The BlogPaws 2013 pet conference had a wide range of talks and sessions. There were 3 separate categories of talks that were given: Beginner, Intermediate, and Pro in which you could attend. These accommodated the different skill levels and needs of different BlogPaws attendees and you were allowed to jump around to different session as you saw fit. In addition there were was a “Be the Change for Pets” set of talks, Special Topics, and Law sessions available as well.
For the most part we decided that the Pro sessions were the best ones to go to. These seemed to be the most useful for what I wanted to get out of BlogPaws and the theater room, where the talks were being held, was much more comfortable compared to where the rooms the other sessions were being held in. You had a table and could set down your laptop or notebook to take notes and write down anything you found useful. The seats were also a lot more comfortable and were spaced apart which was great since we had Cody and Sierra.
Anyway, here is what I thought of the different Pro BlogPaws sessions I attended.
Intro to Google Analytics
On the first day I decided to go attend “Intro to Google Analytics.” Even though I familiar with Google Analytics, the capabilities and customization options I thought I could learn something since the session was being taught be Blerina Sanocki, a Senior Account Manager from Google. Who better to learn something Google Analytics from than Google?
I got into the session a little late and it was packed. I had to stand in the back with Cody since the all the seats in the room were taken. It was quite a popular session as they were others standing in the room as well. As the session continued for about 15 minutes I was a little bit bored since Blerina Sanocki was just going over the basics of what Google Analytics offers and how you can use it.
I was getting a little bored until she mentioned Kaushik.net, run by Avinash Kaushik, which is a site all about utilizing data and web analytics. Since I have never heard of the blog I decided to check it out. Some of the articles and posts are quite useful and have started to make me think a little differently about how to analyze web data to my advantage.
So I got something out of “Intro to Google Analytics” but not quite as must as I would have hoped for. If you were a beginner I assume the session was useful.
Anatomy of a Video
Kenn Bell lead this session on how to format and construct videos so they have a story arc, convey a message, and generally come out more professional. He used examples from his own Dog Files episodes and showed a short documentary he did of 9/11 dogs (meaning dogs that went into the debris and rubble to search for people) which was quite moving.
He talked a little about equipment and how easy it is nowadays with inexpensive camcorders that can shoot in Full 1080 high definition (HD) available on the market now. (Sony showcased some of their newest camera models at BlogPaws by the way.)
Bell showed people how to conduct on camera interviews with Tom Collins, one of the co-founders of BlogPaws, which I found interesting and useful. He mentioned that the interview wasn't supposed to be a 60 Minutes hard hitting journalist type of expose but should be casual interview. The objective was to get info from Tom and not put him on the spot. Kenn said it was fine to ask the interviewee to elaborate, ask for more details, and shape the direction of the conversation. This was useful for me to see and observe as I it's good to know how to interview people properly in different situations.
My only complaint was that I wish Kenn Bell talked more about the technical aspects of making videos. Such as what would be good free video editing software and resources for learning to use them.
I thought it was a useful session and would definitely like to see more video content creation sessions at next year's BlogPaws. Video is big nowadays and I think a lot of bloggers are interested in learning how to make videos.
Note: I got to this session late because of “Intro to Google Analytics” but was filled in by Mom and Sierra who were in attendance.
So You Want to Write a Book Proposal
This session was Fantastic! Darlene Arden was a lot of fun and offered insightful tips and advice for those who want to get a book published. She didn't pull any punches, was straightforward, and was quite honest about how the publishing industry works (or doesn't). Darlene gave us great advice and said quite frankly, “You want a lawyer that will eat their own kids!” since publishing house can screw you over.
It was good to hear from an established author the realities of the industry since it ain't easy. Her slides were not that well done and were a bit hard to see though. I am sure that could be fixed easily if she had some help for next year. Also I would have liked the session to be longer to her talk about getting an agent, which is an important factor.
BlogPaws should definitely have Darlene Arden back again next year and I will attend any of her sessions again, happily.
SEO: Getting Ahead in Search
Matt Beswick hosted this session to a packed crowd. Clearly showing that SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is something a lot of people want to learn about. Despite the fact that a lot of focus nowadays is on social media marketing and tactics.
