Chiang Mai SEO Conference 2017 Wrap-Up

Hands down, without a doubt, I just finished up the most intense week of my life.

And you know what?

It was 100% worth it.

Before I get into the Chiang Mai SEO Conference 2017 summary, the let me go back to the beginning.

Last year we were having an invitation-only mastermind in Chiang Mai.  35 of us sat down and dissected each other’s businesses and helped each other solve our problems.  More on this later…

The biggest take away from last year is that we were so grateful for the value we got out of the mastermind, that we wanted more people to experience it.

We wanted some of the brilliant minds at the mastermind to present in a public forum so everyone could benefit.

One thing led to another and eventually we ended up with 502 people at the 1st ever Chiang Mai SEO Conference.

Here’s the recap of this monumental kick-off event.

The Free Lead-Up Events

greg elfrink empire flippers

Chiang Mai is arguably the SEO capital of the world.

But another big motivation for me to have the conference here in Chiang Mai, is that I love the digital community here.

But the fact of the matter is: in Chiang Mai not everyone is “crushing it”.  Many people move to Chiang Mai to bootstrap, cut costs, and invest directly back into business growth.

Some of these folks might not have been able to afford the tickets, so I wanted to provide some value via free events for the up-and-coming local folks who wanted to learn more about SEO.

Event #1 – Selling Digital Assets by Greg Elfrink

gregs event

My good friend Greg kicked things off with a really informative presentation on flipping websites.

Greg admittedly had told me that he’s never spoke for this long to a group of this size (215 people), but it didn’t show at all.

Greg, you nailed it.

The presentation started off with an introduction to Empire Flippers.  EF is a brokerage company that helps you sell digital businesses.

I’ve personally sold over $1M in websites between both LeadSpring and personal sites so I couldn’t recommend them more.

Greg went into the step-by-step process of selling a site and gave recommendations on how to get higher valuations for your website.

The presentation finished up with a case study, taking a look at a big flip ($235k) my buddy Rob Atkinson had from a site once powered by Diggity Links.

Check out the replay below…

Greg left the audience with an entire to-do list of actions for maximizing their website flips.

Definitely don’t skip a minute of the above video.

Event #2 – SEO is Dead by Holly Starks

hollys event

Let me first just say that I love Holly.

We met just this year and have become fast friends.

She’s an absolute beast on the SERPs with her YouTube video expertise and is quick to take over page 1 in any niche she likes.

And at the same time… she’s an absolute sweetheart.  Just don’t tell anyone.   It’s a secret.

In her presentation, Holly gave a complete blueprint on how she ranks in YouTube, and thus in the Google SERPs as well.

All of her tactics are based on actual testing, not theory, which is why this presentation was so well-received.

She went over:

  • The ideal length to make your videos
  • How to optimize and rank them
  • Why links for video rankings don’t compare to CTR and retention
  • How often YouTube refreshes their rankings
  • How to tell if you burnt your YouTube channel

To back up her claims, Holly showed some crazy rankings and even did a live demo getting images ranking in less than a day.

Unfortunately, there was so much blackhat being dropped in this presentation, that we decided that would not be a good move for Holly if we were to post the replay.


But here’s a consolation image, hopefully kicking in some major FOMO for you.

eyes up here

See you next year.

Event #3 – A/B Testing with Optimizely by Stinus Hojensbo

stinus event

At the very least, you could say I have some pretty awesome friends.

My buddy Stinus capped off the last of the free events with an enlightening crash course on A/B testing with my favorite conversion rate optimization (CRO) tool, Optimizely.

CRO has been a huge topic in the digital scene as of late, and it’s a no brainer why.

Instead of waiting for your site to rank higher, you can double your earnings today by making sure your traffic does what you want them to do.

The simplest way to do that is through A/B testing, and Stinus gave us a live demo on how to setup split tests in under 5 minutes.

He also revealed the most lucrative niche in SEO for 2017, “goat yoga”, which I’m sure is trending to the moon by now.

Watch it all here…

Thoughts on the Lead-Up Events

In hindsight, I’m extremely happy with how the free events went.

With attendees traveling from as far as the US, I feel it was a smart move to essentially start the whole conference experience 5 days early and give people a week-long delivery of valye.

The presenters killed it too, so I’m happy about that and appreciative of them.

Next year, thought, I’ll be charging a small amount for these events next time.

The restaurant venue (Food4Thought) actually had to close down their kitchen to accommodate the 250 people in attendance, so they lost a bunch money.

So next year we’ll probably charge a few bucks to cover their losses.  They deserve it.

The 2nd Annual Chiang Mai Invitational SEO Mastermind

mastermind group shot

As I alluded to before, the mastermind was the seed that eventually flourished into the conference.

This year we invited 58 high-level SEOs to come to Anantara Resort to break-up into small groups of 5-6 and sit-down with the intention of helping each other grow our businesses.

