BrightonSEO seemed to come back around particularly quickly this month, once again giving the SEOs at White.net a good excuse to get together and go down to Brighton in force.
I was lucky enough to attend the speakers’/sponsors’ meal at Smokeys with a group of well known faces, from the likes of Moz’s Matthew Brown, to International SEO guru Aleyda Solis, and not forgetting BrightonSEO’s organiser Kelvin Newman, to name just a few.
Arriving at the dome the following morning to check on the White.net stand, we did a quick scour to seek out the top conference swag – this year I’ll have to give credit to Calltracks for the remote controlled helicopters – Well done Alex for the lucky win, this has already provided hours of office flying time!
After previous experience, I decided to stick to the main concert hall this time to avoid fighting for a seat in the smaller conference rooms.
First up was Ian Miller, search director of Crafted Media, to talk to us about predicting the future of Google and why it’s ‘no longer a search company’, but rather a data platform.
According to data published on comScore Google now has a 68% share of the search market. Many rely on Google as a gateway to the internet, but Google is no longer just a search engine, something that is very apparent when looking at how it has branched out into many other areas by acquiring new companies at a rate of knots (see the list here). Most recently it bought Polar, a start-up business that specialises in social polling, to bolt onto Google+.
My vision when we started Google fifteen years ago was that eventually you wouldn’t have to have a search query at all. You would just have information come to you as you needed it
It is clear that most of the acquisitions in recent years were with a single goal in mind; to gather people’s data in order to further understand what humans want.
Ian predicts that we will see Google evolve a lot over the next few years, moving away from simply ranking web pages based on their content and other signals that can be easily influenced, and more towards context, while anticipating your next move to serve you results that are relevant to you and your routines.
This is nothing new – I’m sure you’ve noticed car insurance ads “conventiently” appearing just as you’re beginning to think about renewing your policy, or bicycle related ads following you around via Google’s display network after doing a bit of searching around for a new bike. Well, expect to see more of this!
But Ian doesn’t think Google is evil, rather a helpful side-kick that will provide you with useful tips just as you need them.
“Google will become your cybernetic friend, helping you with all aspects of your life”
All of this means that SEO is no longer just about keyword research and link building. Gone are the days when Google was only interested in finding and indexing pages – Google now wants to understand them. As a result, businesses are going to have to smarten up their online strategies if they want to keep up with this fast-moving search monster.
Next up was Linkdex’s Co-Founder and Chief Strategy Officer Matt Roberts, here to tell us why we all need to study ‘momentology’. But “what is momentology?” I hear you ask… It seems that Matt wants us all to move away from thinking of our online marketing efforts as ‘SEO’, and start referring to it as ‘momentology’. I bet he does – Linkdex own the domain momentology.com!
But it seems that Matt has also identified the need for contextual thinking in order to influence consumers at the right time, so maybe he’s onto something.
Matt discussed why we should start optimising the entire search funnel, from discovery, to making a purchase, and not forgetting the after-sale feedback, while putting consumers in the centre of our strategy.
He also highlighted that we need to look at the bigger picture and think about all of the pages that our visitors are viewing at each stage in the buying cycle.
Content curation is a great way to create content quickly and effectively – sharing, organising and grouping.
The 5 types of content curation are:
“Curation provides more content sources, better content ideas and identifies friendlier content format”
Aleyda talked about using RSS feeds and alerts to identify the most shared content that is relevant to your industry.
Laura’s talk was based around a simple yet effective idea – encouraging internal teams to work together in harmony and share resources – particularly PR and marketing teams.
Laura highlighted that there’s generally a lot of cross-over between the work carried out in each team, and often a lot of missed opportunities. Integrating your teams will allow members to understand how they can work together and help each other, building good relationships along the way.
But first your SEO team will need to gain the trust of the other teams. It’s possible that the reputation of your SEO team has been tarnished by bad experiences from a previous agency, so you will need to get them on-board by talking them through how your work can complement theirs, and vis-versa. Better still, put a case study together and show them.
The next step is to make them feel included. Next time you’re planning a campaign, ask them what their goals and KPIs are and look at ways you can help them to achieve these. Invite them to your meetings and value their input, while helping them to see the value that you can add.
If you’re still having trouble getting them on board then think about putting a campaign together that you know will get their attention by hitting their KPIs and “dazzle them with success”. Share the results and they will soon be ready to jump on the SEO band wagon!
