IonSearch 2013 recap - our favourite tips & thoughts

April 22, 2013

IonSearch 2013 recap – our favourite tips & thoughts

Two days, three tracks, over 50 speakers. IonSearch 2013 certainly didn’t lack in ambition, nor in potential for some insightful search marketing conversation and thought.

And it did not disappoint; we thoroughly enjoyed our in time in Leeds, and came away with plenty of takeaways. With so many talks (over 40 different talks/panels), we sadly couldn’t see everything there, but we’ve put together some of the key takeaways from our favourite sessions of the conference.

Andrew Dumont – Exploring the differences between Web and Marketing Analytics

Andrew Dumont of SEOmoz kicked IonSearch off with a look at marketing analytics, and what you need to look at differently from your everyday web analytics.

  • If web analytics is how your site is performing, marketing analytics is how your campaigns are performing – and the sweet spot to site success is in the middle of these two sets of data
  • We need to dig deeper, and ask performance questions of the entire data pie, and there’s some great places in addition to Google Analytics to get this:
    • Topsy – superb tool for measuring content success by seeing how often it is mentioned
    • Fresh Web Explorer – the new toy from SEOmoz can help you quickly see mentions of new content, or your brand in the wake of a new campaign
    • Buffer – excellent tool for social media sharing and tracking
    • Open Site Explorer, for link generation (note: although OSE releases are getting quicker, MajesticSEO and Ahrefs can also give you further backlink data, and potentially more quickly if it is a while before next OSE index update)
    • Kapost – content marketing software platform that helps manage the entire process (for a price)
    • Use all this tasty data to help analyse your marketing performance, alongside its impact on the site performance
  • This data is great, but a common pitfall is you set it all up, but then forget to collect it, or don’t spend the time to analyse it thoroughly
  • Another common issue can be that even if you do the work, you don’t communicate it with the rest of the team – you must tell your team what you are doing, and how your content is performing – content must be part of everyone’s job

Key takeaway: Think broader about what data you can get to make smarter marketing and content decisions

Panel – Sha Menz, Tim Grice, Martin Woods & Christoph Cemper – Link removal

Link removal has become an increasing part of the SEO landscape, and many agencies have picked up new clients who are desperately looking for help having been penalised by previous link building work. This panel looked at some of the lessons learned about link removal and re-inclusion requests:

  • Have you been caught by Penguin? Check your analytics data to see the exact date of a decline in traffic. If the timing does not correspond precisely with a Penguin update, then it is not Penguin causing your trouble
  • If you get a warning in Google Webmaster Tools, you need to at least be aware of what your link profile looks like, even if your warning was of the ‘Google has taken action in this case’ variety
  • To analyse your backlink profile, you need to grab all the link data you can from every available source, including finding records of links you built years ago through different sources like Fiverr, or guest posting, that the link database tools don’t find – you want to have the picture possible
  • Use the historic data set from MajesticSEO
  • Although Google Webmaster Tools only gives you a sample (10-20%) of your links, Bing Webmaster Tools is a great source of link data
  • Disavow at a domain level – don’t worry about if you think it is a good site or not, if you are worried about the link, disavow the domain and let Google decide what it thinks are good and bad sites
  • Disavow reported links even on 404 pages and no-followed links – Google might not recrawl the site for weeks, and do you want to wait for them to catch up?
  • Pre-empt Penguin by tidying links now – if you get caught by Penguin you will have to wait a long time (months) for your changes to take place, as Panda updates are infrequent (there have only been three iterations so far, far less common than Panda updates)

Key takeaway: Make backlink profile modifying part of your SEO routine – look at your links on a regular basis

Ross Hudgens – Rapid-fire content marketing

Ross gave some great examples of methods he uses to make the very most of the content marketing work he does. With so much competition emerging in content marketing, you need every promotional advantage possible. This rapid-fire list of methods to improve the way you market your content were given thick and fast!

