Inbound Marketing UK 2012 – saved by the keynotes

It’s been a while that I went to a proper old school conference with proper old school scheduling, event space, keynote followed by non-keynote speakers followed by panel followed by breakout groups followed by keynote in a proper conference place. Proper 9 to 5 thing too.

The content you create has to be the best in the industry. If it isn’t you won’t win the attention of your prospects. – Mike Volpe, Hubspot

Lousy tshirt

Inbound Marketing UK 2012 certainly had its highlights (more on that later) but also stuff that should change or improve to become the best in the industry.

  • Energy – 4 main speakers had it, rest of the event lacked it. And I thoughts my fellow Estonians were reserved.
  • Breakout sessions – maybe it was my bad luck but these were let down. No fresh insight, not cutting edge examples, test results, tools. Could be that the people and channels I follow give me the freshest on a daily basis anyway. For me #imuk12 could have been better without the breakout sessions.
  • Panel – I’m no fan of panels, they’re too polite, too soft, not hard hitting enough. There’s seldom debate and while the panel this time was above the average it didn’t hold my attention. Someone should do tweet velocity and sentiment analysis vs presentation…
  • No QA session with couple of the earlier speakers.
  • Understandable that Hubspot was a sponsor so plenty of mentioning of them but it sounded like there’s 0 competing software out there…

The highlights for me were definitely the main four speakers so nicely pimped on #imuk12 website. They inspired, gave some good tips, Frank Belzer in particular forced to look at inbound marketing from totally different (sales) perspective.

inbound marketing heros 2012

Too bad Alex Balfoul, the Head of New Media of London 2012 Olympic Games had so little time, it’s quite amazing what they achieved with such a little team. The whole scale of the Olympic Games is mind boggling. Sadly – no QA session.

I have a bunch of notes and ideas jotted down, will sort through them and do a separate post a bit later.

Will I be going again next year? Probably not if it keeps the current format. I’ll miss couple of world class speakers, sure. All the up to date stuff is available from various great channels online, for example follow @Hubspot if you can keep up with their tweet-an-hour velocity of pumping out great content.

Mike Volpe, Daniel McLaren, Jenn Yorke and Bas Ellen

Oh, and of course the organizers should have used Ansr.io to create a mobile-friendly exit survey, push it to conference participants 5 minutes before closing to get fresh feedback and raw emotion by the time people were done with their commute home :)

Vostok Europe Gaz-14 Limousine wristwatch review

Having been born and lived the first 12 years of my life in the Soviet Union I’m a living testament of how everything from one’s childhood has a positive aura, no matter how bad the overall life actually was. Which is a long way of saying – I was rather looking forward to receiving the Vostok Europe Gaz-14 Limousine Chrono wristwatch for a review.*

Vostok Europe Gaz-14 Limousine wristwatch

Gaz-14, also known as Chaika (or seagull in Russian), was a car built for the higher echelons of the politbureau of the USSR. In Estonia it was a rare sight, I might have seen it once or twice during some parade. But all the kids knew – Chaika stood for something special, it meant old-ish important men in dark suits, military parades, power (however we understood it back then).

The Gaz-14 wristwatch rather nicely reflects those sentiments in its classic design and sharp black’n’red packaging. I might not be keen on the design of other Vostok Europe watches but the simple lines, stainless steel case and black face talk to me. If you want to go even simpler then pick the version without the chronograph as it does make for a somewhat busy design.

The chronograph has a nice little feature which is simply fun to watch – the sub-dial at 6 o’clock, which normally tracks seconds, jumps to action going back and forth denoting 1/20th second when stopped. And the large second hand does a nice little sweep around the dial when timer is reset. It’s a pretty good party trick as far as sub-200 Euro watches go.

Gaz-14 Limousine in bullet points

  • Solid stainless steel round case, 42 mm.
  • Japanese Miyota OS22 movement
  • 5 ATM water resistance
  • Tachymeter
  • 1/20 sec chronograph with retrograde demo, timing up to 59 min 59 sec
  • Genuine leather strap

The strap is my only niggle with the watch – it suits the watch well, matching the somewhat formal look of it nicely, but for my admittedly narrow wrists even the tightest fit was too loose. Annoying when cycling as the crown (or the buttons) start to hurt.

Vostok Europe Gaz-14 Limousine wristwatch backplate

If you were to forget the name of the watch you were wearing then simply turn it over, the screw on back plate has a modified car company GAZ logo and the serial number of your watch (3000 will be made altogether).

