Search Love: take SEO back to marketing
The reputation of the search industry has been contaminated by the numerous agencies and entrepreneurs providing poor quality SEO services. This is a topic which was discussed at Monday’s Search Love event in Tottenham Court Road, London.
I have noticed, by looking through the tweets filtered in the #seo hash tag, that SEO is an industry populated by rumors and false ideas that has led at its current reputation. So I was keen to attend an event which was looking at best practise in SEO.
What SearchLove said is that SEO needs to come back to where it began: the marketing practice
To kick off the event, three technical live site reviews took place. At the moment, live reviews focus on user experience and customer perception, however, previously they focussed on keyword research and technical SEO. Distilled, the company who put on the event, brought with them two employees who spoke about how visitors perceive a web page, and how to exploit social media in order to reach consumers and influencers. Another speaker, Wil Reynolds from SEER interactive, presented a case study on how to use keywords to expand the business of a coffee subscription service, to include gift vouchers. He suggested keywords for them to target such as “gifts for coffee lovers”, “for coffee snobs” etc.
Hannah from Distilled had great insights on the market, but these seem quite generic, and I would have liked for her to have gone into more detail about specific ways to reach influencers. She quoted Followerwonk as a Twitter tool to get in touch with influential coffee lovers, but she didn’t quote any specific campaign as a case study.
Justin Briggs from Big Fish Games presented the first session. His talk introduced the audience to one of his latest operations. He established a partnership between the game company he works for and a girl game conference, and created a related infographic. It sounded to me like a really good idea in terms of targeting the right audience. In addition, he also said that the infographic as a piece of content is something that can be easily shared, therefore it appeals to a vast range of communities (and linking opportunities 😉 ). My thoughts were that although this was a great case study, it was not a new innovation.
The second session was curated by Guy Levine, from Return On Digital and focussed on content creation and PR activities. In his speech there were some great content ideas and fancy PR tools that could give you some quality links.
Next up was a talk from Mark Johnstone to show off Distilled’s expertise on content creation and strategy. He insists on plenty of research in order to produce good pieces of link bait, in particular he spends time talking to journalists, gets advice from experts in the industry , and researches common opinion.
Assessing that Google penalise unnatural link building, producing great client content that attracts links means that time must be divided between content production, and content distribution via social media platforms. This involves talking to influencers and a series of online PR skills. The results achieved by Mark’s piece of content are amazing, see for yourself by clicking on this check list of ideas in order to improve your search marketing campaign.
After a break and networking time, it was Wil Reynolds’ turn to speak. His presentation focussed on the incorrect interpretations of Google algorithms by SEOs quoting jargon such as “link velocity”, “sitewide links”etc..
While we think that Google penalise certain on-page factors, the reality is that those penalised have often done some tactical link building to rank better in an easy way.
A great tip is to avoid “easy linking opportunities” as these will be performed by spammy users to rank for irrelevant sites. Therefore they will be targeted by Google. By looking at the list of subsequent small Panda updates, it is clear that Google’s intention is to provide relevant results to the users, and to fight those who do not have the right to be on the first page.
In keeping with the last 2 years, Heather Healy’s talk on Social Search, including a case study on the Batman infographic for Moneysupermarket, got the audience really excited.
The main thought I took away from this session is how social media should support the distribution of internal content. It should reach out to influencers in partnership with other sites, in order to build natural links and social shares.
Next up is Mat Claydon from Mixcloud, speaking about how he is driving traffic growth by carefully analysing user behaviour, and engaging them accordingly via social and email. User engagement , user types and how social media can help customer retention are the main topics. Can we still talk about SEO or do we need to focus on inbound marketing techniques in a holistic way?
The final talk is from Will Critchlow & Rand Fishkin and is entitled “Head to Head – Inbound Marketing on a Shoestring Budget”.
Nowadays, there is more value in thinking up good ideas for marketing campaigns, rather than having a big budget. It is clear that SEO needs to be understood by clients in order to achieve this. Some examples: a collaboration between the Dortmunt orchestra and Dairy Farms, and The Rainforest Alliance and a coffee company producing fair trade or ethical products.
In Will Critchlow’s opinion, relationships are becoming an important factor in improving internet businesses. By the use of internal assets, crowdsourcing and community engagement, a business can better promote themselves online. In addition, the giving away of free products can help them gain visibility, and if a brand can be seen as courageous by the public, then they will gain positive media attention.
The session by Rand Fishkin is based the on the SEOmoz community best practices. Everything he said convinced me that in order to reach top positions we should forget tactics and embrace branding, social and PR strategies. Top ranking sites have tons of links from authority sites (for example BBC, the Telegraph), which can’t be achieved through traditional link building techniques.
In summary, I had a great time at the Search Love event. They offered the industry a clear insight on the future of SEO and online marketing. SEO is going back to its marketing roots, and online marketing as a whole needs to become more integrated in order to achieve its business goals. Maybe next year it should be called ‘Inbound Love’.