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Build your SEO skills with the top takeaways from SearchLove 2017

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Build your SEO skills with the top takeaways from SearchLove 2017

SearchLove is one of the world’s leading SEO conferences and this year’s London event was another chance to get advice from some of the top minds in online marketing.

In case you missed it, or in case you were there and need a recap, we’ve put together this bumper post on the numerous highlights of the two days.

Paddy Moogan – Link Building Case Studies, Myths & Fails

Paddy’s presentation revolved around busting some link building myths. Some of them relating to budget, and others to forecasts. For example, you do not need a consistent budget to get a piece of content to go viral. And also, if a campaign never goes viral, it does not mean that it cannot get links on a regular basis. Being a brand is not the main prerequisite for a campaign to work because the story is what matters in the end. Journalists want to be pitched with newsworthy topics and not something that promotes your brand.

Getting the timing right matters when releasing a campaign, but Paddy mentioned one campaign that was released at the most “inconvenient” time according to the PR rules and managed to be the most successful piece of content ever released, as the slide below reveals.

Slide showing a detail from Paddy Moogan's SearchLove presentation

What to take away from this presentation

Balance between what’s working now and what will work in the future. Every piece of content is different, and you need to consider the whole environment when seeing if your website is link-worthy: brand, product, experience, price, reputation, trustworthiness – they all matter.

Link to presentation deck: Link Building Case Studies, Myths & Fails

Samantha Noble – Beyond the reach of keyword targeting

Samantha’s presentation focused on building custom audiences that are served ads according to their needs. This personalisation can be done based on different demographics such as lookalike targeting, location targeting and relationship targeting. Another piece of advice she offered to PPC strategists was: when the AdWords algorithm changes – wait to see what happens before implementing changes to campaigns.

She talked the audience through various types of ads for each channel, including some upcoming releases. For example, did you know that you will be able to create Local Inventory Ads and include the Click & Collect feature?

Slide showing a detail from Samantha Noble's SearchLove presentation

What to take away from this presentation

Put an emphasis on custom audiences and tailor personalised ad for each category. No more silo targeting. Use the data that you have to build these audiences.

Link to presentation deck: Beyond the Reach of Keyword Targeting

Rob Bucci – Reverse Engineering Google’s Research

Rob focused on the SEO funnel and explained each stage and how we can be successful if we optimise for each stage in particular.

Slide showing a detail from Rob Bucci's SearchLove presentation

He also presented the results of research conducted by STAT and shared the conclusions regarding featured snippets:

  • Most of them are selected from results ranking on #3 or #4.
  • Vulnerable snippets (those that can be stolen) are for website that rank +5.

If you want to see Google’s other options for a featured snippet, do a search and edit the URL where it says num=1and replace it with num=2 to see Google’s second choice for the featured snippet. More details can be found on this article on Optimization tips for Featured snippets and how to ID candidate snippets.

What to take away from this presentation

Start by analyzing your niche and what type of queries are triggering featured snippets. It may be paragraphs, lists or videos. Look for the “quick winners” Featured Snippets (those that are ranking +5) and see how to optimise your content to “steal” them. Make sure your page also ranks well for that query in order for that to actually work.

Link to presentation deck: Reverse Engineering Google’s Research

Mike Arnesen – Level up Your Analytics

Mike’s focus was on gathering all tracking data in Google Analytics by doing custom tracking. His advice is to start doing cross-domain, cross-frame and cross-device tracking and to import data from third party tools such as the CRM to create a global overview on a visitor’s actions. He also offered 3 tips on how to modify the Bounce Rate to collect real insights on single interactions.

Slide showing a detail from Mike Arnesen's SearchLove presentation

What to take away from this presentation

Time on site should be representative of a website’s objectives. Sometimes, Google Analytics’ default settings are not representative for your website. If this is the case, do a workaround to get data that is relevant for your objectives. Mike’s presentation includes the steps on how to do that with Google Tag Manager (GTM). He also presented ERU – a global GTM container that contains different types of tracking containers and that can be imported to your GTM and personalised according to your needs. You can choose what you want to implement to your GTM. Download it at Hackgtm.com

Link to presentation deck: Level Up Your Analytics

Purna Virji – Go East, Innovators: Strategies from Asia the Rest of the World Needs to Adopt

Purna advocated for incorporating empathy and compassion into technology and to tailor it based on the target market. She said apps should serve multiple purposes, otherwise their use will not be justified by the users since 1 in 4 users in the US only used an app once (Localytics).

