SearchLove London 2012 - First Day Play by Play

Good morning everyone and welcome to the 2012 London SearchLove! We've got a beautiful line up of speakers for you today all brought to you by me through the medium of the Distilled Blog. If you couldn't be here today, first why not?, do you not like me or something? And second, don't worry, we've got you covered. You can also follow all the action on Twitter at #searchlove.

It looks to be a full house in the Congress Centre. Nary an empty chair in site so let's get started!

First off the bat is our very own Duncan with the conference introduction. Let's see what he's got.

Last year there were 500 Google updates. That's pretty full on but was it all bad? I mean all of the updates were designed to target poor quality and low value tactics. Search engines are pushing us more and more towards creating trust and building great content, but we are on the cusp of a transition as we see a massive growth in the consumption of content spear headed by new devices being added to the market. Even the BBC has noticed the shift. During the Olympics, they state that video over mobile saw a huge spike compared to their other mediums. Some great things to think about going into our event this year.

1st Session: Live Site review: Watch the sparks fly as experts battle to be the first to find issues and opportunities live on stage. 

We've got Steven Pavlovich, Will Critchlow, Wil Reynolds, and Hannah Smith talking about FireBrand first. 

Will - Was asked about international targeting and fires back with focusing on one country at a time. Another note, there are a lot of poorly designed sites in this industry, and FireBrand have an amazing opportunity to focus on design and add to trust factors with their users.

Hannah - Is FireBrand suffering from a "Curse of Knowledge". Hannah's biggest concern, it isn't easy to determine what this site does from the Home and About pages. Also don't forget, claim your local listings. Google is making up data to fill in the blanks and you're missing an opportunity. Another recommendation from Hannah, let's make some killer content. At the moment the blog is ok with decent content but missing out on the big bang pieces targeting links. Build out some guides and you can kill it!

Steven - What's the goal for your site? A simple question to ask but something that people miss. Make sure you have a call to action to control traffic and direct people to what you want. Right now there are a lot of steps to get people to the sign up page for FireBrand and when they get there, they're being asked to do to much. Capture the core data you need. Are you advocating trust in your product? Build credibility and build trust with your users. Have you considered a mobile site for your users?

Wil - Wil is looking at cc:tlds and seeing lots of duplicate content that is not translated into local languages. These pages need to be consolidated or at the very least, translated with unique content into the local languages.

Moving on to the next site to review -! (seriously good coffee folks)

Steven - Your presenting a new concept to your users and need to better explain the benefits on the home page. There is great content in the deeper pages but you have to work to get there. Split it out on the homepage and entice the users into signing up. Speak to your users and learn what their objections are. This is by far the most valuable data you can gather and helps you to build an argument to overcome.

Hannah - Looking at simple SEO fixes, is a 302 to and is losing some great linkjuice. Review the navigation through the site as there are places where you can get stuck easily. On another note, people love coffee, seriously, it's the life blood of SEO. Can we take this to the next level and get some awesome links? Hannah throws out coffee meet ups for tech bloggers. Don't be afraid to reach for the big ideas.

Will - Having a quick look at keyword targeting, there are some opportunities for some broader keyword targeting for additional wins. Don't neglect the US bloggers who could be great influencers for targeting content. (Will drops a shameless plug here - he's a Kopi hipster, been subscribed since the beginning). People are passionate about this stuff and there is a great opportunity for leveraging these passions for some awesome links.

Wil - Google auto suggest is your friend. Start typing stuff in and see what comes up. This is the simplest keyword research and gives you a great look at what people are searching for. These are amazing content ideas as you now have a great list of stuff that people actually want to find.  

Next Site - Superdry - (one of my personal favourites)

Hannah - Hannah wants to start off on this one by looking at product pages. Improve product descriptions and build them out to show more of the company's personality. Take a page from the ModCloth playbook and make your content awesome.

Wil - People are going to copy your images. It's a fact. Find these people and connect with them. Entice them to link to you by offering to tweet their post if they give you credit. A great idea!

Steven - From a conversion standpoint, emphasise that you have the lowest price and a great return policy on the benefit bar. A simple add that will build trust with your users. Also, Superdry are currently asking people to register before they can checkout. There's only one site that can get away with that and its Apple. Just take people to the main checkout page and see your conversions improve. 

