Search Marketing Summit 2016 – Our Top 5 Takeaways
This year’s search marketing conference in Sydney had undertaken a rebrand from SMX to SMS but what didn’t change was the quality line up of presenters from across the world who kept us informed and entertained across the three days. From Google to Disney, Wordstream to the SEM Post the big guns were out in force and there was so much to take away from the three day conference that we have only just got round to writing up our notes.
There were of course dozens of sessions over the three days and we’re not going to run through every one on our blog so we’ve decided to pick out our top five sessions and give you some of the best tips and advice we learnt over the course of three days. Some of the tips were supported by multiple presenters and there were some definite themes that cropped up throughout the week – content marketing was a big focus as was mobile so lots of great sessions around these two areas.
Here are our top five takeaways from the Search Marketing Summit 2016:
1. Accelerated mobile pages are here to stay
We may as well start off with a session from Google themselves and prominent spokesperson Gary Illyes. Gary has presented at the last two conferences and always provides some great insights and this one was no different. He provided two presentations, both with a focus on Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP). With more searches now coming from mobile than desktop, being mobile ‘friendly’ is more important than ever and AMP is the next big thing. Currently AMP is only really relevant for publishers and even then, publishers in certain countries. AMP basically delivers a paired down version of HTML with less elements to load meaning a much faster experience for the end user. You can find out more about the AMP project here: https://www.ampproject.org/
Whilst a lot of what Gary was saying focussed around the need for publishers to get their pages AMP’d, he also revealed that AMP would be coming to other areas, namely recipes and movie reviews so if you are working in those areas or you have clients in those areas, it’s time to start thinking about AMP and getting your content AMP ready. Gary did say that we should all think seriously about the time needed to implement AMP and whether the benefits would be worth it. For many companies in NZ, it’s not worth the time investment at present. AMP has not even reached Australia yet which usually had a head start on NZ when it comes to new Google developments so we could be some way off still, however if you are a publisher, recipe or movie review site, it is probably wise to be prepared and ready to go when AMP does launch here in NZ.
Tip: Here at Digital Hothouse, we think that in due course, AMP will be introduced to every type of web page that displays on mobile. This is likely to be at least 18 months away, however with such a big focus on improving the mobile experience and speed being one of the key factors in that, we can’t see why Google would not want more pages to be AMP’d, meaning a much faster experience no matter where you are in the world. Watch this space.
2. Choice is not a good thing online
One of our favourite presenters at the conference was one we have never seen before: Tim Ash from Site Tuners. Like Gary, Tim presented a couple of sessions as well as running a site clinic looking at some of the faux pas companies are making with the design on their site. Tim’s big focus was around choice and how too many websites provide too many choices for users. By presenting lots of different options to the end user, you are making it harder for them to make a decision and this could lead to them going elsewhere.
By reducing complexity with a series of simple selections (Tim suggested a maximum of four choices at any stage of the purchase funnel) you make it much easier for the user to make a choice. Take this example:
The screen on the left featuring five different payment options is just confusing to the user. By reducing the number of options to just three on the right, Dish saw a 60% uplift in conversions. Tim also talked about the way you present information on your site, especially around pricing. You will see in the example above that the page on the left shows the prices ascending from left to right whereas the page on the right has the most expensive price first. Try playing around with the order you display things to users to influence their decision making.
Another big part of Tim’s presentations and clinics over the three days was about movement on your homepage or landing pages. Movement is distracting. Sliders, autoplay videos or anything else that moves when someone lands on your page is going to immediately draw someone’s attention away from the actual content on that page. Get rid of them now. Remove your sliders. Remove your autoplay videos. Make it easier for people to consume the information you want them to read on the page and make it easier for them to get to where you need them to go.
3. How to create mind blowing content marketing ROI
With content marketing focus front and centre, we really loved the presentation by Jeremy Cabral, Head of Publishing & Editorial at finder.com.au. Jeremy’s presentation focused on how to achieve outstanding ROI from your content marketing efforts and he broke this down into three key factors:
- 10x content idea
Finder.com.au have become the go to site in Australia for comparing anything from insurance to energy, tech and telco to travel and everything in between. As well as providing great comparison tools, they also provide a lot of content through their news and blog section. A lot of these articles focus on driving traffic to the site and they publish multiple articles across various sectors each day. The key to success with their content marketing efforts, whether it’s a new tool that allows users to compare the AU Netflix library with the US library or a blog post that relates to something current is ticking all three of those boxes above.
10x content idea
Finder identify a 10x content idea as something that is a combination of interesting, valuable and has brand benefit. They resource a hook – something that provides unique value and then try and leverage their own data. By using your own data and not publicly available information, you are creating something unique that is impossible to replicate. Carrying out your own market research, using analytics data – whatever you have at your disposal that is not available to your competitors helps to make your content unique and 10x better than anything else out there.
