5 Ways to Build Links at an SEO Conference
Posted by jennita
This week I pretty much have two things on my mind: beta launch and conferences. Since Rand will be covering the beta launch later today (wheeeeee) I thought I’d focus on the conferences. Along with preparing for our own PRO Seminar later this month, we’ve been discussing the various conferences we’ll be attending and speaking at over the next few months. Personally I’m getting excited for SES San Francisco next week. With the change of venue and being a part of Connected Marketing Week it’s going to be a great event. It also got me thinking about how attendees and speakers can use going to the conference as a link building exercise.
Anyone can easily acquire a few links by sponsoring the event, but I wanted to come up with some creative ways to gain links without actually paying anything. Ok, well without paying for anything more than the cost of attending the event. Let’s get started!
1. Speak at the event
Speaking on a panel is one of the easiest ways to get a link directly from a conference. Unfortunately it’s also probably the most difficult for most people. Not everyone gets excited about standing up in front of a room full of fellow internet marketers and speaking. But if you’re the type who loves what you do, has great advice, experience and/or examples on a specific topic and doesn’t mind speaking in public, then it’s time to get rolling! There are tons of conferences (seminars, trainings, etc.) from big to small, international to local that you could speak at. Find the one that’s right for you and reap the rewards from the links.
Ok, so where do the links come from? First, you’ll normally get a link from the actual conference itself where they list their speakers. You’ll also get links from people who write about the session you speak on. For example, Lisa Barone always links to the speaker’s website in her liveblogging coverage. Here’s one of many examples.
Simply by speaking at the event puts your name and company out there to the masses and gives them a reason to write about you. But perhaps speaking isn’t your calling, let’s see where else you can gain a link or two.
2. Liveblog or Livetweet
There are a number of benefits of live blogging, such as adding great content to your site and hopefully increasing your SEO value. But don’t forget that many conferences will link to liveblog coverage of their event. Booyah! Now… don’t get me wrong, live blogging is NOT easy. It can be a gruesome task where you spend the entire day typing, making sure you catch as much of the sessions as absolutely possible and still find time to eat and use the restroom. I personally attempted it once, but we can all see how well that went over (hint: I haven’t done it again). Hats off to all those amazing livebloggers out there who do it time and time again at all the major conferences!
Some of the amazing livebloggers you’ll see at conferences: Lisa Barone, Richard Baxter, Barry Schwartz, Virginia Nussey
If you’re new to liveblogging or tweeting you might want to start small like with a local meetup. With a smaller venue, liveblogging isn’t such a daunting task if you only have one or two sessions and speakers to cover. Plus not as many people are covering the small events, so the competition isn’t fierce.
Another alternative to liveblogging is livetweeting. While you’ll probably only get links to your Twitter account via retweets and Twitter roundup posts, you will probably get more followers who could in turn link to you at some point. Ok, so this may not be a direct link, but the idea of a future link is good enough for me.
In both liveblogging and tweeting, you have to be able to type and type quickly. If that isn’t your thing, and you just like to attend the conference, take notes and learn in your own way, there’s another tip that will earn you a few links. Bring bloggers food, drinks, a power cord, whatever! If you see that a liveblogger tweets about being thirsty, bring him/her a bottle of water. How much do you want to bet that you’ll get a link in that post (or maybe from Twitter) from that blogger? I’d say that’s a high likelihood.
In general if you bring someone of the Linkerati something nice, you might get a link out of it. Last year I roomed with Keri Morgret at SES San Jose and she brought triple chocolate muffins to the room!! Now if that doesn’t deserve a link from SEOmoz, I don’t know what does. Just sayin.
3. Take Photos and/or Video
This is a super fun way to not only get some sweet links but think about how many people you’ll meet. It’s the easiest way to network at a conference because pretty much all SEOs want their photo taken. But the key is, after you take the photos, be sure to publish them! Write a post and link to the people in the pictures or post them on your Facebook page and get more "likes" to your page.
Dana Lookadoo is probably THE BEST at taking great photos throughout the conference and then publishing them right away. She’s received several links from the SEOmoz blog for taking photos we used and then linked back to her. In fact, all the photos of the livebloggers from above Dana, took at various conferences (thanks for the great photos again!).
4. Get involved!
Whether the conference is large like an SMX or just a small meetup, everyone loves volunteers to help. This is also a great tip to getting a free pass to an event. Sure you have to put in a little work and help out, but in the end you’ll learn a lot and will probably get a link or a thank you on Twitter. Earlier this year I helped Michelle Robbins at SMX West and got a great thank you from her after the fact via Twitter.
Just think of the possibilities here. If you can donate a little of your time, you can easily get a link or two out of it.
5. Do something crazy
Seriously, not even kidding here. If you do something out there, something a little different than the norm that people can get excited about, then they’re going to write about it! Off the top of my head I can think of three different instances at conferences where people did things just a bit crazy, and the story went completely viral! I’m talking shaving your head, winning a pony and bigwatah. I won’t go into all the details about these events but let’s quickly look at a few Google searches.
A search for "bigwatah" shows 4 posts talking about the event that happened at SMX East in 2008 plus tons of photos. Then a search for "evan fishkin shave head" (tee hee hee) shows at least 10 posts and 3 videos of Matt Cutts shaving Evan Fishkins head at Pubcon 2009.
That’s just the tip of the iceburg. I’m pretty sure much crazier things have and could happen. As long as you don’t hurt anyone in the process, I say get a little crazy!
Whew! That’s a lot of linkbuilding that can happen in just a couple days time. As you head out to a conference this summer or fall, think about ways to not only gain knowledge but also to create a few backlinks. Remember that many of the people who will link to you who are at a conference are probably SEOs themselves. Which means they probably (not always, but probably) have a fairly decent authority site to send you some juicy links (dang. did I just say "juicy links" I hate when people say that). I’d love to hear some of your ideas or ways you’ve been able to build a link or two while attending a conference.