Ion search april 2012-04-23
ionSearch – 18.04.12
The Carriageworks, Leeds – Cost: £150
I arrived at the Electric Press around 8.30 after most of the delegates had already been admitted. There was some disorganisation with the ID tags however this was rectified quickly enough by the staff who were friendly and welcoming. A guide book was issued containing all the talks, presenters and other information which proved very useful and well designed.
A lavish breakfast with plenty of bacon and sausage sandwiches, croissants, other pastries, fruit, tea, coffee and juice was laid out. Lunch was also catered for with coq au vin, duck and hoi sin wraps, pizza potato wedges, rice, beef bourguignon and vegetable ratatouille, but that’s enough about food.
The conference was split in two main rooms, the auditorium for the presentations and another room named the expert suite for the discussion panels. The talks were split evenly between these, with a couple of workshops in another room. The conference was a more formal affair then Brighton SEO with nearly everybody suited up and looking very professional.
09:10 – 09:50
SEO Content Strategies
- Peter Colbey – Commercial Director, Home James – Moderator
- Lyndon Antcliff – CornwallSEO
- Dave Harling – Head of Search, Razorfish
- Tony Wood – Director of Digital, Eden Luxury Group
- Rob Hughes – Digital Insight Manager, Home James
This was a panel discussion panel comprising of Lyndon , Dave and Rob. Two of the panel Peter Colbey and Tony Wood did not attend for undisclosed reasons.
The discussion was on creating a structure plan and strategy using more creative methods, such as bloggers and suggested that this is more PR then conventional SEO.
Lyndon suggested that there is a level of psychology in link building, and link bait that generates a response or connects with our unconscious brain, will generate more tweets and links. This, he suggested, was the result of a connection between people and emotional response rather then more machine driven content.
The idea of moving away from over machined content was further expanded by David who suggested that with Panda cleaning up over engineered links this encourages people to earn links through proper practice.
Expanding on a strategy used by David he gave the example of a campaign for a retailer. The campaign was focused on the ‘little black dress’ idea and using this to co-inside with the anniversary of Breakfast at Tiffanys and the Audrey Hepburn fashion. By seeing that the anniversary was that year and using social media who were trending about it the campaign gained more momentum on the back of the social buzz..
The discussion was then opened up to Q and A. To summarise the main points they were;
Look for other events/promotions that can be used to create a campaign.
Know your idea, who you are marketing it at and what search terms they are using.
Refine and specify your approach, but make it human relatable.
An interesting and helpful discussion that I could go into more detail about.
09:55 – 10.35
Tom Anthony, Distilled
Martin MacDonald was not present and was replaced by Tom who talked about the coming importance of authorship.
Tom discussed how Google has increasingly become weary of links and has used them less and less to help determine ranking. Instead the idea that all content will eventually be related to an author and the authority that author has, will become a major factor in the authority of a site. The suggestion of Google changing the degree of weight each signal has was future discussed, suggesting that too many key words per page or too many links may have a detrimental effect on the particular page. The focus therefore should be on linking to highly credible authors and making them as relevant as possible, as trusted authors will become more weighted in the signals used. This was a fairly technical presentation with plenty of graphs, tools and analysis but well constructed and informative.
11.00 – 11.40
Link-building in Competitive Industries.
Tim Grice, Director of Search, Branded3
Tim replaced Patrick Altoft, also from Branded 3, who was unable to attend.
Tim spoke on the topic of link building in competitive industries and highlighted the importance of creating good site authority. The graphs of site authority were very helpful in determining where your links come from and the quality of those links. From low level blogs, through link building to high end media links. Tim mentioned that priority should go to removing any bad links on the site by contacting the web master, however this is not always an easy thing to do. Give each page specific key words as this will increase relevance as well as varying the anchor words.
When creating content the number of social shares will always be greater then links, so there is a degree of work in creating content that will do both. The best way to do this is to make the content specific to the target audience, having content that is uneven in its number of shares and links may become a target for Panda. Links must be justified for them to appear natural.