This means working out how far your competitors are willing to go to provide a piece of content. If you are willing to go further, then this is when you achieve hustle. It’s about wanting to be the best on the internet for a piece of content you are working on and not settling for producing just another piece of content to tick a box. If you don’t have the expertise or knowledge to get something done quickly, leverage freelancers with those relevant skills so you can be first and best with a piece of content.
The Launchpad is what you need to propel your content out into the wider world and this doesn’t just come overnight. Become a regular contributor on social news sites like Reddit – you can’t just drop into these platforms and expect your content to perform well. You can also pre-pitch your ideas to news sites and get them involved from the start. You do have to be careful that they can’t just steal your idea for themselves which is where using your own data is valuable. Getting to know journalists is also a good idea. Holding regular meet ups even when you have nothing to pitch means that when you do have something valuable, they are much more likely to engage with you. Finally, paid amplification should be part of your content Launchpad – getting your content in front of relevant and targeted eyes can help to grow the reach of the content quickly and ensure a successful launch of your content.
4. Keeping things lean and mean – crawl optimisation
As well as some great presentations on content marketing, Jason Mun of Bespoke provided a really great talk about crawl optimisation and the importance of keeping things lean and mean. Crawling what spiders can and can’t crawl and what they should and shouldn’t index plays a crucial role in SEO and making sure that the pages you need and want to be indexed and crawled are. A big part of this is ensuring that Google are not crawling pointless pages on your site that add no value – this is especially true for large ecommerce sites.
Jason identified a number of ways of checking that your site is optimised for crawling by Google (and other search bots). Here are some of his top tips:
- Check for discrepancies between crawled and indexed pages. You can do this by running a site search in Google using site:digitalhothouse.co.nz for example and seeing how many pages are indexed and then using a tool like Screaming Frog to compare
- Check your XML sitemap to make sure that the number of URLs submitted matches the number of URLs that are indexed by Google – this should be a close match
- Crawl the sites that you manage on a regular basis using a tool like Deepcrawl – you can set monthly repeats that allow you to compare crawl to see the changes that have occurred and any issues will be flagged
- You should be monitoring crawl stats on a weekly basis – check for any anomalies in the number of pages crawled and those number of pages indexed
Making your crawl more efficient means that more of the content you want to be crawled and indexed can be and the stuff that doesn’t matter is ignored. Many people overlook this technical aspect of SEO, however it is an important cog in the SEO wheel and one that shouldn’t be ignored. If there are fundamental issues with your crawling and indexing, this will cause other problems with your onsite SEO so get the foundations right and build from there.
5. How to win the battle for Google snippets
Picking the last session was a tricky one – there were so many good ones but we do want to keep some of our top tips up our sleeves and well as giving you some actionable tips to take away. The final one is how to claim those featured snippets every business craves – a great session presented by Jennifer Slegg, Founder and Editor at the SEM Post.
Google Snippets are an increasingly important piece of real estate in the search results pages with the snippet showing above the traditional organic blue links. Whilst many see these snippets as a threat to click throughs – it is true that certain featured snippets do negate the need for a user to click through to a website by presenting information directly in the SERP, there is also evidence that those websites that have a featured snippets do pick up search traffic directly from the snippet.
Jennifer identified a number of ways to improve your chances of ‘claiming’ a featured snippet:
- Keep your answers short – provide a direct answer to the question that offers up a featured snippet result and keep it to a maximum of two sentences
- Try and ensure you include an image in the featured snippet – this will increase the likely CTR from the featured snippet and draw more attention to the snippet. Make sure you use the og:tag and include alt text and a keyword rich image title for a better chance of the image appearing
- Snippets love tables and lists – identify whether you can use a list or table to better answer a questions where a featured snippet appears in the SERP
- Always check your own content to see if you already have any featured snippets and make sure you don’t dilute your own content or worse, delete/remove pages that have a featured snippet
As well as looking at featured snippets, Jennifer’s session also looked at related questions and how to break into this space. These definitely differ from featured snippets and some of the related questions had results that didn’t even rank on page one for the initial query. You can also use related questions to help drive your content strategy and get ideas for content.
Best of the rest – come and talk to us
Some of the other sessions that were perhaps the most insightful included:
- Link building and Penguin recovery – Sha Menz
- Writing the right content – Aleyda Solis
- Building links with content syndication – Greg Boser
- Hacking Rankbrain – Larry Kim
- Scaling a digital army – Clayton Wood
- UX + SEO = Experience Optimisation (XO) – Bill Hunt
- Integrating paid and organic search – Bill Hunt
- Using PHP to reclaim your organic keyword data – Rob Kerry
- How to properly use data to develop your content strategy – Greg Boser
- Website domain migration – Patrick Kajirian
There were some extremely useful tips that we will be implementing for our current clients from these sessions, especially the sessions from Bill Hunt and Greg Boser. Whilst we’d love to share everything we learnt with you, some things we like to keep for our clients and make sure we continue to deliver the consistently high level or performance our clients have come to expect.
If you want to find out more about how we can help you and your business, be sure to drop us a line and you can tap into even more of our SEO expertise.