SearchLove is an internationally renowned SEO conference and one of the best in the UK. Once a year for two days some of the best speakers in the marketing industry reunite to discuss where SEO goes next. It’s exciting, inspiring and filled with actionable tips and advice.
At this year’s SearchLove, speakers like Moz’s Rand Fishkin, Wordstream’s founder Larry Kim and Distilled’s Will Critchlow, covered a variety of topics from PPC and technical SEO, to content marketing and visual storytelling, and even how to be better at doing presentations.
In this article we’ll focus on the SEO and PPC parts of the conference. So without further ado, here are our key takeaways from SearchLove 2016…
Marcus Tober – ‘Why user-focused content is the death of ranking factors’
Marcus Tober, founder and CTO of SearchMetrics, has been focusing on search since 2001. His presentation at SearchLove 2016 revolved around the ever-changing SEO landscape.
While you probably know that Google uses more than 200 ranking factors, have you ever looked closely into how these factors have changed over time?
You may know that these days ranking factors adapt to the search intention. But did you also know that these rankings factors differ depending on the market and industry? That’s because search intentions are not the same in every industry.
This means that before anything else, you need to learn more about your users’ search intentions. What are they searching for exactly when they’re doing research on your business or products? And what are they searching when they’re ready to buy?
So, when you’re creating a brand strategy, make sure to base it on your users’ intent.
What to take away from this: What works for a specific industry will not necessarily work for another. So, while you can always take note of what big players are doing, don’t copy a strategy just because it comes from an authority site. The chances are that their users’ intentions are different from your users’ intentions.
When writing content for your site, make it relevant to your user intent. Also, focus on providing real value, and not on filling your pages with as many words as possible. While it makes sense for an informational site to have lengthy pages filled with content (since sharing lots of information is what they’re good at) that’s not the case with an ecommerce site. It’s unnatural for a pair of shoes to have a 1000-word description, which no one is ever going to read. Instead, ecommerce sites should focus on providing relevant content and making it easy for shoppers to find the information they need.
Dr. Pete Meyers -‘ Tactical Keyword Research in A RankBrain World’
Pete works for Moz as a Marketing Scientist so naturally we expected a presentation filled with insightful data and information. He definitely delivered, and then some!
At SearchLove Pete addressed the topic of keyword research and how the old-fashioned techniques have changed since RankBrain came into play.
Are you still placing your keywords in your meta titles and descriptions like you’ve been advised to all these years? Then you’ll be surprised to learn that nowadays only 57% of search queries are still present in the title and meta description.
Google is getting better at understanding context and the connection between words. This means it can show users results for a word variation even if it’s not on that page, and even if it’s not the exact word or phrase that a user has searched for.
Here are some of Pete’s examples:
Pete also talked about voice search, which is attracting more and more users every year and slowly making traditional keyword research obsolete. With voice, search queries are longer and more complex, which means that your content needs to be able to answer them.
Here’s a simple example:
What to take away from this: You need to stop writing for search engines and offering exact match keywords in hopes of high ranks. Instead, write for humans, or for “brains” as Dr. Pete says, as search engines evolve and start behaving more and more like users.
Bridget Randolph — ‘The changing landscape of mobile search’
Bridget, Consulting Team Lead at Distilled, walked us through the history of mobile search and how it evolved from 2000 to present. Considering it’s becoming a vital traffic channel, there are several things you should be on the lookout for:
- An increasing number of people are using their mobile devices to get online. As a result, more and more companies have made the transition to responsive websites or mobile apps to faster react to customer needs and provide a great experience to their users. According to Bridget, 52% of UK internet users say mobile is their primary way to access the web.
- Google is always trying to make its users happy by providing the best and most relevant search results, no matter through which medium.
- The “mobile-first” mentality has taken over the search results pages. The results are now displayed in cards and the ad sidebar has been removed to better fit the vertical phone screens.
- Google has enforced mobile-friendliness as a requirement through the two “Mobilegeddon” updates. They’re also preparing to split the desktop index and the mobile index so each one has its own ranking factors.
- They’ve introduced AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages) so even users with a bad internet connection can still quickly access online content.
- Apps are starting to be indexable, which means that they will most likely be integrated with the rest of the web.
What to take away from this: If you don’t have a mobile-friendly website, you’ll soon be left behind. So make sure you make the move now, rather than later.
You should also make an effort to improve your site’s speed as 40% of users abandon a page that takes too long to load. In fact, a delay of just one second can lead to a 7% decrease in conversions.
Also, if you have an app, make sure it supports deep-linking and it uses web URLs for app views wherever possible. If you don’t have an app, don’t build one unless you truly believe it will bring value to your users.
Dominic Woodman — ‘How to get insight from your logs (and start using all that free Google data)’
Dominic works at Distilled and made it his mission to teach everyone attending SearchLove to do our own log file analysis.
Log files can be scary considering how much data they contain. However, they also hide lots of useful information about crawling and indexation issues, about which pages are being prioritised or neglected, what importance Google gives to certain parts of your site as well as other technical health issues. So you can see why they’re so important to analyse.
So ask your developer to help you get the logs and then use one of the many tools out there designed to work with large volumes of data. You can try tools like BigQuery or Screaming Frog Log Analyser. Dominic urged everyone to avoid using Excel for this type of task as the amount of data might be just too much for the application to handle.