“Build it and they will come…Built it. Shit, they’ve not come”
Building links using spammy tactics is still working for some, but this is by no means a future-proofed strategy. Earning links through content may also come with a risk, but not the traditional penalty-inducing risk that would be more familiar to an old school link builder. Rather, it comes with the risk that your efforts could lead to nothing. However, the key to avoiding this is understanding your audience.
Using Demographic and Interest Reports in Google Analytics will help you to find out what demographics are actually important (i.e. which ones convert). It’s important to speak the same language as your audience as this will help you to engage better with them.
There are also some useful (free) tools that can provide you with demographic information. Google’s display planner is a good place to start, but other tools such as Similarweb allow you to pull out all sorts of useful data that can help you learn about your audience and their interests.
SocialMention can also be useful when looking at which social channels you’re being mentioned in, although it can be hard to sort through the irrelevant results to find what you’re looking for.
A great tool for segmenting your Facebook data is Givememydata.com. This allows you to export the data from your account and reuse it to spot trends and tell a story.
Gisele spoke about another simple but effective concept that shows how many businesses are missing a trick by failing to reach out their existing content to their international audiences.
“If you don’t outreach your most successful content, somebody else will, and they won’t pass any of the credit on to you!”
Gisele spoke about how important it is to provide more than just a translation, but ensure the content is interpreted properly and localised to the correct audience. As with ealier talks, understanding your audience was a key takeaway.
If you don’t have the resources to have your content translated, try outreaching your English content to foreign media.
Be confident – there’s not likely to be much competition so you should be ahead of the game.
Moz’s Matthew Brown flew in from Portland to share his thoughts on rich snippets and what’s to come.
You’ve probably started to see some rich snippets disappearing from Google’s search results but, as with most updates of this fashion, observing results on Google.com will show the rest of us what we can expect to see in the near future. In this case we are likely to see fewer rich snippets and more semantic mark-up. One of the most utilised rich snippets – review starts, also appears to have been dropped.
However, Google is now able to build its own snippets without requiring schema.
The Pigeon update gives us another example of the difference between Google US and Google UK. Matthew mentioned how this recent algorithm update has had a huge impact on local results in Google.com, and hinted that the Pigeon would soon be paying a visit to the UK. His advice was for businesses that have multiple brick-and-mortar shops to think carefully about the potential upsets Pigeon could cause.
Matthew also addressed Google’s move towards providing us with answers to search queries without even leaving the SERPs. For example, you may have recently used Google to calculate a sum, or the distance between two cities:
These types of results are becoming more and more common, and with the arrival of the ‘Google knowledge vault’ – an algorithmic upgrade of the knowledge graph, Google is collecting an unfathomable amount of data, with the ability to sort it and understand it, without human editorial involvement.
Jan-Willem Bobbink’s talk followed on nicely from Matthew, with further insight into Semantic search.
Jan-Willem kicked off with a personal demonstration of how Google uses freebase (acquired by the search engine in 2010) to understand entities, based on their relationships and attributes.
In his example, Jan-Willem showed us that how creating his own personal page in Freebase and populating various attributes, he was able to influence details that appear in the knowledge graph when searching for his name.
The ‘Feedback’ button under the knowledge graph box allows users to highlight incorrect details by selecting any of the attributes and submitting details of the error. For example, this entry states that Jan-Willem is 108 years old, so is a good example of some data that needs correcting!
However, as Freebase relies on humans to enter the details and get them right, Google has taken things a step further, by creating an algorithm that is capable of ‘automated entity retrieval’. This means that Google can make the connections between entities itself.
There are a huge number of databases containing resources that can be used to enrich your own content, so whether your website would benefit from information on geographical locations using ‘Geonames’ – a database containing over 10 million geographical names and 9 million unique features; or your website specialises in types of fish and would like to automatically generate pages pulling in data from Fishbase – a database with information on thousands of species of fish, the content is there for the taking.
These databases are free to use (including Google’s FreeBase) and accessible via APIs, so with a bit of coding wizardry, you can soon be pulling in relevant content automatically. You can also add build links by adding your own data, so some good reasons to have a look!
I haven’t managed to cover all points or indeed all of the talks from the concert hall, so please free add anything that really stood out for you using the comments below.