Copyblogger’s Authority 2015: Your backstage pass to the BEST conference I’ve ever been to

A man on a stage with microphones.
Authority Rainmaker logo
Image credit: Ethan Beute

If you caught some of my social media updates last week, you’ll know that I was in Denver for Copyblogger’s Authority conference.

It was the BEST conference I’ve been to. Ever. And I can’t keep that kind of awesomeness to myself.

So this post has some of my notes from almost every presentation. WARNING: It’s a really long post. I’ve tried to set the scene as well as sharing the points I loved and the tips that got me really excited.

Grab a cup of tea. Maybe a pot. Scroll up, scroll down, jump around. Read it however you want.

This is your backstage pass to two days of Authority 2015. Enjoy.

A quick summary of who was there.

DAY 1:

  • Dan Pink: The ABCs of selling.
  • Scott Brinker: Interactive content design: Moving marketing from communications to experiences.
  • Pamela Wilson: Designing a warm customer experience in a cold online world.
  • Sonia Simone: Evil’s guide to landing page design.
  • Ann Handley: Good content vs good enough content.
  • Jerod Morris: The 4 essential elements of a remarkable podcast.
  • Bernadette Jiwa: The secret to creating content people love.
  • Chris Brogan: Use content and community to earn more customers.

DAY 2:

  • Sally Hogshead: The art and science of fascination in your marketing.
  • Danny Sullivan: The state of search marketing in 2015.
  • Michael King: How to get more of the right traffic.
  • Joe Pulizzi: The 6 steps to building a massive audience with content.
  • Joanna Lord: How to create a culture of testing for maximum growth.
  • Sean D’Souza: How to sell less and make more.
  • Scott Stratten vs Ryan Deiss: Customer experience vs conversion.
  • Henry Rollins.

Skip to the bottom for a podcast summary of the conference!

DAY 1. Are you ready?

Dan Pink: The ABCs of selling


Dan Pink at #Authority2015
Dan Pink.
Image credit: Ethan Beute

I didn’t really know much about Dan Pink apart from knowing he is all about selling.  He was entertaining and energetic, a good start to the conference! Here are some key moments.

The process of selling has changed thanks to information parity between buyers and sellers. It’s not Always Be Closing anymore. Buyers have the power and sellers have to demonstrate:

  • Attunement (understanding and perception),
  • Buoyancy (in an ocean of rejection),
  • Clarity (helping people make sense of the information they have).

My big takeaways

The most important question isn’t “What’s in it for me (WIIFM)? It’s “Compared to what?” An all positive feature list won’t sell as well as one with a small negative. Adding a small, honest blemish to a list of features helps to illuminate all the positives.

Lists, alliteration, repetition, and rhyming enhance process fluency (retention and believability) because the more easily information is understood, the more easily it is retained.  Dan repeated all his main points and was gently mocked by other presenters … but I remember his points!

Make it EASY for people to take action. Dan cited a story of influencing students to donate to a food drive. Two donation letters were sent. One simply asking for a donation, and one also asking for a donation but with specific information on how and where to donate. The more detailed letter got much better results. Give people plenty of details on how to say yes, how to take action and what happens next.

Scott Brinker: Interactive content design


Scott Brinker at #Authority2015
Scott Brinker
Image credit: Ethan Beute

Scott is a marketing technologist and he talked to us about (you’ll never guess)… trends in marketing technology. Scott set the scene saying, we used to need web pages to get noticed online. Then we needed rich content. Then personalised content.

The next wave of innovation is interactive content.

Like asking questions that lead to an answer with meaning and relevance. So rather than saying, “Here are the pricing plans”, ask some questions that help customers find the best plan for them. Or ask them questions that help them decide which product is the best fit for their needs.

When you get them interacting with you, the experience will have more meaning.

My big takeaway

People are responsive to novelty. Carve out 10% of your time to experiment with your content and see how your audience responds.

Pamela Wilson: Designing a warm customer experience


Pamela Wilson at #Authority2015
Pamela Wilson
Image credit: Ethan Beute

Pamela is VP of Educational Content at Copyblogger Media and the presenter of the Hit Publish podcast (I recommend it). Pamela shared three customer touch points to build deep connections online.