If you’re new to data base queries, read Dominic’s complete guide to log analysis.
What to take away from this: You might be wondering why even bother analysing the log files when you can get an error report from your Search Console. Well, Google only allows 1,000 errors to be exported, while the log files give you unlimited access to all of your server’s data. You can also find issues and fix them before Google even reports them.
Founder and CTO of WordStream, Larry’s presentation focused mainly on paid advertising. Here are his top tips from this year’s SearchLove:
Users have evolved and so should your calls to action. Obvious CTAs like “buy now” or “find out more” are no longer effective at getting people to take action. And no, adding a bright red button might not grab users’ attention as you think it does.
- Write your ads from your user’s point of view and don’t be afraid to include emotion to entice them to take the next step.
Check out this example:
- Be bold with your remarketing efforts.
- Brand affinity can dramatically impact conversion rates.
- Go after your prospects BEFORE they even search for your products or services.
- Make sure to take advantage of the Remarketing lists for search ads (RLSA) feature as it increases brand affinity and can really impact CTR.
- Eliminate landing pages and extra clicks. From the moment a user sees your ad, you need to make it as simple as possible for users to convert.
What to take away from this: Larry is a master of his craft and we recommend following him on Twitter, if you haven’t already. You can find more details about the above and other interesting CRO truths in his article.
Tom Anthony — ‘SEO Split-Testing – How You can Run Tests and what We’ve Learned’
Tom is the Head of Research and Development at Distilled. In his presentation he explained how to do A/B testing for SEO purposes.
If you want to run your own tests, it’s important to understand the difference between traditional user-oriented A/B testing and page-oriented SEO testing.
There are three easy steps for a successful test:
What to take away from this: With so many differences in ranking factors across multiple industries, A/B SEO testing will become a very powerful tool so make sure you use it.
Rob Bucci — ‘Taking the Top Spot: How to Earn More Featured Snippets’
CEO at STAT Search Analytics, Rob’s talk focused on how to take advantage of Google’s rich snippets feature and how to get to the first spot in the results page.
With Google showing more and more rich snippets every day, more websites not ranking 1st now have a chance to appear as the first result on the page.
The format of your content also determines the format of the snippet type. This means that you have the opportunity to steal snippets away from your competitors.
Here’s a simple example: look into which featured answers are not styled in a way that would be beneficial to the user and then create an answer in that beneficial style. For instance, say there’s a paragraph that shows up as an instant answer for a recipe. This type of answer should come as a list as it makes it easier for users to read and follow the steps.
Also, do pay attention to implied questions and keyword variants as you won’t get snippets for all of them.
What to take away from this: You can increase CTR for keywords that are not ranking well if you can get a rich snippet. You can also look into which type of queries trigger these snippets in other markets and then try to get them for your market too. Don’t forget to format your answer in the best, most useful format for every query.
Stephen Pavlovich — ‘Habits of Advanced Conversion Optimisers’
Stephen is the CEO of conversion.com and, as his company name suggests, he’s all about conversions and how to increase them. In his talk he walked us through the process of running advanced tests on product and price.
Most tests try to determine why users aren’t converting and what can be done to fix that. However, for a test to be successful it needs to start with the correct hypothesis.
Once you’ve come up with the correct test hypothesis, start with the minimum viable test and scale up from there.
You shouldn’t test on your website alone as the customer’s journey usually includes many steps and your website is just one of them.
What to take away from this: As many web designers or web developers you have, that’s how many different views and opinions you’ll get. Testing is the only way to determine what works best for your users.
Larry Kim — ‘Hacking RankBrain and other machine learning algorithms: 5 SEO weapons to survive SEO judgement day’
Larry has so much knowledge to share that the Distilled organisers decided to let him do two presentations instead of one. The second one was more SEO focused, walking us through how RankBrain works and how it can work in our favour.
Machine learning is now being used pretty much everywhere, from Facebook’s news feed to Twitter’s ads. Of course Google is also using it for many services including Speech, Translate and YouTube. But how does that affect SEO?
This is where RankBrain comes in.
Larry has this theory that CTR increases can lead to rank increases. And if you think about it, it makes sense: a page that gets more clicks sends a signal that the page is becoming more popular or useful, which means that it should probably rank better.
So, if that turns out to be true, you need to prepare for RankBrain and any other machine learning powered algorithms. Here’s how:
- Download your current query data from Search Console.
- Determine what an average CTR would be for your niche.
- Find those pages which have a below-average CTR.
- Rewrite your page’s title and/or description and try to avoid the keyword filled method. Instead, include an emotional trigger and write it from the perspective of one of the personas that you’re targeting.
- Create ten such headlines and test to determine which ones perform better in AdWords.
- Pick a winner and use it as your page’s new title.
What to take away from this: Even if this isn’t official news, it looks like CTR plays a major part in a query’s rank. Instead of trying to get better CTR through better ranks, it might be time to do it the other way around, which is to increase your CTR and see if your ranks go up.
As you can see, this year’s SearchLove conference has been filled with incredibly useful talks and advice. We hope you find all this information and advice as useful as we did, and that you put it to good use.
We’d love to know: of the above, which one is your favourite presentation? Let us know in the comments section below.