You know that you’re getting up at a crazy hour of the day when you wake up and teletext is on most of the channels on your television, so as the alarm sounds at 5.30am, with no sign of the morning’s breakfast news, I slowly woke up and started getting ready to make the trip down to Brighton to meet fellow Koozai members for the Brighton SEO conference held at The Corn Exchange.
After a two hour train journey we arrived at the venue where we were offered tea and coffee before heading into the conference area and getting stuck into the world of SEO, with a number of speeches from top industry professionals. So what exactly did we learn?
First up on the agenda was Jonny Stewart with his presentation titled ‘Google’s Panda: A Case Study’ which provided an insight into Google’s changes to the algorithm when Panda was introduced to focus on quality control within Google, punishing sites with duplicate content. The system was introduced in the UK on April 11th 2011 and in the words of Mr Stewart himself “You’re not a good SEO until you’ve been hit by a penalty, a real big one”.
Under Google’s Panda update, all pages are affected except for forum pages. The main point to take from the presentation was that if your site has been hit by the big panda, so to speak, you need to go back and make relevant changes which will prevent future problems. You may need to consider undertaking a site redesign, blocking weak pages, removing duplicate and low quality content and becoming more prominent within social sharing networks to get counteract any loss in rankings.
With the Panda presentation wrapped up we moved onto the power of blogging and techniques for building a private blog network. John McElborough was on stage for this one to discuss the benefits of running your own private network, an area in which he believed was low risk and would add to valuable link building.
John explained that the problem with public blog networks is that they are mostly low quality sites that are U.S based and turned his attention to private blogs in order to highlight how they can create links back to other sites. Other methods that John favoured included using .co.uk and .org.uk addresses as a domain to host the blogs which makes them more relevant in the UK, installing and hosting WordPress and making sure that the sites look real through using original content, providing links, using images and contributing to blog comments and conversations.
When questions were asked at the end of presentation, one member of the audience pointed out that it might be wise to invest more time in generating positive links back to your main business website rather than focusing on building private blog networks to host your content.
In contrast to the second presentation, Dave Peiris looked into the topic of how to attract links naturally. This insightful speech provided relevant methods such as adding Infographics (graphic displays of visual information and data) and providing detailed blog content. This raised the question as to why you would need to create and build positive ‘attractive’ links. The answer being to simply generate links back to your site or relevant content that competitors can’t buy which over time will continue to pick up more links which will have positive results for branding, promotion and awareness.
Focusing on anchor text is also a beneficial method, one in which Google and other search engines will track, although as Dave himself pointed out “building is half the battle”. Promotion also comes into play and advice was given on the best ways to achieve this, including targeting relevant bloggers, focusing on newsworthy and interesting headlines when generating news stories and displaying this information on a range of social sites such as Stumble Upon, Facebook and Reddit.
An important point to remember is that the people you target don’t always have to be your customers when distributing content and links; the more people that discover your content, the more likely that content will be redistributed to other sites and networks. Another good bit of advice was to become actively involved and react quickly within social networks, joining in with conversations with high traffic levels. Getting to know your community can be one of the best ways to target them and promote your content.
Again, after this presentation was finished a good point was raised by a member of the audience who explained that providing links within an Infographic can also be a good move and another possible method for generating ‘attractive links’.
After a quick tea break, a bit of networking, some social media updating and one of the koozai members dropping their phone down the stairs we moved on to the second part of the day before lunch.
We returned to the conference hall to hear James Carson’s slightly long titled presentation ‘Dr Social Love: Or how I learned to stop worrying about Google Algorithms and Love the People’. Carson, who works for Bauer Media, talked about social buttons for ranking factors stating that it is best to think of them as social signals and therefore people signals and also touched on the impact of social sharing, giving the example of the insurance campaign ‘Compare the Market’ which has generated a huge number of followers online due to the success of the adverts and their popular meerkat mascot: “You recently purchased pet insurance” and so on.
The impact of social networking was highlighted in statistics from the presentation, stating that 43% of news sharing occurs via social media. Comments ‘likes’ and sharing will improve SEO and James believed that aiming for post feedback will prove beneficial for friend interaction and adding to pushing your content higher up in the search engines.
An excellent cast study was provided through social media where Will’s mum from hit comedy TV series ‘The Inbetweeners’ was linked to FHM’s top 100 sexiest women. Through providing just one link of a picture of Will’s mum, it generated 7,000 ‘likes’ 60 tweets, a number two ranking on Google and 35,000 referrals in one day. A pretty successful indication of how powerful the social world can be.
The fifth speaker of the day was Erika Ungar who discussed choosing and implementing friendly URLs, using the lingerie company she worked for as an example – Boux Avenue. The main ways to create these URLs are to use keywords, be concise and be unique. Using keywords maximises anchor text; being concise means that the URL is more reliable and being unique will allow the content to be accessible via one main URL. Erika took full advantage of being in front of an audience, when at the end of the presentation she decided to add a bit of her own marketing to the mix by offering the conference members 20% off any online lingerie purchase if ordered over the weekend; well if you’ve got the stage, why not?
The final speaker before we descended to the restaurants and cafés of Brighton for lunch was Malcolm Coles. The topic of conversation this time round was Pippa Middleton’s backside as Malcolm talked about his own case study and how to win at SEO with duplicate content. In the case study he tried to take the story of Pippa Middleton’s backside and get it as high as he could in the Google search engine rankings. His techniques you ask? Finding new search terms, optimising blogs on various significant search terms, using Google Autocomplete to work out what people are searching for, publishing the same content on different URLs and redirecting to them and publishing comments on a separate page from the actual content to generate more hits.
Over time the news filtered out to other URLs, websites and blogs and generated 300,000 page views. The case study highlighted the power of using different methods to generate more interest in a news story and proved to be very successful. What’s more interesting is that all of this was done after Google Panda was introduced.
With the first six presentations of the day wrapped up, loads of techniques to take in and a whole new way of viewing the SEO world, we left for lunch before returning for the second half of the day.