The Xpand team attended Search Leeds and was treated to a fantastic day. 1300 attendees converged on the First Direct Arena to see the plethora of search, paid media and content experts provide some fabulous actionable insights.
Here are our top 10 takeaways from the event:
1. SEO Is Difficult To Predict
Will Critchlow’s talk was the highlight of the day for me and highlighted the direction that SEO has been trending in for the last few years. It’s getting harder and harder for experienced SEO’s to predict how a particular page is likely to rank. The split test case study that he presented showed that widely accepted best practices can have little or no effect on your website, and in some cases can affect two websites completely differently.
Top takeaway: There is no one-size-fits-all approach to SEO. It takes time, persistence & lots of trial & error to find what works for you.
2. Make Sure Your Website Is Right
Danny Blackburn from Stickyeyes spoke about a content blueprint for SEO success. What resonated with me most was his comment about making sure your website is technically sound before working on the content. A lot of businesses come to us for SEO, often with the basics missing on their websites. This is the one area of SEO that you can control so it’s vitally important that you do the best you can to optimise your site.
Top takeaway: Make sure that your website is technically sound, before pursuing content campaigns.
3. Content Serves Different Purposes
Danny’s talk was also an excellent example of how content serves different purposes. His Hertz case study showed the amount of content that needed to be created as part of the strategy for achieving the client’s business goals (12,000 pages in 12 languages!). This informational content provides the answers to users search queries and is important in getting your website up to scratch and keeping users from finding their answers elsewhere.
Danny also talked about the importance of creating engaging ‘hub’ content on your blog that keeps users coming back again and again, building brand affinity. Finally, he talked about the ‘hero’ content that was created for the purpose of earning links. This useful, link-worthy content is important in order for your website to improve in the search rankings.
Top takeaway: Make sure that your website satisfies user’s queries, has an engaging blog and that you create something worth linking to.
4. Link Building Is Risky And May Not Work
Link building guru, Paddy Moogan, spoke on the main stage about how link building is becoming increasingly more difficult and may not work. Google has worked hard to eradicate as much spam from the search results as possible by penalising websites that go against their guidelines.
Pursuing wrong or risky tactics can have devastating effects on your business. He also spoke about a higher budget buying you more time from your agency, but that budget is rarely why campaigns fail. Campaigns fail because they have no story, they add no value or they are not executed well.
Top takeaway: Add value to a story with your content. For clients, understand that campaigns don’t work every time and that’s OK!
5. Make Sure Influencers Find Your Content
The internet is a great place to hide fantastic content pieces. There are numerous examples of excellent, link-worthy content that has failed to earn any links. Just creating a great piece of content and adding it to your website won’t earn the links it deserves. You need to promote it through social media and outreach.
Paddy Moogan provided an interesting way of getting your content in front of influencers. Step one, email your list of journalists or influencers sharing your piece of content. Step two, use Facebook advertising to target journalists with your content by choosing to target users with the profession “journalist.” The thought is that the familiarity will make it stand out. An interesting way to amplify your content and to get it in front of influencers.
Top tip: Create amazing content then share it to earn links. Use social media to get your content in front of influencers.
6. Know Your Link Profile
Paul Madden, co-founder of Kerboo, reiterated the importance of links in ranking for competitive terms. He highlighted the importance of knowing what your link profile looks like, what might cause you problems, what you need to disavow and interestingly, what you can “reavow.”
Back in April, Google mentioned that if your rankings drop after disavowing links then it is OK to remove the “less sketchy links” from your disavow file. Paul advocated this as a tactic to improve rankings, especially as SEO’s tend to air on the side of caution when it comes to disavowing links.
Top takeaway: Know what your link profile looks like and reavow less sketchy links from your disavow file. You could see some interesting results.
7. Earn Links That Pass Equity And Traffic
Paul also made a good point about earning links that will send traffic to your website and pass equity to improve rankings. Through digital PR, SEO’s today are looking for the big link on large national newspapers and the likes of the BBC, but Paul argues that these links, although great, won’t pass as much equity as you think. This is because they are rapidly updated, up to 100+ times per day, and this will quickly dilute the equity that is passed via any links. Paul argues that a link on a website like the RSPB would be much more beneficial as it is highly trusted and updated much less frequently, passing more equity via links. An interesting point.
Top takeaway: Don’t miss out on earning links from a variety of trusted sources that can pass equity to your website.
8. Does Your Content Pass The “Pub Test?”
Laura Crimmons, Director of Communication at Branded3 raised an interesting idea. Does your content pass the “Pub Test?” When creating content, the question you should ask yourself is “Can I see people talking about this in the pub?” If the answer is no, then you should probably scrap the idea and find an alternative content piece. This is a great way to initially assess whether your content idea has legs or not.
Top Tip: Does your content pass the pub test, yes or no? If not, you might want to think again.
9. Give The User What They Want
Stephen Power from Google reiterated the minuscule amount of time that your website has to satisfy users, especially on mobile. You have only three seconds to give the user what they want else they will find it somewhere else.
Top takeaway: Give the user what they want and quickly. Make sure your mobile loads quickly and provides the answer the user is looking for.
10. The Facebook Ads Landscape Is Shifting
Ned Poulter from Pole Star Digital gave some great insights into the changing Facebook Ads landscape. He outlined seven actionable ways to use audiences instead of keywords to target your Facebook ads to make them work harder for you. His seven audiences ranged from Facebook Live video viewers to LinkedIn contact audiences.
Top Tip: Whether you are running Facebook Ads for an event, looking to get more engagement to a blog post or even retargeting new content to your top content consumers, targeting through audiences rather than keywords may yield better results.
The second instalment of SearchLeeds was a resounding success and we can’t wait to go back next year! If you have any questions about your marketing then get in touch with one of our experienced team.
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