11:45 – 12:05
What’s the big Deal about Semantic HTML?
Jono Alderson, SEO and Data Insight Manager, twentysix.
Jono Alderson and Roland Dunn covered for the absent Kevin Gibbons. Jono talked about semantic html and how to get the most out of it. Mentioning that eventually all content will be marked up to enable an easier exchange of information between human and machines, the benefits of which should be felt by searchers as their search queries will have more relevant context. For example rich snippets will be more relevant and search queries in the form of a question can then be answered by the search engine.
Presented with plenty of energy this was a technical and informative look at the importance of code.
12:10 – 12:30
Searchbots: Lost Children or Hungry Psychopaths? What Do Searchbots Actually Do?
Roland analysed how effectively Googlebot searches through your web page. Giving data from Googlebot’s activity on his own site Roland concluded that the Googlebot search is not as efficient as you would expect. From realising that Googlebot was spending most of its time on infrequently visited web pages, Roland suggested that you could rebuild your site differently so that the Googlebot did not get caught up in loops and you could point it in the direction to more relevant content. This presentation would probably benefit those who feel that they have good content but are not finding their rank is increasing. Roland presented well and was quite entertaining, especially when he suggested music to describe the Google and Bing searches.
13:30 – 14:10
Killer Keyword Research
- Matt Roberts - VP of Product Linkdex – Moderator
- Jimmy McCann - Head of Search, Search Laboratory
- Mal Darwen - Product Manager, Wordtracker
- Roland Dunn - Refined Practice/Cloud Shapes
Killer Key Word Research was another useful discussion panel. The main topic was the importance of knowing who and what you are aiming for with key words and the role research plays in that. Research should not take too long but should be done often, as trends and searches can change over time. By knowing the market you can determine whether the key words will convert. Know the terminology in what people are searching for, be sector specific. For example if you own a company that fits solar panels, people will search for ‘solar panel installers’ but wont search for ‘solar panel’ or ‘solar energy’.
Be logical in your approach and think about what the customer wanting from their search. Avoid vagueness, this may generate higher searches, however specific terms will generate higher conversions and are more easy to rank for.
Also the role of PPCs was discussed as they can be used as a tool in conjunction to test any unsure areas, such as niche markets.
Use modifiers to make key words more unique, such as, location, specific products and styles. These make key words more relevant to, for example, anybody who is searching for ‘red, running shoes in Leeds’ will find exactly what they want from their search. However, key word research should always be there to monitor, tweak and test the relevance of key words and help create a long tail that will lead to conversions.
Lastly, always keep an eye on the competition.
This was a good panel and very useful.
14:15 – 15:00
Content Marketing in the Post-Panda World.
Dave Snyder, CEO, Steelcast
Dave from the off had a very loud and entertaining style, but quite useful. He discussed the change in SEO since Panda and the ways SEO can evolve to cater for this. Suggesting that the old methods of links and anchor text may, in future be targeted more by Panda, the new focus will be on authorship and other content such as pictures, photography and illustration. Dave also mentioned that social platforms can be utilised to target specific audiences as the uses of the different platforms will treat content in different ways. Understanding who is it that uses what social media, then a deeper understanding of the audience can be extrapolated and used to your advantage. In essence, you must know your audience and what they want from their content, before you give it to them.
15:30 – 16:10
Creative Link Building Tactics
- Razvan Gavrilas - Founder & Chief Architect, CognitiveSEO – Moderator
- Lyndon Antcliff - CornwallSEO
- Tim Grice - Director of Search, Branded3
- Andrew Grindwood - Media Innovations Director, LBI Bigmouthmedia
Razvan, Tim, Andrew and Lyndon (Tim and Andrew filling in for Patrick Altoft and Martin MacDonald) presented Creative Link Building Tactics, a panel which I found very useful.
