What I Learned Organizing The Most Successful SEO Meetup in the United States

"Safe is Risky" cartoon | Tom Fishburne: Marketoonist In the winter of 2008 I was on the verge of getting fired from my job as a web developer at McClatchy Digital. The entire newspaper industry had fallen through a hole in the floor and people were being laid off left and right.

Even though I was a low-level web developer, I could see the writing on the wall even if the brain-trust out at the corporate offices in Sacramento was still convinced everything would bounce back in a few months.

Building A Network

I decided to start getting out more in an attempt to build a network in preparation for the day the axe fell. My first step was to attend a very small local Meetup group run by Ashley Berman Hale organized around the concept of sharing SEO knowledge. I showed up to a small conference room with about 10 people talking about SEO and eating homemade baked goods.

Lesson 1: Be a good host

Ashley Berman Hale

Ashley Berman Hale

Within a couple of months Ashley convinced me to help her. Ashley was a great SEO, but I learned more about how to be a great host and organizer than SEO. Ashley was one of my early mentors in my move from invisible web developer to where I am today. Thanks Ashley!

When Ashley moved out to Colorado in 2011 she handed the reins over to me.

Lesson 2: Always stay late

Most new attendees to the Meetup tend to leave as it’s wrapping up. The smart ones stay and make new connections. Half of the time, a bunch of us will go grab coffee or a beer after the event and talk about everything under the sun. Those friendships always have a positive ROI.

Lesson 3: Humility

You are not the smartest person in the world. I remember talking to one of the attendees who had attended the Meetup one evening and he was talking about stuff so far over my head I though he was crazy. It turned out to be Michael Marshall, who tragically just died of a massive heart attack. Mike was a technical SEO genius, but he spoke to me as an equal, which only made me feel even more like a third grader.

Sponsorships

Raleigh SEO sponsorsThe SEO Meetup is billed every six months. While I was working at Media Two Interactive they sponsored the Meetup by paying those fees. When I moved on, I emailed the group to see if anyone else wanted to sponsor us. Much to my surprise about 5 companies were interested… lightbulb!

We now have multiple tiers of exposure for the companies that want to be associated with the SEO Meetup. For the past year Adapt Partners has been our Gold Level Sponsor.

Lesson 4: Free Forever

The goal of the SEO Meetup has always been to preach the gospel of SEO. Teaching businesses and people the basics so they don’t get taken by a snake-oil salesman and also explaining to site owners what the future may hold for them in the ever shifting sands of the web.

When we could no longer fit our monthly crowd into the local venues, I had to bite the bullet and start paying for a conference space at NC State. We’re lucky that Authority Labs has been an on-going sponsor for half of the $500/month tab.

Google Hangouts on Air

For about the last year we’ve been live streaming our events using Google Hangouts on Air. What started as an experiment is now a really interesting part of our strategy. Now we can ask experts from anywhere to present to the group without ever having to leave their office!

Lesson 5: If you make it easy, almost anyone will help

AJ Kohn

AJ Kohn on the big screen

We’ve had two particularly spectacular sessions where people from far away presented. One was when AJ Kohn joined us from California and David Amerland joined from England to talk about structured data and the new connected web.

A few months earlier, Joe Hall and John Doherty spent two hour explaining in great detail exactly where Google is headed in the coming year. That’s major conference type of stuff, and these guys are giving it away for free – mostly because we’ve been able to make it so easy for them.

Lesson 6: 1/3 Won’t Show

Free is a great business plan to attract a wide and diverse audience, but it also means people have nothing to lose by signing up then not showing. We use the 1/3 of people won’t show up rule of thumb and it’s been pretty accurate to this point.

Lesson 7: Be Consistent

We have been running this meetup once a month for the past 6 years. We may move the date a little bit, but people know that every single month there will be an SEO Meetup in Raleigh. Having that schedule makes it easy for people to recommend it to their friends.

Raleigh SEO Meetup WordPress crowd

Support

Lesson 8: You’re going to have technical problems

The more you rely on tech, the more likely it is to fail. Even though we have been streaming the hangout every month for a year, we still struggle with it a bit before each session. That is one of the main reasons we love being at NC State, they have a tech support team that comes and always helps get us back on track quickly.

