James Le Gallez and I, otherwise known as ‘The super awesome Analytics & Insights team’ just spent the last two days at SMX London, a global search marketing exhibition. SMX brings together industry leading marketers, and developers with panache for SEO, paid search and social media, in a 2 day multi-seminar conference. SMX boasts worldwide events with dates in massive venues from Las Vegas to Sydney….
Day one started at 9am with a keynote speech from Amit Singhal, one of Google’s most accomplished engineers. Thanks to trusty delays on Flybe we missed his presentation and came running up to the venue, Chelsea Football Stadium, at 9:30 out of breath and dragging our overnight bags behind. We survived the 7am flight, the 5am wake up and even morning rush hour in the London underground…BUT we had missed the keynote. Lucky for us the #SMX tag on twitter indicated that his talk didn’t bring anything groundbreaking to the table and our time was probably better spent boarded and on a non-moving aircraft…(That’s not actually true I’m using justification rational to make myself feel better about it).
Back to my story, there we are at Chelsea Football Stadium amongst the industry nerds and random stadium tourists, ready to take in the wonder of 16 hours of search talks.
Within this post lie the golden nuggets of knowledge that we returned with. Read on and behold the glory of our journey.
The two days included an almost endless #SMX twitter stream that often pulled my attention from the presenter before me and into whatever was being posted on Twitter from the lecture hall adjacent. Multi-tasking to the max.
Check out the Twitter stream for yourself for other brilliant insights, #SMX.
Before I get into individual speakers and the takeaways I’ve left SMX with a presiding conclusion… I’M NOT THE ONLY ONE. What do I mean by this? There is a new breed of marketer out there and this conference has re-inspired me by showing me their prevalence. It used to be that developers were ‘geeks’ and marketers were ‘creative’…the two didn’t jive and needed intermediaries to translate Klingon into infographics. Quasi-technical creative people like me were left as odd outsiders, neither cool nor nerdy. This is no longer the case. I AM NOT ALONE. There is a whole world of incredibly technical marketers whose digital remit requires them to know and love code. What an amazing progression.
So into the nitty gritty…
Over the two days we split up to cover more ground, seeing a total of 6 presentations on search marketing from global firms like Google, Adobe, Avis Rent a Car, SearchMetrics, and Majestic SEO to name only a few.
A great thing about the football club venue is that if a presenter did happen to bore me I could listen to the grunts and cheers from a team practising right outside. If I closed my eyes and eliminated the talk of HTTP ACCESS before me I was amongst fit sweaty men….I doubt James feels this feature was of equal benefit, but surprisingly search conferences garner a pretty good looking crowd, so it wasn’t all nerd babes for him either.
There were two prominent themes that came up in almost every presentation, these were Google’s new Panda algorithm update and the EU Cookie Directive. These topics left attendees berating the Google audience representative and panellists with endless questions and concerns. In expected form, Google addressed these questions with the press candour and simultaneous elusiveness of a well trained politician. Secretiveness aside, as bit of a nerd myself, it was AMAZING to share conversation and space with some top Google minds. No matter how many different ways we asked the question, no light was shed on Google’s ranking factors or their response to the cookie legislation…luckily Google were not the only ones there, and other presenters were able to shed some light.
What did I learn that we will integrate into our campaigns and strategies? Below I summarise my favourite presentations and their most salient points.
This session reviewed the ever changing search engine landscape and what recent algorithm updates have meant to SEO.
Marcus Tober from Search Metrics shared some impressive quantitative research on search ranking factors. Considering Google’s secrecy studies like this are how SEO practitioners (called SEO’s in the industry) learn what Google bots rank and what they don’t.
The highlight of this presentation was Marcus Tandler’s sheer excitement about data, his cute German/American accent and some bad British humour surrounding comparative size of the two German presenters compared to the British speaker…I jest, the presentation was great, below are the main lessons.
Whether you’re a search expert or a website owner you’ve probably seen a new a data field pop into your GA (Google Analytics) keyword reports. Google has initiated SSL browsing for anyone that is logged into their Google account while searching. This means that where we used to be able to see all keywords that were driving traffic to our site, we are now seeing a growing number of “not provided” results and dwindling keyword reports.
I always say a website is only as good as the traffic it gets, and knowing what words visitors use to arrive at your site is a pretty useful metric.
Such is life, things change – we can’t just sit around and moan about it, but we still have to get our websites found.
This session looked at what we could do without keyword data to perform better research. The presentations were particularly useful providing real life actions that search marketers could take away and implement to improve ranking.
The panel’s clear negativity regarding Google’s limited data resulted in a rebuttal from a Google representative in the audience and ended in with a statement from Pierre Far at Google that went along the lines of ‘ I’m not going to argue with you, but you’re wrong’…nothing like a bit of nerd banter to get your morning going.
Synopsis extracted from SMX program: “The EU’s cookie and tracking legislation is an onerous policy that limits online marketing. US lawmakers are contemplating sweeping changes to intellectual property law that will stifle access and the flow of information. What’s a marketer to do?
This session is a marketer’s guide to new and proposed regulations. It provides tips on how to comply (or cleverly avoid) regulations that limit relationships with your online customers and users.”
While this was one of the sessions I most looked forward to as I am the one tasked with the onerous job of being the internal cookie law guru…the presentations didn’t really shed any new light and only reinforced that fact that no one really knows what to do and that ‘wait and see’ is the prevalent attitude.
This was a session I sort of dreaded attending, perhaps due to its less than exciting name, but I found myself presently surprised and informed by it.
The focus was on schema.org mark-up which was founded a year ago. What is schema.org you ask? In short it’s a fancy collection of shared code or ‘mark up’ that search giants Yahoo, Google, and Bing have agreed to provide more relevant and detailed search results. Schema tags means that webmasters embed code into sites that provides quick and easy information when searched. You have probably seen schema in action without even knowing it.
Above is an example, if you search ‘Squash Soup Recipe’ you find results which include rating stars, ingredients, calories and cooking time. This is all site content that has been intentionally made visible for search engines to enable better end user experience and ultimately result in click through.
Here are a few benefits of using semantic schema.org markup:
Schema.org tips: If your company website has a blog you should use rel=author or rel=publisher tags to set your blog content to appear with your author’s Google+ profile photo is Google search results. As seen below.
How does this affect SEO? Remember the REAL point of SEO is to get qualified traffic to a site. From the screen grab above which link would you most likely visit? Even if your page is not top, it’s more likely to get clicked on by attributing authorship tags. Get on the ball!
This session kicked off in a fresh format.The presenters had very short presentations and rather than talking at us and then asking for questions, the whole hour became an open forum question and answer session. Q&A is only as good as the questions that surge and answers you get, but, put a vibrant and hilarious Google Engineer on the panel (Maile Ohye, Senior Developer Programs Engineer, Google Inc) and all of a sudden you are tapping an amazing resource….an SEO’s dream.
Maile (featured in image above) whizzed through numerous technical tips for maximising your site indexing via Webmaster Tools. Pierre from Google and Vanessa Fox (an ex-Googler who helped develop Web Master Tools) piped in providing some amazing insights into dealing with duplicate content, re-directs and re-indexing.
I won’t go into detail here on tech tips, but the main takeaway was resonated in a previous session and was all about cleaning up your underperforming content.
SMX was two days well spent. Surrounding yourself by like minded innovators and quasi-nerds reinforced my passion for this field and endless potential of an ever changing landscape. How could any SEO specialist ever get bored? Im looking forward to next year, and hope by then I’ll have wrapped my head around half the things I’ve just learned.