  1. Your homepage
  • Visitors arrive asking: Where am I? Is this worth my time?
  • They need to be welcomed and empowered.
  • Have a clear site name, simple navigation and benefit-driven tagline.
  1. Your content
  • Your visitor asks: Do you care?
  • Publish informative content that helps people meet their challenges.
  • Have a consistent publishing schedule.
  1. Your commerce experience
  • The commerce experience is exchanging anything of value (emails, time, money).
  • Your visitor asks: Can I trust you? Do I know what to do next?
  • Segment and create more targeted offers.
  • Pay attention to how you present your offer and build trust.
  • Be responsive, especially around problem solving

My favourite quote

Design a customer experience that delights, builds trust and makes friends.

Sonia Simone: Dr. Evil’s guide to landing page design


Sonia Simone at #Authority2015
Sonia Simone
Image credit: Ethan Beute

Sonia is co-founder and Chief Content Officer of Copyblogger Media, and also presenter of the Confessions of a Pink Haired Marketer podcast (another one I recommend).

While Sonia’s presentation was Dr. Evil’s guide to landing pages, her key message was that “marketing isn’t about tricking people into buying something they don’t want to buy.”

She reminded us that our goal is to help our audience achieve the changes they seek. Our marketing should make people smarter about how to move forward with their transformation.

Sonia talked about headlines, offers, calls to action, reverse risk, and about why people should trust you and what your widget does/how it works, but reminded us that landing pages aren’t a paint-by-numbers project. We need to understand our audience and write for them.

My big takeaways

People are afraid of feeling stupid, potential buyer’s remorse can cripple a purchase before it happens. Use content marketing to make them feel safe, educated and empowered before they make a decision.

Your landing page shouldn’t be a YES or NO proposition. Give people another option that keeps them engaged.

Use different paths for different people.  If you can control the source of traffic (like people coming from a guest post or social media platform), try to have a customised landing page for them.

Ann Handley: Good content vs. good enough content

@annhandley + @marketingprofs

Ann Handley at #Authority2015
Ann Handley
Image credit: Ethan Beute

Ann is an author, marketer, and Chief Content Officer waging a war on content mediocrity. And she’s utterly awesome.

Ann opened her presentation talking about how undervalued brand voice is in the business-to-business (B2B) space. Especially as more companies take on content marketing (bombarding the audience with more noise).

Her tips are to:

  • Know what makes you unique and explain that in your content.
  • Know your brand voice. Your tone of voice reflects your culture, amplifies your story and communicates with the people you want to reach.
  • Know how your brand words roll out and what they mean for customers.
  • Don’t dilute your voice.
  • Find interesting ways to say boring stuff (FIWTSBS).

My big takeaways

Test your content: If you covered your logo, would you recognise yourself from your content alone? If the answer is no, you haven’t differentiated yourself enough.

Use micro copy: in-between moments (like loading time, errors etc.), FAQs, Instagram, landing pages, popovers/popups and calls to action can all be ways to keep telling your brand story and differentiate your business.

Ann has a cheeky sense of humour. I loves her.

Jerod Morris


Jerod Morris at #Authority2015
Jerod Morris
Image credit: ethanbeute

Jerod is the VP of Rainmaker.FM at Copyblogger Media, host of The Lede and The Showrunner podcasts and creator of The Showrunner podcasting course.

The qualities of a great customer experience… and a great podcast:

  • Authentic – be yourself. Your listeners will prefer it and it’s much easier to sustain.
  • Useful – be a helpful force in your listeners’ lives!
  • Sustainable – it takes a lot of work and there is always a dip in numbers and energy. You have to push through.
  • Profitable – think about what you want to get out of the exercise. Profit doesn’t have to mean money either.

Now, I didn’t take too many notes during Jerod’s presentation simply because I’ve heard him talk about podcasting a lot. That doesn’t mean I didn’t listen but if you want to dig into creating a podcast, tune into The Showrunner.

What made this presentation stand out was his opening story. Jerod told us how he proposed to his now fiancé. It was elaborate and amazing. This tweet from Demian Farnworth (Chief Content Officer for Copyblogger Media) made me laugh:

Thanks, @JerodMorris for making every man at #authority2015 look like a romantic invalid.

Bernadette Jiwa: The secret to creating content people love


Bernadette Jiwa at #Authority2015
Bernadette Jiwa
Image credit: Ethan Beute

Bernadette is the author and creator behind, The Story of Telling. If you’ve never heard Bernadette speak, she has a soft Irish accent and a quietness that makes everyone shut up and listen.

Bernadette reminded us that we’re spending more money to interrupt more people to sell them stuff they don’t want. She said,

Don’t make people want something. Make something people want.

Isn’t that perfect?

