I was lucky enough to be able to go to Distilled’s incredible SearchLove London event this year and I had a fantastic time – here are some of the highlights from the two days of presentations.
Day 1 – Monday 28th October 2013
15 Years Of Unconventional Marketing: How To Launch Something New Online At Low/No Budget. Italian Style.
Marco Montemagno @montemagno
Italian TV host Marco began the conference with a lively presentation (especially for a Monday morning!) talking about the lessons he’s learned in marketing and particularly in launching new products.
1. Energy – Your most important weapon and the key to many success stories is energy
2. Be a platform – Build a platform and promote your contributors, rather than yourself. They are your assets, take a step back and give them visibility
3. Competitors can be your best allies – Offer value and benefits to competitors to levarage their expertise
4. Persistence – Keep going! Even after failure
5. Free works (really well) – If you can give something away for free, then expect a successful launch!
6. Don’t run alone – You need people to cheer for you, find people who add value and keep them at your side
7. Bet on one horse – Throw your weight behind good ideas
8. Virtual events are powerful – and cheap!
Marco also included some useful tips for finding potential high value interviewees:
- Offer them something first – e.g. I would love to promote your book to my community
- Guarantee results in advance – Add value before you ask for help
- Social proof – Talk about who else has signed up too
- Find the right time – If somebody has just released a book, for example, this can be a great time to request an interview
- Use Scheduleonce – A helpful tool for arranging meetings
What Drives Action Online? Lessons from the Frontline of Testing.
Amelia Showalter @ameliashowalter
Director of Digital Analytics for Obama’s re-election campaign, Amelia shared the lessons learnt from the frontline of testing with a list of 15 million potential campaign donors. Her teams continual testing of email elements both big and small led to approximately $200 million in additional revenue for the presidential campaign.
Don’t trust your gut
- Long held practices are often wrong
- Conventional wisdom is often wrong
- You are not your audience
Amelia and her team frequently held Email Derby’s, attempting to predict which of their tests would win and lose and found that they were no better than chance!
Foster a culture of testing
- Check your ego at the door
- Use every opportunity for testing
- Compare performance against yourself and your own benchmarks, not those of your competitors or your industry
- Keep a testing calendar
- Circulate test results within the team to pass on the lessons learnt
Invest in your team
- Experience is less important than aptitude and passion
- Diverse voices in the team will lead to better content and analysis
- Put your ego to one side and hire the very best people you can
Simon Penson @simonpenson
As an ex print editor, Simon has been on both sides of the fence and has years of experience both pitching content and being pitched to. Simon discussed big content promotion and the questions that need to be asked at the development stage to ensure success:
- Who would be interested in this? – Develop personas and understand what motivates these people to share
- Where do these people hang out?
- How do I find the right sites to contact? – At Zazzle they have been using a tool named Preacher (currently still in beta). Other tools such as Majestic SEO are very helpful, as too are Technorati’s blog lists
- What’s the sell? – Why should somebody share your content, can you offer an exclusive/something special?
- How do I reach the big guys?
- PRO TIPS – Contact deputy editors and freelancers, they’re more likely to have time to read your pitch
- Use the phone to contact – it’s harder to ignore
- Use LinkedIn to get contact details of journalists
- Other tools including HARO, Flacklist, Muck Rack, Presswiki and Media Sync can help you get in touch with the right people
Once the content is written:
- Be very clear on the value of your content
- Follow up immediately
- Surprise and delight contacts – a little bribery in the form of free coffee can go a long way!
- Amplify the content – paid promotion on social, Outbrain, Taboola, Zemanta
- Optimise for social – include open graph meta tags on Facebook, Twitter cards etc to maximise ROI
- Create a complementary piece of content for long term search benefit if your original content doesn’t offer that.
Last but definitely not least – Don’t be afraid to fail!
From Unknown Foreigner to Local Star: How to Succeed at Real (not Ideal) International SEO Scenarios.
Aleyda Solis @aleyda
International SEO expert Aleyda took us through some of the biggest challenges in international SEO and gave us her top tips for overcoming these common hurdles.
