Gavin Hirst - Tuesday 26th May 2015

SMX Sydney – Day 1 Review – Mobile Friendly, Answer Boxes, Link Building and more

You’ve probably seen our top 10 highlights from our recent trip to SMX Sydney but now we want to put some flesh on the bone and really give you some more detailed hints and tips which could help your business online.

Here is a run down from the main talks on day 1 – there was just too much to put all 3 days into one blog post!

Dr Pete Meyers – Moz

This year’s event was kicked off in style by Dr Pete from Moz who gave a really insightful keynote looking at how Google is evolving and the way a SERP (search engine results page) looks today is much different from 5 years ago. Today, with answer boxes, local snack packs, knowledge graph results, advertising, news packs and in-depth results, there can be as few as four organic results on the first page of a Google SERP – just four! So instead of competing for 10 potential spots on the first page of Google, this only goes to emphasise the importance of targeting those top 3 organic results for a given keyword.

Here were some of the take aways from Dr Pete’s session and you can find the slides here:

  • The days of the 10 result SERP are over
  • Often no organic results ‘above the fold’
  • Type of search result differs by country but we will soon start to see the roll out of more of these ‘pack’ results across all countries
  • Starting to see the emergence of ‘mega videos’ (try Googling ‘never gonna give you up’ to see what we mean)
  • Google is becoming a content creator – in the US, they are starting to populate SERPs with information they have commissioned themselves – currently this is around medical terms but this is sure to expand and will start to put some online companies out of business
  • Must consider all the options – you can now start advertise in knowledge graph results and this is particular pertinent to local search
  • Google continues to blur the lines between paid and organic search with paid results looking much more native
  • Think about how search results appear on a mobile device – a lot of the recent changes to the ways SERPs display have been created for mobile first and look clunky on desktop
  • Apps are now taking up valuable real estate on mobile SERPs – can sometime take up to 6 out of the 10 results on page 1

So, we can see that Google is evolving and the work of an SEO is starting to look a little different to a couple of years ago although the fundamentals remain the same. But what can we be doing moving forward to ensure we keep ahead (or at least keep up with) the curve?

  • What are you currently doing in the new spaces – answer boxes, local packs, knowledge graph results, paid advertising space?
  • Are you testing on android devices to see what results are coming up? Can no longer rely on information from tools like Accuranker who might tell you that you are appearing 8th in the SERPs for a specific term but what does 8th actually look like?
  • Are you looking at what is happening in the US? New ideas are often rolled out there first before being pushed into other countries – try and keep ahead of the game and anticipate changes

Benj Arriola – Internet Marketing Inc

Next up was Benj Arriola, an SEO Architect at Internet Marketing Inc who talked about the differences between link building and content marketing. There has been much talk about whether or not link building is dead and we are of the same opinion of Benj – it’s definitely not dead. Links are still a vote of credibility, trust and authority and as such as still a strong indicator to Google of a site’s relevance. What has changed is the way we now acquire those links.

Benj went on to talk about content marketing and how this ties in with link acquisition – you should not be doing content marketing just for the links but instead use content marketing to build relationships – this doesn’t always deliver tangible results, especially immediately but it still adds value and builds the brand (more about building brands later).

Key points from Benj’s session:

  • Still some value in links from PR sites – you must have quality, newsworthy content
  • Content marketing is not just about blogging – look at all types of content including infographics, videos, images, whitepapers etc
  • Forum links can also still add some value – you have got to jump onto relevant forums and post up content that adds value to the discussion – it is not just about posting links – build relationships and become an authority on a topic and link as and when appropriate
  • Guest blogging is not dead – has to be done the right way and again it boils down to the quality of the content and the relevance of the site you are guest blogging on or the person who is blogging on your site

Dan Petrovic – Dejan SEO

Following on from Benj was Dan Petrovic, Founder of Dejan SEO in Australia who followed up nicely with a whistle stop tour of the fine art of link earning. We say whistle stop as he managed to get through an impressive 144 slides in just 30 minutes, which according to his Twitter account was a new record! There were so many valuable take away points from Dan’s session that it was hard to keep up with our note taking but here goes!