  • Content marketing is painful. It requires repetition and constant iterative action if it is to be evergreen in nature
  • How to get links:
    • Advanced Search – allinurl:/tag/brand/ – search where your brand has been mentioned recently
    • Check by time in Google
    • Create personal pages for every employee, the journalists and other sites have direct place to link to rather than social accounts
    • People link to twitter pages, do link reclamation by asking them to link to website as well – do the same with Google +
    • Reverse image search to find links to images
    • Search for links to domain name misspellings
    • Monitor stolen images with
    • Look at links to your YouTube videos and contact links. – Check YT analytics for embed locations
    • Broken link building, using tools such as
  • Getting social shares:
    • Be deliberate with tweets – Use followerwonk to understand when your followers are using twitter, then schedule your tweets to the appropriate time
    • Every time that content is on the web, there should be some kind of social action
    • Slideshare Gold – Allows you to add URLs and Twitter accounts
    • Build relationships with Twitter Favourites/+1s
  • Find influencers on YouTube, Hackernews, Twitter, Followerwonk, Pintrest, and act upon what these people are saying
  • Ego Appeals – Indirect mention of influencers likely to see content
    • Chose the influencer for the content, not write the content for the influencer
  • How to get more CTR & safe links from infographics:
  • Use content platforms (such as Slideshare) to rank for search terms by using their authority – get the traffic
  • Pre-check buttons as people generally won’t uncheck, especially on newsletter sign-ups
  • Use co-citation to your advantage – be very deliberate around adding additional information, for example Brand (link), a content marketing company
  • Not much will change with Link Building going forward – Ross explained he builds links that competitors can’t take / defensible links
  • Don’t worry about controlling anchor text – under 20% commercial anchor text
  • Where target demographics are not socially active, create more educational pieces

Key takeaway: Link building might not change that much moving forward, but being smarter in how we promote content is key to success

Marcus Tandler – What’s next in search?

One of the talks of IonSearch 2013, Marcus Tandler gave us his very entertaining thoughts on where the search engines, and the search industry as a result, might move in the near future. Boasting 477 slides in less than 45 minutes (!), Marcus delivered a captivating talk on what Google might use next as rankings signals:

  • Marcus showed some examples of spikes in traffic thanks to strong content marketing, but traffic often died down after – with content marketing it is important to rinse and repeat constantly for best effect, and for a steady rise
  • It is vital to see what type of content has worked before – examine what the audience/bloggers/news sites in your niche have actively liked before
  • SearchMetrics has an excellent ‘social visibility’ tool that works very well for measuring the impact your content marketing is having
  • Searchers want to see the experts or authorities in a field talking on news and events, and the search engines will respond in kind by presenting this information, so Google+ Authorship (rel=author) may become more important as time goes by – to connect with your audience you need to have people on your site positioned as experts
  • Author-Rank is a great tool to help see where authors are writing, and their areas of expertise
  • Traffic will become a ranking factor in the future. Google are searching for patterns in how people are searching, and they have a lot of data on how we are using the internet
  • Google want to highly rank sites that satisfy the user – and traffic patterns that indicate a site is solving people’s problems help them do this
  • By building links for users (where you will get traffic from), not search engines, you help start building these patterns

Key takeaway: Building for traffic encourages better SEO, and better content, and this will reap rewards as Google evolves

Nichola Stott – Link earning: Marketing strategies for earning your links, and how to survive the grey borderlands

Nichola spoke on how we can gain meaningful content from real stories from each client we work with. She examined what makes an engaging story, and how we can get such angles into our content work.

  • There are myths around content-led link building that need to be busted:
    • Build it and people will not just come
    • Videos aren’t ‘viral’ as a trait – this is something that happened to them, you can’t build it in
    • Data doesn’t make an infographic – a story does
  • The stages of content creation: Ideation -> Creation -> Distribution (then repeat)
  • Why you need an earned link strategy:
    • 82% average visibility drop for the top 100 affected by Penguin
    • 3.1% of all queries dropped in Penguin.
    • 73 places dropped by Chrome for ‘browser’ keyword for link buying
    • Using genuine news stories delivers diversity of link sources, audience targeting, plus reinforces brand story
    • Compare the brand perceptions of Innocent smoothies (story telling) with DFS (constant sales pitches)
  • So, what is newsworthy?
    • Quantifiable – humans are obsessed with wanting to measure items, so use this in your content (such as ‘world’s smallest’ or ‘industry first’)
    • Celebrity content – our obsession seems to know no bounds
    • Emotive content (either feel-good or controversial)
    • Recommended book – Contagious (Jonah Berger)
  • Where do you start?
    • Your product and USP (marketing 101)
    • Qualitative angles such as face-to-face interviews; these need senior buy in, or try stakeholder groups
    • Surveys – Google Consumer Survey (used on the display network) work very well – set your demographics, screening questions and prudent questions on pressing topic. Data can give you excellent qualitative angle (‘64% of consumer think x’), backed by survey data
    • For ubiquitous products, look for USPs or a point of difference; for boring products you need to find a human application, can be service or policy related – bring your product to the human conclusion that suddenly makes it less boring
    • Data-led content has to be a story – infographics and slides are the mechanisms to deliver that story – the story is the 3rd dimension of the data you have got
    • Don’t discount infographics because others are starting to, just find the better angle
    • Find stories by defining what normal looks like, then create some filter alarms to let you know when something newsworthy is happening
  • Tools:
    • HARO – subscription service that sends two emails a day of reporters seeking a source for a story
    • Media Agility – a media contact database
    • Some agencies are teaming with PR firms, changing names of link builders to ‘promotion executives’

Key takeway: Great content needs a reason – find that, in any niche, and you’ve got something to build links to with meaningful content from real stories

Sam Crocker – Enterprise SEO

Sam went into fascinating detail with his tips on succeeding with SEO for enterprise-level sites.

