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Emma North

136 Tips From SMX London 2014 Day One (#SMX)

13th May 2014 News, Events | 2 Comments


SMX London 2014SMX London is one of the biggest Search Marketing events in the UK and this year I have had the fantastic opportunity to attend. On Day 1, I have stuck to the SEO track throughout the day and took the following tips, advice and key takeaways from the fantastic talks.

Here at the top tips from day one at SMX London 2014.

The Periodic Table of SEO Ranking Factors

Grant Simmons, VP Search Strategies, Homes.com / For Rent Media Solutions

  • Search Engine Unoptimisation is potentially an underrated ranking factor that search engines don’t talk about.
  • Unoptimised anchor text, start nofollowing old links, removing footer links and similar, undoing any internal linking done just for Google, etc.
  • Unoptimise over-optimised content, including thin pages created for search engines, auto-generated content on landing pages for similar keywords, etc.
  • What’s trending? Quality and reputation: doing less but doing it much better.
  • Engagement far beyond the bounce; not just two pages or minutes on site but much more if relevant and appropriate.
  • Warning factors include link anchor text, quantity of links and paid links
  • Waxing: link velocity, freshness and frequency are important factors including correlation with social and news.
  • Be an expert not a jack of all trades: focus expertise.
  • “Digital Footprint” is about getting natural, authoritative links and mentions to earn trust. Including brand citations, social mentions and more: no longer just links.
  • Crawling should be considered a ranking factor: XML site maps should be used effectively and accurately to aid speed of indexing and freshness. Help search engines suck in your data!
  • Think about the CTR Factor: factors affcting include markup, Meta and relevance. Never leave anything to Google.

Leonhard Hennig, Chief Data Scientist, Searchmetrics

  • Four main categories grouped for ranking factors study: social, backlinks, on-page technical features and on-page content features.
  • Conclusions of a comprehensive study include that good on-page technical implementation is a must, on-page content quality is essential and back links are still important.
  • The biggest change in ranking correlation from 2013 to 2014 is site speed which is around twice as important.
  • Length of text on ranking pages has increased with more textual content on ranking pages in 2014 tests.
  • Relevant keywords is as a high a factor as links in the test findings. Keywords are understood in the context of the page and it’s other content. Don’t just use one “keyword”: be sure you have enough content to fully describe the context.
  • Number of backlinks is still relevant but is decreasing in importance each year. The more important factor is quality of backlinks, a factor which is increasing in importance. Fewer but fresh backlinks are important.
  • Top ranking position pages have a high proportion of branded anchor text. Keyword rich anchor text is decreasing in value.

Janaya Wilkins, SEO Consultant, Ayima

  • Base your understanding on your own findings and evidence, using external sources for news and advice but not forgetting your own case studies.
  • Don’t panic at every little change, such as drops in short-tail vanity keywords. Avoid undue pressure from bosses or clients: reassure everyone and stick to goals and a clear plan.
  • Don’t chase the algorithm; focus on a plan and a sustainable campaign.
  • Set clear goals, define success, carry out analysis, plan the process, review and revise the on-going strategy.
  • Get to the source of the problem but don’t change everything at once; have a plan, research and test the impact of changes.
  • Have the right equipment, tools and data sources for your strategy. But only use what you need! Don’t overload with too many tools or an overload of data that is too much to handle.
  • Split the workload into manageable chunks, set up as a project with timescales, responsibilities, etc.
  • Know your limits: factor in how much time out you will need from your data to be effective.
  • Avoid distractions by parking issues; note them down and come back to them.
  • Stick to the plan, trust the process, don’t drift away from the strategy. Make sure you check against your original KPIs.
  • Nothing ever goes completely to plan; adapt and refine. Revisit your goals, plan, strategy, etc. and start over.