Lesson 9: Get Help

When Ashley first asked me to help her, I thought, “How hard can it be?”. It’s harder than you think. For the hangout part, Frank Jones has been a life saver.

Lesson 10: Relax

You can’t control everything. Sometimes, no matter how much planning you’ve done, things beyond your control are going to happen. You can’t be a perfectionist and still get things done. Do the best you can, and then try to do your best again the following month.

How I Shaved 10 Seconds Off Page Load Time

Turbo-Snail-icon

Do you wish your site loaded quicker? We all want our site to load as quick as possible for our users convenience and to keep Googlebot happy. My friend Janet's new site was dead slow when she asked me to take a look. Here's how I spent about a … [Continue reading]

Lean E-Commerce in 2014

ecommerce at the beach

Have you been thinking that you should move your business online and start selling globally? Unless you are offering something spectacular or something dirt cheap, you should proceed with caution. … [Continue reading]

You Installed WordPress, Now What?

Learning WordPress can be frustrating

If you're the type of person who feels like you've been working hard on your WordPress powered blog, but not getting the results you desire, this is for you. I wrote up a checklist for a client yesterday and thought it was worth sharing with … [Continue reading]

A product so boring no one will care

ferris-bueller-ferrari

"My product is so boring that I can't create compelling content around it." You don't have to talk about the concept of content marketing for very long before you run headlong into this statement. It's usually someone who has been at the same … [Continue reading]

The Ultimate Website Migration Checklist

Ploughing At Rougham

Groundwork As early as possible gather together the teams that will have an impact on the final site launch. That may include project managers, design team, development team, user experience, copywriters, account executives, network administrators … [Continue reading]

Producing Content When You Don’t Like To Write

stress

Do you have good ideas for blog posts, but no time to write them? What if you could give a writer the title, some simple instructions and get back a well-written blog post that you could make your own? That's where many small businesses are. … [Continue reading]

That’s Our Policy

automaton

We all visit stores sometimes and ask what we think is a simple question yet receive back an unexpected answer. We often follow up with something like, "why is that?" The worst of all possible answers to hear at this point in the conversation is, … [Continue reading]

Cheating vs. Looking for an Advantage vs. Business

Everybody-does-it

While reading Mark Schaefers's The business case for cheating your way to social media superstardom this morning I noticed something. When we cheat it's "gaining an advantage", when others do we say it's "cheating" or "a scam" and sometimes even … [Continue reading]

Are You Still on Facebook?

Facebook inspirational quotes

I try to check Facebook at least once a day, usually on my phone and usually just before heading to bed. I "like" a handful of things and call it a day. I am on Google in some way, shape or form the entire day. GMail, Google search, Google Maps, … [Continue reading]

Holly Springs Chiropractors, Local Results and Negative SEO

Holly Springs Chiropractor search results

A couple of months ago I started working with a chiropractor in Holly Springs, my home town. They wanted to make sure that they were doing everything they could to appear for people searching for their services. The local search box showed 4 … [Continue reading]

Stop Making Excuses

Amanda Palmer's TED talk

If there is one thing that drives me crazy it's all the excuses people make up. Maybe I just notice it more now than I used to, but I'm seeing it everywhere, especially from people in their 20's and early 30's. I don't remember if I was the same way, … [Continue reading]

Don’t Keep Your SEO Partner a Secret

Mike King at LinkLove

I had a long flight out the West Coast this week that gave me some time to think. One thing that popped into my mind is how all of us feel additional pressure when we know someone is watching us. That's why we drive the speed limit when the State … [Continue reading]

What’s Your Role?

John Havlicek

Where are you in the org chart? It's a funny question in 21st century America. Why the hell should it matter? Am I valuable? Can I help you? Growing up in Boston I saw the end of the career of John Havilcek. He is commonly thought of as … [Continue reading]

How do I get on the first page of Google?

1969 Honda N360

In 1970 Honda unleashed the N600 sedan on the American consumer. The car featured front wheel drive and an air-cooled, four stroke, 31 horsepowered two-cylinder engine, which was borrowed from the Honda CB450 motorcycle. Honda didn’t think the … [Continue reading]

css.php