Vostok Europe is not the Vostok my father knew

Vostok Europe is a rather curious watch company – while the brand Vostok is Russian, VE is actually a Lithuanian company, building watches in Vilnius since 2004. Not the first city that pops to mind when talking about wristwatches. From what I can tell they don’t use Russian movements in their watches any longer and most of the marketing I found on their Facebook page targets younger, more active audience.

How much and where?

The price listed on VE website is 194 € but if you’re in the US then it’s probably easier to get one from Amazon for $242.50. The UK Amazon doesn’t carry the one with the black dial but has some other versions available.

Should you get it? If you like the design, want a smart dress watch that works in casual settings too then yes. The quality of this watch is top notch for the price.

Vostok Europe Gaz-14 Limousine

If you want a watch with real Russian history, the movement and all then keep searching but be prepared for a barrage of some seriously tacky design. I’m the keeper of a real Vostok from my father till my son is old enough to appreciate watches. I also own an old Russian Pobeda watch I inherited from my grandfather.

* Full disclosure: Vostok Europe sent me this watch free of charge to keep in return of this review. As always I write about products as I see and experience them, flaws and all.

The surfer I’ll never be

Massive Cloudbreak from the Volcom Fiji Pro 2012. Tune is Mr. Little Jeans – The Suburbs (Arcade Fire Cover)

They say never say never but I’m pretty sure this time :)

WolframAplha analyses your Facebook profile/network

The “computational knowledge engine” WolframAlpha just rolled out a new Facebook report tool that looks at your FB profile, activities, network and spits out a rather interesting view of your Facebook-based life and friendships.

My Facebook friends network

Founder Stephen Wolfram posted a longer piece on insight that can be gained from the report. He also shares how to set it up (tip: go to WolframAlpha and type in “facebook report”).

Here’s how the ultimate ego-analysis looks like. The networks view was the most interesting part, clear clusters of friends emerge with lots of overlap in some, of course. Made me realize that I’ve added only very few non-Skype London/UK based friends to Facebook, looks like these interactions are happening mainly on Twitter.

WolframAlpha Facebook report

Names have been blurred out to protect the guilty.

Bank holiday travel in the UK – better stay home

Alternative headline for this post goes something like: “Things I learned from trying to get out of London with a car and a baby on a long weekend”.

Bournemouth sea and cliff view

Where to start… Thing is – we’ve been living in London for 8 months now but never somehow got out of the city. So when a long weekend (bank holiday aka extra free day) popped up I rented a car on a whim, booked a hotel at the last minute in Bournemouth, and looked forward to showing Kadri the countryside.

Queuing – it’s a national hobby here

We ended up having to wait in line pretty much everywhere – traffic, Peppa Pig World amusement park (in the end got 3 rides in 2.5 hours at the cost of £48 per two adults), cafe at the amusement park traffic, parking, traffic, traffic. Did I mention traffic?

Keep readin’ →

I cheated and brought my site bounce rate down from 80% to 12%

Bounce rate is the percentage of single-page visits to your website (according to Google Analytics). It can be an infuriating number to track if it’s constantly above 80% as it tells the site owner that they’re content is not engaging enough to keep visitors around.

Lazy cat is lazy. Not much engaged

I cheated and brought mine down from 80% to 12%. Here’s how:

My website bounce average has been 80% for quite some time now. Maybe that’s good enough for a blog-like site like this as a big portion of the traffic comes from Google and visitors either get an answer to whatever they were looking for or don’t (and go back to Google to look at alternatives).

Looking at the segment of visitors who do 1+ pageviews then the situation is quite good – average pageviews per visit is 3.7 (up from average 1.5) and time on site to 4:27 (up from 00:51 seconds).

Finding my site’s true bounce rate

Inspired by Gael Breton’s Google Analytics: A Few Cool Tips On Advanced Segments I tweaked the tracking code on my site with the following (full code example in the original post):

setTimeout('_gaq.push([\'_trackEvent\', \'NoBounce\', \'Over 5 seconds\'])',5000);

It tells Google Analytics that anyone who spends over 5 seconds on the page, even if they only look at one page and then leave, is not a real bounce. 5 seconds is long enough to read the headline, scan the top of the page and make a leave/stay decision.

The result? My site bounce rate plummeted from 80% to 12%.

Bounce rate change

Maybe 5 seconds is too short (I’m going to test with 10 or 15) but other than getting the timing right I can’t think of a downside to finding out the true bounce rate.

Combining this with other engagement metrics in Audience > Behavior menu in Google Analytics gives you a more accurate picture of how well your site is performing.

