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More details on PubCon Boston 2006

When I posted the 19 things I learned at PubCon Boston 2006, I said I’d provide some more detail so here it is.
This was my first PubCon and I feel like it was money and time well spent. The sessions were very informative and it was great to meet people and make new contacts.
Here are a few of the items I wanted to explain further:

1. Not everyone that’s online has a technical background. Don’t act like they do. – I was reminded of this point during Malcom Gladwell’s Keynote presentation. He had a few very interesting stories to tell. In one, he related how he recently was shopping for a laptop and found that in computer stores, they have rows of laptops each with their own little specification sheet (RAM, disk, CPU, etc…) He said he doesn’t understand any of that so he just calls his brother to ask which laptop he should buy. After answering a few questions, his brother makes a recommendation and Malcom goes out and buys the recommended model. This was contrasted against Apple’s iPod with the simple choice they offer, “do you want the big one or the small one?” The iPod is marketed as a fashion accessory and isn’t marketed by CPU, operating system or things like that. As I recall, the only specification I’ve only heard regarding iPods is the storage size. It was enlightening to keep this in perspective as I work on my own marketing campaigns.

4. It is necessary to have external links to your site’s pages (from related sites with high-quality content.) – I’m relatively new to SEO and came to the realization that on-page optimization, or tweaking the content of your pages has little influence on SE rankings compared to off-page optimizations. These off page optimizations are primarily external links into your website. The value of these links is determined by the quality of the page they come from and how well it relates to your content as well as a few other factors.

5. Always be split testing improvements to your pages. – If you’re not constantly working to improve your sites, you’re sites are becoming stale. It isn’t difficult (especially w/php) to setup a simple split test to check minor changes to your pages. In some of my testing, I’ve found that small layout changes could increase my conversion rate by 1/2%.

6. Make your pages W3C compliant. – All of the search engines will be able to index your site more easily if it is W3C compliant. When I make pages, I usually run them through the W3C validator and usually find that I forgot to close a tag here or there. Many of these errors won’t come up when you’re looking at a page in your browser since most browsers do a pretty good job of handling them.

7. Submit sites to Google Sitemaps. – This was pounded into our heads during at least two sessions. Google Sitemaps is a method for Google to communicate to you when their crawler has trouble indexing your website. It also lets you send information about your pages to Google, such as the last time a page was updated.

11. “Better late than lousy” – I can’t remember who said it, but I’ve seen too many projects get rushed out the door and released to the public before they’re really ready. It is better to put off releasing a sub-par product or site temporarily so that it can be most effective. You only have one chance to make a first impression. You’ll probably scare people away and they’ll never come back if you release a lousy product.

16. “Create pages for users, not search engines” – This has been repeated over and over, mostly by the representatives of search engines. Search engines want to help users find quality content. They want websites to be created with the end user in mind, not ranking well according to the latest algorithm.

There were so many things that I learned at this WebmasterWorld conference. I encourage anyone who has anything to do with selling things online to attend the next one (November, in Vegas.)