Yesterday I went to the first ionSearch Search Marketing Conference in Leeds, where I attended a mix of both speaker talks and expert panel sessions.
Overall it was a really great first conference with some really interesting debate and discussion around current and future industry issues and best practice. I attended a total of 10 talks and expert panels and have summed up what I believe to be the main take aways from each session below, with a few common themes coming out:
With Panda and the recent updates to Google’s linking algorithm exact match anchor text can be risky if over used, with the context of the surrounding content now more important.
The lines between SEO and Social are blending further and social should be part of all content strategies
Blogger outreach and relationship building is becoming more key than ever to link building efforts
Expert Panel: SEO Content Strategies
Use social media to look for up-coming trends and plan your content development around them
Measure closely the link between rankings and traffic to judge content success.
Plan your distribution first, focusing content writing on what network, sites or blogs find the most useful.
In boring industries look to humanise content to add context.
look at building content around more interesting subjects and relate that back to your original site.
Expert Panel: SEO for eCommerce
Users buy at product level, develop your SEO campaigns to start from product level up. E.g. Product Detail > Sub Category > Category > Home Page.
Look at what competitors are targeting that you are not for opportunities.
Error management (404’s, 505’s, 301s) is important for site and link stabilisation, use tools such as Screaming Frog SEO Spider, Google Web Master Tools & Xenu to identify them.
Out of stock messages naturally lead to high bounce rates, look at how you can capitalise on these pages with related products and data capture for pre-order.
Don’t ignore customer demographics take time to drive meaning from Google Analysis and your CRM system for content ideas.
Think about page titles from a gender perspective and match them to your market. Men like bold statements, women like answers to questions.
Look at improving the CTR of your SERP’s using schema.org mark up
Reviews are becoming more and more key to SERP CTR
You have to work for reviews, make sure you chase your customers for them, rotating through different review sites.
Video is cheaper to produce than you think and can improve both conversion and dwell time, both of which are metrics that Google is focusing on.
Google shopping ranks price with delivery included
Reviews also play a big influence in Google Shopping, further showing their growing influence.
Ideally look to update sitemaps as often as possible, daily if achivable.
Google can deal with pagination, but ideally look to implement ether rel="next"/"prev" or using rel canonical tags to point back to a ‘view all’ page.
Don’t share any bespoke product text with affiliates, use manufacture text.
Physical stores should always have a dedicated page rather than any dynamic pages, making sure you mark-up addresses with schema.org.
Speaker Talk (Tim Grice): Link Building in Competitive Industries
Bad link are those which are low in quality, un-relevant and contain large amounts of exact match anchor text.
Look at turning your link profile into a graph, comparing the number of links to the quality and see where the most links are held, looking for unnatural spikes.
Target landing pages not keywords, focusing on between 10-15 keywords per page.
Look to mix anchor text and don’t have exact match links that make up more than 15% of your back link profile.
Social signal can be a catalyst to justify link quality in Google’s eyes.
When creating content for both social sharing and linking bear in mind these can be two different types of people, target those who both share and link for the best results.
‘Fresh Rank’ is becoming more important, links in old ‘High PR’ page may not be as effective as they once were; look to develop links in fresh content.
Competitor Analysis, rather than just matching competitor link profiles look to discover why competitors are gaining links.
Develop a content production process such as that used at Branded3 (See slide 6 here) .
Develop content for the network, website & blogger rather than for your-self, going beyond the ‘build it and they will come’ approach.
Find your social influences and develop brand champions.
Speaker Talk (Jon Alderson): Symantec HTML
Schema.org is helping blend the lines between the information web and data web where extrapolating data from written information has previously been difficult.
Use html mark up to maximise Google’s ability read your website e.g. Marking up an address for restaurant using schema.org.
Think about what your mark-up tells Google about your content? are using it correctly?
Speaker Talk (Roland Dunn): SearchBots!
Don’t ignore your server logs, they can tell where GoogleBot is visiting on your website.
Segment and graph the data to understand if GoogleBot is getting lost on your website and not hitting the pages important to your SEO strategy.