What Is Hummingbird & The Entity Search Revolution

David Amerland, Author, Analyst, HMS Media

  • Search used to be easy because we knew the mathematics of the algorithm, leading to gaming the system through easy reverse-engineering.
  • Users used to be the filter, expected to filter through search results to find the relevant result.
  • Search engines now try to understand the context and the interest of the user. This generally results in a decrease in organic traffic, but increase in conversions for sites doing well. This is because of the increase in result relevancy.
  • Targeted content means throwing a narrower net and capturing the really relevant traffic.
  • The reason shortcuts are no longer practical is because there are too many ranking factors for a shortcut to actually save time.
  • Hummingbird makes search more transparent and makes SEO more honest through semantic search.
  • Hummingbird changes search by making it personal, factors that are important such as trust are human qualities, no longer dependant just on a computer’s calculations.
  • Entities are created by connections around it which give us meaning. This means keywords need to be linked to a specific meaning, with a full spectrum of information.
  • Shortcuts don’t result in gain because of the loss in reputation that they cause, which takes a long time to build and longer to rebuild.
  • We go from strings (keywords, code, etc.) to things (entities with meaning). Similarly, we go from websites to people and the signals of authority change with that too – less about links, more about signals, social, etc.
  • Drives us to be more creative.

Justin Briggs, Sr. Manager, Organic Marketing, Getty Images

  • Searches get more implicit because users become more confident in the ability of search to understand, meaning search engines work harder to find the answers.
  • The opportunity for marketers is to provide value on actual queries for Google to include as a reference for the entity, alongside the expected results such as Wikipedia, imdb, etc.
  • Results are also becoming more valuable in terms of display and presentation. For example, the knowledge graph, carousels for casts, trailers for film, rich snippets, etc.
  • Tokenisation: take a phrase and break it down into usable chunks. Google oes this for search queries and website content.
  • Speech tagging: breaking down words to understand context in terms of nouns, adjectives, verbs, etc. to understand the actual angle of the content.
  • Lemmatisation: Takes the full query and converts to it’s root canonical concept.
  • How can all of this be used to help your business perform better? Make sure that the data for your entity as a brand is clean and structured.
  • Provide robust, accurate information that Google can find easily and learn to trust based on how your users engage.
  • Structured data, properly tagged, enables Google to interpret your data and lists yours in the search results instead of other data sources which may be competitors.
  • Connect relevant entities to become a resource on the two combined.
  • Use entity attributes, not just seed keywords, to make sure the relevancy of the keyword in the appropriate context is understood.
  • Consider the types of questions people are likely to ask about the entity. You don’t need to exactly match the keywords for that query to a post because Google can understand context, but consider delivering content that answers numerous appropriate questions naturally.

Long-Term SEO: How To Win For Years, Not Days

Duane Forrester, Sr. Product Manager, Bing

  • Searchers seek content, not the best optimised site. You need to supply the answer.
  • “We watch to see how people interact with content – this will always be #1 to us”
  • You need to become the central go-to resource for your target audience, so they can get everything they need on the topic from you.
  • Hooks are the most valuable tool to spark interest, whether through ego-driving, controversy or any other strong social signals.
  • Dwell time on site (time on the search result before you stay or bounce back) is very important to Bing, based on the context of the search and the time the user should need to find the type of answer or information they’re after.
  • Generally searchers want to be in control and aren’t afraid of potentially spending a little longer looking back and forth through search results to find what they’re looking for. They will not stay on a site where they have to scroll or navigate to find their results. They’ll just go back, even if it takes a little longer in the long run.
  • Links are covered naturally if you get content, UX, social and internal linking right. Get all that right and links will come.
  • The most valuable aspect of active SEO work is in technical and on-page factors to get the groundwork right.
  • Semantic markup, local, mobile and new technologies are big aspects of the future of SEO.