  • Link outreach work doesn’t stop when you see you have received a new link – follow up with a thank you
  • Links have to be earned – for this to happen, the content has to be quality
  • News is great for generating links – it is on topic and on trend so see if you can hop on to the latest news and add value with your own content
  • 2015 is the year of earning links – not buying or begging for them
  • Carry out link outreach work before you even create the content – get people to contribute to the content and you get their buy in from the very start – once the content goes live, they are much more likely to link to it
  • Find followers and influencers in your field and target those who are more likely to engage with you
  • Refresh old pages – if you notice a page is getting lots of organic traffic but the content is old and out of date, refresh it and give people a better experience when they find it

You can find the slides on the Dejan SEO website –

Sha Menz – Rmoov

Following Dan’s speed tour on earning links was Sha Menz from Rmoov with a session on Penguin Penalty prevention – something that we have been involved with so this was a session we were looking forward to. One thing that became clear listening to Sha was that work we have carried out doing link disavowal has been done the right way. It’s a complex minefield and it was good to get some reassurance that we were working towards best practice. Here are some of the key points from Sha’s session:

  • We should be looking for links that are unnatural rather than bad. This means looking at links from sites with no relevance rather than those with a poor domain
  • It’s a percentage game – look at the volume of natural to unnatural links
  • First stage is to assess risk – high value anchor text, not relevant, manipulative or SEO focussed intent, scaled and repeated – these are some of the key signs of an unnatural link
  • Need to make sure you look at all the variants of a website you are disavowing (www, http, https) as Google will look at all of these
  • Best practice is to disavow an entire domain – only disavow individual links from high value domains or specific edge cases

This brought lunch on a full on first morning at SMX Sydney 2015 and time to take a breather.

Gary Illyes – Google

The afternoon sessions were kicked off by Gary Illyes from Google who was talking about the things we might not know about mobile SEO. We found Gary to be a highly engaging presenter throughout the three days, providing some really valuable insights into how Google works and the direction they are taking – his one take away for the week was to think about what the future will look like in 5 years and start to plan for that – big thinking stuff!

The key points from Gary’s session included:

  • Google are not currently using page load speed as a ranking factor on mobile devices…but they soon will be so make sure you have got your page load speed in order. It goes without saying that a page that has a slow page load speed is not mobile friendly
  • Controversially, Gary said that user experience will never be more important that content – a statement that gathered a fair bit of coverage on the SEO news vines however we completely get where he is coming from – user experience is a ranking factor but content has over 200 signals – making it easy for users to find your content is part of UX anyway so they kind of go hand in hand
  • Interestingly, Google consider tablets to be a desktop device so the mobile friendly algorithm does not affect results on a tablet – Gary also does not like tablets.

Jeff Preston – Disney Interactive

Next up was Jeff Preston, SEO Manager at Disney Interactive with a really interesting talk about successfully moving sites from one domain to another, something that they have a lot of first-hand experience with at Disney. The key point to take away from this session was about the planning. Disney created a robust launch plan which was tested to breaking point to ensure the smooth migration moving from one domain to another. One key learning they took from moving sites from one domain to another was that a clean move that was done quickly had less impact on SEO than gradually migrating a site – rip that plaster straight off!

Jonas Weber – SEO Consultant

Following Jeff was Jonas Weber, a former Googler who was part of the search quality team with a session on ranking issues which are not all caused by Penguin and Panda. In his session, Jonas talked us through the process he goes through to check a client’s site if they are seeing ranking problems, working from level to level until the problem has been identified. Other things covered by Jonas included:

  • Checking branded vs non-branded keywords
  • Checking commercial vs non-commercial keywords
  • Making sure your keywords rank for the right page
  • Double check your robots.txt file and make sure you are not losing juice – is Google able to crawl your pages effectively?
  • Technical changes – keep a diary of any technical changes you make and algorithm changes so you can map any ranking ups and downs against those changes

William Sears – Disney Interactive

Next up was another of the Disney Interactive guys, William Sears who heads up the Disney Interactive Digital Team. William’s talk was geared up to those companies who are competing for rankings in the App market as well as other platforms and search sites such as Amazon, YouTube and LinkedIn and how to get your content to stand out on those platforms. William provided some really fascinating insights and tips to consider across all of these platforms – here are some of the best:

  • App stall ranking are driven by installs – people love an incentive to download an app so look at how this can work for your organisation to drive your rankings in the App stores
  • YouTube – make sure you are optimising the meta data, thumbnail and annotations – including a transcript allows you to put large chunks of optimised copy in different languages and can be a great way of increasing ranking
  • On console like Apple TV, offer incentives for people to move your App on their screen so it appears at the top – simply showing them how to do it can be a good way of engaging
  • Amazon have their own search engine so you need to consider how to get your pages ranking if that is a platform you operate on – product description, user reviews and number of purchases all impact on the results
  • LinkedIn – if you are using this professionally you can boost your profile views and engagement by ‘stalking’ people – check out their profile or give them an endorsement – they will probably check your profile out and improve your own visibility

The day was rounded off by Kevin Grobler from Bing who presented more of a sales pitch selling the benefits of using Bing and advertising through them. He also ran through a demo of their virtual assistant, Cortana, however this was unfortunately not up to the same level as the OK Google demo on day 2 so make sure you catch up with our SMX Day 2 highlights post.

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