Matt gave a nice concise talk and his slides were well prepared. I learned about two sweet SEO tools from this talk actually. The first is a site called UberSuggest.org which shows you what keywords Google will automatically suggest when typing in certain keywords. Technically the Google Keyword Tool will show you suggestions for other similar keywords but the nice thing about Ubersuggest is that you can select different verticals such as Video, News, Images, etc. (It will not show monthly searches but you can import lists.) The second one is the Schema Markup Plugin that can be used for adding additional information, such as reviews and ratings, to your content in Google searches. Just like apps, there is a WordPress plugin for everything. (I don't remember if he actually mentioned the plugin but he posted the URL where I found the plugin.)
Matt demonstrated how he used oDesk to help gather information contact info for sites for sites that he might be interested in getting a link from. Never really occurred to me to do this and since a lot of people on oDesk are from low-wage countries you don't need to spend a lot to do it. It also give you valuable data quickly and easily while you can spend your time doing other things.
One topic in the session was the growing importance of Google Authorship and Author Rank. I 100% agreed with this and felt validated that I got on the Google+ bandwagon early. Since a lot of people at BlogPaws were professional bloggers I was a bit surprised that most were not aware of Google Authorship or assume Google+ is going away. If you have a blog or doing writing online you NEED to start using authorship and therefore Google+.
There were also other topics covered during the talk such as the power of relationships, building cool content, and fixing orphaned (dead) links.
Since I am pretty familiar with SEO techniques and terms the talk made sense to me. If you didn't have basic SEO knowledge and skills I am pretty sure you were lost but I obviously don't know what other people were thinking. I still got a lot out of the talk and the information was presently in an easy to understand, concise, and clear way.
Matt Beswick did make the presentation available online on Slideshare for people to review by the way.
I'm Building a Blog: Do I Need to Form a Company?
Wondering if you should form a business entity around you blogging empire? Then this was the session you should have attended at BlogPaws. Lyvonne Brittingham conducted this session and I found it useful since I have thought about forming a Limited Liability Corporation (LLC).
Lyvonne covered forming an LLC and covered a lot of concerns and questions I have had about it. In addition she covered the advantages and disadvantages and what you should be aware of. She also covered sole proprietorships, general partnerships, limited partnerships, limited liability partnerships, and different types of corporations. As well as the different pros and cons with these as well.
I thought Lyvonne prepared the talk well and the presentation slides were clear to understand. In addition she gave handouts with all the slides in the talk. Next to each slide on the paper was lines which enabled you to talk notes easily. I thought this was very smart and it is something I will probably utilize if I ever give a talk at a blog conference.
Forming a business probably isn't something that a lot of bloggers want to think about since it isn't cool and flashy, like the social media talks. I will admit anything to do with law can be a little dry but I found it informative and hope BlogPaws will have a similar session next year. Bloggers need to be ware of legal implication of what they do and how to protect their assets (if you have any!) if they want to take their blog to the next level.
The Professional Product Review
Rebecca Pollard, a Pet360 marketing specialist and blogger, moderated this panel discussion with:
- Rose Hamilton – Chief Markeing Officer of Pet360
- Carol Bryant – PR and Marketing Director for BlogPaws and Blogger
- Jeff Davis – Senior Manager of Public Relations & Social Media for PetSmart
The panel discussion was on creating products reviews that resonated with customers and provides value to brands. Other things that were discussed was how to conduct yourself and communicate with brands that you receive products from and how to standout from other bloggers.
It was great to hear how Carol, a seasoned pet blogger, handles getting products to review. She mentioned it takes her less time to make video reviews. Carol also mentioned to be careful not to “brand brash” as that can turn off potential companies and brands that want to work with you.
On the flipside it was nice hearing from Jeff Davis about what PetSmart does and does not like to see when searching for bloggers and communicating with them. For instance they don't mind getting phone calls and feedback. Also that the little things matter such as “PetSmart” and not “Petsmart!”
