the location: Jerusalem! For once I don’t have to schlep to Tel Aviv for a great event, and I am thrilled.
There are also some really interesting reps from lesser-known but really professional Israeli companies: Tzvika Avnery will be there from Tagadam; Tzvika is a pro in the social media sphere and his company develops apps for social networks, among other things. Eli Feldblum from RankAbove will be there too; Eli is actually pretty well-known in the SEO world for his expertise, and his company services clients from all over the world. I’m mentioning these guys because I know them, but I hope I’ll get to meet the others on the panels too.
The main guy behind the whole thing is Barry Schwartz, the Executive Editor at Search Engine Roundtable, and President of RustyBrick, “a Web services firm specializing in customized online technology that helps companies decrease costs and increase sales.”
Here is the speaker list as from Barry’s latest post on the event at Search Engine Roundtable:
Here’s what’s not cool: not a woman in sight on the speaker list. Not one. It’s a celebration of testosterone. I’m not against testosterone, but it would be nice if it was toned down a bit by at least one representative from the other 51% of the human race. And it’s not like there aren’t impressive women in the industry: how about Tamar Weinberg, who works at Rusty Brick and writes the amazing Techipedia blog? Or Tzvika Avnery’s partner at Tagadam, Orly Izhaki, who has a really impressive background in web-related ventures, and writes at smo.co.il (Hebrew)? Don’t tell me they were unavailable as an excuse. I’m sure there’s at least one woman in the web industry who could have been available.
Anyways, I’m really looking forward to this event, and I’ll hopefully fill you all in on how it goes. If they have internet access, I may even Twitter and live-blog the event like a good lil’ social media geek should.