A couple of months back I was asked to speak at Search Exchange, an SEO conference taking place in Charlotte, NC from May 17 through May 19, 2010.  Since I’m local (live + work just south of Charlotte), and since the guys running the event are top-notch SEO folk, I was honored by their offer and accepted.

Since then, they’ve added a number of SEO Rockstars to the speaker list.  Names such as Jim Boykin, Wil Reynolds, Rae Hoffman, Lee Odden and Chris Brogan – all of whom have about a zillion times the “name brand draw” of yours truly.  That’s okay.  I’m totally taller than them.  Well, some of them.  Maybe I’ll give out free blogroll links to attendees or something so that people like me too.  🙂

Anyhow, the organizers have put together a pretty solid list of keynote speakers and panelists, and have secured a fantastic venue as well (the Belk Theatre in uptown).  It should be a blast.  I know the local search community here in Charlotte is pretty strong, and I expect to see good support both locally and nationally. Its also going to be just the right-sized conference too… small enough where people actually share ideas and its not watered down by too many corporate-types who are looking for SEO 101, and still large enough to where it covers a number of topics and there will be plenty of fresh perspectives.

So I’m going to make the case for you to attend Search Exchange…

Why Attend Search Exchange Over SES, SMX and Other SEO Conferences:

  1. Charlotte in May is about 1,000 times nicer weather and more enjoyable than New York in March (SES).
  2. It will be smaller in size and less corporate than the bigger conferences, enabling better conversations and a higher percentage of “real SEO people” not just entry-level programmers from Fortune 500 companies.
  3. The speaker and panelist lineup is amazing.
  4. Its much more affordable. You can get a 3-day ticket for the cost of a 1-day pass to most of the other conferences.
  5. I’m offering a $100 discount if you sign up through this link.

Its currently $595 if you buy your ticket by January 31st, but with the $100 discount I’m offering its only $495.  If you read this or buy after January 31st, the $100 discount is still valid – it will just come off of whatever the “post early bird” price is. So go sign up. Now.

Use this link to get the $100 discount.

Update: Okay, you have to click the “Enter Discount Code” link and enter in “speak100” and you’ll get the $100 discount.  Sorry about this not being clarified the first go-round… needless to say there was a little confusion.

See you there!

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I moved to the greater Charlotte area about six months ago, from Baltimore. The SEO community here in Charlotte is growing pretty quickly, and is turning into a reasonably cool scene. Since I basically work all the time and have practically no social life, local SEO meetups and the occasional networking lunch tend to serve as my social life. Sad. But whatever.

So I’ve had a few lunches with some local Charlotte SEO people – I even built a cheesy site that I updated a few times and have since neglected – but anyhow at one of these lunches I got together with Jason Broadwater of Revenflo. Jason is not a “Charlotte guy”. His office is in Rock Hill, SC. He’s from Rock Hill. For those of you reading this who are not familiar with the area, Rock Hill is about 25-30 minutes south of downtown Charlotte. If I were to start a web marketing business today in Rock Hill I’d pretty quickly narrow in on targeting the Charlotte market. Its a bigger market. Its more white-collar. Jason hasn’t done that.  As a result he is basically on the board of every business organization in Rock Hill.  He’s the man there.  But barely anyone in the Charlotte SEO community (at least from the dozen or two I’ve talked with) have heard of him.

I was pretty impressed with Jason when we met for lunch. He’s not just bright – I meet a lot of bright people – he’s wise. Anyhow, somehow today I stumbled back onto a YouTube video of his. If you identify yourself as a marketing guy (as do I), you should get something out of this. I think he’s message of “say one thing loud and clear” is so true. You can’t be the cheapest, fastest, best, most custom, etc. If you are all of those you are nothing. Your prospects won’t believe you. Be one thing. Be that. Focus. Check out the video:

So what’s my company? Good question. We do offer organic search engine optimization services to help service firms generate leads online. That’s what we do. We don’t offer web design anymore, even though we could. We don’t sell hosting, even though we could. We don’t do email marketing (well honestly, who wants to do that anyway?). You get the idea. Our site is a few years old and so when time allows re-working the site will be our top priority, as its admittedly too generic. But talk to me and you’ll realize my strive to stay focused.