Compare GoogleBot’s visits to other user visits to see if they differ and identify if your structure or navigation is causing Google to visits areas your uses don’t.
Speaker Talk (Ralph Tegtmeier, AKA Fantomaster): Turning Black into White - Auto Content Generation for SEO.
Automatically generated content has now advanced to the point where you can’t distinguish between it and real content.
Depending on the hat your wearing, high quality machine written copy can provide real benefits for scalable content production.
If your providing readable, usable, non-duplicated content for sites where thin content is an issue is it really black hat?
Speaker Talk (Dave Snyder): Content Marketing in a Post Pander World.
The content matters as much as anchor text now, if not more.
Authorship can help add authority to content.
Look at how words relate semantically.
Create content with depth, that doesn’t just mean words: mix content with pictures, video and audio etc…
Think about how you curate your content, look at where you are going to published it
Many social network offer adverts for promoting your content e.g. StumbleUpon, or Reddit offer cheap but effective content advertising channels.
Expert Panel: Creative Link Building
Reverse engineer your link strategy, think about where you’re going to get them and who’s going to give them to you, then develop your content around that purpose.
Understand your audience and what they share or link to.
Use Google ImageSearch to find where you infographic has been syndicated to optimise those links
Build outreach networks and relationships for syndicating content, keep these relationships strong.
Use services like myBlogGuest to find guest posters for your own sites to develop brand advocates.
Paid guest post still happen but if you guest post is of a high enough quality bloggers will accept for nothing
Create a link building process, covering industry review, blue sky ideas, relationship building and promotion.
Find out your clients pain threshold e.g. how risky or controversial can your link building ideas be? The more pain the more likely you are to get links.
Track news and social and try, riding the back of those waves to drive traffic and links from your content.
Link your creative to KPI’s e.g. traffic, sales, links
Audit your company’s assets, what can you do with them from a link prospective.
Create websites or content around debate that has some form of relevance.
Create blog posts for un-live products to drive buzz and links, using rel=canonical to transfer link juice once live.
For small agencies doing link building focus on developing blogger outreach networks, using tools such as MyBlogGuest,
Exact match anchor text is dead, the context of content surrounding links now carries equal weight
Expert Panel: How to use Twitter, Facebook & Google+ for SEO
When doing social for SEO your dealing with real people and as such are representing the brand and must understand the responsibilities that go with it.
Your content needs to be on point with your brand making sure your discussing the same subjects that are being talked about socially and in other channels.
Measure KPI’s from what social activities e.g. ranks etc…
Schedule content/social updates around events and weekends, allowing you to be re-active to comments/retweets etc…
A StickyEyes study showed the ranking correlation between social and SERP’s is strong with sites that have high keyword positions often have a solid social footprint.
Consider moving brands onto Google+ as Google integrates more services with it, potentially even Google Maps.
Expert Panel: Future Proof Your SEO
Holistic SEO is future proofing, making sure you cover all the angles from social & structure to content production and html mark up.
Eliminate bad links from the backline profile where possible.
Prime link elimination efforts should focus on removing duplicate content and scraper conten.t
Audit client backlink profiles as part of proposals to avoid dealing with legacy SEO issues.
Social vs. Links profile should look natural.
Building links without social mentions could be risky and result in unnatural link vs social footprints which Google may penalise.
CSS can be interpreted + written in a variety of ways and although they are not technically incorrect, there is always room form improvement in order to stream line the code. Helping to cut out extra or unwanted segments will mean you start to reduce the size of your css file, not only making it more efficient but also saving the load time. The less the browser has to call back (images, fonts etc) the quicker the site will be.
There are a few tips + tricks I use in order to get the best out of my code:
1. Remember the golden rule of CSS - it all cascades. You need to bare this in mind when designing a site as it will make it easier to code later on. For example small things like labels + input boxes. These can + should be styled only once in order to keep everything consistent and then if need be the width of these can be specified later on for things like postcode lookups etc.
