The #SearchLove Chronicles. Morning Sessions

The #SearchLove Chronicles. Morning Sessions

29th October 2012

Good morning folks.

Today I will be live blogging from Distilled SearchLove.

You will see these posts shortly after the sessions end, revised by our amazing State of Search Editorial Team, who will make these posts look fully understandable.

SearchLove is surely one of the most advanced SEO conference in Europe. But is it just about SEO? No. Consistent with the evolution of the Search industry, SearchLove has shifted to a more wide range of topics, which is something we all must appreciate, as our job – as I to have written so many times – cannot be considered anymore something related to old classic SEO tactic.

This first post covers the morning sessions. So… let’s get started.

Panel: Live Site Reviews

Wil Reynolds, Will Critchlow, Stephen Pavlovich and Hannah Smith

Site #1

Stephen is doing the first Live Site Review.

The first site is Firebrand, a site in the educational niche (certifications sub-niche).

The first thing they notice is it needs better “localization” to explain what and where the site is operating. Then they do a brand search (Firebrand Training) on Google and also the local search results are not really giving a great explanation about what they are offering. Returning to the site, and the courses page, we may see the same in definition.

From an CRO point of view, the same conversion chain could be optimized, moving the “prices” voice ahead. Stephen also suggest to reconsider how the Request for Information form works (“what is the ‘split weeks’?¨).

From an International SEO point of view, the biggest issue may be seen in the content duplication of the courses. Another element which is missing are testimonials, who can offer a trust value to the users.

Wil remarks how this site is operating in a niche (edu in tech), which relies a lot in great design. So a site like this should work more on this side. Oh… and mobile, as the site is lacking of responsive design or even a mobile ready version.

A final note: the site is about education in tech, so we are expecting it to offer great information about tech news. And it does but the blog, where the news articles are present, is very hidden in the navigation architecture. Wil adds how those posts, the best ones, may be used in order to do international link building thanks to translations.

Site #2

The second site reviewed is Kopi, which – as its title says – is a gourmet coffee club with a subscription business model. From an SEO point of view, it has very basic issues, easy to solve (www. and not www. presence in SERPs). But it’s characteristic is also having a lot of subdomains, which is a strategy that could be fixed in order to move everything inside the main site in order to give it a stronger presence, personality, likeability and linkability, because – related to content, initiatives and community oriented stuff – the site is surely working the right way.

A good strategy for them should be to target the caffeinated Web marketing community. Good and easy way to reach success in Social (and then in SERPs for the famous correlation) contacting influencers who loves coffee (i.e.: Joanna Lord), also for things like interviews, guest posts. Curated Content can be also a successful content tactic to use.

Wil reminds all of us how to use Google suggest in order to find content ideas related to searches that real people are doing. Your success is there.

Site #3

Superdry was the third site reviewed.

What Hannah says quite clearly is that the site doesn’t own a strong brand personality, which is wrong for a fashion site. The more you brand your site, the more a consumer may interested in your products, as an expression of a brand and its values.

Wil reminds us how fashion sites have their photos copied. Why not take advantage of this? Use that people using your images not just for asking for credits, but in order to engage them and make them become your brand ambassadors.

From a CRO point of view, the biggest flaw is in the check out process, which asks you to sign in or proceed to buy. Don’t ask this, do it after the purchase has been completed, jump the step and you’ll make your customers life easier.

Wil, finally, is talking about the faceted navigation of the site. In fact, it is clear that it may cause quite a lot of problems because of content duplicated by URLs.

Session 1: The Life of An In-House SEO

Justin Briggs – Big Fish Games

Justin worked for Distilled for a couple of years, but for almost a year he has been working as an in-house SEO at Big Fish, a casual game production company.

It’s purpose is getting RCS (Real Company Shit) done as an SEO.

What’s the biggest lesson learnt? That he was a bad consultant. He didn’t have the experience to fully empathize with his clients. Another thing learnt: average time to complete an SEO task… 1,5 years! Once he understood this, Justin accepted the challenge.