Will - There is great faceted navigation on the site but some of the query strings are being indexed and adding low quality pages. This is not necessarily an easy fix but something that should be looked into and addressed.

Wow that was a lot. Some awesome sites to look at and some great advice from the panel.

Justin Briggs - The Life of an In-house SEO

Justin is making the long trip to London this year, his first ever time out of the US, and we are excited! Justin previously worked for Distilled before moving in-house for Big Fish Games and brings a fresh perspective on the challenges of client-side and agency-side SEO. He’ll be sharing his in-house experiences including how to work with in-house PR teams to build links and gain coverage; using content as a customer retention strategy and much more.

Justin admits right off the bat that the first thing he learned moving in-house is that he wasn't a very good consultant. One of the biggest mistakes most consultants make is not understanding how the client thinks. Example - the first thing he discovered in-house was that there was a 1.5 year lead time on SEO tasks. There's the challenge - how can you possibly make a difference with that kind of lead time? Change people's perception of SEO. Understand that it is never a case of "Just do this". Consolidate steps and make it easy. I love this...if people are frustrated by the process, deal with the root cause and simplify the steps. Once people see that making changes is simple, they'll begin to get excited about seeing the results. 

There is a lot of good stuff here. I recommend checking out Justin's blog for more info. Lot's of great tactics on everything from limiting keyword cannonbilisation to building great links. Seriously, the man's making content leveraging fashion concious gamer geeks. Seriously cool....but of course I'm probably right in their target market. Obviously not everyone can make linkbait about video games but the process is sound. Build relationships with the community you're targeting, wherever they may be, they are the people that should care about the content you are making. Another great tactic, tie your outreach to interviews. Start with sites that have high visibility and work with them, customise the assets if you have to and set up an interview for them with the creator. You're giving these sites great content that will be unique for them. Hard to pass that up. 

Last point, create great products. This is something that I have been in favour of for a long time. Nothing gets shared better than a killer product. Take the time to get this right and the marketing will almost take care of it's self. If you've got that done, the only other important step is to be great to your community. Just remember the Golden Rule. :)

After all of that, I think its time for a well deserved coffee break. 

Guy Levine - The Future of Small Business SEO

Is SEO solely for those with deep pockets? Definitely not. Entrepreneur and Return on Digital CEO Guy Levine will share his experiences of bootstrapped Small Business SEO and include case studies to illustrate what worked with costs and results. 

Guy got his start with a book on web design and £100. He admits that he is not the best SEO on the planet, but he know's how to make money for small businesses. And we start by asking the tough question, are small businesses' screwed? Google has become more and more competitive and it's much harder for true small businesses to compete in this landscape. Never forget, small business owners don't think about rankings, they think about Porsche's. It's all about the Benjamin's.

So what do you do for client's who only have £1,000 per month? They expect you to be their developer, their content writer, their SEO, and sometimes they want you to tell them what socks to wear. Embrace this and they will be a customer for life. Sometimes SEO isn't always the best solution for these guys, PPC let's you start to test campaigns immediately and make the most out of the budget sooner rather than later.

What's the best kind of content for the small business? Focus on the stuff that you are 100% sure will work. Great tools to research ideas; Mintel Research, Google Analytcis (focus on the people who are already coming to your content sections), Yahoo Answers, Money Saving Expert forums (using site: search to find topics), Live chat transcripts, Topsy (use it pull out RSS feeds and plunk them into Wordle) and Google head terms to pull out your competitors to dig deeper into them. Topsy has an API that will allow you to pull out loads of data on your competitors and allow you to sort for awesome data in Excel. This an amazing way to build out content ideas that you know people have shared in the past. 

Don't have enough time to dig that deep? Use Vocus. A PR tool to build media lists of people in specific niche's. Need an email and notes on how people like to be contacted? This is your tool. Can't make the license fee for Vocus? ResponseSource is a good alternative, especially if you only need to target specific niche's. 

Mark Johnstone – Beyond Linkbait: First Steps to a Content Strategy

We’ve been talking about content strategy in SEO for quite a while now.  But content evangelism aside, how do we actually make this actionable?  Distilled’s Mark Johnstone will talk us through how to make the leap from one-off linkbait to a coherent content strategy.

