With the hibernation of Dublin’s LearnInbound; 2017 has been a year of fewer conferences to attend for Irish-based digital marketers. Indeed, since attending BrightonSEO, I’ve been chomping at the bit for another search marketing conference and when the search Leeds conference came rolling around, I wasted no time in grabbing my (free!) ticket, heading for the departures lounge and looking up my UK mates. The search Leeds conference 2017 wasn’t bad, either – having the feel of a larger conference with various tracks.

What is the Search Leeds Conference?

The Search Leeds conference is organised by digital and search agency Branded3. It is very much digital PR focused but played to the crowd that collected at the First Direct Arena in Leeds.  The search Leeds conference had talks on tech SEO, content marketing, on-page, mobile-first and voice search supplementing quality link building tactics. Such is the SEO landscape in 2017.

Branded3’s Stephen Kenwright is the face of the search Leeds conference, which has representation in terms of speakers from the very top companies involved in search, including none less than Google and Bing.

Branded3 are synonymous with the event, due in no small way to keynotes from distinguished speakers such as Laura Crimmons and the aforementioned Mr. Kenwright, presented at digital marketing events across the UK and Ireland. Indeed, it was when I saw Stephen Kenwright’s LearnInbound talk on the state of Search In Ireland that I decided on a future trip to the search Leeds conference was on the cards. Whenever someone who’s career and work I’ve watched and admired enthuses that Ireland is more advanced than England, I’m usually won over!

Sold on the search Leeds conference’s speakers and organisers before even going, there was a lot of anticipation in the air as I bounded into the arena for the search Leeds conference opening remarks.

Let’s dive into the talks that were at search Leeds conference 2017, shall we?

1. Link Building that can work for all budgets

Paddy Moogan of the Aira agency in Milton Keyes delivered a talk on link building and tactics that work. Underpinning the talk was the theme that link building is a risky strategy not least because it may not work. Now, Paddy Moogan is probably the foremost speaker in the industry about link building, so I attribute a fair amount of worth to those words.

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Paddy Moogan’s four-step process for content-led link building

The talk went on to describe, in detail, how content driven link-building can move the dial for businesses of all shapes and sizes, as long as the execution, idea and the value-add to end users is in place.

Like preaching to the converted, right? An interesting and funny deck.

2. Adapting your search strategy for a voice search world

A hot topic in the world of digital is voice assistants. Indeed, it is estimated that by 2020, over 200bn searches will be done by voice search. The search Leeds conference didn’t glaze over the topic, seeking out no less than three speakers to take up the mantle of discussing voice in 2017.

One of those aforementioned speakers is Rebecca Meeks, an SEO head at OMD. During the talk, the connected consumer was discussed and a disconnect between the connected consumer and brands was highlighted.

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The current digital daily life as described by OMD’s Romain Bonnet and Rebecca Meeks

With a nod to the future, the following four emerging trends were identified as places where brands are expected to be present:

  • Mobile
  • Voice
  • Messaging Apps
  • Connected Devices

Through these trends, our minds are being retrained to seek instant gratification – with speed and immediacy rewarded. As a result, brands need to be frictionless and available anywhere. Rebecca and the other speaker on this topic, Romain Bonnet, enthused that “everything will be voice activated”. So, how to win with voice? Well, everything that you should be doing anyway is probably the best start you can make:

  1. Getting your brand in the knowledge graph (seeing as Google will use this information in voice search responses)
  2. Get yourself on the map (if you’re not in, you can’t win)
  3. Make the most of reviews and citations (bread and butter to SEOs, but not all business owners)
  4. Implement Schema.org markup and make the connection between all your owned assets (be it your Facebook page or your website, etc.)

There were though useful tidbits in the slides such as the research that voice queries are precisely 4.2 words in length and that answer the public is a key tool in keyword research for voice.

Underlining much of the above is the assumption (or prediction) that Google will be the biggest player in voice search, as opposed to Amazon via Alexa or Apple via Siri. What does Google itself have to say though on the topic of voice search? Enter Stephen Power.

3. We don’t go online. We live online

I was delighted to see a fellow Irishman up on the stage at the search Leeds conference. And what an entrance!