KissMetrics has a good post Bounce Rate Demystified making some good recommendations how to bring the % of one-page visits down and Brian Clifton’s Advanced Web Metrics with Google Analytics is one of the freshest books on getting the most out of Google Analytics. Justin Cutroni’s “Rethinking Blog Metrics” is another interesting read, I’ll probably end up testing ideas from there as well.

The immediate benefit of real-time web analytics with GoSquared

Long gone are the days when this site got 30 thousand monthly visitors but plenty still come to field test real-time web analytics software from GoSquared.

GoSquared is another fun team of youngsters experienced entrepreneurs (they’re 21 or something but have been running their company for 6 years…) that I help with some ideas. Of course I had to test drive their product (you can get a preview watching the live demo).

GoSquared demo

Why real-time web analytics?

The traditional approach to web stats has been looking at the data after the fact. You check what happened yesterday, during the past week, a month. What was popular, where did the traffic come from, which pages converted visitors into sign ups etc.

Tools like GoSquared (and its many competitors) show what’s happening on your website right now. How many people are visiting which pages, how did they come to you, are they staying around or leaving in 5 seconds.

Keep readin’ →

Photo apps for the recovering photo enthusiast

After years of being an avid photographer who lugs around heavy SLR setup I’m doing 99% of my snapping on the iPhone and have found a number of nice photo apps you might find useful. Most of my stuff these days goes to Instagram (some of it re-posted to Flickr or Facebook).

Pro HDR

HDR, or high dynamic range, basically means that your camera takes several shots, exposing for different areas of the pic (dark and light) and then blends the images together to get a more evenly lit result. You get details in the shadow areas and details in the light areas. Observe.

Crounch End
Crouch End on a sunny evening. Normal iPhone camera app.

Crouch End HDR
Same picture but with Pro HDR, default settings.

This is my most used photo app and probably the best £2 I’ve ever spent on photography. It gives my photos more details, more punch. The downside is that it’s a slow process of taking a photo, as the app needs to analyze the scene and then takes 2 shots, blends them together. Roughly 10 seconds to take the picture and then another 5-10 before you’re ready to take the next shot. This also means that it’s not suitable for moving objects and you need some steady hands.

Keep readin’ →

Rollapaluza Urban Hill Climb will burst your lungs

File this one under “100 Ways to Prove How Weak You Are”.

urban hillclimb, london, swain’s lane

When a friend pinged me a few days ago asking if I was interesting in pretending to be him and sprinting up the Swain’s Lane as part of the Rollapaluza Urban Hill Climb, I foolishly agreed. I had heard about the event in previous years, and since it’s 5 minutes from where I live thought that it’ll be a cool thing to try.

I’ve actually ridden up the Swain’s Lane (here’s the segment map in Strava) a few times before on a very slow pace, it’s tough even that way. Trying to go up as fast as possible is a different thing altogether.

Factsheet:

Length: 800 meters
Vertical climb: 60 meters
Average gradient: 8.6%
Feeling at the top: WHY?!

There were tons of people cheering you on with “Allez!”, “Push it!” at the steepest part of the course, someone taking photos (check out the ones from last year on the competition website), so it almost felt like a 2 minut mini-Tour de France.

Competitor crossing the finishing line
Those two guys are there to catch the ones who have pedaled themselves into blackout.

Coming off the bike was a good excuse to promptly sit down and not move for a few minutes. My legs were totally toast. I’ve done climbs before but never this way. The massochist in me might sign up for next year’s event…

I don’t know what my time was, got to the start line on the last moment and forgot to start the timer. Will find out later from their website.

Results: 99th place out of 154 people who went uphill. 02:17 to do it, I’m pretty satisfied. Lost to the winner by 45 seconds which is huge for such a short distance but was to be expected. Official results »

3 search engine optimization basics you need to know

Over the past couple of months I’ve been mentoring a young Estonian startup InSkilled (they help you collect, analyze and share stuff you’re learning online every day) and we just finished a quick chat about search engine optimization (SEO) basics. It’s something they haven’t paid any attention to so far but will get these three points below sorted quickly.

#1. Focus on your unique content

Unless you’re Wikipedia it’s a tough battle to try getting to top 10 search results on generic terms. So figure out the unique content your site has and focus on that.

For InSkilled these are two things:

* High quality collections of topical content – like these articles, videos and how-to’s for startups on pitching, raising funding, product management, customer acquisition etc.

Screenshot of education materials on InSkilled

As more content gets added to the site by more people these pages will become high quality destinations for anyone wanting to learn about certain topics. Targeting the right keywords and combining this with proper on-site linking, on-page SEO and linkbuilding I wouldn’t be surprised if they got decent results in 3-6 months.

Keep readin’ →