Boston PubCon 2006: Day 1

Well, the PubCon kicked off today, and I think it was pretty good, at least, the first half was anyway. This was my first time, and it was pretty much what I expected. This post is a long one, so bear with me.

Malcolm Gladwell’s keynote was first, and he was great. He really is a talented speaker, even though I haven’t read his books. His presentation made me want to get one or both of his best sellers and check them out. He talked about “the tipping point,” which he defines as the point where a single event can cause drastic change. Gladwell used the example of the radio, when David Sarnoff came up with the idea of broadcasting a boxing match live over the radio. No one had done this before, and this single event changed how people thought about radio. It was at that point that radio began to take off. This example was the tipping point for radio.

Gladwell also talked about social change and “connectors.” Connectors are people who have social power because they know lots of people in diverse social groups. Connectors can have huge impacts on social change becuase of their influence on others. He talked about how they can affect commerce because people frequently make purchases based on social influence. His underlying message was that marketers want to influence the connectors because they can influence more people than the average person, therefore they have more influence over buying decisions. I thought it was very interesting.

During the Q and A, Gladwell answered a question about online social networking. He said that their success is usually their downfall. Once they become successful, everyone is a part of it, and it doesn’t feel exclusive anymore, which is what usually attracted the users in the first place. So they move on the next big thing, and the cycle continues. Gladwell said that they should impose limits to ensure success, and I agree with him. Limits create a feeling of exclusivity, and they create a buzz. Google has done well with this. A lot of their product releases have limits on who can join, for example Gmail, Analytics, etc.

The Local Search session was pretty good. Local search is growing fast, and the presenters covered it pretty well. Justin Sanger from LocalLauch!, Jake Baillie from TrueLocal, Bruce Crair from Interchange and Thai Tran from Google Local were all presenters. I think people were most interested in Tran’s presentation.

Tran talked about how Google gets it’s local results. They come from three area’s: Internet Yellow Pages, Google’s crawl of the web and user submitted data. In addition to Local Search, Google has Google Earth and Google Local for Mobile. To get listed or update your listing in Google Local, Tran said to use the Local Business Center or Google Base. Google doesn’t offer user reviews, but they supplement the local search results with user reviews found on the web. Tran also talked about the recently unveiled Local Business Ads. The audience used the Q & A to ask Tran several questions about Google.

Next was the Link Building Clinic, which was probably the most entertaining of the day. Rae Hoffman, Dixon Jones, Byron White and Eric Ward were the presenters here. This was a panel were users submitted their sites for review, and the panel reviewed the sites live before the audience. The first three sites reviewed all either currently or had used spam techniques to build links. Rae Hoffman and Dixon Jones were examining the linking structures of their sites and calling them out on it, telling the owners how if they can catch it that easily so can the search engines. It was pretty amusing. I thought this was also the most informative of the day.

During lunch, Google gave a presentation about Google Sitemaps, and I finally got to see Mr. Matt Cutts in person, as he was sitting on this panel. Vanessa and Amanda from Google were on this panel as well. I walked into this a little late so I missed the first part. Cutts had a lot of good information to give the lunch crowd. He said that the best way to look at Sitemaps is as a way for you to give Google information and vice versa. This is a good point because that is the only value I see in it also. Google can get the information itself. Sitemaps allows you to add to this information and receive valuable information on your site from Google itself in return.

Another thing Matt Cutts indicated is that Google uses javascript on the links in their search results to track user behavior. This was something that I myself have wondered. Google also uses geo-location to determine where a web site is located. They use this information in their country specific search. Cutts also talked about bigdaddy saying that the update could have changed the crawling frequency for some sites. All in all Cutts was pretty informative.

The Organic Search Options panel was pretty good. Aaron Wall, Todd Malicoat and Bruce Clay were presenters, and Mike Grehan moderated and commented himself a number of times. This session consisted of the panel answering the audiences questions. There was too much here to put it all down, but it was pretty informative and interesting.

The last panel I went to was Blink! Thin Slicing Search with Ron Belanger from Yahoo, Gordon Hotchkiss and some guy from Google who’s name I didn’t get. This panel was pretty technical and was kind of over my head. It consisted of the panel answering a lot of questions from Brett Tabke and the audience. I was really tired at that point, so I didn’t get much out of it.

I hope to get a lot more out of tomorrow. There are some good sessions that I will have to miss because I can only go to one at a time. In the morning, they have the super bloggers of search with Robert Scoble, Jeremy Zawodny and Matt Cutts. Then I am attending the Public Relations, Link Building Campaigns and Paid Links sessions. The last session is the Search Engine Smackdown featuring Cutts again along with Yahoo and Ask reps. Looks like it will be another fun filled day!