2. Extra code that’s not needed. Its always taken for granted but if you where to go back through your css files there are bound to be a few extra bits that just don’t need to be there. For example when giving something 0 pixels, you don’t need to include ‘px’ so padding:0px would just be padding:0. The other common extra is a semi-colon at the end of a set of parameters. And finally spaces. Bar the spaces between elements (ol li a) there isn’t need to include any others.
3. Reducing things like padding, margin and background down will help save space. There will be instances where you want to specifically call padding-left in order to target specific parts, but I generally render all padding and margin as 0 0 0 0 (baring in mind that the styles go clockwise from the top, then right etc). Also remembering that the padding can be cut down further the top, sides and bottom - 0 0 0 - or simply top & bottom, left & right - 0 0.
After these simple tips you can also use a few applications that help reduce your code + help spot anything you have missed. Using a combination of googles ‘PageSpeed’, W3C CSS Verification and CSSLint.net, you can cut out unnecessary code and help keep your file as lightweight as possible.
One of the most common problems online marketers often face is when client’s lump all their web channels together from an overview perspective when measuring ROI. The danger with this is that due to the way user behaviour has evolved in the last few years the lines between web, off-the-page advertising and the high street are blurring. This means that measuring ROI needs to happen on a more finite level to really understand the success of each channel.
The reality is that to really understand how your website is performing, you have to segment the channels which drive traffic and revenue. Although this may seem scary for those unfamiliar with statistical analysis, tools like Google Analytics make it simpler than you think, meaning you don’t need to turn yourself into a statistical ninja, just follow by Google Analytics Channel Guide Below:
The Main Channels
All the main traffic channels in Google Analytics can be reached under the ‘Traffic Sources’ section of Google Analytics.
What is it: This is when a user types your website address directly into their web browser e.g. Internet Explorer, Firefox, Google Chrome or Apple Safari
Business Context: From a branding point of view: User’s could visit from any channel (e.g. PPC) and not convert but later return via a direct visit and convert, so a sale could be attributed to both channels.
From a traditional marketing point of view: A user could see a piece of off-the-page advertising in a national paper and visit your website. Drops or rises in this channel’s performance can be closely linked to the success of your off-the-page marketing, so including this channel in your business analysis can be key.
What is it: This is any visit that has occurred due to a user clicking a link or banner on another website.
Business Context: This is an important channel for monitoring the effect of your relationships with other websites and their success for example:
Minor Search Engines such a search.bt.com
Affiliate Marketing. E.g. banners on other websites which drive sales and visits
Non SEO Related Links. E.g. a post on a forum about a product offer.
SEO Related Links. This could include guest posts or website links created on the back of a link building campaign
Social Media e.g. Traffic driven via Twitter or Facebook.
What is it: This covers any website visits driven by paid PPC (pay-per-click) campaign on Google, Yahoo or Bing and includes sponsored adverts place on search engine result pages and display adverts on other websites (e.g. using Google’s Display Network).
Business Context: PPC campaigns can require substantial investment to maximise your return, so to really understand this channel it is important that you carry out Brand vs. Non Brand segmentation. This is especially true if you run any significant off-the-page advertising campaigns to so judge the full effect of those campaigns on your bottom line. As with Direct Visits any brand based PPC campaigns and their success or failure can be directly linked to traditional marketing and should be included in analysis of off-the-page marketing activities.
What is it: Any visit driven by a user clicking on an organic link (non-paid) in search engine result pages, as with paid search it’s important to split brand and non-brand related traffic.
Splitting brand related traffic on organic results is a little more difficult, although this easy to follow guide on seomoz.com should help.
Non Brand organic search traffic can often be directly attributed to any SEO activities that are being carried out and deeper analysis of this channel is often needed to get the best of out of your SEO campaign.
Brand Traffic on this channel like direct visits can be driven by both visits which originated from other channels such as a non-brand organic search, non-brand PPC or even referral.
So there you have it my guide to getting to grips with what different web channels mean to your business. In my next post I’ll deal with Google Analytics Multi Channel Funnel’s which let you attribute sales to the channel which first drove a visitor to your website rather than the last allowing you to better understand the link between brand and non-brand traffic.