Today we have had three of the State of Search bloggers dotted around the conference at SAScon 2013. The event is held in Manchester over two days and brings together hundreds of digital minds to discuss SEO, PPC, Analytics, Social Media and Content Marketing.
In this post, we have summarised the top tips and takeaways from all the sessions we attended in an easy to digest format. If there are any tips you feel we have missed, please feel free to add them in the comments at the end. Not all sessions have been added yet so keep coming back as this post will be updated!!
The three bloggers covering day one of SAScon are:
Day 1 SAScon Sessions
Big Industry Data
Speaker: James Murray – Hitwise
First up is James Murray from Experian Hitwise, sharing some of the interesting data his company gathers and analyses. Hitwise has data on 49 million people from 24 million UK households, so their data can provide a lot of insights.
James starts by explaining that users nowadays expect a seamless and consistent experience when interacting with brands, regardless of which channel they use. Yet few brands ae able to deliver such a seamless experience. As an example James used the NatYes ad campaign from the NatWest bank, but a search on Google for ‘natyes’ did not yield any result from NatWest. Definitely a case of the SEO guys not being involved with the wider marketing department’s activities.
James went on to explain how smart use of data can help organisations know, get, and keep their customers. With over 15 petabytes of information being created every day online – the equivalent of 200 years of continuous HD video – there is a lot of potential data to gain insights from.
One insight James shared was the most searched for gift from the previous Christmas: a onesie. Searches for male onesies were twice as common as searches for onesies for women, and onesies with a Penguin pattern were the most popular in terms of search volume.
Concluding his talk, James emphasised that data is pointless in and of itself – it takes insight to make data useful.
Speaker: Richard Rowley – Mindshare
Up next was Mindshare’s Richard Rowley who gave us some examples of how data provided by Hitwise could be made useful. He showed a series of datasets around clickthrough rates on SERPs in a variety of different verticals, with some surprising insights.
Common SEO wisdom states that the top organic search result gets the most clicks, and usually this is true. The top 3 results attract the most clicks, and on average the site listed on position 1 gets two to three times more clicks than the site listed on position 2.
But Richard showed that according to the data, on some specific searches in the finance vertical click behaviour doesn’t comply with these rules. On the ‘current accounts’ keyword the number 2 result – MoneySupermarket – received more clicks than the site listed first – Barclays. And on ‘compare loans’ the site listed fifth – GoCompare – received more clicks than the site listed above it in the fourth position – Tesco.
Both of those examples show that brand power plays a role on SERP click-throughs, with more popular brands being able to gather more clicks despite being ranked lower.
WordPress Luvfest – Maximising WordPress for Search
Speaker: Joost de Valk – Yoast
- rel=author & rel=publisher are not always the right thing for ecommerce, and can even draw a penguin Penalty. Rel=publisher works for brand traffic: it doesn’t make a huge difference, but so easy, why wouldn’t you?
- Schema: Raven’s schema creator is good but adds a lot of code. Yoast’s SEO plugin has similar issues. Recommends Genesis 2.0: Yoasts plug in will start to work with it (a few weeks away). The metadata will help you in future, so you’re not just doing the work for search engines.
- So what else is changing for the Yoast SEO plugin. They are building Majestic into the plugin, which will allow users to retrieve data on new links. (SEOMoz link monitoring isn’t as fresh.) It will also have GWT integration, so that any errors will appear on the WP dashboard, but Yoast is waiting for Google to fix some data discrepancy issues. Time and date that link was found is in Majestic – storing the whole lot is so much data – so there will be ways to access the information. And the Google analyticator will be added offering a lot of information within WordPress, dashboard style.
- Don’t forget the basics: Authenticate your site, submit sitemaps, retrieve crawl errors.
- WordPress rewrite code is hellishly painful because of the requirement for backwards comatablility. So make sure
Speaker: Bastian Grimm – Grimm Digital
- Set up properly: Use your unique keys and salts to add random elements for encryption. Protect your wp-config.php. If you won’t ever change it in future, disallow THEME editing. Delete index files
- Security. Remove the default “admin”, and protect your logins. Limit login attempts. Only use trusted plugins – know who you’re giving access to. Use two factor verification, especially for mobile logins. Remove version and login error message. Run a WP-Security scan daily.
- Themes: Never use free ones. And if you do, use TAC, the Theme Authenticity checker. Remove your wp_content folder. Theme: scan it daily for viruses.
- Update your blog regularly – WP Updates notifier can send emails on outdated elements. Fix file and folder permissions.
- Plug ins – remove ones not being used. If it’s from WordPress, they update regularly, and delete the ones that are bad
- Go back to ‘belt and braces’ basics: Backup database & Files – BackWPup recommended. And Look at the 404 logs – they potentially offer insight into what’s being hacked.
Making it Personal
Speaker: Matt Roberts – Linkdex
- Personalised marketing takes us back into the direct marketing field: and Google is probably the biggest direct marketer in the World. It knows and uses a DM principle: Recency, Frequency, Monetary Value.
- How do you find influencers? We want to influence them, to change their behaviour, to change their behaviour. Everyone is part of a network. You may need to prove, as an individual and as an agency, at some time soon, that you can influence a particular network.
- Influence networks: people you already know is usually the best path. Who do you know, how many you know, and what investment will you make? Help them do what they do, better.
- Grow relationships fast. Keep relationships going. Make friends fast. Learn how to demonstrate value to this: it won’t always be numbers and may take longer.
- Recommended reading: Grouped, Paul Adams. Social Media ROI, Olivier Blanchard.
Speaker: Barry Adams – Polemic Digital
- What they know Location. Personalisation not so smart when it delivers odd bits. Personalised maps superficial – you don’t notice it’s not there. You are the product, not the customer.