First challenge: Relaunching Platforms. How? Relaunching the blog. And adjusting all the technical issues. For instance before it was a WordPress framed inside the technical solution of Big Fish. Images were not optimized…. so they redesigned it all and used the blog as a gate for the Bottom of the Funnel, using it as a launch base for their Remarketing strategy.

But, thinking about content, they decided to conquer the users with huge Walkthroughs. All this considering that Big Fish ins a multilingual site, so they needed to translate everything, something that helped a lot in reaching your end users thanks to Intl SEO traffic.

Another thing implemented was the “Similar Games You’ll Love”, which actually is inspired to what Amazon itself is doing. It is able to decipher via cookie you history into the site and so propose you what other games you may like in a very personalized way.

A great issue Big Fish had was keyword cannibalization. It was not just an SEO problems, it was a pure loss of money because games were not ranking on SERPs because of that, hence not offering revenues.

What about Link Building?

First: make it a sure thing. Justin found inspiration from fans of the characters of the games. For instance, the Avengers “fashion”, creating potentially viral content enticing those tastes. Also, temporary events for causes. For instance “Tropes vs. Women in Video Games” was a cause they supported created related content centered on geek girls, so targeting a niche in the consumers which was active and reactive.

This gave results in Geek Girl Con and similar sites.

Obviously they created really strong – even in person – relationships with that geek girls movement, so much that Big Fish actually sponsored the convention. The results… lot of quality links (i.e.: from Wired).

Another tactic used were interviews, creating stories and narrative about the people involved in the geek girl con. So… easy: create great products. Less obvious that it appears, because – especially in a industry like it is the one of casual games – the better the products are the better is the reaction of the users and – hence social buzz and everything originated by it.

They had success from unexpected sources, as the site of the a pornstar… a backlink from porno an totally licit (sorry, Matt).

One more thing: create serendipity. Here a story about how Justin got a link from Bruce Campbell. Justin was new in Seattle, and he loves zombies. He went to a zombie con in Seattle and there he knew Bruce Campbell. Years later Justin worked on a zombie infographic and – tadà – a girl is was in contact was involved in the project and was one of the people once involved too in that Zombie Con…and therefore was so much easier to contact Bruce Campbell and have his attention and help.

And do you know something people tend to forget? That you always have a landing page. Actually this is something Justin learned the hard way: missing links occasions. An example what happened between Apple and Big Fish related to subscriptions to their games. A polemic issues which was reported, for instance, on Bloomberg. Well, if you search on the Big Fish games there is no page about that, something which have may be considered a perfect landing page and one to link to for news sites or specialized sites.

To end: Scholarship… but stop doing it like spam!! If you are doing it, never try to ask for a link explicitly. Try to earn it.

Oh… and don’t forget to be great to your Community, because it will always pay off. If you have a community of fans and you’re able to feel it pampered, unique and considered, then you are going to have a natural army of promoters. For this reason, independently from your industry, if you act in front of clients, make of your customer care one of your most important department.

We had a fast coffee break and returned to Searchlove. Guy Levine and Mark Johnstone are the next speakers.

Session 2: The Future of Small Business SEO

Guy LevineReturn on Digital

Guy Levine is clear: the small business is screwed in the Internet. Quite logical to understand as the internet search is evolving with more aggressive brands presence and Google emphasizing the “brands’ signal”.

But Small to Medium Enterprises are going to not have such a great future if they won’t fight like ninjas.

Business owners think about Porsches (revenues), not rankings! The problem with SME is that in a Panda/Penguin Era you cannot count anymore in black to grey tactics (directories, article portals and beyond).

But Guy loves it when things gets serious.

So first thing let’s draw a chart where ROI and Time are our axis. Doing that, we know that SEO can give you the best ROI, but the longest time frame to achieve it. PPC is faster but the ROI tends to be less important.

How do we create content, and pimp it out on a budget? Good question. What’s the best kind of content? People in the audience reply cats… No the kind of content people want or are reading currently.

Issue. Not a brand and nobody knows you. The funnel must be based on awareness, interest and desire first Case… you need to research.