Mark steps up to the plate looking dashing in his t-shirt and jeans. Start's out his presentation with a lesson on his first infographic and why it bombed. And boy did it bomb hard. So where did it go wrong? You have to know about your topic inside and out and Mark admits that he knew nothing about the topic. So how do we get started? How do we create a "content strategy" and what the hell does that even mean? People always talk about what other people do, and why you should do that but the much stronger approach is to talk about what you've actually done and what happened with it. So Mark will take us down the road of how he went from being bad at linkbait, to being good at it and where he still wants to go. 

What happens if your not an expert in the field? Simple, find someone who is. Is there someone in your client's office who is an expert? If not, find the people that are and leverage them. So we have our expert, how do we come up with a creative idea? Learn from journalists and start with a question. Change how you brain storm and learn to question the things that interest you. If you're not interested in something, how can you possible make other people interested in it?

The Beer Test - go for a beer with your mates, tell them what you're working on, see what they say. Does it make sense to them? Do they buy in to it? Can you explain it clearly and effectively? If you can't, it's probably not a good idea. And at the very least, you're having a beer with your mates.

Use a checklist to keep yourself in check. (See what I did there? I promise that will be the only one.) Make sure you have something to keep you grounded and from getting caught up in the excitement of creating something. Follow these steps on Mark's blog

Great tip - if you really want honest feedback from someone on a creative piece, don't tell them anything about it. Just give it to them and see how they react and interact with it. 

So what about boring niche's? You have to dig into what your users care about. What do they talk about and what would make their lives easier? Then build that. Remember how the title of the talk is about going beyond linkbait? Listen to your target market, build content that is valuable to them and you will get more than just links back. Get better at integrating with the business goals and thinking beyond just linkbait.

All Speakers - Let's Get Real

The final session before lunch is "Let's Get Real". All the speakers on the stage giving out great tips. A bit like Fight Club, I'm not allowed to talk about "Let's Get Real" so you'll just have to find someone who was here and bribe them with a beer. I like German lagers by the way. :)

Wil Reynolds [SEER Interactive] – Chasing Algorithms: Think Deviously, Act Angelic, and Never get Hit by a Penalty

If you've yet to see Wil present, you’re in for a real treat – we've positioned him perfectly to wake you all up after lunch! In Wil’s 13 years of doing SEO he’s never been surprised by an algorithm update.  He will share how thinking a little bit like a spammer will ensure you’ll never be surprised by an algo update again.  He will also share strategies on how to get buy-in from clients to work on long term strategies that will stop them worrying about “getting hit” again.

 Wil admits straight away he is non-technical and algo changes are baffling. Let's be honest, Google has us outnumbered when it comes to PhD's and understanding the algorithem. So when did Marketing go from persuading people to understanding and manipulating formulas? Why do we spend so much time trying to understand this stuff? 

Let's talk about SEER's penalty (the only one that Wil was ever surprised by)

Remember - if it's too easy, it's probably not gonna last. You have to think, is this the best way to achieve long term success? Directories used to be easy, and effective. That's why in 2007, Wil started reducing their dependence on directories. He worked like hell and built up a strong collection of great links but still got penalised. So what happened? Shouldn't the good links have outweighed the old bad links?

Google can make mistakes. Never forget that. 

So how much time are you really willing to spend trying to figure out algorithm updates? Wil spent two weeks trying to figure out this penalty and admits it would have been much better spent doing Real Company Sh*t. Stop wasting time looking at algorithms and Google patents and start spending your time building good quality stuff. 

How did SEER get back in the index in 12 hours? By doing good stuff. Invest in quality and you will protect yourself from algorithm changes. 

Pro Tip - did your affiliates get hit by an update? Buy their site while they are hurting. Invest is some good sh*t and now you have your revenue back without the affiliate fee. 

Algorithm updates are not cut and dry. Is there a legitimate business reason for what you are doing? If there is, don't worry about the algorithm. Good business and good marketing trumps algorithm updates any day.

Spend your time doing real company stuff.