The panel discussion format is something that BlogPaws should utilize more since you get different takes and opinions, which is really useful to hear. Everyone who attended this season learned a lot (unless you were sleeping).
Ryan Hughes led this session which was supposed to be for people who are experienced with WordPress but want to take it to a next level. I thought some of the topics he covered are not what I would say are “WordPress 201” but I still learned a few things in the talk. Ryan recommended Gravity Forms, a WordPress plugin, that creates custom post types which I didn't know about.
Since WordPress is the most popular content management system (CMS) it is a good idea for BlogPaws to continue to do more sessions on WordPress.
The Key to Social Media Marketing
I assumed this talk was going to be on ways to truly expand and enhance social media marketing skills. While hearing Kimanzi Constable's story was motivational, that's really all I got out of the session. A motivational speech and more specifically one to get everyone to buy his books.
This would have been fine if I had paid to go to a motivational conference but that wasn't the case. Kimanzi really didn't go over many social media marketing tactics which were applicable and judging from the questions afterwards from rescue groups felt the same way. I am not really sure his advice was good either as he recommended giving away products for free. Since rescue groups have limited resources that's is shitty advice.
I overheard some other people complaining that they liked the talk, but didn't feel he had enough substantive info about social media marketing as well. Checking out Kimanzi Constable's website I realized that he runs what I call “Selling the Dream” businesses. While he might have made ok money selling ebooks and books Kimanzi really makes good money traveling and speaking at conferences about social media and blogging. (He even said he travels a lot of conferences.) He “Sells the Dream” instead of actually having accomplished what he is advising about and doesn't know anything about getting a massive social media following or truly improving engagement.
While I don't have a problem with people making money talking at conferences, I don't like “Selling the Dream” type of people. The like to promise a lot but deliver little real value to what you are trying to accomplish with your blog or web business. They just tell you good things you want to hear. There wasn't a lot of information about how to improve my blog's social media presence or increase followers. It was mostly what I already know. Also it annoyed me that for a large duration of the presentation he kept up the cover to one of his books. I guess that is sly but well placed advertising.
Considering my traffic on my personal blog is equal to (or most likely better) than Kimanzi's I seriously wonder why he was invited to give a talk at BlogPaws. Since the talk didn't accomplish the intended goals and was essentially a sales pitch I would have to rate it a serious failure.
Get More Blog Readers with Email Marekting
Think Email is Dead? Think again! Email returns better results than search and social media. (Yeah, I learned that during the talk.) If you are serious about building a successful business around your blog than you need to spend some time thinking about an email list and newsletter.
Crystal Gouldey hosted this talk and I learned a lot since she is a marketing manager with Awever, an email newsletter provider. Good tidbits of information I learned during the talk included;
- 65% of people open emails based upon the subject line.
- Clear emails had 500% more responses.
- Personal tones in emails have a 130% increase in response.
Crystal also had a lot of information in the session about how to build an email list, the best practices, and what you should do to make people actually sign-up for the list. The best way is to offer someone something for free, like an eBook, or content they can't get anywhere else besides signing up for that list.
While SEO and social media are important getting a successful email newsletter going is a great way to connect you with your most loyal fan base and help grow you blog too.
The Future of Blogging
Dino Dogan is an amazing speaker. Something about his presence makes you want to part of whatever he is doing. I guess that makes sense since Dino starter Triberr, a platform where bloggers can connect and help share content.
Dino started off his talk saying, “Blogging will save the world.” which was definitely preaching to his audience well. Probably the three takeaways I got from the talk was that attention is good, people need to interact with content, and trust is worth a lot online.
The debate and discussion sparked during the Q&A was telling that everyone else was engaged in the room and listened to what Dino Dogan was saying. I guess that's the mark of a good blog conference speaker.
I want to make it clear that even though I didn't enjoy all of the talks and sessions I still got a lot out of attending BlogPaws 2013. The BlogPaws and Pet360 staff did a great job organizing the 3 day event but I do wish the “Pro” sessions were a little more advanced. I am planning on trying to make it out to Las Vegas for BlogPaws 2014. Maybe I can make some money while in Las Vegas to cover the cost of attending! 🙂