The format works like this…


  1. You must be SUPER honest about your business. No puffery, grandstanding, etc.
  2. You must be willing to give (and receive) brutally honest feedback.


  1. 3-7 minutes explaining your business and laying out 1-2 specific problems you’d like the mastermind to help you solve.
  2. 30-40 minutes of back-and-forth with questions and suggestions from others in the mastermind. These people will be looking to help you solve a problem, see the problem from a different light, put you in contact with others that can help, etc.
  3. 3-5 minutes explaining a tool, process, or something in your business that has helped you CRUSH IT in the last 12 months.
  4. Then 5-minute break and on to the next.

Masterminds in Attendance:

Adam O'HernAlex AzouryAndy Gaugler
Ben StarrBrett RussoChane Steiner
Charles FloateChris MunchDane NK
Darin PirkeyDaryl RosserDavid Longacre
Derrick YazwaDiggy DirkEric Skicki
Gareth SimpsonGene MilmanGregory James Elfrink
Holly StarksJacob KettnerJames Dooley
James GregoryJames RuhleJason Karpouzis
Jay CruizJay YapJerred Morris
Jesse HanleyJohn KiekbuschJordan Scrinko
Justin CookeKaran LabraKarl Kangur
Kevin GrahamKris ReidKristian Ole Rorbye
Kurt PhilipMark WalkerMatt Aird
Matt DiggityNemanja MirkovicOliver Kaye
Rafid NassirRick HopeRob Atkinson
Rob RuaokSamuel RomainSia Mohajer
Soham BankerStinus HojensboTheo Moorfield
Tim SouloTom PhillipsTravis Jameson
Tung Tran

Needless to say, there were some major breakthroughs going on in all of the mastermind groups.

Whereas the central themes from last year’s mastermind were related to SEO ranking and risk diversification, this year’s topics were virtually devoid of SEO.

The attendees this year had “leveled up” over the past year.  Heck, Andy Gaugler didn’t even look the same (hittin’ the gym, eh?).

So instead of talking SEO all day, the conversations were about scaling, launches, and exits.

Business talk.  Investor talk.

Personally, I got a lot of great advice regarding start-up selection, an area I’ve always struggled with.

In addition, I received some excellent feedback on the guest post service I’m releasing very soon.  Keep your eyes out for Authority Builders Co. (ABC).

Will we be continuing the mastermind next year?  Absolutely.

>> Browse the Chiang Mai SEO Mastermind Photo Gallery <<

The Chiang Mai SEO Conference 2017

conference logo

How does one define whether or not an event was a success or not?

Is it by the attendee count?

502 of 510 seats were filled with hungry SEOs ready to learn and network their asses off.

Is it by the amount of positive feedback?

event satisfaction

I’m not exactly sure, but if we were to grade it by how much fun it was, I’d say it was a little too good!

Check-ins started at 8:30am where attendees got their badges and had a chance to network, get some free coffee and hors d’oeuvres.

Come 9:15a, our stellar emcee Derrick Yazwa gave people the ground rules and warmed up the stage for an introduction by yours truly.

matt diggity intro

I then passed things off to the first presenter, Daryl Rosser.

How to Get Your First 10 SEO Clients in the Next 90 Days – Daryl Rosser

daryl on stage

Daryl is a client SEO ace, the owner of Lionzeal, and a fellow grey hat like myself.

If one thing can be said about Daryl, it’s that he knows how to make everything look easy.

Not only did he make speaking in front of 500 people look like it was a normal thing, but he laid out the exact, simple gameplan on how he gets clients.

Daryl uses video audits to point out customer website flaws as a bridge to further conversations.


But he doesn’t even create them until the lead is warm.  Brilliant.

In fact, he showed how his 17-year-old brother, with zero SEO experience, used the same process to get clients.

He even played a recording of a video audit, showing how his little bro got his first lead.

While Daryl did highlight just how easy it is for you to get started with client SEO, he made sure not to leave out the key component of success within SEO…


Daryl’s presentation was a perfect kick off to the day.  People were fired up to apply the process to their own businesses to scale up their client bases.

If you’d like to see this process yourself, toss in your email address below to be informed on when the replays will become available.

How to Build 100’s of Outreach Links Every Month – Gareth Simpson

gareth on stage

Gareth is the owner of Seeker Digital and an absolute boss at scalable white hat outreach.

I was outsourcing my outreach work to him in 2016 before I somehow convinced him to give me a consultation on his processes so I could bring my own outreach operation in-house.

Thank you, Gareth.

The type of outreach Gareth does is completely custom for each client.  He starts from scratch each time and works out creative plans to get links from extremely relevant, high authority websites.

As you can guess, scalability is key to getting this to work profitably in his agency.

In his presentation, Gareth kicked off with a history of outreach and what’s required to get a team going in 2017.

He revealed all the tools he uses on a daily basis and tips on how to get high conversion rates from outreach efforts.

gareth wins and losses

He even gave out some of his highest converting templates.

