Last week I attended the inaugural Dublin SEO Summit, a free half-day conference held in the Morrison Hotel in the centre of Dublin (not to be confused with the upcoming Dublin Web Summit).
The headline speaker of the SEO event was SEOmoz’s Rand Fishkin, who was on a whirlwind tour of the whole of Ireland and taking time out of his schedule to perform several speaking gigs (only a few days earlier we hosted a Belfast Digital Marketing meetup for him).
The afternoon’s programme consisted of four talks, saving Rand’s headline talk for last.
First up was Brian Martin, director at eCeltic and co-organiser of the event. His talk was a solid introduction to the ins and outs of international SEO, touching upon such essentials as ccTLD vs subdirectories vs subdomains.
In Brian’s talk a local business with a global reach was used to demonstrate the potential of growing your business internationally through the internet – Chain Reaction Cycles, starting as a cycle shop in a small rural town, is now one of the world’s largest cycle ecommerce stores with a turnover in excess of €100m.
Brian also recommended implementation of the hreflang attribute, which seems to be working exactly as intended as more and more real-life case studies emerge.
One of the fun facts in Brian’s talk was that, according to LinkedIn profiles, Ireland is ranked 17th in the world for number of SEO specialists. For such a small country that’s not too shabby at all.
Up next was Joanne Casey from Glowmetrics who spoke about using web analytics to improve your SEO campaigns. Joanne is a well-known web analytics expert in Ireland and also lectures for the Digital Marketing Institute, so I had high hopes for her talk. I was not disappointed.
In her primer for web analytics for SEO Joanne touched upon many different aspects and included some very good tips. One of my key takeaways was that you can use PPC to improve your SEO, not only for keyword selection but also using PPC ads to test optimal texts for use in meta descriptions.
She also mentioned that you should go beyond keyword rankings and focus on additional success metrics, such as the number of different keywords your site is found on in Google.
A great statistic Joanne shared is that 67% of online searches are driven by offline channels such as traditional media.
After a short break Niall Harbison took to the stage. Co-founder of social media agency Simply Zesty, Niall is a social media guy through and through, so when I saw the title of his talk I was more than a little worried.
Fortunately my worries were entirely unfounded. Niall started out by saying he knew almost nothing about the ins and outs of SEO, but was a great fan of the discipline as his company’s website receives 85% of its traffic from search. He showed how Simply Zesty’s focus on great blog content helped grow the company massively, advocating that content + SEO + hard work translates to online success.
Niall then proceeded to lay out the threats to traditional online search – and thus to SEO – in the forms of Facebook’s potential move in to search, the growing use of mobile, and the ‘appification’ of the internet experience.
For a non-SEO guy Niall managed to solidly portray the strengths of SEO versus social media (social is for brand building, search is for traffic) and painted an accurate picture of where SEO might be headed.
Last up was the headline speaker, SEOmoz‘s Rand Fishkin. His talk started off on a bit of a tangent by showing data from OKCupid (a popular online dating site) about the relationship between a person’s height and the number of messages they received from interested daters.
The picture that emerged was that, to maximise your chances of successfully messaging a potential dating partner, you should go against your own irrational biases and pick tall women (or short men) as those receive the fewest amount of messages on OKCupid.
Drawing parallels to digital marketing, Rand proceeded to counter six irrational biases that online marketers might hold, and how you should remove them to be a more effective marketer. Some of the biases Rand addressed were that top rankings are all that matter, SEO should be focused purely on your own website, and social sharing can be done on autopilot.
An interesting tidbit that Rand mentioned, which might be useful for the twitterazzi among us, is that close proximity between a link and a hashtag in a tweet can lead to lower click-through rates on the link (perhaps because people click on the hashtag instead of the link).
Rand’s slides are available on slideshare here:
Without a doubt, the inaugural Dublin SEO summit was a smashing success. It suffered from the usual problem that plagues free events (only half the registered attendees showed up), but the quality of talks was excellent – especially if you’re a beginner SEO – and I can easily list half a dozen paid conferences with lower quality talks.
Brian from eCeltic said that he intends this to be the first of many Dublin SEO events, and I for one hope that will be the case. For me it was definitely worth the two-hour drive to Dublin, and I’m already looking forward to the next one.