Challenge 1 – Strategy
Don’t spread yourself too thin by targeting more markets than you can support. Validate the feasibility of moving into new markets and understand the factors involved such as delivery, currency, legal and technical constraints in order to prioritise the markets you should move into. Use Google global market finder alongside local keyword research tools to understand searches in the market. Aleyda has developed an ROI calculator to help people calculate the number of conversions needed to break even on an international project to help with this decision process.
Challenge 2 – International Strategy
Country targeting vs language targeting – weigh up the approaches according to your own requirements. Dipping your toes in the water with country specific landing pages can be a good way to study customer behaviour and ascertain the need for country or language specific sites. Most importantly, make sure you are using the right tags on your pages! Here is a case study Aleyda mentioned on the impact of HREFLANG tags. More tagging tools:
You can also get warnings for incorrectly implemented HREFLANG tags in Webmaster Tools.
Challenge 3 – International Popularity
- Check your brand name translates well! Aleyda gave the example of a feta cheese brand named Fetos that would have difficulty if they moved into the Spanish market as there ‘Fetos’ means foetus!
- Use the Consumer Barometer and TNS Digital Life to better understand your international audience behaviour
- Use Similar Web to identify the top websites in your niche in the country
- Use tools like Buzzsumo, Social Crawlytics and Link Explorers (OSE, Majestic SEO, Ahrefs) to identify popular and shared content in the country
Wil Reynolds @wilreynolds
In a VERY brave move SEER Interactive founder Wil Reynolds gave his team $10k to try out paid content channels in order to get eyeballs, impressions and attention.
Zemanta – Not Impressed
You can use Zemanta to suggest your content to bloggers and have your content featured on ‘Related Posts’ sections of sites.
The sites however can often be low quality sites, with lots of ads and low social signals – not somewhere you would be proud to show a client that they had appeared on!
Results: Only 2-3 clicks on average, no ‘follow on’ links and $500 a month spent.
With poor content – Not Impressed
Results: 8 million impressions, CTR 0.277%, 1 link, 95% bounce rate, $700 spent.
$1000 per link? NOT IMPRESSED!
With good content – Much better!
The team tried nRelate again with an infographic that had been successful already and had much better results.
Results: 8 million impressions, CPC .30, 7 links, $700 spent.
$124 per link – Not bad!
Used a sponsored hashtag and advertised to relevant followers with alreday popular content
Results: CPC .49, only spent $177 of daily $500 budget, 7 retweets and 1 follower
It was difficult to spend the budget as unpopular tweets are not shown many times and you need multiple tweets to really promote the content. It’s important here to have the value of a follower in mind so you can calculate ROI. $177 per follower, not impressed!
Using already popular content.
Results: CPC .15, 20 million impressions, CTR .0549%, 82 links, over 1000 social shares
$24.39 a link – NICE!
- By tracking sites individually in GA you can weed out the promotions giving you poor traffic and improve the ROI
- Track micro-conversions so you can show additional value e.g. newsletter sign ups, shares, engagement
Again using already popular content – seeing a pattern here? It’s early days for this test but it’s looking good!
Results: CPC .30, 480103 impressions, CTR .13%, links are yet to be seen
- You need to include time to test
- A/B test your asset title
- Get your Google Analytics in order to really track results
- Include big, easy to find share buttons on your content
- If nobody gave a crap about your content before, they probably still won’t when you promote it!
Lessons from an Ontology Nerd.
Abby Covert @Abby_the_IA
Ontology Nerd Abby took the stage with one clear message:
“Know what you mean when you say what you say.”
She gave us five lessons to help:
1. Pay attention to taxonomic approach – Choose the right way to organise things, it says a lot about you.
2. Avoid poly-hierarchical overload – Summed up best by: “If everything is a vegetable then nothing is a vegetable.”
3. Cultural meaning matters – One word can have many different meanings, you need to understand the culture and location that you are going to be marketing to in order to ensure that you are well understood and do not unintentionally offend!
4. Reading level matters – Pay attention to the reading level of your audience and put together your copy appropriately. Use meaningful models to find a way to get your message through.
