This conference was organized by Matt Diggity, a very well-known and successful SEO specialist, who has based himself in Chiang Mai, Thailand for a few years now. I attended the first event in 2017 and was really impressed by how professional it was, especially considering it was their first year.
Check out https://diggitymarketing.com for more on Matt.
In my downtime I often read about speakers at the event and at the end of the event in 2017, I decided I had to attend the CMSEO 2018 event. The event sold out fairly quickly, which tells you how good this really is.
I had two aims for attending the conference. Firstly to learn from the speakers and secondly to do what I haven’t done much of previously which is to network and get face to face contact with some of the guys attending, many of whom I have used their services in the past and plan to in the near future as well.
Here is my Chiang Mai SEO 2018 review, drop a few lines of feedback in the comments below.
What’s the Chiang Mai Conference About?
The conference is mostly about Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) and related subjects such as automation and scaling your business.
Much of the content of this conference is aimed at affiliate SEO’s as well as client and agency SEOs and merchants looking at SEO as another way to get leads. From the 20 or so people I spoke to, most seemed to be doing client SEO, only a few were affiliate and product owners.
Just my opinion here, but if you’re new to working online then this conference isn’t really for you as much of the conference requires a reasonable understanding about SEO in the first place and you would be better off attending the Nomad Summit organized by Johnny FD.
SEO gender diversity!
What was very obvious from the event and most of the events I have been to in this industry, is just how few women attend these events. I don’t think I counted more than 10 women in the audience, in his world of diversity it’s a very interesting observation.
To highlight this, the attractive “usher” girls outnumbered the female attendees at the conference by quite some way.
If you are in SEO please pop a comment in, I’m really interested to know.
Why Chiang Mai for the SEO 2018 Conference?
Chiang Mai is an amazing place to live, the cost of living is cheap and infrastructure in terms of internet access is fast and reliable, and there are many coffee shops or co-working spaces that can be used.
The likes of Matt Diggity and many SEO’s have made their base in Chiang Mai, making this a hub for solopreneurs or those looking to work online.
You can find lots more information on why Chiang Mai is a great place to be based as a digital worker on the NomadList.
Most of the westerners you saw back then in Chiang Mai were either backpackers or retired ex-pats.
The select few nomad workers soon got to know each other and we used to hang out and arrange nights out at the Riverside restaurant and then out to one of the popular clubs.
I’m still in love with Chiang Mai and will take advantage of any opportunity to visit and spend a few days there even now.
For more information about the conference click here.
Travelling to Chiang Mai
I left on Monday 29th October and decided to have a one-night stopover in Bangkok.
Once I arrived at the Bangkok arrival gate, I saw someone I recognized, it was Johnny FD a popular nomad worker who popularised Dropshipping through his blog.
This method of making money online is very popular as the barrier to entry is low. For me, I have not looked too much into this as I am not keen on the business model myself.
After checking into my hotel, which was a budget one around Sukhumvit road, I went straight to Emporium for some shopping – I know, I just can’t stop and as the “Handbrake” isn’t with me, there was nothing to stop me.
Shopping addiction satisfied, I headed to a “cultural” place for food – Hooters! Yes hardly fine dining but easy to grab something to eat, whilst chilling out with Jack and coke enjoying the sights.
After that, I visited a favorite eating spot of mine and then had an amazingly relaxing hour foot massage before heading back to the hotel. Despite being a bit tired from traveling I was excited to be heading to Chiang Mai in the morning.
Arriving in Chiang Mai for the SEO Conference
I arrived in Chiang Mai on Tuesday afternoon and was soon at my hotel near to Tae Pae Gate (De Chai Deco in Tae Pae, Soi 5). This location is popular with backpackers and holidaymakers alike, although it’s not quite as trendy as Nimmanhaemin, it is close to the conference hotel Le Meriden and the Chiang Mai Night Bazaar which is truly brilliant.