The talk concentrated on micro moments, driven by mobile. For the uninitiated; this is Googlespeak for moments that truly matter™, at the convergence of intent, context and immediacy. These are:

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Google’s micro-moments, as presented by Stephen Power

Some of the facts and figures summarised above are subjective. For instance how exactly Google accurately assess when a task is being done by a human is unclear. What is clear is that mobile will be a key battleground for dominance in the future of search. This more and more looks likely to be centered on voice, and the two go hand-in-hand. Another complementary factor to success in the future of search marketing was identified and enthused by Google at search Leeds. That is speed. Speed thrills and friction kills is the mantra that is being supported by the behemoth. Figures which I’d tend to give move credence to are those that underpin this key win.

  • 40% of customers will abandon a site if it takes more than three seconds to load
  • 29% of smartphone users will immediately switch to another site or app if it’s too clumsy or slow
  • Dissatisfied visitors will never return to a website where problems have occurred

4. Search in Today’s Evolving Digital World

Not to be left behind, Bing also weighed in on the future of search debate and make a case for its wares as well. Northwest Account Director at Microsoft, Ellie England, delivered a presentation on the subject at search Leeds too. There was a fair bit of cross-over as you’d expect with both Google and Bing having its core business as a search engine. So, search is becoming more personal was not a shocking revelation. The fact though that Bing’s speech recognition error rate is low as 5.9% was. So too was the research that it is 3.75 times faster to speak a search query than it is to type it.

The story behind the figures though maybe that while Bing can recognise words, does it have the ability to accurately supply answers to these queries? Questions remain in my mind on that and those were questions that are unlikely to be answered head-on anytime soon by Bing.

5. A Content Blueprint to Drive Serious SEO Success

Danny Blackburn delivered a talk so low on bullshit, it nearly didn’t belong at a marketing conference. He said that content fulfills an audience’s need, differentiates brands from competitors and drives SEO performance. All salient points.

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The content sweet spot, by Stickyeyes’ Danny Blackburn

Speaking specifically to the point on audiences, a point came up during the talk which has been a thorn in the side for me working in content marketing and SEO. That is, oftentimes brands build out personas to an unfinished state and that there are key questions to ask key people in sales and marketing teams who can answer.

  1. Who are they?
  2. Where are they active?
  3. Why are they interested?
  4. When are they online?
  5. What do they want from you?

Danny goes on to say that once the audience insights (or personas) are fully built out and the content is on brand through a tone of voice guideline, content can drive performance through content discovery and distribution via paid, owned and earned channels.

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Content Marketing by stickyeyes

Danny rounded off with how this blueprint has been put to use for various clients of Stickyeyes, his agency.

6. Conflicts between Consumer Choice Theory & Web Crawling Efficiency: SEO Perspectives

Finally, Dawn Anderson delivered search Leeds conference’s most thought-provoking talk. Ahead of her upcoming MozCon talk, Dawn has been studying for a Masters in Digital Marketing in Manchester, England and it was the subject of her dissertation that inspired the search Leeds conference 2017 talk.

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Dawn Anderson’s dissertation topic

As you can probably tell, it was more based on old-school wisdom (sorry!) than new media, but I enjoyed that the talk brought in consumer behaviour and theories. Dusty and old as they might be, there is no denying the truth that is at their core.

The crux of Dawn’s talk was that for people; choice is good, but not too much choice. Same goes for search engine crawlers.

For people, preferable responses for marketers come about as choice is introduced. A digital marketing example of how this works is the example of e-commerce websites. Savvy brands apply choice theory here, like so:

  1. Employ pagination – reduces the impact of too much choice, thought to result in less buyer behaviour
  2. Employ filters – allows people to choose by elimination of unsuitable products
  3. Employ sorting – caters for what are called first/best choosing strategies – by having the most popular products at the top of a sort usually results in more buying behaviour than otherwise would be the case

Which is where Dawn makes the link between the use of choice theory as applied to websites to SEO through the use of signals to search engines that represent choices made by webmasters. Dawn has found though that many webmasters do not do the canonicalisation tasks as well as they could.

Elements I’d never considered before which is the very definition of a stimulating talk.

Search Leeds Conference 2018?

Having attended for the first time this year I can say that the search Leeds conference has a bright future and one I hope to be a part of in 2018.

Going? Contact me for a chat about SEO.