Brand new thinking

Search marketing expo 2012.

Author:  |  Date: May 18, 2012  |  Category: Digital

SMX London 2012

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….

Search Engine Marketing Exhibition Venue

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.

Two prominent themes surfaced throughout…

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.


 ‘The new periodic table of SEO’


The New Periodic Table of SEO

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.

Key takeaway:

  • GOOGLE KNOWS. Many sites employing dodgy SEO techniques saw their rankings drop with Google’s algo (algorithm) update.  Google is crazy smart and they are only learning more and more every day. They use this knowledge to tailor search results that are so relevant that few people now search beyond page 1. Considering the 350 million websites in the world, it’s pretty impressive that a calculation can take your unique search query and weed through all those millions of website to provide you with the perfect match in seconds.  Marcus shared data that suggests that Google recognises users up and downstream (what sites you look at before and after a search query) and that they can use how long you spend on certain website within that stream to uncover what website best match your search requirement even if you don’t click on that website directly from Google but rather as a link from another page. What this means: If you want to be top in search develop a strong brand. You can’t trick Google.
  •  Back links are ever important as a ranking factor, but keyword anchor text must be mixed with branded anchor text. This is obvious when you remember that Google knows, of course you bought links if ALL your back-links are centred around your keywords and none include your brand name….Back link profile, the quality and relevance of your linking sites matters.
  • Social shares have a direct correlation to search ranking.


‘Life in a (Not provided) world’


Search Engine Marketing Conference: Life in a Non Provided World

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.

Key takeaways:

  • As more and more browsers will be moving towards SSL browsing in the future, marketers need to learn to rely on other metrics. The best thing we can do now is track the keyword data that we do have and once it all goes away use what we have collected as a historical reference. It’s not likely to change dramatically.
  •  There are some hacks to get this ‘lost’ keyword data, but their value is questionable.
  • Use PPC budget to conduct keyword research. The results are FAR more accurate than with other tools, and the initial cost will pay off!
  • Review your site for poorly performing content: look for content with high bounce rate and low time on page and hide this content from crawls as it is likely negatively affecting your ranking.
  • Reinforce well performing content, update it every 35 days. Fresh content is key for ranking.
  •  Think about how you can differentiate your content on-line. Write ‘power articles.’ These articles should be 1,000-2,000 words long, they must be researched and should be posted once a month. These power articles will perk up influencer attention and will build naturally occurring back-lines. You can’t fake good content. Research it and write it.
  •  Use micro-data tags or mark up to provide contextual relevance to your pages. Micro-data tags allow you to clearly identify your content to search engines, if you own a pizza shop that is open at 3am and someone searches for ‘pizza delivery’ at 2 am micro-data can help your site be the top ranking above all the other pizza shops that are closed at that time. This is great for your site and EVEN BETTER for your end user. Here is a micro-data WordPress plug developed by Optimum7
  •  Undergo a back-link process for at least 20 pages or products. Remove all shady back-links, they’ll only negatively affect your ranking
  • 50% of back-link anchor text should be brand related

‘Complying in the regulated global marketing environment’


Search Marketing Expo- complying with regulation

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.

Key takeaway:

  • If you haven’t yet, update your website to include a detailed cookie policy, put it in a prominent place.

Schema and authorship: 1 year later

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 mark-up which was founded a year ago. What is 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 markup:

  • Search engines will understand the content of your site as you intend
  • If the content is well understood Google will start showing ‘rich snippets’ (what you see in the photo above) these snippets will feature above regular search results. 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.

best practice SEO query with mark up

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!

‘Real answers for technical SEO problems’


 Real Answers For Technical SEO Problems

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.

Image sources:




Back to blog

Privacy and cookie policy © Copyright 2014 Oi