On 17th-18th October 2016, a team from Expert Market’s London office went to SearchLove, Distilled’s famous 2-day conference for search marketing professionals. It’s safe to say we loved it! Every person came away with valuable, actionable insights from the many passionate and talented speakers.
Below you can find our round-up and key takeaways from each talk, along with the speakers' slides. Click on any talk in the list below to jump straight to that roundup.
Lisa Myers - ‘The Mindset of Successful Outreach’
Lisa Myers is founder of the multi-award winning Verve Search agency and Women in Search. Lisa spoke passionately at SearchLove about the mindset you have to adopt as an SEO to be successful in outreach campaigns.
3 key takeaways:
- Think like an ad exec, execute like a geek: your ideas should first be fresh, unique and ambitious then you can think about using tech to bring them to life.
- Create content that deserves more than links: links are the goal for most SEOs but don’t limit yourself. Create a campaign that inspires print, products and further discussion.
- Use available data like no-one else is: you can use available data to create your outreach project if you use or combine the data in a unique way. For example collating data that is published annually into an interactive timeline.
Marcus Tober - ‘Why User-Focused Content Is the Death of Ranking Factors’
Founder of Searchmetrics, Marcus Tober talked about how the rise in Machine Learning and user focused content means that there are no longer any ‘easy’ ranking factors.
Here are some key takeaways from his talk:
- With the evolution of ranking factors from static to flexible and now adaptable, 2016 and beyond will see the introduction of Content Relevance (relevance of content without keywords to search query) alongside traditional SEO ranking signals.
- Different industries have different ranking factors, or at least the importance of each ranking factor changes, as the user intent differs. For example, in healthcare backlinks are often less important than strong, detailed content.
- Today's challenge for every digital marketer is to uncover specific user intent - marketers should develop search intent personas: think about the user behind each search query and what they would expect to find. For example, a wealthy person looking for ‘classic watches’ will expect to find quality not price comparisons to get the cheapest deal. Similarly it is likely that someone searching ‘halloween costumes’ is looking for inspiration (content with lots of images), not shopping results.
Amy Harrison - ‘Stand out to YOUR Crowd: A Framework for Customer-Driven Copywriting’
Amy Harrison, founder and copywriter at Write With Influence, discussed how to make your copy stand out from competitors and engage to your customers’ desires whilst conveying the value of your brand.
Here are some of our top takeaways:
- Broca's area - located the left frontal lobe of the brain, the broca’s area is responsible for speech and words. It’s in this area where we learn to ignore what we’ve seen before, a common problem in marketing. But to overcome this hurdle, it’s not enough to just stand out, instead brands need to emotionally relate to their audience.
- Close the communication gap - ensure that your brand’s copy is not written from an internal point of view, rather it needs to be understood externally. Brand’s should use their expert knowledge of the industry to create copy that educates their audience and doesn’t simply talk at them. Be clear, concise and demonstrate your unique value.
- Symptoms/Problems/Cure/Result - your brand's copy needs to tell your audience why they need your product or services. People don’t always know what they want or what they’re looking for. This places your brand in an excellent position to highlight common symptoms in your audience, explain what the root problem is, show how this can be elevated (your product/service) and demonstrate the results.
Dr. Pete Meyers - ‘ Tactical Keyword Research in A RankBrain World’
Dr. Pete Meyer’s tactical look at Keyword Research in a RankBrain world started by examining exactly how search is changing. Google is constantly adapting, to how people perform searches, as well as how best to identify and deliver the exact result to match each particular search that is made. The main way Google is now doing this is Machine Learning, and specifically their RankBrain algorithm.
Quite simply, by learning how people search, Google can better identify what it is people are looking for, displaying the right results and delivering user satisfaction. To now be at the front of these results we need to think about how we carry out keyword research and the content we write.
- Google is constantly learning: Search engines are now far more advanced in how they identify the relevance of web pages and how content is then matched with a particular user’s search intent. This means keyword research must change, with Google no longer needing to be spoon fed, as search engines may have done in the past.
- SEOs have to change as well: RankBrain and the growing understanding that Google has of certain search types now means marketers can become more clever in the way they optimise their content. Keyword stuffing is long gone already, but we should continue to look to diversify the content we write. We can now comprehensively cover a concept or topic in the best interest of the user, with a growing confidence that Google is now far more aware of how searchers are behaving and the relevance of certain sites.
- We also have to unlearn!: Traditionally keyword research would have been carried out with the aim of identifying a group of ‘core’ keywords your page should target. However, Google adapts and search behaviour changes (conversational search changing how we ask questions online). Just like with the content we write, we also need to examine the way we carry out keyword research, grouping keywords into concepts that can be targeted is now vital, as a core group of keywords will only get you so far. If you aren’t covering a particular topic in detail in a way that has been written for brains, both human and RankBrain, you may come unstuck.
