Each month we invite the community to visit our office and learn about SEO. This month we had two excellent presentations: Patty Ryan spoke about Twitter marketing and Chris Le showed us how to scrape the web with Google Docs. In addition to hosting the event at our office, we also stream it online for visitors outside the area. The content was both interesting and easy to understand, as it should be. But there were other lessons to be learned along the way.

(Presentations will be added soon, until then check out Chris Le’s new Google Doc scraper tool ImportXML2: http://www.chrisle.me/importxml2/). Grab the RSS feed for updates.

Things I need to do better

We had roughly 30 people show up for the meetup; more than we had at the previous events. That’s awesome, but it also reveals my first mistake: I don’t know exactly how many people attended or how many were not WebiMax employees. It might be a little difficult to follow up with each attendee if I don’t know who they all are. We have a Meetup.com page for the event, but not all of the registered members who said they would attend did.  ¯_(ツ)_/¯

We had a sign-in sheet, but I didn’t notice that the email field was missing until it was too late. And no one was declared the official “greeter; sign people in and make them feel welcome” person. Time to take some notes. Boy am I glad that I created that Meetup.com page or else I wouldn’t be able to follow up or get feedback. $72 well-spent.

Those who couldn’t make it to our office due to traffic or because the U.K. is across the Atlantic could watch the presentations and ask questions live via Webex. Awesome, we could have up to 1,000 “virtual attendees”! We had 8. There were a lot more viewers online the previous month probably due to the following:

  • Less internal promotion
  • Less email promotion
  • Less social media advertising
  • Lack of visibility of the “watch online” link on the meetup page

During the presentation we had some social media promotion, but not nearly enough. Ironic considering the first presentation was on Twitter marketing.

Wawa on TwitterWhile eating lunch today I was thinking about how we could improve our social visibility during the meetup. I looked down at my delicious Wawa turkey bowl and decided to send them a message on Twitter for no real reason: Man, I love you @wawa and attached the glorious image below. (Follow me @chriscountey)

It was humorous at the time, but totally honest. What I didn’t expect took me completely by surprise. Not only did Wawa start following me on Twitter, but they sent me a DM as well:

Wawa Twitter DM

Automated or not, well done Wawa social media people. Well done. I’ll definitely keep this in mind when putting together my to-do list for the next meetup.

What I applied from my previous meetup

Ever been to a professional event where the presenter points or twirls their finger at someone sitting at a computer indicating that it’s time to change slides? Of course not! Well, that’s how our 2nd Agile SEO meetup went. And that’s OK for a meetup, but I want it to become something more. So this time I sprung for a fancy-schmancy remote PowerPoint clicker. It was well-worth the $50 to watch the presenters seamlessly glide through their slides like the magical SEOs they are.

In hopes of drawing a larger crowd from our office I changed the time to 6PM from 7. I definitely noticed an increase of my coworkers at this event compared to the last. Score!

So far our meetups haven’t been perfect. But they are getting better. Like other things in SEO, you’re never done; constantly improve or fall behind.

SEO Meetup To-do List

  • Sign up for a Meetup.com page and brand it
  • Wait to announce your meetup until you have everything set, including speakers, topics and a location
  • If you have a way to stream it live, promote that URL early and often
  • Include your staff and your existing clients in your promotional materials
  • Encourage your staff to speak; speakers at events such as SMX attend for free
  • Leverage social media to promote the event. Promote your presenters during the event and tease the next event after
  • Invite friends from other meetup groups
  • Invite local businesses offline
  • Get a fancy PowerPoint clicker thing
  • Create signs and provide hints if your location is hard-to-find
  • Have a greeter who can thank each attendee and capture important information
  • Thank your attendees before and after your event
  • Write a follow up post
  • Promote the speakers and their presentations (it will show them you appreciate their time and encourage others to speak next time)

Please join our meetup group and stay tuned for November’s Agile SEO event!

Networking is awesome.

Our first meetup, Agile SEO South Jersey, was amazing. Richard Ortiz and Bruce Rymshaw gave great presentations, both belting out actionable insights over the noisy bar crowd. This was the first public speaking opportunity about SEO for both Rich and Bruce, and they nailed it.

Everyone I met at Agile SEO, regardless of experience or background, was there because they wanted to learn more about SEO and make sense of all that’s happened this year. I heard engaging conversations at each table and I couldn’t have been happier to see real and unique ideas being shared. Thank you to everyone who attended!

The time to change your link building strategy is now.

Rich’s presentation on post-Penguin link building explained why you need to change your attitude about how you get links. Some link building methods that were formerly just ineffective can now actually harm your website’s chances to rank. If you can build links to your website in bulk, they probably aren’t very good links. If you can automate your link building, those links may be hurting your website’s reputation.

The best links are the ones you don’t build.

Doing things that matter, creating resources and becoming an expert can all lead to natural links. Not everything you do has to be newsworthy, but every piece of content you create should have your audience in mind, and Google is not your audience. Penguin and other updates reinforce the fact that Google is learning and will continue to get smarter.

Content is an experience.

The days of web content just being text in a HTML document are long gone. Google doesn’t just see keywords. It sees relationships, ideas, interactions and design. While text is still important for both readers and search engines, people want more. They want to be engaged and they want websites that tell stories, with words, videos and interactivity.

Bruce’s presentation speaks to this need and how businesses that haven’t yet included alternative content in their online marketing strategies have already fallen behind. But it’s not too late and it’s not something that only big businesses can manage.

Wrapping Up

I explained (more like yelled) why I chose Agile SEO as the name of our monthly meetup. Without getting into specifics of agile marketing, I had been trying to create a meetup for several months. But not just a meetup, the perfect event. In seeking perfection, I lost sight of my objective and I just couldn’t get it done. I would never get it perfect. Finally, I decided to just do it.

The meetup was created and scheduled that day. It wasn’t perfect, but that’s OK.

Update: Check out this awesome Whiteboard Friday at SEOmoz to learn more about agile marketing from Jonathon Colman.