Ok so the “Top 20,001 takeaways” type posts have already been done, so I wanted to make this more of a general view of the themes emerging from this year’s SearchLove conference. I suspect that summarising general trends in what was discussed might be a pretty good reflection of where the SEO industry is now and where it’s heading.
I’ll start off by saying that I enjoyed SearchLove a whole lot more than the other SEO conferences I’ve been to, and not just because of the great food and excellent Monday night party! I felt there was a great deal of enthusiasm among those present, and I came away from the conference feeling inspired and eager to try out the new ideas I heard.
So, in no particular order, here are some of the main themes emerging from SearchLove this year…
Good content is more important now than ever before
In the light of several iterations of the Panda update, it came as little surprise to hear the importance of great content emphasised by a number of speakers, with Tom Critchlow even advocating the role of ‘Chief Content Officer’ to manage content strategy effectively. Having a strong content strategy in place, he argued, turbo charges your SEO efforts. Low-quality content harms the whole site – whether it’s bad writing (couldn’t agree more with this one!), too many ads or duplicate content.
Giving your users a great experience
The first session of the conference was Rand Fishkin speaking about developing online communities. For a community to be successful, he argued, it has to benefit the users way more than it benefits you. So why is it worth your while? Because users can build your content and do your SEO for you (forums are particularly good for long-tail optimisation). The importance of giving your users a great experience applies to your website as a whole, of course (not just the community element), a point also covered by Richard Baxter’s talk on ‘gamification’ (below).
‘Gamification’ – or the art of getting people to do what you want
I wondered at the time whether I was the only one who hadn’t ever heard this term before, but by the end of the conference it seemed felt normal, as it was referred to a lot. Richard Baxter gave a very interesting talk on it, looking at how you can reward your users for learning more about your brand by using elements such as leaderboards, points systems and other competitive elements usually found in games. You can apply this to a wide range of things to help you achieve your business goals, whether it’s completing a profile or generating reviews. The upshot is that people are motivated by status, and you can use this to encourage people to take the actions you want them to.
Building online and real-life relationships is good for link building
Blogger outreach should be all about building relationships. Don’t contact people out of the blue asking if they want to feature a blog post – engage with them by following them on Twitter and mentioning/retweeting them, and commenting on their blog; only then should you try approaching them about guest blogging. Though more time consuming, your success will be greater because you’ll be a familiar and friendly name, and you’ll have the added advantage of approaching them with a deeper understanding of what they’re trying to achieve with their blog.
LinkedIn is a surprisingly useful (stalking) asset
SEOMoz’s Joanna Lord pointed out that LinkedIn can be great for sussing out the strategies being taken by your competitors (or those of your clients). Checking out who’s been hired and who’s left can show what competitors are doing and strategies they’re taking in terms of what areas of the business they’re putting their budget in. LinkedIn can also be a good medium for approaching people regarding linking opportunities.
The Dislike button won’t happen
It’s Facebook’s most frequently requested feature apparently, but Mat Clayton argued that it won’t ever be implemented because negativity kills sharing. And whether you’re in SEO or social media, we want people to share! If people think that others will react negatively to something they share (i.e. by ‘disliking’ it), they’ll be less likely to share.
Infographics can still work
The phrase “infographics are so 2009” was bandied about a bit, but ultimately the conclusion seemed to be that they can work if you approach it in the right way. The infectiously enthusiastic Wil Reynolds advised having a marketing plan in place and finding relevant audiences by finding out who’s commented on popular long posts along similar lines. If you use HTML 5 they’re more likely to get shared, as it’s new and there aren’t many examples of it – meaning it’ll appeal to HTML 5 geeks as well as your target audience. And don’t forget to use Google Image search to find naughty people who’ve used your infographic without crediting you – they’ll usually be willing to link back if you ask nicely.
Have I missed out any important themes? Leave a comment below and let me know!