Think Visibility Search Conference

Review of the first Think Vis conference, March 2009 in Leeds

  • Fabulous photo of by Ribblehead Viaduct in North Yorkshire by chantrybee on flickr

I’m on the train on my way back to Dublin from my trip to the very first Think Visibility search conference in Leeds, and wanted to get some thoughts down.

Think Visibility is an interesting departure from the usual massive corporate search marketing conferences. The smaller scale made it feel more like a Barcamp atmosphere. One of the great things about a conference this size is that you have the opportunity to get to know lots of the attendees quite well.

For the conference itself, if you’re anyway familiar with the search marketing scene you’ll recognise plenty of names of the speakers and attendees, this is a conference that punches above its weight. Congratulations to Dom & his team on a well organised and hodgetastically run event.

Great talks

The talks were fantastic, as you’d expect. I made it to included Dave speaking about SEO and Silver & Magic Bullets, Patrick about link building, Al talking about affiliate marketing, Guy showing some really cool eye tracking videos, and Joanna teaching us about advanced segmentation in Analytics.

That bloke in the white coat

I was disappointed not to be able to attend every talk, particularly Tim’s SEO Page Rank demo as he attempted to blow the building up at the unfortunate hour of 9 o’clock (apparently there’s one in the morning too).

I also missed Kieron’s talk on affiliate marketing and Dirk’s one on accessibility, but I managed to catch up with both of them in the pub later on, which was fantastic.

In terms of learning and take-away ideas, I learned a bunch of new stuff, and had a lot of previous thoughts reconfirmed.

Eye tracking and Analytics

We got lots of great information from Guy and Joanna on tracking visitor behaviour. I particularly loved the tips on how to use the information practically. My main concerns with visitor tracking and user testing is how to interpret the data and draw accurate conclusions – it’s very easy to misinterpret this data, draw incorrect conclusions or simply suffer from information overload.

SEO companies in a vacuum

I had an interesting chat with Dave & Becky about how SEO companies are working in a cocooned environment – not sharing resources and there is a huge amount of duplication of effort, particularly in issues such as metrics (SERP tracking) and research.

Ethical affiliates

Something I’ve wondered about is the issue of ethics in affiliate marketing – it’s been one of the self-imposed barriers to me doing affiliate stuff. I see a lot of dodgy stuff being done that leaves a bad taste – folks recommending stuff that is of poor quality, hijacking cookies, etc. So it was pleasant to chat to Al, Kieron and others about how to be a successful affiliate and remain ethical while doing so.

No SEO magic bullet

A really obvious one – there is no magic SEO trick that will get you ranking. I think it’s all the cowboy SEO merchants selling “SEO Secrets” that reinforce this myth. It’s all about the content.

Nasty tricks

On the other hand, there are lots of nasty ways to hurt your competition (most of which involve buying them SEO magic bullets from the aforementioned cowboys.


The 4 last men standing at #thinkvisibility – @TNash @WebsiteDoctor @AndrewBurnett & @Hobo_Web. Photo by last wife standing @Wiieb

Meeting people

As ever, the huge value for me was in the great people I got to meet before, during, and after the conference. I was able to chat to all of the speakers at one point or another – in surroundings where they were not under time pressure. If you’re planning to attend a conference (in any industry), I cannot recommend enough that you make sure to schedule in enough time afterwards to stick around and chat to folks outside of the formal conference – it’s invaluable.

Highlights of the trip

  • Meeting lots of really cool people like all the speakers I mentioned above, and Dom, No. 2 UK SEO Shaun ;) and cheap holidays in the sunshine Chris and Andrew and Wie and James and Dave and Andrew and Dan and Dan and Jag and loads more (leave a comment with a URL if you met me and I’ll link you here)
  • During Joanna’s demo, I was following it by making the changes live in my Analytics account while sitting beside DaveN. Who promptly does a “mine is bigger than yours” by showing me his monthly traffic figures.
  • Getting a pint for £2.30 (!) and being told that I should have used a student card to get a discount – Dublin bar owners with your €5.50 pints, take note
  • Tim’s “Scientology must be the only religion with an affiliate link” comment (which came at 3.30am in the Radisson residents’ bar with neither of us was even staying at the hotel).
  • Playing Wii Sports in the pub during the after-party


The furthest north I’ve ever been in England, I really wasn’t sure what to expect from Leeds, and I was very pleasantly surprised. It seemed like a very young lively city with a thriving nightlife and a good buzz about the place. So it definitely was a great venue for a conference in our still fairly young industry.

Other write-ups

Well done on a great event Dom, I’ll be back.

Credit: Featured image is a fabulous photo of by Ribblehead Viaduct in North Yorkshire by chantrybee on flickr.


About the Author:

Alastair McDermott is an online business and technology consultant specialising in web design & development, internet marketing and search engine optimisation. He has been building websites and software since 1996 and is a nine year veteran of using WordPress. He has co-founded several software, web and information based startup companies and has provided solutions for many large Irish and international organisations. Alastair blogs, and makes media of all kinds at Follow him on Twitter at @WebsiteDoctor.

  1. Dan

    There were two other Dan’s there that weren’t me?? :o I don’t think I managed to meet either of them!

    Great write up, though. :)

  2. James Inman

    RSG is my blog, if a little weirdly named…(!)

    Great to meet you Alastair, and a nice writeup. See you at the next one – until then, to Twitter!

  3. I like the fact the “sensible” party goers that we were who decided not to go clubbing ended up in the bar till who knows when while the clubbers were tucked up by 4!

    Al if your ever up in this neck of the woods again give me a shout we will go for “one last drink” ;)

  4. @Tim: The youth of today have no stamina! I definitely will give you a shout!

    @Dan, @James: great to meet you guys & best of luck – wish I had been starting business as early as you guys are!

  5. van Leon

    Backlink strategies do not work all the time. Natural incoming links have enough juice to pour into a website popularity.

2 Pings & Trackbacks
  1. […] Hoboweb Chris Dirk Polr Dave Rats saw God Floating Frog Dan Joanna Tom SEOmoz Rahoul Andrew Alistair Patrick […]

  2. […] are other people’s reviews of the event out there, including NorthSouthMedia, WebsiteDoctor, PoLR, AndrewBurnett, Linda Broughton and JamesWard’s (my own particular favourite […]

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