Dominic Woodman - ‘How to Get Insight From Your Logs (and Start Using All That Free Google Data)’
Dominic Woodman, one of Distilled’s top consultants, spoke at SearchLove about a topic many people in the industry have never considered - logs. There was a lot of actionable insights to take from his talk but we have tried to pick a few key ones here:
- You can do many things with your log files including, diagnosing crawling & indexation issues, prioritising tasks by finding out what Google cares about most, and spotting bugs & viewing overall site health.
- Have a clear set of questions you want to ask of your logs then create each question as a query in BigQuery - do not use Excel as it cannot handle this level of data analysis!
- Logs pull out anomalies but they do not always give answers, it is your job to take the information from the logs and BigQuery results and investigate the issue using other tools and analysis.
Larry Kim - ‘Ten CRO Truth Bombs that will Change Your Approach to Conversion Rate Optimisation’
Some of the major highlights from Search Love London 2016 were the high-energy, high-calibre presentations delivered by Larry Kim. As the founder of Wordstream, (the fastest growing company in the USA) Larry Kim has access to data from billions of dollars worth of ad spend which makes him an authority when it comes to most things (PPC and CRO included).
Larry’s first presentation at Search Love was all about CRO and our top three takeaways are as follows:
- Keep on remarketing. If you represent an unknown brand, this is a great way to get some level of brand familiarity out to your audience. As a result, your audience are more likely to click on your organic results too.
- Use audience demographics data to inform your content strategy. Insights from Google Analytics paired with social media metrics give you a taste of your audience’s interests. Armed with this knowledge you can create content that appeals to your audience before they even know they’re looking for you. This improves your brand visibility too, which is extremely valuable.
- Finally, the biggest CRO test you can invest in, is to change your product offering to something that’s as valuable as it can be. Find a way to differentiate yourself and offer something that’s truly life-changing to your audience. This may be harder than simply changing the color of a button, but the results will make the work worthwhile.
To hammer these lessons home, Larry wrapped his presentation in the story of a Unicorn princess in search for the perfect CRO uplift. The message of the story; be a unicorn in a sea of donkeys. Simple.
Bas van den Beld - ‘The Secrets of Storytelling’
Revered public speaker and founder of State of Digital learning platform, Bas came to SearchLove to talk about the art of storytelling and how it can be utilised in digital marketing.
3 secrets of storytelling for digital marketing:
- Stories can achieve a lot. They build trust, they stick, the can effect our minds, and they can make data more relatable.
- You are not the Luke Skywalker of your story - you are the Yoda. Your story shouldn’t be placing your brand as the hero, you should be showing how your audience can be the hero with the help of your brand.
- Tell your story. People don’t care about faceless brands so make sure your company is approachable with in-house stories and pictures, especially on social media.
Rand Fishkin - ‘Debate Time with Will Critchlow and Rand Fishkin’
This was a really interesting part of SearchLove, two powerhouses of the industry, Rand Fishkin and Will Critchlow, went head to head for 3 minutes each on a variety of topics. Here are some of the key takeaways from this debate;
- Links: Will and Rand agreed that links are not dead and that they factor into the wider ranking algorithm that Google uses but are not a substitute for good SEO practises in other areas.
- Keywords: Rand had a few nuggets of wisdom about keywords in the modern SEO world including; using the language people actually use is still critical - especially with the rise of voice search. We are still doing keyword research in an old school way, ignoring the vast opportunities presented by instant answer boxes etc. Remember that volume data is based on a 12 month average which is not always relevant, especially for seasonal content.
- Apps: Will explained that recent data showing how much time customers spend in apps as opposed to ‘on the web’ is misleading. Most people spend the majority of their time in the same 3-5 apps. Rand agreed and added that as a marketer it is your job to be IN those 3-5 apps. Both debaters agreed that for SMEs building your own app is often a waste of time/resources.
- PPC: Will stated his belief that the advancement of machine brains and algorithms in PPC are not a replacement for human creativity in ads.
Tom Anthony - ‘SEO Split-Testing - How You can Run Tests and what We've Learned’
The running theme throughout this presentation was be careful with untested recommendations. This may seem obvious in many digital marketing verticals, CRO for example, but with SEO we are sometimes fooled into blindly believing everything Google tells us.
Tom Anthony’s SEO split-testing presentation looked at how SEOs can do more to fully test and monitor the optimisation changes they carry out by using split testing to their advantage. In simple terms this can be done the same way as traditional A/B testing, by creating two ‘buckets’ of pages, making a change to all pages in one bucket while leaving the second control group exactly as they are and monitoring the results.