Heather Healy – Do Social Signals Actually Play a Part in Search Rankings

Aiming to put an end to the speculation about whether social signals have a direct influence on achieving high rankings, Stickyeyes’ Head of Social Media, Heather Healy will delve into data sets from competitive sectors to demonstrate where social signals matter and where they don’t.

Heather is absolutely passionate about communicating and constantly recommends to her clients to find out what their customers want. And, as is the case in this type of work, client's constantly ask "what's the ROI?" Then Matt Cutts admits that social signals are considered in the algorithm. Now we have a basis for trying to calculate ROI from social activity.

The first question to attack, are social signals alone enough to increase rankings. In 80% of cases, social signals alone were not enough to improve rankings. External and unique links still have the strongest correlation but Heather's data is showing that social signals or interactions, to that URL are also correlating to higher rankings. But remember, correlation does not equal causation.So what we're actually seeing is that high social signals are correlating with larger numbers of unique links.

Build your content and target it socially but always think about linkbuilding. Find the influencers and connect with them. (#journorequest is a great way to find out what journalists are looking for) Now your set to build content that can both be shared socially and build you links.

We can learn a lot from the Waitross Twitter campaign that went crazy. It took off with loads of tweets but rankings didn't fluctuate during this time. So we can see that social signals are not leading to better rankings, that honour is still being held by links. But how do we get good quality links? By thinking socially and using all the tools at your disposal. 

Mat Clayton – Marketing Hacks

Mat is going to be sharing lessons he learnt the hard way building his startup He will cover things like; using product development to get famous, how to build a community, how to integrate social tools to turbo-charge your growth and testing what features will generate demand.

Marketing Hacks isn't really what Mat wanted to call this deck by the wat, he likes Growth Hacks better. 

Think about your user states - active, inactive, and dead. Work to resurrect your inactive  users and reduce churn on the site but you need to breakdown where the users are coming and going to know where you need to spend your time. If you are very good at retaining users, then spend time and investment on acquiring new users. If you're great at acquiring users but your churn is really high, then focus your time on reducing the churn.

Never underestimate the need to work to retain your users. If you don't, you'll see your user base rise, plateau and then plummet down and all you'll be left with is your core hardcore user base. Think Myspace.

What moment in a users life cycle is critical to them retaining? Matt's breaking down some data from Twitter that shows 30 is the magic number of followers for users to stay with the service. "People you may know" is the most powerful retention tool on the internet for exactly this reason. Mixcloud added 50% to their follower rate just by adding in "people you may know" to their service.

Bold move, Mat is going to kill email marketing for Mixcloud. Instead, they are focusing on high quality email notifications to send users information that they actually want. Would love to see how this works out for them.

Want to drive people back to your site through Facebook, look into Facebook notifications. But make sure you are doing it well. If you drop below 17% CTR on your notifications then Facebook will black list you. If you get it right though, you'll see a great lift. Great trick - you can use the Facebook API to learn what mobile devices your followers are using. Now you know what platform to work on and have a great way to target people.

Mat's breaking out a live demo on some of the work their doing on Mixcloud. I wish you could be here to see it because it is epic. These guys are super agile and have some serious testing capabilities.

Will Critchlow & Rand Fishkin – Head to Head – Inbound Marketing on a Shoestring Budget

Our head to head sessions are consistently rated highest by our delegates and it’s not surprising. What better way to ensure our speakers bring their ‘A’ game than by pitting them against each other? In the blue corner – Will Critchlow from Distilled; in the red corner – Rand Fishkin from SEOmoz. Both will be demonstrating how to build great marketing campaigns on a next-to-nothing budget. Rand’s currently leading the head to head all-time, can Will even the score?

 Will is first up to the podium to answer the question, is Marketing on a shoestring budget really just fame done cheap? Can you really do fame cheap? Most cheap marketing is a one-off. So can we really do it sustainably and at scale? 

Get to know who your customers are and what they really care about. "If you can't afford marketing, you probably aren't charging enough". So find ways to spend other people's money, or find a way to pay with something other than money. 

A quick note, fame done cheap should not be measured in ROI as the real investment is time. What we should care about is scalability. Can you do it bigger, better, faster. And the only way to ensure that is to use what you have; assets, talent, time, etc.... 