Her difference model encourages you to:

  • Know your core Principles.
  • Understand your Purpose.
  • Understand the People who you want to serve.
  • Understand their Perception so you can be more relevant.
  • Develop a Product.

Whoever gets closer to the audience WINS. Great content doesn’t interrupt. It connects people to their humanity. We need to get into their hearts before their wallets.

She wrapped up with a line that still makes me sigh happily:

Find out the people you want to work for. Find out where they want to go. Help them get there.

Chris Brogan : Use content and community to earn more customers


Chris Brogan at #Authority2015
Chris Brogan
Image credit: Ethan Beute

I’ve never hear Chris speak before and I found him utterly likeable, if a little distracted. He kept whizzing past slides exclaiming “I don’t want to talk about that!”

Here are some points I managed to get down:

  • The list is everything but your community aren’t yours. They are the people you have the honour and pleasure of serving.
  • The reply button is your friend. Talk to your list.
  • People buy more on emotion than logic. Talk to people’s emotions [Fear + Courage].
  • Repetition is key.
  • Be straightforward.
  • Imperfection sells.
  • Automate sequences.
  • Last call emails WORK. Chris Brogan gets his most conversions on the last call email.
  • Give stuff away for free. The more you give away the more money you will make.

It was a blur and to be honest by this time of the day my brain felt, well, full and I was thirsty for some socialising.

You can get his slides (and newsletter) here.


Then… we partied.

Custom made MOZ coasters. Of course.
Custom made MOZ coasters. Of course.

DAY 2. Are you still with me?

Sally Hogshead: The art and science of fascination in your marketing

@sallyhogshead + @howtofascinate

Sally Hogshead at #Authority2015
Sally Hogshead
Image credit: Ethan Beute

It was 8:30am. The Moz party from the night before was still leaving its finger prints on our cloudy, hungover heads when Sally took to the stage. She opened her presentation talking about Jägermeister: “The most popular drink that nobody likes.” Sally pointed out that if Jägermeister tasted better, it wouldn’t sell so well.

Then she had a shot of it.

I almost lost my breakfast.

Her point was about uniqueness and it was well made. Sally said, “Every time you communicate, you’re adding value or you’re taking up space. Stand out or don’t bother.” BOOM.

“Different is better than better”

  • The thing about you that makes you different is the reason people love you. It’s important to know what makes you different in a crowded, competitive marketplace.
  • The more you can identify the qualities that make you different – the more successful you will be.

If you don’t know Sally’s work, she as a quiz that gives you an archetype with the qualities that people find most fascinating about you. If you don’t like to be labelled, this isn’t for you. If you’re having trouble figuring out why people come to you, this will help you short cut that process.

Sally gave us permission to share the conference code for her Fascination Advantage assessment. FREECODE: COPYBLOGGER

I am THE BELOVED. Passion and trust are my strong suits. Share yours in the comments!

My big takeaway

When you are completely authentic – you don’t try and FIX anything about yourself – it becomes easier for the right people to hire you for the right kind of work.

Sally finished with another shot of Jägermeister. Respect!

Danny Sullivan: The state of search marketing in 2015


Danny Sullivan at #Authorty2015
Danny Sullivan
Image credit: Ethan Beute

Danny is the Founding Editor of Search Engine Land and he talked to us about SEO trends.

He opened by asking what the number one search result is nowadays. Organic results are often pushed down by PPC ads, shop ads, images, and local listings. Additionally, all results change depending the person, their previous searches and their location. So there are no ‘normal’ results anymore.

SEO is about understanding how people get information and how to get your information into where they’re looking. It’s not just Google, it’s review sites and directories like Yelp etc.


  • Entity searches where Google now matches things, rather than strings. It understands connections between data and people.
  • Direct answers where you don’t get a link to a site, you get the answer directly. This started booming in 2014 and will continue to grow.
  • Mobile-friendliness is obviously a must-have now. Test your webpage using Google’s tool.
  • Search to app is the next frontier. Clicking a link straight to an app.
  • Click to call will grow, where people search on their mobile but then want to speak to a human (without having to click around searching for a number).
  • Predictive searching gives people answers before they search. Like weather, exchange rate, or nearby venues displaying for your location.
  • Location gating will give people pop ups, offers etc. based on their location.

Danny’s SEO tips:

  • There is no one secret or tactic to SEO success.
  • Know SEO fundamentals and pay attention to them. They hold true over time
  • Invest in quality content. (PROMO: If you’d like to learn how to optimise quality content, check this out)
  • Build an audience, not links.
  • The more you SEO, just for SEO’s sake, the less effective your SEO may be.
  • Be the essential answer.
  • Use Google Webmaster resources – they’re there to help.