3 Key Takeaways:
- When given the choice of two pages, even experienced SEOs were unable to predict which ranks higher over 50% of the time. This means our instincts might not always be right and shows that data can help us to make much better decisions.
- Testing in CRO is now a given. Large on-page optimisation changes wouldn’t be made without tests being carried out beforehand. SEO should be heading in the same direction.
- We still have to be careful when carrying out these tests. Pages may not always be equal in the amount of organic traffic they attract, their seasonality, or their conversion rate and this needs to be considered when creating different groups of pages to A/B test.
All Speakers - ‘Let's Get Real’
Let’s Get Real is a great segment at SearchLove where every speaker from the 2 day conference stands on stage and gives one useful tip, tool, or piece of advice with one caveat - no sharing! These snippets of wisdom are meant solely for the people in the room and are not allowed to be shared on social media.
Which means I’m afraid I can’t share any of the great tips with you in this roundup!Back to Top
Jessica Gioglio - ‘Make Your Marketing Memorable With Visual Storytelling’
Digital and social media guru, professional speaker and owner of the Savvy Bostonian blog, Jessica Gioglio spoke to us about visual storytelling, with some great examples of brands who are getting it right.
- Product visuals don’t have to be salesy. People like seeing how products will look in their home and blend in with their lives. 66% of images on Pinterest come from brands.
- Focus on making your audience feel something. What feeling does your product or service give them (relief? joy? satisfaction?). Sharing visuals from your company culture or previous customers could be another way to invoke a feeling towards your brand.
- Grasshopper, a business phone solution, showed how well this works with their stylish and emotive video encouraging entrepreneurs to remember how they felt when they were kids. Check it out below.
Bridget Randolph - ‘The Changing Landscape of Mobile Search’
Bridget Randolph is a digital marketing consultant for Distilled in New York. For SearchLove 2016, she talked about the changing landscape of mobile search and how to implement a successful mobile-friendly SEO strategy.
Because in 2016, “mobile has become the preferred way to browse the web”, Bridget shared great insights and advice to tackle this current trend:
- Think mobile first: you should think about the mobile experience before the desktop experience when working on your website. Content has to be more flexible to adapt on mobile devices, for example think about Universal Results (e.g. Google Answer Boxes) to improve your results in Google on mobile.
- Be mobile-friendly: Google recognizes mobile-friendly websites and pushes them up in the SERPs when doing a mobile search. Make sure your website is compatible with mobile devices, using tools like the Google Mobile Friendly Testing Tool.
- Check your page load time: it was found that a 1 second delay lead to a 7% decrease in conversions. Consider implementing “Accelerated Mobile Pages” (AMP) to improve the loading time (this proved to be 88% faster for the Washington Post) AND be served directly in the SERP.
Jes Stiles - ‘WhatsAppening with Messenger App Marketing
Jes Stiles, the CMO of Ringier, discussed the evolution of chat app marketing. From WhatsApp, Viber, Kik, Line, Facebook Messenger and WeChat (China specific), chat apps are developing and joining the space of social media marketing.
Brands can not only use chat apps for customer service, but they also help with lead generation, event promotion, storytelling and content promotion. In fact, for one particular campaign, WhatsApp generated more leads in 2 weeks than Twitter did in two years! Considering the pace of this growth, here’s how your brand can get involved:
- Do your research and find the best platform to suit your business needs
- Ensure your platform has scope - customers don’t care about your resource restraints
- Know and understand your user journey (anticipate what they want)
- Build your following using social media, public relations, online ads, blogs and email
- Measure success and failure - this can be done using UTM tagging in Google Analytics
Rob Bucci - ‘Taking the Top Spot: How to Earn More Featured Snippets’
Rob Bucci is the CEO of the Canadian company STAT Search Analytics. As a master of data and keyword analysis, he walked us through strategies to earn more featured snippets in Google results. Here are 3 takeaways from his presentation:
- Snippet formats depend on the keywords and query types. For example, financial, subjective and informative words in a query will most likely result in a table snippet. To earn a featured snippet, try turning your content into a table when related to that type of query! General questions will most likely result in paragraph snippets.
- You can steal weak snippets! If you see that Google shows a paragraph snippet when the information would be better displayed in a table, go steal it! Optimise your content with the appropriate format and you could see a result in as little as 24 hours.
- Let people inspire your own featured snippet content. Have a look at Google auto suggestions to see what people search for and create your content around those queries. This should also give you some quick wins.