5. Watch out for accidental synonyms – Make sure that when you have terms for different things that they are actually different!
You Don’t Need More Traffic: Learn to Leverage the 99% that Aren’t Customers.
Craig Bradford @CraigBradford
Craig stressed the important of really understanding the value of your customers and accurately tracking them to better leverage their potential.
- 90% of people now use sequential screens to complete a task – how can we track this properly?
Measurement Protocol allows you to send raw data to Google Analytics to better measure individual users. By assigning user ID’s we can track customers over different touchpoints and understand their behaviour throughout the customer journey.
Dimension widening – Upload a CSV of data associated to your customer ID’s to Google Analytics in order to bulk out each record and built a clearer picture of all the factors involved in conversions.
Change the way you think – Visitors aren’t binary and have value beyond conversions. Look at micro conversions and understand the minimal viable conversions. Think about lifetime value and keeping the relationship alive.
Think of your channels like a football team. Not everybody can be an attacker! Different channels have different benefits and we should treat them accordingly.
To do list:
- Sign up for Google Tag Manager
- Upgrade to Universal Analytics
- Enable demographic data
- Try to use the Measurement Protocol to get real conversion data
- Push for login and use persistent cookies to recognise repeat visitors
- Install directmonster to pull out the actual sources of traffic from ‘direct’ traffic
- Start using the new advanced segments
Stacey Cavanagh @staceycav
Stacey took to the stage and blew everybody’s minds with a huge list of actionable tips, tricks, and tools – including one from her Nan!
I won’t write them all out since they’re in the slides below but here are a few of the highlights.
- Guest editorial – UP YOUR GAME! Find the right publications to be featured in and build a hitlist. What publications does your client read? What are the best places you competitors have been featured?
- Surveys (sometimes) make noise. Stacey’s study of 1000 Americans, many of whom thought both ‘Wales’ and ‘Paris’ were English cities, got lots of press. She gave plenty of tools (see the slides) for finding data and running your own surveys, but all with the caveat that you can always rely on humanity to ruin it for you!
- Images for
linksattribution. Share photos on Creative Commons for sites to use and tell people how to attribute them. Be sure to chase up people who don’t attribute!
- Amplify the content. Use Outbrain, paid Stumbles, paid Reddit submissions, Facebook advertising and even Adwords (very cheap for non commercial keywords) to get eyeballs on the content.
- And that outreach tip from Stacey’s Nan? Pick up the phone!
The Future for Search
The infrastructure update ‘Caffeine’ allowed Google to index the web faster and facilitated future updates like Penguin and Panda. Google applied machine learning to allow the algorithm to detect spammy pages. Tom explained this process using watermelons (you kind of had to be there).
Tom and Will went on to discuss a number of trends in search and their likely impact on SEO.
Context – Searches are no longer delivered based on only the explicit keywords used. Google uses the implicit contextual signals to better understand what the consumer wants. For example; a search query such as ‘London Tube Stations’ could be somebody looking for a list of all the tube stations, a map of them, the history of tube stations etc. but when you add in the clues such as that this person is on a street in London and using a mobile phone then you can be much more confident in serving up information about the nearest tube stations to that person, as this is likely their objective.
Over time it’s likely that more and more contextual clues will be used to serve up results based on what the searcher is likely to be looking for, allowing Google’s users to use less precisely targeted keywords as Google will fill in the blanks using factor such as:
Many people have posited that the Hummingbird update is designed to better handle voice search, but will that many people even use voice search?
The Hummingbird update was more about Google being able to understand natural language and is moving from indexing to understanding. By looking at your search terms they can now better comprehend what you are likely to want to know about the entities that you’re searching for.
Things not strings
Google is now much better at understanding entities. The knowledge graph will understand the kind of information you are likely to want to know about the item you’re searching for. The guys used the example of searches for Usain Bolt, where attributes such as the runners height and weight would be shown. In comparison, such information isn’t relevant for a search about astronaut Eileen Collins, but facts about her time in space, missions etc would be shown instead.
