So, it’s been just over two weeks since I attended the European Search Conference – part of the International Business Festival (IBF) in Liverpool.
Hosted at the wonderful Exhibition Centre Liverpool near the Albert Dock, I arrived to 28-degree heat and picturesque blue skies!
After having a look at all the IBF stands, and witnessing a dancing robot, I made my way to the European Search Conference room and listened to some engaging talks on the wonderful world of search, SEO and PPC. I’ve condensed the whole day into my five key takeaways below.
1. Search 'Experience' Optimisation
This was an interesting point made by Michelle Wilding from The Telegraph. Google, and its users, advocate a user-first approach to SEO. Pushing for rank #1 or ‘position zero’ (knowledge cards, featured snippets etc.) is only worthwhile if users actually engage with your listing consistently, otherwise you won’t maintain your position.
‘Pogo-sticking’, a user going through the top ranked results until they find what they want, is a bad sign for the user experience, and this response to your Google listing will result in you being penalised. It is essentially a measure of whether your keyword, listing and landing page all add up to a good, and engaging, user experience.
Expanded listings are also being talked about lots: reviews, event details, prices. These undoubtedly improve user experience, offering much more information before a user clicks, but still offering choice. This leads to the conclusion that search optimisation shouldn’t be about the number of results, but the quality – a direction the whole SEO market is heading in.
Expanded listings including reviews and event dates.
2. Search, but with voice
Even though it feels like Siri has been around forever (2010), voice search is the future. I promise you. If you remember the days of the first search engines, you’ll know that expanded listings, knowledge panels and ads didn’t exist, and Google has been adding features to improve user experience ever since. Voice will do the same now the machine learning and AI elements are getting up to speed.
When you are mid-debate with friends and shout at your Alexa to tell you the richest person in the world or ask Siri to tell you what’s the most spoken language in the world, Google will prioritise the top result – normally a knowledge panel or featured snippet from the site.
It should be an SEO Manager’s goal to become this knowledge panel (position zero) for their business at the moment. However, it’s assumed that Google will be rolling out many updates and innovations in the future to give users a much richer experience with voice search. This will possibly include machine learning and user-led results optimisation.
Almost every conversation here ends with the conclusion: always give users what they want.
3. Tailoring content to search intent
This one sounds obvious, but I doubt many businesses, especially small ones, do it to the extent they should. This is about not just looking at your target keywords and generating content to target them. It’s about adding a stage where you categorise your keywords into the stages of your typical user funnel. For example, a holiday app would have content for the research/ comparison phase and the conversion phase separately.
This tactic means looking at search behaviour and reading into search queries. Often, if the query is a question, such as ‘how much’ and ‘when is’, then it’s part of the research/comparison phase.
If the query is more direct, such as ‘Amazon HDMI cables’, you know they’re looking for that exact product, so direct them to the product listing they want.
Dreamr is currently looking at ways we can help our potential clients’ research phases with content on AR, AI and machine learning. We’re also comparing iOS and Android, native vs. hybrid app development and in-house vs. outsourced development.
4. Social media and SEO
I listened to an interesting talk from Lukasz Zelezny about how good tactics for social can have a more direct impact than engaging passive followers. For example, Lukasz spoke about how using trend tracking software can show you what content is generating a buzz on social. By using that knowledge you can create relevant and shareable content that will increase engagement. Traffic generated from this will obviously have an impact on SEO in the form of authority and backlinks. And we all like backlinks.
5. Negative remarketing
Negative remarketing isn’t necessarily revolutionary. However, it is something that gets overlooked often. This tactic involves adding your audience of subscribers to a negative list, so you don’t target them again. I’m personally being targeted by 2/3 businesses I’m a client of. That would be fine if they were offering me content or incentives to retain me – but they aren’t.
Excluding other audiences on Facebook is a breeze.
If I were part of a negative remarketing list, they could segment me and serve me ads that are going to help retain me as a client. Instead, it’s quite irritating being sold to, for something I already bought.
Good negative remarketing needs good user segmentation. In ad campaigns I always exclude all segments from each other to not get my messages mixed. This means my audience will only ever see one linear user funnel.
So that’s my roundup of what I got from the European Search Conference. Loads of other information was covered too, but for me it’s the looking to the future of search marketing that I love, and exploring ways to make clients’ campaigns cheaper, more effective and more desirable.