  • When pitching, do your research. Get to meet the client first hand
    • Understand the business objective of the client, and speak their language; ROI, TVR, Cost of Sale, etc. rather than just DA and so on
    • Know your audience – who is in the pitch meeting with you that you need to connect with?
    • Create a scoring mechanism – score outreach similar to PR, what it would of cost in ad spend? Look at brand related terms
    • Don’t call it SEO, call it ‘fixing the website’ for example for technical jobs
  • Advantages of working with big brands are when there is a big brand with poor website or agency which you can immediately improve upon. You can get people to do your job, such as the PR team
  • Budgets can be big, but it needs to be unlocked- you have to be prepared to play the long game.
  • You have to play nice, working with other agencies/partners, but integration is overrated – it can work but is sitting down in meeting for 8 hours the most productive use of your time?
  • You need to always strive to get on their radar, and try to present to senior leadership – do not wait to be called, be proactive
  • And remember, SEO is just a single cog in the wheel
  • Traditional brands are generally weak at getting things implemented, so understanding the structure & process in updating the site is key – define how the business works through regular meetings, training of in-house staff, working in deliverable ‘chunks’, transparency of costs, and streamline the approval process wherever possible
  • Compliance/brand guidelines slow you down, but big brands often do some really good branding plays that you can use for SEO, RedBull being a notable example
  • Working with a global business it can be difficult to meet all people involved, get in the diary to talk quickly and earn local control
  • Pick your battles, you will lose some!
  • Enterprise SEO generally competes with itself.
  • Choose portfolio, different brands can target different price set.
  • As site grows, information architect goes wrong, and duplicate content issues are hugely common – see for some examples
  • Outsource where you can is a great win, but you need to ensure that all is signed off, and that quality is checked thoroughly
  • Big sites generally rely on more on-site work as outreach to sites with millions of pages are impossible ethically
  • Technical audits can be like going down a rabbit hole – look at top level and identify symptoms
  • Good results are common for moving site structure from sub-domain to sub-folder
  • Tools:
    • Brightedge (highly recommended)
    • Woorank
    • ScreamingFrog (not always good for large sites) / DeepCrawl
    • Automate reports whenever possible

Key takeaway: Give full visibility and teach

Martin MacDonald – Why I’ve quit SEO

Martin gave a passionate, and well-argued, talk on how the SEO industry’s preoccupation with short-cuts (which he cheerfully admits he was a large part of) has made it hard to gain traction as other online channels have.

  • SEO’s don’t need spam techniques any more, but much of the public (at least, any that work with a site in any capacity) often thinks that’s what we do
  • The public perception of SEO hasn’t evolved as the actual job has over the past several years
  • SEO is now incredibly complicated, and focus is on scale – not in amount of data, but the amount of data points to be measured
  • We used to manufacture links, now we make incredible content, and we make websites ‘work’ properly
  • Industry needs to keep moving from the ‘next trick’ mind-set, and concentrate on being remarkable
  • SEOs are online marketing heroes, understanding important concepts and methods no-one else does
  • There are remarkable people in this industry, and they need to be aiming toward becoming the next generation of CMOs
  • But SEO is just one part of the modern online buying cycle, there’s PPC, social, Adsense, email and more
  • If you just do SEO you miss out on 50% of the potential conversions, but if you don’t include SEO you miss out on up to 80% of the traffic – you need to do it all
  • Wherever the eyeballs are, that’s where you should be, and investing in SEO-type activity, answering searcher’s questions
  • Use PPC for transactional keywords – people using such terms are informed searchers who have done their research, and you now need to be in front of them with your selling page

Key takeaway: SEO has a reputation-management issue, perhaps fatally so as a name, and co-joined thinking needs to be more prevalent in the online-marketing industry

Panel – Aleyda Solis, Daniel Bianchini & Andrew Girdwood – Local SEO

Our very own Daniel Bianchini joined the discussion on local SEO before a packed room for the first session on day 2.