Searchers will be able to modify their searchers and reference previous searchers so, for example, a search for ‘Books by JK Rowling’ could then become ‘books before 1999’ if the initial results weren’t satisfactory. Google is now better at understanding how these searches relate to one another.
Whilst Google is “not” using social signals in the algorithm (maybe), they’ve been clear that they will. Social signals are a great way to differentiate very new content that has yet to have established any links. Over time as links build, these will overtake social signals in their ability to inform Google as to the quality of a page/site.
Let’s Get Real!
The day was rounded off with the speakers all offering lightening-quick tips.
Craig Bradford – Coupons can be embedded with client ID’s so that when they’re redeemed in store you can tie this info in with Google Analytics – take a look!
Bridget Randolph – If you have a bricks and mortar store offering free wifi, this can be a great way to gather email address or run a quick survey in exchange for access
Tom Anthony – Nerdydata is a search engine for code, there are lots of interesting applications including searching for people using the optimizely code and running tests
Simon Penson – Facebook power editor allows you to search for co-occurring interests e.g. people who like both Coke and Pepsi – perfect for building up personas
Kelvin Newman – WSDM videos from people involved in search algorithms (but not media trained) can offer useful insights behind the scenes
Stacey Cavanagh – Jamendo is like flikr for audio
Wil Reynolds – Page change notifier is a great way to find out when competitors change their sites so you can see if they’re testing or trying out something new
Chris Bennett – Paid Stumbles can get plenty of traffic, but run a small campaign across lots of categories first to ascertain the best ones to focus the bulk of your budget on
DAY 2 Tuesday 29th October
Danny blew off the cobwebs of the only slightly (honest) hungover crowd on day 2 with a VERY powerful presentation about telling stories including some eye-opening case studies.
- London Business School ran an experiment into recall of information from a conference. 6 days after the conference recall of data that had been presented alone was just 5%, when data had been presented alongside a story recall fared better at 30% but when the data was abandoned all together and just stories were shared, recall rocketed to 70%.
- Significant objects project took otherwise worthless items and asked writers to build a story about them before listing the items on eBay. By using stories to engage and add value, a 25 cent plastic banana sold for $76!
Danny also discussed the origin of Dove’s real beauty campaign and founder Sylvia who was struggling to reconcile her job in the beauty industry with the self esteem issues of her 12 year old daughter. She decided to use images of her CEOs daughters alongside this video to really demonstrate the power and worth of the campaign:
He also spoke about the importance of connecting abstract ideas with real solid concepts and used the example of Nordstrom to illustrate his point. The company are keen to promote their superb customer service (but hey, who isn’t?!) so they tell real customer stories of staff going above and beyond to give customers the very best service. These stories spread and now Nordstrom are recognised for providing the very best customer care.
He rounded up by showing 4 archetypes for successful stories:
- Challenge stories – e.g. David and Goliath
- Connection stories – e.g. Romeo and Juliet
- Creativity stories – eg. Newton or Archimedes
- Uniqueness stories – how do we do things different? e.g. Nordstrom
Nathalie Nahai @TheWebPsych
Web psychologist Nathalie shared her insights into culturability and the importance of tailoring your communications to different cultures based on their characteristics.
She outlined 3 of Hofstede’s 6 dimensions and how different cultures rank on these dimensions.
Uncertainty avoidance is defined as how uncomfortable we are with ambiguity
For High Uncertainty Avoiding cultures we must:
- Reduce ambiguity
- Offer clear navigation and structure
- Be explicit and clear in our use of language and images
- Have a predictable and assuring customer journey
Low Uncertainty Avoidance cultures need sites where:
- Open dialogue is facilitated
- Users can take greater risks
- Navigation is more complex/layered
Long term vs Short term looks at the orientation of cultures and their focus on rewards are they willing to wait or do they need it NOW?