Michael King: How to get more of the right traffic


Michael King at #Authority2015
Michael King
Image credit: Ethan Beute

Michael is the Founder of iPullRank and he talked about content auditing to help:

  • Understand what already works.
  • See where the holes in your funnel and your SEO are.
  • Quantify where the dollars are going.

Key inputs to the auditing process are:

  • Objectives: Why are we creating content?
  • Personas: Who is your audience?
  • Journey maps: What is the series of needs they go through?
  • Analytics: What is happening? How are people using your content?
  • Style Guide.

I was following but then he went really deeeeeeep. And he lost me.

Here are his slides. His presentation was PACKED with detail so if this is something you’re interested in, check the slides out.

My big takeaway

If you want to serve the right content to the right person at the right moment, you have to understand what your audience needs and what content you have right now (so you can plug the holes).

Joe Pulizzi: The 6 steps to building a massive audience with content


Joe Pulizzi at #Authority2015
Joe Pulizzi
Image credit: Ethan Beute

Joe Pulizzi is an entrepreneur, speaker, author on content marketing and founder of the Content Marketing Institute. I met Joe at CMIWorld in Sydney in 2011 and he’s a lovely, lovely guy who clearly knows his stuff.

Joe covered the six steps of his topic saying, if we walked away with just one AHA moment, he was happy. I think most of the room walked away with more than one!

1. Find your sweet spot

  • Your sweet spot is your passion X your authority on the topic.
  • He advised us to keep niching until we find a topic we can be the only expert in the world on.

2. The content tilt

  • After we find our sweet spot we need to take an extra step and find our own take on that topic; which is what will make us unique in the market.

Joe suggested we also create a content mission statement like,

  • ‘Helping [THESE PEOPLE] do [THIS] / solve [THIS].’
  • ‘This is the place where [THESE PEOPLE] can find [THIS]’

3. Build the base

  • One content type (for example, a blog)
  • One main platform
  • Consistent delivery
  • Long period of time

Joe backed up this idea with many examples of people and companies (like Copyblogger and the Content Marketing Institute) who just blogged until they had a lot of subscribers. Then, they launched their product.

4. Harvest the audience

  • Focus on subscribers as a metric (the list is everything)

5. Diversify

  • Build the base
  • Build the subscriber network
  • Then diversify

For personal brands this could be:

  • Blog
  • Book
  • Public speaking

For business brands it could be:

  • Digital
  • Print
  • In-person

6. Monetisation

  • First build the audience, then monetise it.
  • Joe told us to look for revenue ripples; opportunities that we don’t plan for but happen because we’re building an audience.

My big takeaway

You can’t be everywhere. Be on one platform, consistently delivering awesome content and once you’ve built your tribe, go from there.

Sean D’Souza: How to sell less and make more


Sean D'Souza at #Authority2015
Sean D’Souza
Image credit: Ethan Beute

Sean is Marketing Strategist at Psychotactics and a cartoonist, but I don’t think that really does him justice. I started tweeting with Sean in the lead up to the event after finding his podcast, The 3-month Vacation. I chatted to him a few times over the conference and he was extremely generous with his knowledge.

Sean opened his presentation talking about price and value, reminding us we buy on VALUE (not price).

  • The difference is INFORMATION – customers will pay when they know why they are buying.
  • Relevant information increases value – and price.
  • Price dominates when we don’t have information.

He showed us the benefits of creating a Yes-Yes System (rather than a Yes-No System).

  • When promoting your product or service, don’t make it a choice between a yes and no. Make it a choice between yes (the product) and yes (the product + bonus).
  • Comparison is key.
  • The bonus shifts the focus. The bonus becomes more important than the product.

To make the Yes-Yes system work you need:

  1. Exactly the same product.
  2. A must-have bonus (Regular + Premium).
  3. A price difference that can be no greater than 15%.
  4. A bonus that is something they want with their heart and soul.
  5. A call to action.

My big takeaways

When selling products, present a regular option and premium option. Three options, however, just make more work for us when we can get the same results from just two options.

Learn more with some free resources from Sean.

I’m going to be structuring how I present my own products after this presentation! I highly recommend his podcast.