They touched upon the practice of producing a splash page, if the website was not finished, and using social media to create a buzz around the site. Also using bloggers that are passionate about what you are doing to generate a following and advertising on Stumbleon.com, which are things that can be done on a budget, to launch a company. This type of link building is not traditional SEO and requires a degree of marketing and PR as well as research. As a result the content produced may not necessarily be usual content, more creative alternatives, such as viral ads may be called for.
16:15 – 16:55
How best to use Twitter, Facebook and Google+ for SEO
- Dave Harling - Head of Search, Razorfish – Moderator
- Alex Craven - MD, Bloom Agency
- Martin Woods - Senior SEO Consultant, Blueclaw
- Heather Healy - Head of Social Media, Stickyeyes
This panel had Dave, Alex, Martin and Heather discussing how best to use social media in SEO. As opposed to the usual SEO techniques that are mainly aimed at the Google machine, this approach is aimed firmly at connecting and building relationships with people. From this the emphasis should be based on making the brand relatable to people so they feel that connection to the brand or content, which in turn will encourage people to share the content, leading to links. Its was said that great link building is about great social sharable ideas. Just broadcasting at people is no longer a worth while effort as the social side of SEO is increasingly becoming more powerful. As a result SEO and social media are becoming the same thing and SEO needs to start thinking like a business would.
The importance of understanding algorithmic properties was mentioned as Google is leaning increasingly in that direction for the weight of its signals. Content needs to be on the right platform and engage the right audience, with visual content becoming more relevant. For this you need to understand where your audience is and not to jump ship to the next big thing as new platforms are often slow to take off.
17:00 – 17:55
Future Proofing Your SEO Efforts.
- David Wilding – Head of SEO, Blueclaw – Moderator
- Andrew Girdwood – Media Innovations Director, LBi bigmouthmedia
- Kirsty Hulse – Head of Content, Blueclaw
- Polly Pospyelova – Head of SEO, Fuse8
Perhaps one of the most important discussion panels of the day was the Future Proofing SEO. Panda has created a sense of worry among some of the SEO community and feelings that Google are trying to kill of or minimise the effect of SEO. However the alternate view is that if SEO is being done properly, providing relevant content and aiming at the audience, then there is nothing to fear. So priority is to clean up any poor practice, ie, bad links, duplicate content, vague key words, extensive anchor text and low quality authors making the site more specific to a targeted audience. The future of SEO seems to be in key word rich content, social signals and good quality authors. This will lead to natural links and shares, making a balanced looking site authority, with those unnaturally weighted sites becoming targets for Panda. The Idea of having brand ‘champions’ in social media, people of good authority who will promote content and help drive shares and links was mentioned, again leading away from the technical link building driven tactics. However for this the content needs to be constantly re-evaluated and more creative.
HTML 5 is on its way and this will surely only increase the need to adapt to a changing web. Search engines that are seeking marked up data for rich snippets, the use of social media as a tool to create links, rich content, long tail searches as people know what they want and how to use search engines and a growing influence from good authority authors.
What this comes down to in the end is a firmer focus on the target audience and what people are wanting from their searches. SEO needs to be more integrated with PR, marketing, schema, long tail, fresh content, social and the needs of the audience, otherwise Panda will become more of a threat then a tool to improve the web.
The Electric Works was a good venue and well catered, courtesy of Revolutions bar. The staff were friendly and helpful, although could have been a little more recognisable other then a small band of colour on their ID tags.
There were plenty of speakers and presentations to choose from, however with there being so many, some became a little repetitive and perhaps did not cover as wide a range of topics as could have been covered. Also it was unfortunate that so many of the speakers could not attend. However that being said the discussion panels were very useful and well worth attending.
There were some really good speakers with a wealth of information and how to practically apply it to your own practices. So over all, the criticisms are only small and easily over looked but Ion Search proved a valuable conference to attend and well worth checking out.