  • Quality is more important than quantity with reviews for local listings
  • Use rich snippet markup for reviews, events and addresses to help your local listing stand out
  • Create individual pages for each location in your chain for local SEO, this allows you to add individual information for each listing, and allows relevant markup without spamming
  • The way local works might well change drastically soon, with full Google Plus local around the corner – Google Plus is going to be key hub for local listings, and a great way to potentially interact with other businesses and customers
  • Diversifying your channels, Twitter, Facebook, Google Plus, Pinterest, email, Foursquare etc., otherwise you could be missing on the channel that appeals to your niche
  • Reviews are still very significant – so you need to encourage them. Follow up sales with emails asking for reviews, preferably with links that require no sign-up
  • Small businesses can be agile, and can engage more directly with the local community more often, so use this to your advantage via social media, and getting involved in events (even sponsoring of possible)
  • 70% of local queries come from mobile search, indeed there is a close relationship between local and mobile overall. Making sure your local listings look good in mobile versions, especially your Google Plus and Maps presentation, as well as your contact information on mobile site key

Mike Essex – 86 billion free SEO tools: Why your brain is the best tool of all

This talk focussed on productivity, and how using your brain, and time, more effectively to encourage creative thinking makes it the best SEO tool available. Drawing on his own experiences, Mike Essex presented a whole raft of potential work-hacks to get your mind on the job at hand.

  • As SEOs we love tools, but knowing how to make the most of these required being a better you – your brain has 86 billion neurons, that’s a lot of potential – how many do you engage to do your work?
  • Using a tool always needs a human element, a sense check if you will. Mike told the example of how a tool suggested over 200 places to have a site mentioned, and then gave you a tick once you had outreached; the tool was happy, but none of the submissions went through, so the site was no better off!
  • Tools are static, and can’t always adapt to the changing landscape, so be aware of the limitations
  • Why fill your head with tools, when we need to learn to constantly adapt to be great online marketers
  • Trying to make everything scale and work automatically leads to a robotic process, which anyone can do
  • Creativity is the best way to become better than any tool
  • Time management is vital, however works best for you – Mike recommended checking out the Pomodoro technique which breaks work into 25 minute sprints
  • Inbox Zero can lead to much greater time to concentrate, and greater efficiency and creativity through focus
  • Step away from your PC, get a clear head, and find new inspiration
  • Being bored is a great way to be creative – look at how children are creative when there is no obvious stimulus
  • Walking the dog, the daily commute, exercising – all great times to become creative as you are bored
  • Find a mentor to help give feedback or guidance
  • If all else fails, copy President Obama – each day he has three moments, his workout, dinner with his daughters, and at night after everyone else is asleep, away from his work – this he credits with enabling him to work better at other time as it gives him time to step back and process. If the most powerful man on earth makes time to be creative, so should you

Key takeaway: Get creative by:

    1. Controlling your time
    2. Freeing your mind
    3. Finding inspiration

Other slide decks

We couldn’t make every talk, but here are some other slide decks from IonSearch that are worth taking a look at:

So that’s our summary of our key takeaways. Of course there’s plenty more that we haven’t covered here, there was a huge amount of information on offer. For a complete summary of all the talks in bite-sized detail, take a look at:

We hugely enjoyed IonSearch, and will be back in 2014. If you made it, what were your favourite talks and panels, and what tips, tricks and thoughts did you come away with? Let us know in the comments!

Many thanks to CST Photography for letting us use their excellent images.

By Charlie Williams Events Share:

6 thoughts on “IonSearch 2013 recap – our favourite tips & thoughts

  1. Wow – what a thorough write-up. Thanks for including me. That must have been exhausting to get all that detail 😉

  2. Billy says:

    Lots of web companies these days, are un-ethically damaging clients marketing tactics for a short term gain. I like the points shared by Nichola

  3. Hi Nichola,

    Thanks for checking out our writeup – more than happy to include your talk, really enjoyed it!

    Was a lot of detail, hand definitely hurt by the end of the 2nd day…

  4. Thank you very much for sharing this really helpful and informative bits of the Ionsearch 2013. The way you detailed tips and thoughts feels like I attended the event.

  5. Ryan Bailey says:

    Wow someone was busy taking notes! But seriously, as someone who has attended a lot of seminars it’s easy to be hit with information overload. Nice job on getting all that into easy-to-digest bullet points. Some very useful info and resources here, thanks.

  6. Hi Ryan, thanks for commenting!

    Yeah, we got a lot of notes at ionSeach – agree that it can be information overload. The good thing in Leeds was a lot of the talks were well timed, so there was enough focus on just the core messages. But by the time you add all the talks together it is a lot of information!

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