Joanna Lord: How to create a culture of testing for maximum growth

I’ll be honest with you. This is when I stretched my legs to grab a cup of tea. I’m glad I did though as I got to chat with Bernadette Jiwa and Sean D’Souza. Two lovely, smart, friendly people.

Bernadette and I discussed Chris Brogan’s presentation and his email sequences of 5-11 emails. Bernadette shared that when she launches a book, she often only sends one email. We discussed the importance of sales communications that are authentic, and not just someone else’s process.

When Sean joined us, we talked about talent. Sean is going to write a book on talent, busting the myth that talent is natural. He said, anyone can learn anything with time and dedication and that our ability to learn is strongly linked to our confidence. So small wins will boost our confidence in our abilities to learn new things. An interesting chat!

Henry Rollins

Henry Rollins. Just. Wow. 

Henry Rollins at #Authority2015
Henry Rollins
Image credit: Ethan Beute

I didn’t know what to expect but Henry exploded. He was chosen as the final keynote because he is the ultimate DIY-er, from making his own single sleeves and flyers to creating his own publishing and media company for his work.

His passion was astounding and after spending two days learning how to make more money, we finished off listening to someone who said, FUCK THE MONEY. YOUR INTEGRITY IS EVERYTHING.

(I had to capitalise, it was fierce!)

My favourite story was about a show he did in Canada. Now, Henry made it clear that he never, ever charges more than he absolutely has to. There was a glitch and the show tickets were $10 more than he’d charged before.

He was so offended on behalf of his audience that before he took to the stage, he walked around the venue and handed every single audience member a $10 note. It took 45 minutes.

That’s someone who takes their shit seriously and it was very grounding. 

Why was is THE BEST conference?

The values. I really like Copyblogger’s values. They teach you how to make money but in a way that’s ethical and authentic. And that vibe was all around this conference.

The single stream. I liked not having to choose between speakers or dash between rooms. There was one beautiful auditorium and everyone listened and lunched together.

The details. Things like the wifi scored some heavy investment and I don’t recall having a single issue over the two days. That’s knowing your audience!

The socialising. There was a welcome night party on Wednesday night, a Thursday night party in a nightclub and a Friday night wrap up party. With two days of content as well, it was….. tiring.

I realised how much of a nanna I am when I walked into the nightclub on Thursday night. It was too dark, the music was too loud and the drinks were too watery. Ha! But that didn’t stop me earning a hangover for Friday!

The people really made it, for me. I didn’t meet any dickheads. They were all friendly, open to learning and respectful. It was wonderful.

I wish I had more photos to show you. I don’t mind a quick selfie but I made a special effort to stay off my phone while I was talking to people. I actually remember people’s names and I daresay I made some friends!

So if you’re still with me – thanks!  I know it’s not the same as being there but I hope I’ve shared the joy.

I also recommend you hit the #Authority2015 hashtag on Twitter. You’ll see lots more good stuff. And here is a podcast summary by conference podcaster Clark Buckner of TechnologyAdvice for those who like to listen!

I’d love to know any tips that stand out? Share your thoughts!

The Copy Detective

[Some additional thoughts]

I think my favourite part of the whole affair was not being a mum on duty for a few days. I love my family, dearly, but it was refreshing to present myself as a woman, a marketer and a word nerd … rather than a mum. I didn’t have to prepare breakfast, change nappies or talk about development milestones. I could break all the rules you don’t in front of toddler (because you know they are always watching) and… I BLOODY LOVED IT. More than all the great content and people, travelling on my own was good for my soul.


All images thanks to:

5 Responses

    1. Thanks Holly. It’s a bit of an epic post but I wanted to share all the awesomeness.

      What I forgot to mention was what a rock show it was. Classic anthems as presenters walked on, lights a conference program that looked like a festival guide… and the parties. It was coooool.

  1. Thank you Belinda! I attended the conference as well but am still Evernoting your post 🙂 You offer a great recap of everything and while reading, I’m reflecting back on my own takeaways. Loved the music, loved the people and always love meeting those hardworking Copyblogger – StudioPress (my side of the biz) folks that are behind the scenes. No slimmers, that was the takeway too, the company and speakers had the same motto — serve first, present value and the sales will come!

    1. Thanks for stopping in Ginger. I’m glad you still found it useful, even after you watched it all live.

      I loved that theme too. Be true, be honest and serve people first.

      I’ll definitely be putting this event into my 2016 calendar!

  2. Thanks Belinda for a great roundup! A few people I hadn’t heard of but will now go and check out. Have to add this to my conference wishlist too!

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