Tim Grice, Director of Search, Branded3

  • Links aren’t dead, but the way we think about them and the way we get them needs to change.
  • Engagement and branding are increasingly important and will continue throughout the future of SEO.
  • What your visitors do on your site is increasingly impacting rankings. Why would a search engine leave your search result at the top of the page if your visitors don’t engage?
  • Think about voucher sites – if you click on a voucher page and there are no vouchers available or they’re all expired, you’ll go back and keep looking. Why would/should that listing still rank well?
  • Low quality content, poor navigation and lack of CTAs can all contribute to people bouncing back to search.
  • Use Analytics to find out what pages or areas of your site are performing poorly. If people are bouncing too soon, without engaging or staying on the page long enough to read the content, visit the page and find out why.
  • Ask yourself, why is the user there and what information do they want? Does the page meet those needs? Is it easy for them to get the right information?
  • Don’t be afraid to survey your customers and visitors to find out what it is they’re looking for.
  • If all you want to do is sell, without adding value, search engines are likely to expect you to pay for traffic with PPC. If you want that valuable free SEO exposure, you need to add value.
  • By adding valuable content sections to your site, you can provide value not just to visitors ready to buy but also those who want more information and to research before they may or may not buy.
  • Put your best content in front of people. Keep users engaged, don’t put that content somewhere deep in the site as a traffic exercise.
  • Even if you get to the top, you won’t stay there if you don’t deserve to.

Dave Naylor, MD & Director of SEO, Bronco Ltd

  • Start your backlink analysis in Google Webmaster Tools but use other tools to get the full picture.
  • Run searches like we used to to find submission opportunities to find ones to remove, ie; link searches in Google with spam words like “directory”, “submit link”, “porn”, “payday loans”, etc.
  • Effort = reward with backlink analysis. What you put in is what you get out.
  • Links are still the biggest ranking factor and the key failure point.
  • Ongoing monitoring is essential, especially with negative SEO still so achievable.
  • “Journalist and PR links will have to be dampened down”.
  • Any new techniques may be abused and spammed again just like Meta keywords were, but when they are the search engines will learn and adjust. But so far not enough people are even using things like Schema yet!

Meet The Search Engines

Foreword: a last minute Visa issue meant that Eugene Lomize, Head of Monetisation, Yandex could not be here.

John Mueller, Webmaster Trends Analyst, Google

  • There are still a lot of Schema markup types that Google uses to understand and interpret your site and data, but does not include them in the SERPs.
  • If Google cannot trust your site completely then it is unlikely to use your Rich Snippets in the SERPs.
  • When showing brand names and page titles, Google always tries to get it right but inevitably the system can get it wrong. “Send any issues with examples of search queries that produce the wrong result direct to me!”
  • The publisher markup tester does sometimes wrongly show the company logo where an author photo would appear with authorship; this is a bug and publisher logos do not show in SERPs.
  • Facebook is not used at all for Google rankings.
  • Authorship is an important indicator of authority, strong authors with a history of creating strong content are likely to be more trusted.
  • Extension of Webmaster Tools search query data is still going to be extended but it’s in the pipeline. They are also working on an API to extract search query data directly in the future.
  • International hreflang markup is essential for international websites if the wrong site is showing in SERPs. This is the best way to help Google understand international sites.
  • For canonical tags content should be identical, not similar (excluding dynamic content or ads, etc.)

Duane Forrester, Sr. Product Manager, Bing

  • Laws in different countries restrict what the search engines can show and how they structure the SERPs.
  • Testing is constant when it comes to SERPs, with different structures being tested to see how they work. The process of rolling out and rolling back can take up to a year.
  • Page titles are not always written right, which is why search engines may change these sorts of tags. It is always done with the intention of benefiting the user.
  • Bing definitely does not use Facebook likes directly as a ranking factor, but may use it as a signal to go visit the content and see if it’s worth ranking.
  • Link building should not be the focus of an SEO campaign; it should only be to get good exposure and referal traffic.
  • Trust is the biggest factor in Authority. You’re an expert when someone else says you’re an expert, not when you say you are.

What’s In My SEO Toolbox?

Matt Beswick, Director, Hidden Pixel

  • Only use the tools you need to; avoid analysis paralysis! Save time with the most useful analysis.
  • Raven Tools is a great suite for managing clients but BuzzStream is the one tool you need for outreach.
  • UberSuggest is a very powerful keyword research tool, using Google autosuggest data. You can then copy the list of results and paste into the keyword tool for search volume data.
  • URLprofiler.com is great for adding in the link data you already have to get a compiled list of data without manual vlookups, etc.
  • Utilise APIs; the analysis you can get is well worth the set up time.
  • Find authoritative Tweeters with the Twitter API.