Get on the list to find out more…

Going Beyond the Conventional Keyword Research Knowledge – Tim Soulo

tim on stage

Tim is the head of marketing over at Ahrefs, and if you’ve been following their growth at all over the past two years, you would definitely agree that he is doing his job extremely well.

The tool grown by leaps and bounds due to Tim’s ability to understand and tap into the needs of the SEO community.

In short, Tim knows his shit, which also showed in his presentation.

I’ve never seen so many jaws drop during a conference.

Tim went really deep into the nuances of keyword research and search volume reporting.

He showed how even Google can’t get their own numbers correct between their various search volume reporting tools.

One big takeaway I got was about the importance of “impression potential” as opposed to “search volume”.

In his example, Tim showed that ranking for “squeeze page” could get you 3600 searches/month, while “how to drive traffic to your website” was only 900 searches/month.

But at the end of the day, the latter keyword can get you nearly 5x as much traffic because of the many variations of its synonyms (drive = increase = grow, website = site = page).

Stay tuned for the replay…

Building Sustainable Online Businesses in an Ever-Changing World – Jonathan Kiekbusch

john on stage

If you’ve ever outsourced anything like content, social signals, press releases or citations, you’re probably one of Jonathan’s customers at PBN Butler.

Over the recent years, Jonathan has built up his company and his brand to being one of the most trusted when it comes to delivering quality outsourced SEO work.

But this success didn’t happen by chance.

Jonathan has a very thoughtful, mindful, and strategic approach to business that he’s applied to PBN Butler to grow it to the level it’s at today.

I had three main takeaways from this presentation:

  1. Scrap the typical a top-down approach of hierarchical management, to instead work very closely with a team built around you, not below you.
  2. The main focus of your interaction with this team should be to empathize and inspire, rather than pressure and threaten.
  3. Plan a clear vision of your company’s future that the entire team adopts.

The business owners in the crowd loved this presentation.

Modern Day Black hat SEO – Charles Floate

charles on stage

Charles Floate, aka God of SEO, is one of the most famous (or infamous) SEOs on the planet.

Charles is known for his blackhat tactics and typically disruptive SEO blogging, calling out every name in the industry including Google themselves.

Slide #5 of his presentation reads “Google is lying to you.”


it was no surprise that people were on the edges of their seats with anticipation for his speech… and deliver, he did.

Charles started out with a case study showing that the Panda algorithm isn’t “always rolling” as many claim, and then brought out some patent data showing the nature behind Penguin.

He then showed which link types he uses on the regular followed by a SAPE case study and how he filters his SAPE orders.

After that I was surprised to see a case study of GSA actually working, but after seeing how Charles filters his list through by traffic, it makes sense.

Lastly, Charles finished with [cover your eyes] examples of negative SEO that work today.

To get notified on when this presentation goes live, enter your email below…

Ask Me Anything with Matt Diggity, Charles Floate, Jesse Hanley, Kurt Phillip, Gareth Simpson, & Holly Starks

ama shot

After Charles’ presentation, the conference enjoyed a 30-minute networking break.

Then the above 6 of us gathered on stage to field an hour’s worth of questions from the crowd.

To be honest, I wish I could recall more of the actual questions that were asked, but I was a bit distracted as I’ll explain below.

There were some great questions asked to Gareth and Jesse about outreach link scaling costs.

Holly answered a great question about optimal video length being short (1-2 minutes) with the goal of increasing retention time.

Kurt dropped some CRO knowledge with recommendations on the first page elements to split test (images near CTAs and button CTAs themselves).

And Charles and I fielded a lot of the nerdy questions related to backlinking and onsite optimization.

>> Browse the Chiang Mai SEO Conference Photo Gallery <<

Special Announcement & After Party

After all was said and done, I had a couple special announcements.

One was the launch of my project with LCT, Dino, Tully and Ninja Outreach called The Lab.  If you want to learn some hardcore, data-backed SEO in a mastermind format, definitely check that out.

best seo proposalThe second announcement was of a more personal nature.

I had always debated whether or not I wanted to propose to my girlfriend with the “romantic and intimate” approach or the “loud and embarrassing” approach.

Like any good marketer, I went big, and popped the question in front of 500+ people:

The rest of the night got a bit blurry, but it involved an afterparty, DJ’s and a lantern festival.  Memories were made…

In Summary

I’m pretty pleased with how things went.

Over 500 people came out to Chiang Mai (which would have been enough for me by itself) but they also got to learn (a lot) and network… something I insist everyone in this industry adopts.

Will I do it again?

The mastermind? Definitely.

The conference?  Most likely… yes.  If not next year, then the year afterwards.

But I’m going to need some recovery time.

For those who didn’t get a chance to make it out this year, I promise to eventually hold another one and it will be even better.

Just give this SEO (part-time event marketer) some time to do what he loves first: SEO.