  • Mintel Research
  • Google Analytics – “what” “need” “how” keywords
  • Yahoo Answers
  • Money Saving Expert forums (use advanced queries inside the forums and scrape
  • Live chat transcripts
  • Use Topsy in order to see what’s popular and then visualize topics with tools like Wordle
  • Find your competition in the SERPs for your head terms
    • Find their top backlink with Open Site Explorer
    • And then use those results and look for them in Topsy (again), to see who shared those links
    • Use Topsi aPI to pull ata (Bio/Followers/Website. Filter by followers and activity
    • Use Topsy to analyze those people
    • Use Pivot to see which has been shared the most or patters
    • So you can start creating content similar and – hopefully – better than the one your competitors had success with

Analyse the data.

And we can learn that we can create content which appeals to influencers in our space. With this list of people who is active in Twitter we can start the outreach faze.

Execute the campaign and BOOM!

No time for doing this kind of research? You can try Vocus by Return on Digital. It’s purpose is to offer a sort of database of possible contact per niche. Actually this tool was thought to help the PRs.

Extra Tip: ResponseSource, Enquirt Service. A service which helps Journalists requesting for stories and content and PRs looking for journalists to share their stories and content.

Then, Guy urge us to Stand out in the SERPs!!! How? We know already the answer: rich snippets. authorship snippet… Another tactic use is Google Remarketing. Pro Tip: you can push remarketing for URLs containing a determined keyword. Case History:

  • Niche car insurance company – circa £500,000 turnover
  • Budget £2K per months
  • Front page rankings
What Guy and CO. did?
  • Actions
  • Online PR
  • Some small media buys which lead to partnerships
  • Implemented hReview
  • YouTube Videos – universal search (flip videos sent out). Especially they cared bout video testimonials
  • PPC Landing page split testing in order to study conversion (4-7%)

Now the company now is generating online sales of £76K per month and growing.

Session 3: Beyond Linkbait – First Steps to a Content Strategy

Mark JohnstoneDistilled

Mark is romantic… and remember his first infographic.

He did not know anything about infographics and how to do them. Wasn’t a great success… And you know why? Mark did not know anything about the topic (it was yoga).

But we have to change our perspective and not think about content as linkbait anymore.

There few reasons and they are all based over a change of strategy and how to do things.

So we must move from a linkbait based strategy to a real content strategy.

Remember that Mark did not know anything about infographics and data visualization. So what he did start doing was learning and creating a blog where showing and talking about what he was learning. And experimenting with the things he was knowing.

But what if you’re not an expert? Simple: find someone who is an expert in the topic you have to create content about. And sometimes that expert is your same client!

When working in your content and you need to improve it, don’t be ashamed and start seeding talking with journalist. Discover a news and talk with the journalist who reported it and do questions.

Those questions are going to be your plot. Everything starts from a question. So find something that interests you and ask lots of questions. Yes it seems simple, but actually very few are doing it!

So, how do you know if an idea is good? Do the “beer test”. Talk about your idea in a relaxed environment and if you see people reacting, then go on with your idea. Mark is not denying the use of personas, but real people is maybe better for understanding the success potential of  this kind of content.

Then, use a checklist. Again a basic idea, but we all forget to use it, aren’t we?

  • Simple – Is the idea quick and easy to understand?
  • Is it interesting?
  • Is it credible?
  • Is it something different?
  • Is it shareable?

But be aware that a good idea can still fail because of the format use.

So what about strategy? What does strategy really does mean?

Case History:

With OSE they looked to the most linked content of the site. And from there they start to define a content strategy based on the interests of the users of the site, thanks also to social mentions information analysis.

And this so that start the series of “The Small Business Guide”, for instance the WordPress guide for Small Business, the Social Media guide for small business and so on.

Distilled experimented with the formats: statics, interactive…

This strategy resulted a winning one. Not simply because of the linkbaits, but especially because the sites customers shown a great positive reaction, and ultimately those customers – the small business owners – are who pay the site and make its success… not the link juice.


Written By
Gianluca Fiorelli is an SEO and Web Marketing Strategist, who operates in the Italian, Spanish and English speaking countries market. He also works regularly as independent consultant with bigger international SEO agencies.
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