The conference was officially starting on Thursday and so I had a day and half of the writing time and visiting my old Chiang Mai haunts before I had to get down to any “real work”. Some great Phad Thai and a few more foot massages and I was certainly ready for the conference!
CMSEO2018 First Day
Arriving at Le Meriden around 8:15 am I was early and incredibly keen to meet new people and get networking the next few days. I met with a couple of the speakers (Dino, Matt) and already they kindly gave me some great advice, this before even the conference had started, awesome!
A quick shout out to the MC Adam Palmeter a comedian and artist who was the MC for the event. He was an awesome choice for introducing the speakers. He’s a funny guy and had his work cut out trying to make a bunch of SEO’s laugh – he succeeded, making it look very easy! You can check him out here.
Rad works in The Search Initiative with Matt Diggity and is very technically SEO focussed; he talked very informatively about Google and technical ranking factors such as RankBrain and Machine Learning etc.
He began by showing how Google understands searches taken consecutively by searching for Apple stock price, who is the CEO, when founded, by who – and without the company name being mentioned the correct information was returned.
This demonstrated a working example of RankBrain and how Google understands and returns information based on the proximity of queries. When performing the same search for “ahrefs” the exercise wasn’t so successful.
What I found most interesting is the part of the talk on “buyer intent”. This is something I never honed when working on affiliate and e-commerce SEO.
So, some great takeaways from Rad here!
Holly talked a lot about blackhat YouTube SEO strategies she has used and still uses to rank Youtube videos in Google.
I was really impressed with Holly and is a shame she announced that this is the last public speaking presentation she will do. This is surprising considering she gave such a great talk, but if she doesn’t like doing them, fair play to her, but I will miss her talks, maybe someone can convince her to pivot again!.
She provided some truly great content which has me thinking about researching more into YouTube videos for future ventures.
Empire Flippers Sponsor
After lunch there was a short presentation by Greg Elfrink from Empire Flippers. If you have ever looked to buy or sell online businesses then no doubt you will have heard of Empire Flippers, they are one of the market leaders in this space and going from strength to strength.
They create tremendous blog content on all aspects of buying and selling online businesses, a marketplace of current and recently sold businesses. Their valuation tool also gives sellers a great idea of how much their business is worth.
Check out Empire Flippers.
SEO Content Hero Sponsor
I wanted to have a quick shout out to Joe from SEO Content Hero, who I met at the conference in person for the first time, and have also sponsored the CMSEO2018 event.
He runs a content writing service that I have used this year and was really impressed with them. Having run a team of internal content writers in the past, it was great to outsource good content writing to someone who knows what they are doing.
Joe is down to earth and happy to discuss how his team can address content needs.
Check out https://seocontenthero.com/.
Tim is head of marketing for a company called Ahrefs, which produces one of the best and so most popular competitive SEO tools used by online marketers looking to research competitors with a view to increasing their own search traffic. Although there are other similar tools on the market Ahrefs really knocks them out the park for the depth of their index and functionality. You should check out their blog content too!
Tim went over how Ahrefs indexes links and the effect of link discovery on presenting their data in their tool. He also outlined a recent debate over how the link data is different between GSC, Moz, and SEMrush – very interesting and outlines why Ahrefs really is the market leader!
I have seen Tim present a few times in both Chiang Mai and Bangkok and he is always very straight talking and hugely entertaining. He goes out of his way to help if you have any questions and even answered a question of mine via email that day.
Mads runs a management consulting company and has worked with some of the guys in the room.
His talk was on outlining the DISC personality profiling model and how this can be applied to yourself and managing your staff. Using and understanding the model he outlined can help to understand the most effective way to manage and approach your relationship with people. This can also be applied to hiring staff most suitable for your positions too.
Having worked with a behavioral profiling start-up company a number of years ago, I am familiar with this area; so, initially, I didn’t think I would be that interested, but it was good and got me, and most of the audience, thinking about what DISC traits we fell into. I also wondered about my wife’s DISC profile and how that compared to me, a match or not? 😉
I think it would be fun to try a number of personality and behavioral tests and see how they compare (Myers Briggs, Ocean, etc).