Stephen Pavlovich - ‘Habits of Advanced Conversion Optimisers’
Stephen Pavlovich, CEO at Conversion.com, spoke at SearchLove about what traditional CRO testing gets wrong and how to become a master of successful CRO tests.
Here are the main things we took from his talk:
- Tests are often focused on changes that are too small. Instead of changing a button colour or placement we should focus on figuring out WHY people aren’t converting and addressing that, for example changing the offer to better match where they are in the buying cycle.
- When planning tests, separate the ‘lever’ from the ‘test’. The lever is the thing you want to experiment on and the test is how you are going to do it. For example, a lever could be ‘emphasise the CTA’ and the test could be ‘by changing the color’. This way, after a few tests, you can see whether it is the test or the lever that is a winner/loser and plan future tests accordingly.
- Testing is not just about creating one test and deciding whether it is a win or a loss. Think about testing as more of a series of tests that keep evolving based on each individual result.
Larry Kim - ‘Hacking RankBrain and Other Machine Learning Algorithms: 5 SEO Weapons to Survive SEO Judgement Day’
Far from the tale of the Unicorn Princess, Larry’s second installment featured a trip back to the present from the future (impressive) to save us from an apocalyptic future in which the world was destroyed by RankBrain.
To avoid such a catastrophe, Larry armed us with a number of vital pieces of information. We’ve listed our top three here:
- Start by using Google Search Console to monitor your organic CTR for all queries that rank in position 1-10. Using this data you can safely benchmark your performance and start working to improve CTR which will inevitably lead to an increase in rankings.
- Practise makes perfect when it comes to headlines and titles. Use paid advertising and promoted social posts (with relevant audience targeting) to learn which phrase variations are the most effective. Once you’ve found a clear winner (and this can take many attempts) you can roll this out to your organic metadata, titles and headlines.
- Leverage emotional triggers. RankBrain is a machine, but Google was intended to serve us as humans. Use emotive language and messaging where possible to encourage users to click through to your website.
In summary, RankBrain is going to be really valuable to users as it allows us to locate highly relevant results, even for search queries that Google has never seen before. However, for those of us in digital marketing the sure way to stay successful in the world of RankBrain is to appeal to the humans who are using Google, not the machines who are running it.
Lea Pica - ‘Get Their Attention: Extreme Data Viz Makeovers for Maximum Presentation Impact’
Lea is a seasoned conference speaker who is passionate about data visualization and making slideshows have more impact. Lea spoke about how to get and retain audience attention when displaying data using her self-coined P.I.C.A method.
- Purpose: What decision is the data trying to help make? MAke sure there is a clear reason for displaying the data otherwise your audience will check-out.
- Insight: Make sure the insight from the data is clear. Duel-axis charts showing different metrics suggest correlation when maybe there is none. Better to separate into two side-by-side charts.
- Context: Numbers on a page or chart mean nothing without a little context. Using a chart on a white background to show that you have 90% more satisfied customers is not as impactful as showing a happy customer with the figure above their smiling face. Aesthetic: Aesthetics aren’t just about making things look pretty, although that certainly matters, it's about making it clear what they show. Colors have an ingrained meaning for many of us so using green and red on a chart may make your audience think the chart is showing positive and negative metrics, respectively. Therefore, it may be better to go for shades of grey, or neutral colors to ensure conclusions aren’t wrongly jumped to.
Wil Reynolds - ‘Why People Buy. Remembering the People Behind the Clicks.’
Wil Reynolds spoke with honesty and with passion and ensured that Search Love 2016 went out with a bang. Many of us in the audience weren’t expecting the presentation we saw, but it left a lasting impact (as we’re sure was intended).
Much like Larry Kim’s RankBrain presentation, Wil’s spoke of reaching the human rather than satisfying Google. Some of the most poignant points we took away from the talk are as follows:
- Craft a compelling story: Use the power of the imagination (and the power of your words) to convince people to click on your result on the search engine results page. Stuffing a meta title with keywords is not likely to generate any success when compared with a carefully crafted message.
- Don’t hit enter: Use Google’s suggested and related searches to understand what people are searching for, create your content, and optimize your metadata.
- Don’t underestimate brand affinity: The SEO target for a given keyword is often to rank in first place. However, user videos have shown that people often skip the first couple of results in favour of a recognized brand.
If your brand name is a strong one, make sure you’re leveraging everything you can to entice those clicks. If your brand is unknown, work harder to create a story that captures the attention of your audience and leaves them with no choice but to visit your page.Back to Top
So there it is, our 2016 London SearchLove roundup! Let us know in the comments if you think we missed any important takeaways and cast your vote on the best speaker of SearchLove London 2016!