So if you’ve talked with me for any bit of time you’ll quickly learn that as much as I love playing on the internet, social media, etc., I think there is tremendous value for online marketers in getting together in-person and having a chat.  Meetups, Tweetups, Networking Lunches… whatever.  All good stuff.

For the past week or so I was totally psyched to attend the most recent meeting of SEMCLT (Search Engine Marketing Association of Charlotte / Charlotte SEO Meetup Group) – which was held last night.  I RSVP-ed maybe two weeks ago… then on Monday I flipped the calendar to June and saw I was already committed!!!  My wife and I have friends that came into town last night and are staying for a couple of days.  So sadly, I had to change my RSVP to a no.  #crushed

So this morning while my wife and our out of town guests are sleeping, I’m on the computer (of course).  I hop onto Twitter and see a zillion (like 6 or 7 or something) @jonpayne replies talking about “my cake”.  Huh?  What cake?

This cake:

The cake was for me!!!  And I was not there.  How incredibly thoughtful!  And how bad I feel for not being there…  Its probably a good thing though, as I may have pounded the whole thing before anyone else got a taste.  I can put me away some cake.

The references to “Master” are a funny little play on my perfectly acceptable request that everyone refer to as either “Master Payne” or “Jon Payne, MBA” following my completion of the MBA program at Loyola and recent graduation.  Just “Master” or “Supreme Being” will also work.  I was just trying to be funny by saying that… but its starting to stick!!!

So anyhow please accept this blog post as my humble “thank you” and expression of appreciation.  What an unbelievably kind gesture.

Many thanks to whoever was behind this (I have my suspicions…) and sorry I missed you @NC_SEO, @keithschilling, @LesPorter, @FredSexton, @DavidKyle, @RoyMorejon, @CoreyCreed, @learningSEO, @ericfransen, @MaggieHyde, @brettbum and everyone else who attended.  I won’t be a no-show next time!

– The Master

Lunchtime SEO Networking

February 24, 2009

Just started a new blog of sorts about offline networking with local SEO professionals.  Check it out.

Today I made two or three mistakes and misjudgements concerning an issue with our SEO Meetup group, and then made several follies when trying to fix the problem.  I’m a mess.  What a disaster!

Here’s the basic situation:
The group has a mailing list where any member can email all other members.  In the past 9 months there had been maybe one or two times this was actually used, with little fanfare.  In the past 2-3 weeks its been used twice and what has happened was that all email replies to the original email ended up going to everybody.  Many people complained that they were getting bombarded with tons of email that they did not want… basically two people might have a string of emails back and forth but another 90 people were getting CCed on it.  A mess.

Here’s how I tried to handle it:
I created a new policy that basically told everyone they could email the group but then all subsequent replies should be addressed to the individual, not the group.  Problem is there is not a setting I can find in Meetup.com to configure it that way… it seems many emails have the group’s address as the standard “reply-to” field.  Several people posed a better idea to me… a Forum.

Here’s where I was really stupid:
I tried to send an email to one group member apologizing for making them look like the villain here when really that was not the case.  However, I was a complete idiot and sent my personal reply to the entire group.  Clearly, I’m incompetent when it comes to mailing lists and basic email management.

Here’s where I was lazy:
I didn’t do 30 seconds of research before sending out the email about the “new policy” to see that in fact there is a message board built-in to the Meetup.com site… I just had to “enable” it.

Here’s where I’ve hopefully fixed it:
1) I’ve decided to enable the message board. This was easy.  I just didn’t know it existed and I rushed to address the issue before doing my homework.  Dumb.

2) I’ve decided to disable the ability for members to email all members via the email list.  Instead if they want to broadcast something they can either send it to me and I will send it (at my discretion) or they can post in the forum.

Here’s why my fix might not work:
At this point I’ve sent a gillion emails with a new policy, and then “psych, there’s actually a NEW new policy”.  If I were receiving all these emails, I probably would have started to completely ignore them by now and thus would not see the new “solution”.

Hopefully someone learns something from this!