I have followed Kurt since last year’s Chiang Mai SEO event as he works in Conversion Rate Optimisation (CRO), which I briefly touched on in my previous business.
Having recently rebranded from CROguy to Convertica (great rebranding by the way guys!), his company has seen significant growth. He focuses on affiliate and Lead Generation sites looking to improve their conversion rate.
Kurt outlined some easy to implement changes on table layouts on affiliate sites that can significantly boost conversions. He identified a site managed by Authority Hackers as a great example.
He gave a good presentation and I managed to grab a few words with him afterward where he gave me some good actionable advice.
Charles is a young SEO from the UK and has a very interesting career to date, which includes running afoul of the authorities when younger hacking.
He is very knowledgeable about the more technical aspects of SEO and uses his programming abilities to run lots of tests to further his skills. Now based in Chiang Mai, Charles runs a consultancy as well as a number of digital products in the SEO space.
Charles’s presentation whilst interesting seems a lot of work for an approach that is always looking to game the system (well Google). As such to me, it seems more like churn and burn approach to marketing online. I am sure the tactics work as he has been in the industry for some time, but I tend to prefer lighter colored hats.
CMSEO2018 Second Day
Dino the “dude who doesn’t like suits” Gomez is from the USA and runs a consultancy and client-driven agency for Facebook Ads and SEO.
Dino gave a great presentation mostly focused on client SEO agencies looking to more easily attract new clients or to up-sell existing clients. He recommended an easy to implement the strategy of using Facebook Ads alongside SEO to get easy wins. It’s a great tactic as it gives the clients immediate leads, making them happy and ultimately gives you time for the SEO to kick in.
I managed to spend some time with Dino discussing Facebook Ads for e-commerce businesses and he outlined how his agency works. All incredibly useful for the near future when I get going.
He’s really easy to talk too and really down to earth, it was a pleasure speaking to Dino – Dino is an awesome guy to know and can help new and seasoned entrepreneurs alike.
I knew nothing about Ryan before he got up to speak and was really (and I mean REALLY) impressed by his presentation.
He has an incredibly detailed standard operating procedure (SOP) developed for his digital agency. This blueprint allows them to not just scale their client’s marketing, but to also offer a blueprint for successfully managing their campaigns.
Ryan gave the example of a company he was working with recently called Ardent Cannabis, and how he used his process to significantly increase revenue. There was so much content to go over in so little time that Ryan really had to talk fast to cover it. So, it was more like he was on speed rather than talking about a Cannabis product!
Ryan will soon be offering this blueprint as a course in January 2019, you can sign up now to get notifications on the release.
Craig is a Scottish guy with a strong accent who used to focus on Local SEO. Like Ryan, I didn’t know anything about Craig before the presentation started but he highlighted some amazing automation tools that I may find useful in the near future.
The main focus from his talk was on client SEO – getting your clients set up on Google maps and the various challenges of doing this right.
Like Holly, Craig seems very experienced with the black-hat side of online marketing. He dropped some dodgy marketing tactics and was very upfront as to what was needed to get these to work. Basically consistency and reviews (real or otherwise) are the key!
This is not an area I am familiar with I will certainly be checking out some of the tools; citationsbuilder, jarvee, linkedhelper, fuelgram and ghostbrowser.
No real introduction is needed for Matt as he was the organizing of the conference and well known in the SEO arena as being one of the top guys.
Matt gave a great talk on what he did buy a site making a few thousand dollars per month and scaling it to over $20k per month promoting affiliate products. He will be looking to flip this site for over $500k, showing how affiliate SEO can still be incredibly lucrative if you know what you’re doing.
As is usual with Matt, he gave an awesome presentation that was super easy to follow and gave some great tips along the way.
A lot of people are hoping he runs these conferences each year – I certainly do.
CMSEO2018 Meme Competition
For fun, there was a meme competition where attendees could send in their funny SEO related memes. There were some funny memes, which I will try and find and upload here at a later date.