James Perrott, Head of Search & Data, Zazzle Media

  • There is no substitute for manual link analysis. It’s just a case of saving time.
  • Majestic SEO – a huge range of data from a massive index.
  • AHREFS – the freshest data source which updates much quicker than many others.
  • Google Webmaster Tools – although slow and stale, there is definitely additional link data in there that isn’t in others.
  • Cognitive – breaks down link data to give you more top-level insight into link types.
  • LinkRisk – the best link analysis tool James has ever used! Great tool with great customer service.
  • Link Dtox – classification of links isn’t perfect but a good additional resource.
  • Barracuda Panguin Tool – useful GA plugin to visually see any major issues after Google updates.
  • SearchMetrics – great for analysis of site visibility, showing the good and the bad of visibility changes.
  • Moz Algorithm History – check historical penalties to look right back at when an issue started.
  • Screaming Frog – great for technical audits and site crawls for site maps, etc.
  • SpyOnWeb – find out more about a domain including whether it’s part of a spam my network.
  • Rmoov/Rmoov’em – finds WhoIs information to speed up the outreach for link removals.
  • Link Audit – speeds up outreach for link removals by cracking capture codes on web forms.
  • Rank Tracking Software – helps monitor changes and identify issues.
  • Fruition – like Panguin but gives you a more visual and more detailed report of impact of updates.

Miriam Schwab, Friendly CEO, illuminea

  • Gravity Forms is a paid forms plugin “well worth the money”, for capturing specific user information and UGC.
  • It also includes a basic Ecommerce system and some good analytical information in terms of views vs. submissions.
  • You can integrate Gravity Forms with many CRM systems to help track interaction and assign enquiries to relevant teams or staff members.
  • Scroll Triggered Boxes is a free plugin which enables you to pop-up a subtle CTR when they scroll a certain way down the page.
  • It is very customisable and can greatly increase conversion rate, whether for leads, subscriptions, etc.
  • You can integrate directly with MailChimp.
  • The Simple URLs plugin enables URL shortening within WordPress.
  • Yoast SEO plugin is a robust, central resource for WordPress SEO.
  • Includes all the standard on-page SEO features you’d expect and more, including semantic markup, XML sitemaps, redirecting attachment URLs, canonical tags and an on-page analysis from within the post editor.
  • You can even create an HTML site map with a little known Yoast shortcode.
  • EXIF data stored with images, including camera models, Photoshop data, thumbnails and more uses unnecessary space This can be “scrubbed” with Batch Purifier. The process is lossless in terms of quality.

Keynote – “Will Data Save Marketing?”

Ajit Sivadasan, Vice President and General Manager, Lenovo Corporation

  • The biggest challenge in marketing is ROI; justifying your existence as a department or business arm.
  • Education is driving change: the number of people online is increasing just as the number of people who learn coding increases.
  • The traditional model of marketing is changing. Businesses need to understand the new rules and the new digital market to succeed.
  • The marketing technology ecosystem is changing rapidly. You need to be able to make decisions in real-time, because there is value in being able to complete analysis and implement decisions fast.
  • Data is central to each and every interaction, and to efficiency.
  • A study by BCG shows that 46% of millenials use their smart phones to check prices and online comments when they visit a shop.
  • Marketing evolved from mass marketing to digital marketing and now to digital engagement, where the relationship, engagement and loyalty changes.
  • Social, mobile and online delivers the highest ROI of any marketing channel, and is completely trackable with data that you can analyse and use to optimise.

That’s a wrap for day one of SMX London 2014; check back tomorrow for more great tips from day two.

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Emma North About the author

Emma North

Emma has more than 5 years’ digital marketing experience and has worked on dozens of websites in a wide range of industries. She has a passion for both SEO and PPC and is driven by the need to develop her digital skills and knowledge. She is always exploring innovative solutions for new problems encountered in the ever-changing digital world.

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