Gavin Hirst - Tuesday 26th May 2015

SMX Sydney – Day 3 Review – New organic opportunities, HTTPS and insider information

So the final day of SMX Sydney 2015 arrived and with much anticipation as this was the day of the SEO Workshop, a much more intimate event with around 40 people attending and a chance to get some really good tips off some of the best SEOs in the world. Bring it on!

Dr Pete Meyers – Moz

First up was Dr Pete from Moz who opened up with a talk about the new organic opportunities that exist within Google and how to take advantage of these. He started off by hitting us with some pretty scary stuff when it comes to monitoring rankings:

  • Ranking number 1 organically can mean you appear below the fold
  • There can be as few as 4 organic spots in a Google SERP

With these two stats ringing in our ears, Dr Pete went on to talk about the opportunities to take advantage of the new and emerging organic opportunities including:

  • Answer boxes
  • News items
  • In Depth pack (3 results often found at the bottom of a SERP and not easily identifiable)
  • Knowledge Graph
  • Apps

All of these not only take away organic positions in the SERPs but also provide opportunities for those who structure their content correctly (the use of Schema mark up can help Google to know more about the content you are publishing for example). Dr Pete went on to say that it is important that you get some ‘big signals’ pointing to your content. These can often be social signals and set you out as an authority on a topic, giving you a far greater chance of appearing in the knowledge graph, in-depth results and answer boxes.

In terms of the answer boxes, Dr Pete gave some useful advice on how to rank for these and take that space either from your competitors or create content that could provide an answer to an often asked question. Carry out some research and see if answer boxes appear for any key terms you are targeting. If they do and you aren’t the ones providing the answer, is their content you can create that better answers the questions. It is important that you already rank on page one organically for the term but if you do, then opportunities exist.

Benj Arriola – Internet Marketing Inc

Next up was Benj, one of our favourite presenters from the week who was talking about the alignment of usability, SEO and CRO (conversion rate optimisation). Benj provided some really useful insights into conversion and making sure when people get to your site, they can easily access the information they are looking for, not information you want to give them.

  • If people have navigated to your content via Google, make sure the landing page they enter at meets the query they have used to arrive at your page and then give them a path to conversion
  • If people are landing on a content page created by you to meet a demand (i.e. instructions, a top 10 list etc) then although your goal is not conversion at this stage, make sure your navigation enables them to get there if they need to further down the line
  • Make sure conversions is not a KPI of your content marketing efforts

Benj went on to talk about the SEO side and actually driving the traffic to your site in the first place and made a great point about links, “A small number of links can have a big impact on the search results for keywords…articles that attract links from high authority domains have a big impact…links to content marketing pages help to drive rankings or product pages on the same domain so content marketing contributes to the overall strength of the domain authority.”

Jeff Preston – Disney Interactive

Next up we had Jeff from Disney Interactive who was talking specifically about optimising your content for the App Store or Google Play store. Disney release a lot of content via apps so this is a crucial part of their Digital Strategy and it was interesting to see the different areas you can optimise in the different stores:

  • IOS App Store – doesn’t look at the description (which can be up to 4,000 characters) as a ranking factor so focus on writing a persuasive description
  • Make sure your meta data (keywords, title etc) is right from the start as it is a difficult process to go back and change this in the App Store – you would have to release a new version of the app
  • Good to cross-promote the app once it launches via your website and YouTube – make sure you use the official url to link to the app

One big question they always ask is whether they should drive traffic directly to the App store or to a dedicated landing page on their website where they link to the app – they always send traffic to the website; that way if the app is removed, they still retain the link equity on the website.

  • Google Play Store – you are only allowed 30 characters for the title so it is crucial you get it right – carry out in depth keyword research to see which terms drives the highest volume
  • In contrast to the App Store, you can change the description in Google Play every day so make sure you keep tweaking this using keywords that drive a high volume of searches – Google Play does use the description as a ranking factor
  • You can also link out to your website’s landing page (followed link) from the Google Play store so make sure you do this

Jeff then went on to talk about other ways of optimising your content (both organic and paid) and talked about advertising your game/app within other popular apps as a great way to drive downloads. Having fin and engaging screenshots and a video can really help to entice a user – does it look like a fun and interesting game to play?

