Lessons from PubCon New Orleans 2013

As another PubCon rolls to a close, I wanted to reflect on lessons either learned or reinforced. This is my first time to New Orleans, so most of the things learned regard this fine city.

Four Foci of Local SEO

Apparently, this concept was first popularized by David Mihm. I hadn’t heard it put this way, but it matches with my experience.

In short, there are four things an SEO needs to focus on for local sites:

  • On-Site Optimization (I would include the Google listing here)
  • Links
  • Citations
  • Reviews

Each of these is roughly equal in importance.

I would include the Google listing in the On-Site Optimization bucket, although others include it in Citations. Six of one; half dozen of another.

Link Building is Still Important

The rumors of the death of link building are, as always, premature.

Link building is still a critical part of SEO, although the balance has definitely moved towards quality over quantity. If you are just building junky links, especially using automated means, you are likely going to run afoul of one of the Google updates like Panda or Penguin.

One change over the last year or two is that link building has become important for local SEO. In the “good ole days” circa 2009, you could rank for competitive terms without even having a website.

That is no longer the case. Link building is now required for local businesses.

But make sure you do it correctly…

Link Building Without Content is Dangerous

A link building campaign that is not run in conjunction with an organized plan to produce quality content is much more likely to draw unwanted attention from Google.

The good news is that quality content makes link building much easier. Offer your users content that they will want to link to.

Another benefit for local businesses is that they can build out their site’s profile for their city and/or neighborhood. You want Google to view your site as an expert geographically, not just for your industry.

Weather is Fun

During the morning sessions yesterday, a fairly strong thunderstorm rolled through the area. This included a tornado warning.

One could quickly determine who in each room was from the middle of the country, and who was from the coasts. The latter were quite obviously very concerned, and some seemed on the edge of panic.

Those of us from Tornado Alley realized that it wasn’t likely to be a strong tornado, and that the New Orleans Convention Center is one of the best places you could be in one.

To be fair, I would have been even more panicked than the Coasters were yesterday if it had been an earthquake rather than a tornado. Having the ground shake just ain’t right.

Also, many people in the room received automated notices on their app phones about the tornado warning. I believe this is service provider dependent, as some on iPhones got the warning, but I have an iPhone on AT&T, and did not receive one.

Bourbon Street

My visit to Bourbon Street was interesting, as I imagine it is for most people. Imagine Sixth Street in Austin, with the lack of rules of Vegas.

The concentration of strip clubs was way higher than I’ve seen in any other place. No, I didn’t go in any. Way too scary.

French Quarter

I got to spend a few hours Monday walking around the French Quarter. The French Market was nice, as far as open air markets go.

As a coffee lover, I had to pay a visit to Cafe du Monde. It was everything you would expect from a tourist trap, plus extra slow and surly service. So, the visit is done, and I won’t be going back.

The most impressive thing was the quality of the street musicians. This was a Monday morning, and their were fine jazz performances all over the place. Nice.


A few years back, I was working in a company that hired a new CEO. He moved from New York to Austin for the job.

After living in Austin for a few months, he asked me, “Brian, is it possible to eat anywhere in this town without having cheese on your food?”

New Orleans is like this, except with fried food. Just about every meal will have at least one fried item on the plate.

In general, the quality has been high, especially for seafood. Oysters, crawfish and catfish have all been great. Jambalaya at one place was fantastic, but just ok at another. I had etouffee at one place that was amazing.

The answer I gave to the question about cheese, by the way, was “no”.