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The Saturday before Affiliate Summit, I attended Sugarrae‘s SEO training, held at the Hilton.
Rae Hoffman-Dolan, aka Sugarrae, is a well-known SEO and Affiliate Marketer. Her SEO training piggy-backed on Affiliate Summit, and was an additional registration fee ($800, when I booked). What was I hoping to get for $800?
- I was hoping to have a new connection with Sugarrae, which I got. If you read her twitter stream, you’ll see Rae likes going off on people, which made her a bit unapproachable (in my eyes). However, once we met in person, she’s really kind and friendly (just don’t tell her I said this).
- I was hoping to make some new connections with the other audience members. One participant was one of my competitors in a niche I’m in, but I feel it’s best to be friends with your competition, so you can compare notes about merchants. When conversions are down, and the merchant says there’s no problem, but all of your competitors also say conversions are down, maybe the merchant will take a second look.
- I was also hoping to get some advice on my sites, which I got when Rae was doing live reviews.
- I was hoping to be told the secret formula to SEO and the magic bullet to rank high and quickly. Guess what? There is none.
I’m not going to get into specifics about what was talked about. There’s a reason this session was additional to the Affiliate Summit pass. But, I’ll share a few things with you:
- Title tag is most important on-site SEO factor
- The blog post title does not have to be the same as the title tag
- robots.txt is powerful when used properly
- Establish a natural link profile
- Reviews = money
My site, reviewed
Rae took one of my niche sites, and gave it a quick SEO-focused review. There were a couple of things I could do (2 pages had the same title tag, junk pages were indexed) but overall, she gave it a thumbs up. I was slightly disappointed that we didn’t get into a discussion about how I build links, but with my competitor sitting behind me, maybe that’s ok.
Did I get what I hoped for, and was this day worth $800?
- I now have a stronger connection with Rae (beyond our mutual love of Tim Hortons). While I’ve emailed her in the past, and received an answer quickly, this day strengthened the relationship. I also got to meet her husband, Sean, and talked with him briefly at lunch one day. He showed up to my whiteboarding session on Monday, which was slightly intimidating, but said he got some useful information out of it.
- I was a bit disappointed in the audience and their knowledge of SEO, and I feel it took away from the session a bit. There were people who paid for a seat that didn’t even know what affiliate marketing was. Since they paid, like the rest of us, Rae had to make sure they were brought up to speed before getting to more complicated topics.
- I was able to get 2 sites reviewed, because I asked a loaded question 🙂 Sorry, but there weren’t a lot of people submitting reviews. I knew of some problems with BuyLegLamps.com, but got some great ideas when Rae pulled it up.
- I reaffirmed that I really do know quite a bit about SEO! When someone like Sugarrae says you’re doing good, then you really are. Since I’m self-taught (like we all are in the SEO area), it’s hard to judge your knowledge vs. everyone else’s. This was brought up with my lengthy discussion with Kim Ann Curtin, which I’ll be writing up soon
Worth $800? Yeah. If you’re serious about SEO, and have $800 now, do it. You’ll make up the cost in a few months with better rankings and better conversions.
Would I do it again? Probably not. (unless the audience steps things up)
It’s definitely worth doing once, but at this point, keep your ear to the ground and keep up with the SEO industry by reading blogs, attending conferences, and making those personal connections.
Hey Eric 🙂
First, thanks for coming – and I’m glad you did get some takeaways from it. I definitely agree with you on the variance of the attendees knowledge. I won’t lie in admitting I was kind of surprised that less than half the room knew what a robots.txt file was – but I was also surprised at having guys in the pharm industry attend a “training” on the flip side if that makes sense. Prior to the training, I’d expected a range of knowledge levels, but not THAT kind of range, LOL.
I now understand some of what conference organizers go through trying to make sure there is something for everyone from beginner to advanced (or what olden day school teachers dealt with having K-12 in one room LOL). I wasn’t sure what to expect as this was my first time doing something like this. I think some things I learned, should I ever decide to do something like this again are:
1. Have a listing of required pre-reading links sent to attendees so that those who know the basic information can skip it and those who don’t can study up.
2. Have a clearer outline of what level the course will be starting at and aiming towards such as “if you don’t know what affiliate marketing is, learn that first by attending the traditional conference, and sign up for an SEO training course on how to do SEO *for* affiliate at a later date.
3. Have one advanced power hour that the newer folks have to be confused through – and tell them that will be the case if they decide to attend. I definitely did that on a few topics (like when I went into the power of robots.txt, I knew much of the room was confused since they had stated they weren’t sure what robots.txt was) – but I also felt obligated at the time to not stay on those topics too long since the majority of the room wasn’t at an advanced level.
It definitely was difficult to teach such a range. Thus why I kept asking if there was anything I hadn’t covered that folks had hoped to see covered hoping anyone that was on one extreme end of the range or the other would speak up.
And it was great meeting you too. 🙂
Great read, and glad you two met as well. I unfortunately missed out due to my sister planning her wedding right before ASE, and although I do not hate her for it, I was disappointed. Because this was the first time this kind of thing was held it is def due to be tweaked in the future. In my opinion as more people make their way into the industry there will be extreme value in both a high level, and overview type SEO course. The problem as was made clear in this case is when the two mix. I like the suggestions given here and I doubt anyone would have the voice to do a 2 part / 2 day course; one on a more basic level and one on a higher level. My suggestion is that if this happens again in the future possibly have the two run simultaneously. Have one person deliver a more basic course but still grind through a ton of topics in a day while the other person can deliver a higher level course. Maybe even a husband and wife can do it. Just a suggestion, and personally I hope this does happen again in the future.
Hey guys – I enjoy reading both of your blogs and twitter streams. I like the idea of employing Robots.txt more extensively. Here’s a question – what the heck is a “natural link profile” ?
If all of your backlinks have the same anchor text, it looks fishy. Sometimes a backlink with anchor text “click here” is needed. Also, refers to reciprocal links vs. one-way, footer links, blog-roll links… keeping a natural-looking list of incoming links
Sounds like it was a great session, thanks for sharing your thoughts about it.
By the way if you or your readers interested in SEO don’t already follow seomoz or receive SearchEngineLands “The Day in Search” newsletter – I would highly recommend it.
Great post Eric. I’m on the same page with you about the SEO training class. I also enjoyed it and learned some great SEO tips. I’m also glad I got to meet Rae and Sean. I guess I know quite a bit of SEO also! But it’s hard to know until you see that one of the industry experts does things very much the way you do. The class was definitely worth it.