Companies should focus on Augmenting Intelligence and how it can help them build relationships with clients. That’s why she invented AIQ, a rating which represents a company’s readiness to embrace the use of AI, something which the slides below show is going to become increasingly relevant.

Slide showing a detail from Purna Virhi's SearchLove presentation

What to take away from this presentation

Check if the UI/UX is friendly and delivers to your visitors. Remove friction whenever possible. Do more in one step so that users don’t feel overwhelmed by the interaction with your website or app. Prepare to embrace AI in the near future.

Link to presentation deck: Go East, Innovators: Strategies from Asia the Rest of the World Needs to Adopt

Jes Scholz – The New Era of Visual Marketing

Jes has promoted the need of focusing on optimising images and how the phone camera will become the search box, especially for ecommerce. She also mentioned that Google is moving away from search to discovery. Images have no language barrier, thus the reach is higher. 11% of searches have an image block now.

The presentation also showed how to optimize images to get featured in image blocks.

Slide showing a detail from Jes Scholz's SearchLove presentation

Jes recommends companies work with image recognition tools that are able to perform searches based on image queries (two examples are Pinterest Lens and Google Lens).

The presentation’s bottom line is “Think pictures, not keywords”.

What to take away from this presentation

As a web designer, you understand the importance of visuals. Optimize your images to outrank your competitors in SERPs. Visuals also help with brand reputation because they trigger recognition which translated to trust.

Link to presentation deck: The New Era of Visual Marketing

Jon Myers – Mobile-first Preparedness- What We’ve Learned from Crawling the Top 1 Million Websites

Jon talked about different website configurations and how they will be affected by the release of the Mobile First index and how Google indexes each one of them:

Slide showing a detail from Jon Myers' SearchLove presentation

DeepCrawl has crawled the top 1 million websites and here’s what they’ve found:

  • 80% sites are responsive, 19% are dynamic and 1% are m-dot.
  • Only 61% of the m-dots have implemented canonicals correctly.
  • Responsive sites have the fastest fetch times.
  • 91% of dynamic sites don’t have the vary HTTP header setup.
  • 78% of sites are still HTTP.
  • Among TLDs, the .edu and gov. domains have the highest proportion of responsive sites.
  • HTML code should be max. 500 KB.

What to take away from this presentation

Prepare your website for Mobile First. Check our article if you want to switch from a mobile subdomain to a responsive website. Bartosz Góralewicz has run an interesting experiment on how Google crawls JavaScript frameworks.

Link to presentation deck: Mobile-First Preparedness – What We’ve Learned from Crawling the Top 1 Million Websites

David Levin – Social Content Masterclass: Platform Specificity

David focused his presentation on the newest practices for increasing social media reach. He also presented some bad examples that could have been avoided. Sometimes, brands are trying too hard and that’s when social media goes wrong. He recommended using visuals to get people’s attention.

What to take away from this presentation

Choose the right timing for your posts and if unfortunate event happens, check your scheduled posts to make sure they are not negatively impacted by it. Use quality visuals for social media and try to experiment with new formats.

Link to presentation deck: Social Content Masterclass: Platform Specificity

Ross Simmonds – Content Distribution: How to Give Your Content More Life

Ross mentioned that, in most cases, no effort is made after publishing the content. He offered a few tips on how to increase the reach for your content by using social media and social news aggregation sites such as Reddit. One tip he offered was to look for Facebook pages that were abandoned – if they have good metrics, see if you can take over them by purchasing them. Another channel is Slack, go to slacklist.info and setup notifications on topics you are interested in – use them to jump on to conversations.

Slide showing a detail from Ross Simmonds' SearchLove presentation

What to take away from this presentation

Don’t limit yourself to the classic channels – explore new channels to understand what your potential clients are interested in and write a piece of content on that topic.