- Search and browsing history: Google + knows your interests. Makes rankings useless, and can deliver odd results. The morality of doing this without user consent is questionable: some of it is smart and knows what you’ve liked, but it can be dumb, especially if you’ve expressed any kind of political preference. It narrows our horizons into our own polarised world and is self-perpetuating: you’ll never know when you are wrong . As this model will only show you things you are already brought into, it will help polarise our opinions and never allow you to doubt. Serendipity will vanish. Google glass reinforces this.
- Adams suggests you diversify your searches away from Google, to places like Duck Duck Go and Yandex, and install AdBlock Plus. Read different papers – give confusing and varied signals so that your searches give you a variety. The ‘filter’ helps take away some of wonderful serendipity.
- Recommended reading: work by Evgeny Morozov and commercialises public spaces. Eli Pariser’s The Filter Bubble.
- Will people start to quit and change their search engine of choice? This remains to be seen!
Stalking the Zebra – Life After Panda & Penguin
Speakers: Dixon Jones – MajesticSEO, Paul Madden – Manual Link Building, Dave Naylor – Bronco, Julia Logan – Irish Wonder
Due to the session’s format as a loose discussion of Penguin, Panda, and the future of search, it’s hard to capture the ebbs and flows of the debate in detail in a blog post, not least because Dave Naylor kept on talking at length – his rants were worth the SAScon ticket price alone. We did glean some insights in to how the panel perceived Penguin 2.0, and what they feel is coming for SEO in the near future.
First of all, Dave compared the Penguin 2.0 update with The Hangover 3: a bad sequel that didn’t live up to the hype. Penguin 2 didn’t seem to have had the shock & awe impact many were expecting, though Dixon did say that it appeared to have had a huge impact in French search results. Yet overall Penguin 2.0 was judged a patchy update, with many verticals (*coughpaydayloanscough*) still plagued by spam results.
Links as a ranking signal are increasingly suspect, but Google as a link-based search engine does not have another signal to replace it. Paul was emphatic in saying that content alone is not a sufficient signal, Google still needs links to determine ranks.
Social signals are not mature enough to replace links as Google’s key metric – Dave Naylor said “social is too easy to fake” – and none of the panellists expect Author Rank to come in to play any time soon, as the signal-to-noise ratio is too low.
Google is not interested in cleaning up the search results to perfection. It’s a matter ofd diminishing returns – Google just wants to make sure their SERPs are good enough to keep people coming back and using their search engine, and it would be too much effort for not enough gain to make their SERPs entirely spam free.
The panel had some pro tips to share with the audience. Paul Madden took the opportunity to plug his new software LinkRisk – which is actually very worthwhile if you’re doing link analysis and trying to get rid of Google penalties with Disavows and Reconsideration Requests – and he recommends everyone take the effort to closely scrutinise their sites’ link profiles.
Dixon Jones advised us to become authorities in our chosen subjects, both online and offline, because all the signals associated with authority and trustworthiness will increasingly translate to search engine rankings.
Dave said that too many organisations cling too dearly to their domain names. He recommends simply getting rid of penalised domains, and 301-redirecting to a new domain name. The traffic and link equity will transfer to the new site, but the penalty will stay behind.
Winning in a Multi-Screen World
Speaker: Bryan Adams – Ph. Creative
- Due to his improvised talk (he was drafted in at the last minute), there weren’t a lot of takeaways to summarize
- I did learn lots of new hypewords: content-grazing, investigative spiderwebbing, transmedia storytelling, cross-funnel conversions. Not sure what these all mean, but they sure sounded important.
Speaker: Rich Quick – Arnold Clark
- 58% of your competitors are ignoring mobile at the moment, that presents a great opportunity for you to capitalise on.
- Responsive design is your friend – in a multiscreen world responsive design is a superb solution to make sure your website is optimal on all different devices.
- The ArnoldClark.com website gets more visits from iOS devices than visits from all Windows versions combined.
- Avoid a separate mobile site as it creates a disjointed online experience and presents a potential minefield for content and technical issues.
- Separate mobile version vs Responsive design vs native mobile apps: For most businesses responsive design is the smartest solution, though native apps can add value if there’s a specific use case for it.
Maximising Brand Reputation Online
Speaker: Nils Mork-Ulnes – Beyond
- Keller Fay Group studied 31 thousand adult consumers. Word of mouth has the highest influence, and online is a smaller audience, but gets seen by more people.
- There is a relationship between positive buzz and sales.People are more likely to express positive experiences than negative ones.
- Listen! You can learn a lot by monitoring people’s response. Make sure the tool is fit for purpose.
- Many companies don’t measure word of mouth. Segmenting customers can show what the problems and are.
- Social data can help you look beyond your own brand
Speaker: Robin Wilson – McCann Erickson
- Respond quickly
- Coordinate across different stakeholers including social media and SEO
- Be careful with use of humour
- Learn from other people’s mistakes
Agency vs Inhouse – Which is Better?
Speakers: David Tutin, Expedia and Simon Wharton – PushOn
In this panel session, moderated by Nick Garner from SearchWorks, the advantages and disadvantages of working agency-side and client-side are discussed in detail.
Here are the key takeaways:
- For clients: outsourcing all your social media activity to an agency is not wise, because no agency can know your industry & customers as well as you can inhouse
- For agencies: keep pitches focused & stick to the brief, give the client what they asked for and don’t try to oversell yourself. Your expertise and case studies should speak for themselves.
- To start a career in digital marketing, an agency job is the best first job you can get because you will learn more and be exposed to much more different channels and tactics than in an inhouse role.
- Informed clients make the best clients as they know when and how to engage agencies to scale their digital efforts.
- Much more education about digital marketing is needed in the market.