With High Long Term oriented cultures:
- Offer practical value
- Make content evergreen
- Emphasis tradition, heritage and history
- Take smaller recurring payments rather than large one-off fee
With Short Term oriented cultures:
- Offer instant gratification
- Include facts, certainty and reviews
- Reflect relevant social trends
- Guarantee rapid service and delivery
Indulgance vs Restraint is the extent to which society allows it’s members top have fun and enjoy life through free gratification of natural drivers
With Highly Indulgent cultures:
- Make interactions fun
- Give away entertaining freebies
- Use and encourage user generated content
- Provide honest discussion
With Highly Restrained cultures:
- Emphasise how you serve the community
- Appeal to frugality and show how you can help save money
- Use strict cultured gender roles
- Use formal communication
- Build a structured, predictable site
- Different cultures have different usage strategies
- Web psychology provides psychographic context
- Use Hofstede’s dimensions to inform your design
Bridget Randolph @BridgetRandolph
Bridget shared some eye-opening statistics on the growth of mobile and talked about the amazing opportunities it provides for personalisation.
Just in case you didn’t think mobile was big…
- 57% of users won’t recommend a business with a poorly designed mobile site
- By 2017 85% of the world’s population will have 3G coverage
Mobile needs to be a core part of your customers journey and the user needs to be at the centre.
We need to move away from the idea that mobile is just ‘on the go’ – in fact 77% of searches on a mobile occur near a PC. With sequential screening and second screening, a seamless UX across platforms is vital.
Steps to take:
- Consider using dynamic serving by user agent – it gives you more control over presentation
- Long term cookies for login
- Sync user accounts across all platforms – e.g. if someone leaves at item in their cart on a PC you need to recognise that when they return on a tablet!
- Test! See what your site looks like on different devices – is it usable?
- Track the person NOT the device using universal analytics because…
- View showrooming as an opportunity – Best Buy for example know that many customers visit their stores to look at products in the flesh then go online to buy them at the cheapest price. They counteract this by sending sales staff onto the shop floor with tablets to find the cheapest deals online and then offer their customers that deal if they buy in store
- Enable on/offline integration
Offer smarter checkout paths
- Link the form field to the correct keyboard e.g. switch to numeric keyboard for phone numbers – Use this cheat sheet for tips
- Only ask for the information that is essential to complete the transaction
- Keep people logged in long term
- Don’t neglect microconverions
Email marketing – 62% of emails are opened on mobile devices
- Send emails your customer want to open
- Use personalistion and context
- Use mobile-friendly email templates
- Test your campaigns with Litmus
Extreme personalisation and context recognition example – this is just brilliant!!!
- Mobile is not separate anymore
- Track the person not the device
- Serve the user’s needs first
Chris Bennett @chrisbennett
Algorithmic updates have forced us all to practice what we preach. Content really is king and quality is the one method to rule them all. Chris shared some fantastic insights to help get the best return on investment for your content as well as top tips to encourage client buy-in.
One great tip from Chris to get buy in from a client on a tactic or channel is to show them a competitor doing it!
- Get approval for one small piece of content first – and then MacGuyver that shiz! Repurpose a story into multiple pieces of content for example take an infographic and slice it up into slides and make it a presentation on slideshare.
- PRO TIP – Upload the slideshare presentation on Tuesday/Wednesday so that by Friday it will work it’s way to the homepage and then stay there all weekend
- Case study – One client began an ego based content series featuring the top 10 coolest companies to work for in different US cities. Featured companies began to tweet the link and momentum grew. The client is now manufacturing actual awards to give to companies and prospective entrants are vying for a now coveted spot on the list for their city
- Take existing content and make it better
- Make amazing content for yourself and then show it to clients. That way you can be transparent about all of the costs and success metrics
- Case study – Pixar Theory Chris’ team took the Pixar Theory written up online and turned it into an interactive site. The site got 4,464,314 page views to date and has a bounce rate of 26.89%
- Optimise your content for social – including open graph tags in facebook and twitter cards (tweets with photos outperform plain text by 91%)
- Use NUVI to blow minds and understand social shares for other places where your content has ended up, to truly understand its reach
- Make your content interactive
Think campaigns not one-offs. Get one idea, stick to it and make the most of it.
Paul Madden @PaulDavidMadden
‘Carbon neutral link builder’ Paul Madden is an ex-spammer who now helps companies with link penalties clean up their act. He presented an ‘Idiots Guide’ to penalty removal.