Link to presentation deck: Content Distribution: How to Give Your Content More Life

Wil Reynolds – Power BI for Marketers. Make Big Data Easy Again

Wil presented an interesting tool, used mostly by people in finance, that’s called Power BI from Microsoft. It can be used for aggregating data from different sources (let’s say Google AdWords, Google Analytics, Google Search Console, SEMRush and Screaming Frog) to help visualise large chunks of data and make it easier to digest it. His presentation offers the steps needed on how to import the data and how to choose a unique key for marrying the data sets. The final result might look something like in the image below – where different clusters represent one set of keywords and their metrics.

Slide showing a detail from Wil Reynolds' SearchLove presentation

For example, the above visualisation should help you pick the keywords where there is room for improvement, but that are also easy winners.

What to take away from this presentation

Using this tool is especially valuable when having to work with a lot of data. But it can be scaled down and offer a visual aspect of all the information to help make better choices when it comes to what keywords you should focus on. You may be allocating your efforts on a keyword or a set of keywords that has low conversion rates – see where the conversions is falling through the cracks to improve the experience for your visitors and help them cut out through the smoke.

Also, you can identify sets of keywords that may bring more conversions if you would just focus on them. You can distinguish between easy battles and harder ones and choose which ones are worth the fight. You may also find that the number of Impressions is higher than the Average Search Volume – it means you can get more of that keyword/s than you have anticipated. You can also identify the weak spots and keywords you thought were worth fighting for haven’t brought the expected results. You can use the information to help both your SEO and PPC efforts.

Link to presentation deck: Power BI for Marketers – Make Big Data Easy Again

Zee Hoffman Jones – A Competitive Analysis that Saved $337,000

Zee pointed out that some clients do not know their direct online competitors and that their guessing might be very imprecise. As a result, it’s best to do your homework before recommending website strategic changes.

Zee recommended that when choosing which competitors to focus on, you compare sample sets (product pages), not the whole domain, and to use Google Analytics to see what pages people spend more time on and select those for the comparison (money maker pages).

Slide showing a detail from Zee Hoffman Jones's SearchLove presentation

When it comes to analyzing competitors, Zee said conduct a technical SEO audit and then a content audit. On the technical SEO audit, check the on-page optimization and if the site has implemented micro data correctly. For the content optimisation, check if the internal linking promotes indexable content, if content is published on the right pages and if the visuals support the content and are of high quality. In the end, make sure that the content includes calls to action so it has a transactional purpose too, it’s not only informational.

What to take away from this presentation

Sometimes, clients might be wrong. Do your research by comparing sets of pages/folders and not overall domain metrics to really see where a website really stands.

Link to presentation deck: A Competitive Analysis That Saved $337,000

Kirsty Hulse – The Content Flop

Kirsty’s bulletproof plan for avoiding content flops is to never focus on a single campaign at one time. It’s best to run multiple small campaigns so, in case one falls, then there are others that could compensate for the loss and bring in some results.

She mentioned that every campaign should have a good idea (that’s hard, but cheap), access to data (that’s easy and cheap) and be supported by visual assets (that are harder to get and expensive). To come up with a good idea, you have to think laterally about your brand. Better is to take a piece of paper and write all the nonsense that comes first to mind and then cherry pick which one could be converted into meaningful content. Check out whitepapers to get access to data or use a research data search engine.

To create and promote great content, it’s a good idea to use the digital PR for scraping the data and the traditional PR for networking.

What to take away from this presentation

Sometimes content fails. It’s a fact of life. Don’t invest all your resources into one campaign, but create a strategy for a big one and several smaller ones. In case one fails, release the next one so you can get results in the end. You shouldn’t get emotionally attached to campaigns as it will make it harder for you to let them go in case they never pick up.

Link to presentation deck: The Content Flop

Samuel Scott – The Day After Tomorrow, When Ad Blockers Stop All Analytics Platforms

Samuel’s presentation was a warning about retargeting and how ad personalisation has a negative effect on people because they think brands are following them online. He pointed out that adblockers are the effect of the retargeting campaigns.

He also told the audience about GDPR, which is an EU reform regarding online data protection and will affect tracking scripts. According to Samuel, there will be no distinction between cookies (tracking and non-tracking), which will affect A/B testing.

What to take away from this presentation

Slide showing a detail from Samuel Scott's SearchLove presentation

Remarketing is scary to some. Choose to do it with caution and invest more in actually understanding your customers. You can invest more in loyalty, rather than trying to get new clients. Make sure you’re prepared for the introduction of GDPR.

