4 Takeaways from SearchLove Boston

All Attendees Got Ducks of Awesomeness

Earlier this week, Paul May and I attended Distilled’s SearchLove Boston Conference. It was great to connect with so many smart, passionate search marketers, in the beautiful city of Boston.

In addition to meeting really great people, I learned many actionable ideas from the speakers. Here are my 4 biggest takeaways:

Domain Names Matter

If you’ve ever purchased a domain name, you know the process: have a good idea, then find it’s taken.  But you can get the dot net, the dot info, the hyphenated version, or a much worse variant of the name.  So you go through the sad process of picking the least bad domain name you can find, often ending up with something dramatically longer and less catchy than you’d hoped.  (The end product also tends to be tough to spell, pronounce, and remember.)

But is an investment of thousands of dollars really worth it?  Are great domains a great buy?

As it turns out, yes.  Stephen Pavlovich, co-founder of Wish.co.uk, spent around $12,000 for his domain.  And he was rewarded with an instantly memorable website that served as the basis for many advanced PR and social campaigns.

Journalists and potential customers told Stephen they had heard of Wish.co.uk before, even though it was a new startup.  From a branding perspective, this is pure gold – like starting a game of football on the 20 yard line.  (For international readers, it’s like starting a game of football with 2 goals.)  

(If you’re curious what Wish.co.uk does, they sell experiences.  Like spending a day hunting zombies in an abandoned shopping mall:

Warning: This video contains zombie hunting. Some folks might find it terrifying.)

Don’t Reinvent the Wheel – Use Topics That Work

Too often content marketers (myself included) get too creative and end up making intricate pieces that fall flat.

Lexi Mills, Distilled’s Head of PR, suggested looking back at successful stories in other verticals for ideas.  For example, she shared a story of the Sci-Fi channel creating a pickled alien, leading to press coverage for a new show.  Subsequently, another group created a pickled dragon, leading to a similar positive response.

The lesson here is not that you should go pickle something (although that might be a decent idea), but rather that press angles that have worked in the past will work in the future.  In fact, there are some fundamental topics that consistently lead to press coverage.

Wish.co.uk’s Stephen Pavlovich shared the four hooks of press coverage:

  • Topical (to do with a current topic, like the election, or an upcoming holiday)
  • Sexual
  • Controversial
  • Celebrity

The Wish.co.uk creates fake products (or sometimes real products) leveraging these hooks to get immense press coverage.  The best example, combining the sexual, the topical, and the controversial, was Wish’s “Romantic Break for 3”, launched during Valentine season:


They got coverage in The Sun, BBC Five Live, ABC in the US, Colombian National Radio, and more.

Content Marketing Should Re-Enforce Your Value Proposition, Differentiation, and Branding

Content marketing, perhaps the marketing flavor of the year, has gotten tons of airtime within marketing circles.  Content marketing mavens preach you need a) more content, b) better content, and c) unbranded content.  And typically something about personas, too.

Eytan Seidman, co-founder and VP Product of Oyster, presented their content marketing efforts in the travel space.  (If you’ve never done marketing in the online travel space, you’re missing out on some fun: travel is highly episodic, with high purchase prices and lots of competition.  The major players are all very large and very tech savvy – only the brave and clever survive.)

Oyster is putting some remarkable numbers up:


Oyster has achieved this growth through building a great product and creating great content marketing.

All of Oyster’s content marketing (like the legendary hotel photo fakeout) is:

  • Strongly Branded
  • Reinforcing Their Market Position and Value Proposition
  • Uniquely Differentiated – Something Only They Can Do
  • Something Someone Would Take the Time Out of Their Day to Share

Eytan talked about how they attempted to compete in the celebrity gossip/travel overlap, only to find that many sites with larger audiences covered the same content. This content didn’t generate much interest or audience, because it wasn’t differentiated and it didn’t align with Oyster’s value proposition.

Then, they re-positioned their content marketing to take data from their product and position it in an interesting way.  All of their content marketing reinforces their fundamental value proposition – getting honest, unbiased, real information about hotels that cuts through marketing spin to reveal the truth.  They showed the difference between hotel marketing photos and the real thing in their “Photo Fakeout” Series:


Oyster makes absolutely certain that all of their content marketing syndication on other sites (like the Travel Channel) includes their logo somewhere on the image.  They’ve even refused syndication deals with large publishers because they were unable to brand their images.

Eytan taught me that even though content marketing is about thinking like a publisher, the fundamental principles of marketing haven’t changed – you still need to occupy a differentiated market position and build a brand.

Leverage Small Wins to Get Big Wins

All of the speakers on outreach and content marketing talked about building up small wins and turning them into big wins. 

  • Lexi Mills spoke about getting articles in b2b trade press, and then taking these to b2c general interest press to get more coverage.
  • Rob Ousbey found quick wins, and showcased them internally to build credibility and received more resources for future outreach work.
  • Stephen Pavolovich got celebrities like Stephen Fry and Simon Pegg to tweet about Wish, and used those tweets as a seed to get links and coverage across the long tail of blogs.
  • Eytan Seidemann and Oyster first went after vertical publications about hotels before going to broader horizontal outlets with their content marketing.

Credibility is hard to come by, and large outlets get pitched constantly.  But if you can go to a smaller outlet, you can start there and parlay articles there into coverage in more publications.

There was also a great deal of strong technical SEO content – audit tips from Annie Cushing, proposal strategies from Ian Lurie, and an extremely memorable stream of consciousness on link removal, Penguin, and the Disavow tool from Todd Friesen.  

I learned a lot at SearchLove, got to hang out with some awesome people (including professional video gamers and disc golf players), and received rubber ducks that look like a dinosaur and a pirate.  All in all, time well spent.

Did You Attend SearchLove?  What Did You Learn?