His slides are pretty comprehensive and so I’ll just give you the gist:
Step 1: Confirm you have a penalty in Webmaster Tools
Step 2: Decide whether you’re going to tackle it in house or outsource
Step 3: Gather ALL the data – Use Magestic SEO, Moz, ahrefs and Webmaster Tools to build a thorough list of all your links
Step 4: Analyse the data and decide what to remove
Step 5: Contact for removal
Step 6: Disavow
Step 8: Submit a re-inclusion request – be polite but brief, explain that you’ve changed and prove it!
Repeat until you succeed!
Peep Laja @peeplaja
Peep Laja sadly hasn’t uploaded his slides yet! He gave a superb presentation with 5 key steps to persuasive web design:
- How is your product useful? What is it for? – Make this info clear!
- We process visuals 50 times faster than copy – using big, clear pictures will help clarify your message
This site is a great example of big visuals and clear text to show exactly what the site is about instantly
2. Visual appeal
- Draw the user in
- 94% of a person’s first impressions are design related
- We take 50 miliseconds to make snap judgements about a site
- Good first impressions lead to higher post-sale satisfaction
- Visual appeal is more important than usability
Low visual complexity and familiar layout is attractive – here’s an example Peep used to show this:
3. Use a strong visual hierarchy
- The biggest item on a site is seen as the most important – make sure it is
- White space helps draw the eye to remaining page elements – use it wisely
This site uses visual hierarchically perfectly to grab attention and then indicate what they want visitors to do
4. Keep attention at all costs
- 80% of attention is above the fold. Check through the most popular screen resolutions for your site and ensure you are using this space well
- Photos are a great way to grab attention – use real people looking natural for the best effects
- Contrast is a very effective way to get attention – for example before and after shots
- Surprise and unexpectedness are other good ploys
- NO WALL OF TEXT – NO! – Keep paragraphs under 4 lines and add in sub-headings after 2 paragraphs to break text up
- Avoid patterns, mix things up!
- Product badges are a brilliant way to get information to stand out
Real people looking you in the eye are a surefire attention grabber.
5. One action per screen when they’re ready
- Avoid too much, too soon
- Triggers to action are much more effective when the visitor is ready to take action
Here’s an example of this done badly, why would I sign up before I even know what you do? Too much, too soon!
Will Critchlow @willcritchlow
We all know Google loves brands and gives them advantages the little guys could never dream of, but Will discussed a number of highly successful small businesses using their size as a benefit.
Small businesses have advantages including:
- Humans with deep expertise everywhere in the business
Will went on to make everybody VERY hungry by talking about the small business success story that is steak restaurant Hawksmoor – who are doing insanely well in the SERPs:
and built some incredible links:
One huge success factor is that they are DAMN good at what they do, but if you can’t be good at what you do then what can you be good at?! So what else has worked for these guys?
- Taking the offline online, and vice versa – they have an impressive cook book and started inviting bloggers round for steak in 2009
- Make it personal – Brand monitoring is a big deal for Hawksmoor – owner Will still runs the Twitter account
- Expect early results in something is going to work – Twitter and Facebook are big for them but videos have yet to take off. Who wouldn’t ‘like’ this’?! *drools*
- Have a high bar for spending money – Every £ spent is compared to the price of hiring somebody in. One of Hawksmoor’s most successful tactics is to approach nearby businesses when they open a new branch and just invite them over for steak
- Evergreen content – spend money on content that will stand the test of time
Their success is not just because they sell tasty, tasty steak – other little guys have done it too:
- Brewdog – have done very well with humourous, and rather odd, Youtube videos
- Lush – was built on elbow grease and personal debt and is now huge! Imagery of course is very successful for them
- Find a way to invest in good photography
- Video helps you ‘scale humans’ and spread their passion
- While traffic is low use others’ networks for feedback – Feedback Army and Five second test can help
- Give access to people – try live chat!
- You must have either time or money – use extra time while you’re quiet to build value
- Feed scarcity
- Delight your existing customers
and of course AIM HIGH!