So who's money can you spend if you don't have the budget? Kickstarter is a brilliant example of this in action. Threshers ran a campaign on giving vouchers away that only ate into margin. Got coverage in national news and went viral. Very little budget was needed for this campaign and they saw a great return.

The other options is to find someone who has the thing you want and use them. Ladbrokes partnered with KP to print free bet vouchers on there peanut packages. KP covered the cost because they were going to do it anyway and Ladbrokes got their bet vouchers in front of their target audience with no budget. Brilliant.

The absolute key for marketing on a shoestring budget is to spend your efforts and skills or spend someone else's money.

Pro tip - get in other people's email blasts. Have some great content? Work out a deal to get someone else to promote that content for you. If the content is truly awesome, email works great. But always remember, be cool. The last thing you want to do is piss off a bunch of really influential people. 

Fighting words from Will. Now it's over to Rand. Can he take it to the house and put this fight to bed?

There is a massive difference between buying your marketing and earning your marketing. So how do you earn your audience's attention without spending a fortune? What makes true love? It lasts and it can't be bought. So why can't marketing be more like love? 

Rand points out there is a massive data problem with trying to buy love. New data is showing 18% of clicks on Googe are on the paid ads. Banner ads on sites are less than 1% CTR. Paid marketing is 10% of all clicks online but $5billion is invested in paid marketing just in the US. Why are we spending so much money on something with such a low return? There is also a problem with cost of acquisition. Rand is busting out the memes to show the difference between buying and earning traffic. If you earn the traffic, your cost per acquisition is so much lower that you now have more money to invest in innovation. And that's how you grow.

Will paid love stay by your side? Doubt it. You can't buy customer loyalty. Look at Harley Davidson's history. Harley gets bought out in the late 60's and their quality goes to hell. Rand calls it "The Mitt Romney Effect" (ha!). But what actually happened to Harley? Their sales took a small dip during this period but nothing coming close to the level you would expect. Why? Brand loyalty. Their fans started proudly displaying this slogan everywhere, "I'd rather push my Harley than ride your Honda". You can't buy that kind of dedication.

Earned customers stay longer and have a greater lifetime value. So let's break down some tactics (Rand went through a great list that I tried to keep up with. I made sure to grab all of the bullet points for you):

  • Empathy + creativity = great content. 
  • Innovation doesn't always trump improvement.
  • Branding may be more valuable than links and traffic
  • Even amateur graphics perform shockingly well
  • Being transparent with success works, but failure works better
  • Ranking #1 isn't all it's cracked up to be. Rand likes position 4 because the rich snippets you can get are more valuable than the rank
  • Make others look good; they'll make you rank well
  • Cannibalising your own stuff sucks
  • Sometimes, it's better to do SEO on someone else's site. Do you have a small brand and struggle to rank for competitive terms? Give other people content and use their Domain Authority to help you rank
  • Google has a spooky nose for quality. They have a scary amount of data about the web
  • What, when, and how frequently we share matters a ton
  • Sharing format and phrasing is huge. When you tweet, put the link between two blocks of text with no other hashtags around it. Rand see's a much higher CTR when you do this
  • Images on Facebook and Google+ work
  • Only sharing your own content is a recipe for disaster
  • Real world > Virtual World
  • Your community is bigger than your site
  • The first interaction is often the last, unless... You only have one chance to make an impression. If you don't your dead in the water
  • Deliverability is holding you back. See what's blocking your emails. Return Path is a great tool for tracking how your emails get delivered 
  • Newsletters with your own stuff? Meh. Newsletters with other people's stuff? Wow
  • Include only the good stuff, not the kitchen sink. "Presenter's Paradox" - you think it makes you look good but it actually makes you look worse
  • The great myth of CRO is that testing enough variants will produce optimal results
  • Changing button colour isn't game-changing CRO. Discovering customer objections is

In summary, never give up. Stick with it and earn that love.

Wow that was epic from both sides. Now for the vote. Drum roll please....

Declared a draw!! Seriously amazing stuff from Will and Rand there. 


So that concludes the first day of SearchLove London. It's been an amazing ride. 

Were you here? Was there a great point you think I missed from one of the speakers? Let us know in the comments! 


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