Here is the winner collecting his HUGE trophy – will be comical to see how he got this home.
CMSEO 2018 Networking Parties
Before and after the Chiang Mai SEO conference there are a number of networking parties held by industry service providers, some of who presented at the event. So, let’s check out the events on during the Chiang Mai SEO 2018 conference.
The Beer Lab – AuthorityHackers (Wednesday 31st November)
This event was put on by Authority Hackers a couple of guys (Mark and Gael) I haven’t heard about until now. Checking out their website I found they provide lots of informative content on producing authority sites online. They up-sell this to a paid for course that outlines a blueprint for creating, managing and monetising an authority site.
I wish I had gotten a chance to chat with the guys but when I even manage to work out who they were, they always had an audience around them.
Whilst I am a Brit I’m not a fan of beer and prefer a Jack Daniels Coke and the odd cocktail, so the location was a little lost on me. Even still, the Beer Lab is a great bar and restaurant with an amazing vibe.
Warm UP Café – Ahrefs (Friday 2nd November)
This event was on the Friday at the end of the conference at a popular bar/restaurant with locals and expats located in the Nimmanhaemin district.
I have been here before and it’s a great place and although keen to go I was just too knackered and went for food at the market and a foot massage. The early night and no drinking helped to ensure I wasn’t frazzled for the weekend.
Checking out Facebook on Saturday there was clearly a lot of sore heads from this event.
Warmup cafe is probably Chiang Mai’s most popular bar/club with ex-pats and locals flocking there at the weekend. If you’re looking to party this is the place to go.
Beast Burgers – SEOButler (Saturday 3rd November)
This event was organised by Johnathan the owner of SEOButler based in Brighton, UK.
I was keen to catch up with Jonathan as attempts to catch him at the event were unsuccessful. Apparently, if I was a smoker, I would have had no problem grabbing a chat with him. 😉
I have used SEOButler a few times and they are great to work with. They provide a number of supporting SEO services, such as Social Signals, press releases, citations, etc.
Beast Burgers is truly an awesome looking building and the open-air roof area is a great way to chill out. Drop by as the burgers are pretty good too!
Baa(n) Din – Dino Gomez (Saturday 3rd November)
There were two events on Saturday and I was keen to visit both so after an hour and half at Beast Burgers I headed over to Baa(n) Din to catch up with Dino Gomez.
After initial difficulty in finding the place hidden down an alleyway that’s easy to miss, I joined a table of 20 or so guys and girls. A couple of Thai whiskey and cokes later and enjoying meeting a couple of SEO guys from Canada and the USA.
Dino is incredibly down to earth and a genuinely nice guy and gave some pointers of who to check out online for areas that interested me. Once I get up and running with a new online business I will certainly be in touch with Dino.
Baa(n) Din is a really chilled out place and the staff is incredibly welcoming. Well worth taking the time to find it and enjoy a couple of drinks there for sure.
Summary of the Chiang Mai SEO 2018 Conference
I really enjoyed this year’s event. The Chiang Mai SEO conference is really going from strength to strength and I’m looking forward to next year already! So Matt please don’t disappoint us!
The highlights for me were meeting Dino, listening to Ryan, Kurt’s, and Matt’s presentations. I got a lot of value from their presentations and believe I will be working with many of these guys in 2019, and so it’s great to have a face to face meeting beforehand and will make doing business together much easier when we do.
If you’re into SEO then it’s really a no brainer attending this conference, I would even say if you’re a digital nomad then it’s still worth attending especially if you’re never been to Chiang Mai.
One observation I should make, some of the speakers made SEO sound incredibly complicated and it did make me wonder if it really needs to be. If you’re really looking to “game Google” then I can see the need for sophisticated SEO tricks, but how long these will last.
Overall I had an awesome week, I still have incredibly fond memories of Chiang Mai. Outside of Penang, it’s my number one place to live in the world.
Cheers to all the guys and girls who put on the event and see you in 2019!