SMX 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.)
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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