Link to presentation deck: The Day After Tomorrow, When Ad Blockers Stop All Analytics Platforms

Emily Grossman – From Website to Web-App: Fantastic Optimisations and Where to Find Them

Emily’s presentation was focused on the benefits of migrating to a web app, which offers the reach of the web and the experience of an app. The only thing is that…web apps rely on JavaScript and crawling and indexing them is still a problem for search engines. Because of this, she offered several tips on how to make the web app crawlable by improving the rendering of the JS.

The advantage of a Progressive Web App is increased speed, which improves the engagement and avoids excessive baseline bloat.

Slide showing a detail from Emily Grossman's SearchLove presentation

Except for the web app specific optimization tips she has offered, Emily also went through a set of good practices that are relevant for web apps and websites:

  • Minify JS and CSS
  • Compress images and files
  • Remove unnecessary markup
  • Don’t load code that is not needed
  • Optimize images
  • Inline critical JS and CSS
  • Remove render blocking scripts from the <head>

What to take away from this presentation

Some predict PWAs will take over websites – and time will tell if that’s true. Up until then, try to get familiar with the technology and see if you could adopt it for your needs.

Link to presentation deck: From Website to Web-App: Fantastic Optimisations and Where to Find Them

Cheri Percy – Digital Witness: Tales from the Charity Frontlines

Cheri works with charities and she has experience with running campaigns for different causes. Her advice is to test calls to actions to a warm audience. She usually tests two ads on a small group and see which one performs better to drive the funds to the best performing one.

Brands can transpose her experience by driving users to generate content and by rewarding loyal customers. Cheri has offered several examples in her presentation.

Slide showing a detail from Cheri Percy's SearchLove presentation

What to take away from this presentation

Test your ads or ideas on a small group before launching a big campaign. Sometimes, remarketing can bring a higher conversion rate.

Link to presentation deck: Digital Witness: Tales From the Charity Frontlines

Justin Briggs – The Why and How of Creating Video Content for Search

In his presentation, Justin pointed out that certain keywords have high video intent. Ranking in the video vertical also helps with regular SERP results. And let’s not forget that YouTube is the second largest search engine anyway and the average session is around one hour long.

Slide showing a detail from Justin Briggs' SearchLove presentation

Google is following audiences and the younger age groups preference leans towards video content. If your business addresses to a younger demographics, then it’s time to think on how to create and optimise videos.

Slide showing a detail from Justin Briggs' SearchLove presentation

That’s where Justin comes to help: in his SearchLove presentation, he offered 33 tips on how to optimize videos.

Google is advancing in its image and video recognition capabilities and more and more is starting to understand video as text. But still… video search is very exact match because there’s little content search engines are basing on (title, description). That’s why it is best to structure videos into modules and split a brad topic into granular topics.

What to take away from this presentation

If your audience consumes a significant amount of videos, then you need to serve it this type of content. Use Jason’s recommendations on how to optimise your videos to get in front of your core audience.

Link to presentation deck: The Why and How of Creating Video Content for Search

Will Critchlow – Seeing the Future: How to Tell the Impact of a Change Before You Make It

Slide showing a detail from Will Critchlow's SearchLove presentation

At SearchLove, Will focused on the need for using surveys and studies in areas where SEOs are missing data instead of guessing. as some of his Twitter experiments showed off when he asked a question about internal PR.

Slide showing a detail from Will Critchlow's SearchLove presentation

He recommended that you determine the internal PageRank with Gephi and test if adding or removing pages will deeply affect the status quo – you can test it before doing any change to see the impact of the decision. It’s an important test whenever doing link architecture changes. If you would like to dive deeper into the topic, then more details can be found on this Distilled blog post – Proposing Better Ways to Think about Internal Linking.

Quality drop-offs are harder to spot since Panda is now real time. Run surveys to check what people think about your site (gather real feedback on things you haven’t thought about eg. the reviews seem fake, when in fact they were not). Check out the presentation to get some ideas on some criteria you should check your website against.

What to take away from this presentation

One size does not fit all: SEO is not fixed recipe, what worked for a website, might not work for another. Run surveys to understand how users perceive your website.

Link to presentation deck: Seeing the Future: How to Tell the Impact of a Change Before You Make It

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