Four themes from SMX London

My first conference experience since joining Distilled back in October couldn’t have been better; SMX London is a great event. I took a great deal away with me, learning some tips and tricks of the trade, as well as making some new friends in the SEO world. This is not your typical roundup. There were a few clear themes running through the many panels I attended across both days. I thought I might identify four of these and show some examples from the various speakers I listened to.

Theme One: Engagement


By this, I do not mean a proposal and a ring. Engaging with your audience was discussed across the board. It’s not just about posting a link here or submitting some content there; it’s also about the follow-through. Social media was made to be social, and conversations just come with the territory. Below are some of my favourite key points related to engagement from SMX:

  • From the ‘Brand & Reputation Management Strategies’ panel, Mel Carson mentioned today’s consuming audience being engaged as well as “responsive, savvy, wireless, and mobile”. With this in mind, Mel showed the audience how Microsoft uses social media to their advantage through Twitter, their own blog and forums, and Facebook.
  • Lyndon Antcliff talked about the importance of discussion on your blog during the ‘Blow Your Mind Link Building Techniques’ session. He recommended posting “discussion-sparking content” on your blog and inviting authority bloggers to participate in the debate, while maintaining what Lyndon refers to as a “mild temperature”.
  • Getting a company’s policy to align with their social media strategy is key, according to Lucy Langdon. On ‘What’s New With Social Media Marketing’, Lucy noted that engagement from the company members is crucial in their social media efforts.
  • From the same panel, Massimo Burgio invited the audience to listen first before participating in social media conversations. He mentioned that there is no rush, and that we should all be zen and do yoga! How true!

Theme Two: Return On Investment


Admittedly, ROI is a term I have only learned since working in SEO, but one that was heard a lot during this year’s SMX London. It only makes sense that, during a recession, companies are concerned with the return on their investment in search marketing. Luckily, there were many insights offered through some of the panels I attended.

  • If there is overall better measurement of your SEO efforts, then a company’s SEO and PPC budget will be increased. Nigel Townend and Linus Gregoriadis highlighted this point right at the outset in ‘Searchscape: Latest Stats About The Search Engines’.
  • Chris Cathcart pointed out that rankings are not an accurate measurement of SEO success. In ‘Analyzing & Converting Organic Search Traffic’ on day one, Chris showed the relationships between volume and intent versus effort and conversion.
  • Massimo Burgio redefined ROI as “Relevant Optimized Interaction” when talking about social media marketing. ☺
  • In a valiant effort to win the epic “presentation-off” during ‘Analytics Every SEO Needs To Know’, Rand Fishkin discussed using a mashup of metrics when explaining ROI to your client, rather than just one alone.
  • However, Will Critchlow was proclaimed the victor in the end with his suggestions of filters and customisation techniques. If you’d like more detailed notes on these analytics tips, please email Will, though he asks to please be patient!

Theme Three: Privacy Concerns


As search has become increasingly personalised, naturally consumers are more aware of their own privacy. Google Profiles, for example, has made a user’s identity completely transparent and, while there is still a level of control in the hands of the user, this is worrying to some. It’s great that we are able to find out more about a searcher’s activity from an SEO perspective, but there are growing concerns for the future.

  • In order to more closely target demographically as well as behaviourally, Andrew Girdwood explained that this requires private details. However, during the ‘Understanding Searcher Needs & Intent’ panel, he discussed the “site verifying” feature from Norton that enables safer searching.
  • When asked about the future of search in the same session, Shari Thurow responded that the proverbial s**t will hit the fan with privacy issues. Everyone should prepare themselves for Operation: Searcher Backlash.
  • At its core, Reputation Management is about privacy concerns. Our own Rob Ousbey gave a tip during the ‘Brand & Reputation Management Strategies’ session of hiding your referrer when probing sites for potential threats.
  • Additionally, social media takes a level of privacy away from those who are engaged. Dean Chew explained the various advantages of using Facebook Connect with your website during the ‘What’s New With Social Media Marketing’ panel, allowing users to use existing credentials they trust on a different site.

Theme Four: Client Communication


One of the strongest themes running throughout the conference was the idea of an increase in communication with the client. It seemed like a simple idea to me; that the client knows their market the best and should therefore have an active involvement throughout the SEO process. However, this is easily overlooked when agents and SEMs have their own tools and expertise.

  • The keynote address, given by Brian Fetherstonhaugh, included a strong message of getting search on the mind of the Chief Marketing Officer of a company. At the moment, Brian told us that search only accounts for about 1.5% of a CMO’s agenda.
  • There is a wealth of data in the Research & Development and ‘Insights’ departments of a company. Chris Cathcart suggested spending more time using internal insights to understand target demographics for your campaign on the ‘Understanding Searcher Needs & Intent’ panel.
  • Ralph du Plessis urged the idea of getting the consumer involved in keyword research and having them write a content brief. In ‘Analyzing & Converting Organic Search Traffic’, Ralph advised the audience against just giving the client a list of keywords.
  • Following from a previous SEOmoz blog post, Rand Fishkin explained how to communicate analytics data to a client in the ‘Analytics Every SEO Needs To Know’ session. Providing a range of metrics from sites like Compete, Alexa, and Quantcast shows a more closely correlated estimation to the real picture.
Did you notice any more key themes from SMX London? Do you have more insights you’d like to share? Let me know in the comments.

Oh - and a shoutout to Spoonfed who provided some quality entertainment suggestions for us after the conference. They have awesome things to do in London, check em out!

And if you’d like some more details from the conference, here a few more roundups for your reading pleasure:

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