Big Brand Keynote Panel

Big Brand Keynote Panel

17th May 2012

Here we are at SAScon, the Manchester-based search, analytics & social conference that just keeps getting bigger & better.

After an emotional introduction from Manual Link Building‘s Gareth Hoyle and Manchester Digital‘s Richard Hudson, we kick off the first day of SAScon with a big brand keynote session moderated by Richard Gregory and featuring Ben McKay from Moneysupermarket, Martin McDonald from Expedia, and James Hamlin from Seatwave.


Martin McDonald starts off by emphasizing mobile is absolutely essential these days, and that there’s no excuse anymore not to have a mobile-ready website. He says the best approach is to have your main website ‘degrade gracefully’ – i.e. responsive design – and, if your business lends itself to that, give the option to download an app. He also states mobile and paid search are a great combination, as SEO ‘has problems’.

James Hamlin advises separate campaigns for mobile in paid search as behaviour varies on different platforms and you need to adapt your campaigns to that. Also he believes apps and mobile sites can co-exist as it’s beneficial to have a presence on multiple platforms.

This is confirmed by Ben McKay, whose Moneysupermarket site has a car insurance app that complements the price comparison systems on the website. The panelists disagree about whether the top two slots are essential for paid search on mobile, or whether users do scroll down and click on lower paid results.

Social Media

Seatwave’s James Hamlin says that events are socially driven – it’s as much about the event as it’s about who you’re going with, and what your social circle thinks of the event. Martin McDonald is very impressed with Seatwave’s Facebook integration, and that we’ve been ruined by AdWords – those levels of traffic and CTRs have spoilt us when it comes to the likes of Facebook advertising, but when done right FB ads can be incredibly useful.

Open Graph is here to stay and presents opportunities for websites. James says the scale of Facebook is the really tough challenge, where limited demographical targeting is easy and effective, for larger scale campaigns things can get out of hand quickly.


It’s been a tough year for SEO, and Ben McKay says companies are increasingly looking at alternative marketing activities that are more natural and impactful, and that SEO will become complementary to those activities instead of its main driver.

Martin McDonald kicks in the open door by stating SEO is dead. He believes SEO is in danger. The 700k Webmaster Tools warning messages that Google sent out were indiscriminate, as he didn’t get one. He knows sites that generate 7-figure sums a year have lost 90-95% traffic in the last few weeks, because they relied on exact match domains and some PPC ads.


First question is on the impending EU cookie law. Martin McDonald thinks its an unprosecutable law and that he doesn’t expect sites to be penalised. Ben McKay does believe the ICO will take a big brand site to make an example out of.

Second question is about how big brands divide their attention between building their brand presence versus optimising for long tail product specific searches. The panel feels these are not mutually exclusive, and that both are essential aspects.

Last question is about APIs and how big a part of Expedia’s business is done outside of the browser. Martin says it’s a huge part of the business, and that Expedia powers 65% of the online travel market – all via its APIs.

That wraps up this first SAScon session and we’re straight on to the next.

Picture credit: Dan Bell


Written By
Barry Adams is the chief editor of State of Digital and is an award-winning SEO consultant delivering specialised technical SEO services to clients worldwide.
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