Brent Payne – Loud Interactive

Next up was Brent Payne from Loud Interactive who was definitely one of the most engaging speakers at the event and it was clear that he really pushes the SEO boundaries in order to achieve great results in the SEO field.

Brent talked about how his company had helped a client to dominate in the competitive area of ‘jobs’ by targeting smaller towns and cities first where the company operated out of. By building up strong ranking in these areas and dominating the keywords around jobs, this made it much easier for them when they went after the bigger cities like New York where they almost ‘sneaked’ up on the big players who weren’t even looking at these smaller towns and cities.

Brent also talked about getting valuable back links from those companies who rank for keywords that you are chasing but are maybe located from 21-100. These sites clearly have some optimisation for those terms otherwise they wouldn’t appear but they are probably not a direct competitor. By getting backlinks from these sites, you are acquiring extremely relevant links from sites that whilst they are not ranking on page 1, they do carry significant weight for those terms.

Gary Illyes – Google

Next up we welcomed Gary back for the first time today and he gave a really helpful insight into https and the benefits of this. As most will be aware, Google recommended some time back that sites switched from http to https and that there would be ‘some’ rank allocated to those sites that were secure.

Gary also talked about page load speed as we got a bit off topic fro https, talking about significant ranking factors and Gary made it clear that at Google, everything they do is with page load speed in mind. If something slows down the page load speed by more than 20ms, then it will not be pushed out (Gary gave the example of the mobile friendly tag on the SERP which had to add less than 20ms to the page load speed in order to be included). Given the focus Google places on their own page load speed, it is safe to say that this is a pretty important ranking factor and one you should be looking at very closely.

Ian McAnerin – McAnerin International

We kicked off the afternoon with a great session by Ian McAnerin who talked us through a technical SEO audit and the stages he goes through. The audit covered everything you should be looking at on and off site and we learnt a lot from this – in the whole, we are doing everything that was included but there were a couple of minor tweaks for us to add to our own technical audit so if you want to have your site looked at, why not come to us for a free SEO audit and see what we do here at Digital Hothouse.

One thing that stuck with us was the way Ian described the importance of carrying out a technical audit, “It’s like having the best car at the races but it’s got a flat tyre” – if you have a load of great content but there are underlying technical flaws, you’re still not going to see improved rankings so make sure you get your house in order. Interestingly when talking about copy length, Ian mentioned that 300-500 words used to be considered best practice, now this can stretch to anything over 1,000 words as people become used to scrolling through content on hand held devices without considering the length as much.

William Sears – Disney Interactive

Next up we welcomed William back on stage from Disney Interactive who gave us a fascinating display of the tracking carried out at Disney for specific keywords. By using specific tools to monitor a whole range of keywords across a number of different Disney brands, it is possible for them to track spikes and drops in rankings, analyse why these might occur, look at keywords that they need to do more work on and make sure they track any major updates either in-house of by Google and monitor those changes to their rankings.

For us a Digital Hothouse, this was pretty reassuring as we are constantly checking keyword ranking data for all our clients to see where tweaks can be made, content created to target keywords and monitoring change over time.

William Sears and Jeff Preston – Disney Interactive

Next up the Disney Interactive boys took to the stage together to present a session on site migration mega moves. This is not something we have come across with any of our clients, however it was interesting to see the process the Disney go through when migrating huge sites. The key take away from this session – get a huge checklist in place that accounts for every eventuality and plan a series of run throughs to make sure everyone knows what they should be doing and when. Another good point to take away was about setting the expectation for your bosses when you migrate a huge site – always estimate a 50% drop off in traffic during that time followed by a 17% rise after 6-12 months!

The final session of the day was called Give it up and featured all our presenters giving us their top tips if they could share only one thing. This was a behind closed door session with no Tweeting allowed so sadly we can’t share directly with you what we learnt in this session but let’s say we have some pretty awesome insights which we will be more than happy to implement for our clients so why not get in touch if you are looking to do more business online and let us share our expertise.

If you want a quick recap of the best highlights of all 3 days of SMX Sydney 2015, be sure to check out our other blog post.

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