SEO is a very fluid industry, with changing techniques, tools and constant opportunities for learning. Here at Avenue Digital we’re keen to stay at the forefront of the industry, and with this in mind headed on down on Friday 12th September to the 2014 Brighton SEO Conference, for a day of search engine optimisation delight.

With 3 venues, 2000 attendees and over 30 speakers, there was unfortunately no way to hear all the talks on all the topics, so we had to pick and choose which we particularly wanted to hear. Usefully the sessions were thematic, and so at 10am we settled in to the Brighton Dome for SEO Strategy.

SEO Strategy: Context is King!

Ian Miller started the day with his talk about the future of Google, claiming that it is no longer a search company, but a data platform which has the ability to gather data from users in a variety of ways. Google’s $16 billion investments in new business have put the company on the path to data accumulation like no other.

As a result, Miller said, the future of search is changing. Content will soon no longer be King; Context will lead the coup for the royal top spot. With services, platforms and products such as Android phones; Chrome; Gmail; Nest; Funf; and Shopping Express, Google has the ability to gather a remarkable amount of data about a user and therefore contextualise search results so they are targeted and accurate. Miller used the example of purchasing a mountain bike.

If he has an email in his Gmail account confirming the purchase of his mountain bike, the next time he searches ‘mountain bike’ in Google, the results will be contextualised. Knowing he is probably not interested in purchasing a bike, Google will show results instead for bike accessories, cycling holidays, nearby cycling holidays.

Google has already laid the foundation for this potential, firstly with iGoogle (remember that?), Google Now, the Venice update in 2012, and the more recent Pigeon update a few weeks ago. With huge emphasis placed on localised search and individual Google experiences it appears that maybe Context will soon be wearing the SEO Crown.

Link Building: Audience Segmentation

Following the morning strategy session with Ian Miller and the likes, we made our way to the Links portion of the day with a captivating presentation from Kirsty Hulse and her approach on how to earn links through audience segmentation. She began her 20minutes of fame, with an intriguing question around the common practice of paid links and how much longer they can still work?

When it comes to link building, Hulse stated that we need to move away from paid link building and instead towards earning links through content. Not to say paid approaches do not work, but the means by which we identify audience demographics; who our audiences are and what they like, who influences our audiences (trusted by Google) and then create tailored content around this information needs to delve deeper into the consumer psyche.

And yes as you guessed it, determining and understanding audience psychographics isn’t easy, as our online personas are different to real life demographics. Kirsty then produced a number of useful audience insight tools and surveys into online consumer behaviours to help get the ball rolling - enter Google Analytics, Facebook’s Graph Search and all manner of free interest insight services and reports.

So what is the next step? Well once you have the insights, it’s time to segment your data and create content that might actually have value, by linking your audience’s motivations, key interest and platforms to create content types at no extra cost, in fact most services are free.

A few final observations we picked up from Kirsty on how to best approach adapting these practices to better know your audience and earn your links:

    • Current practice: We create content around we think people will like, put it in front of people and hope they like it
    • Future practice: Identify who our audiences and demographics are, understand what content they consume, share and how they behave online based on this, thus creating content they are really likely to like
    • Aspirational content which is less likely to convert now, however a worthwhile long-term audience (likely to engage online)

Semantics: Structured Data and Rich Snippets

And finally, after a jam packed morning of link building and contextual search, we finished off the day with a look into the semantic web with Matthew Brown and his views on where Google and the other search engines are headed with structured data, semantic search and rich snippets in search results.

Beginning with Google, Matthew assesses the holy grail of information - The Google algorithm change history, where hundreds of daily changes are catalogued for the SEO community to deliberate over. And while most of the changes are minor, Google does occasionally roll out a ‘major’ update that significantly affects the search results. In 2014, we’ve seen everything change, with the focus being all for the users, with the most recent changes being, the death of Authorship, Video snippets, as well as a crackdown on review snippets and star ratings.

Meanwhile the knowledge graph circa 2012, has been quietly rolled out in 2014, to now dominate search results, with Google utilising unstructured data, to correlate with the shift from content search to contextual search. But, just as quickly as this ‘new’ technology enters our lives, it is replaced with the very brainchild of Google - The Knowledge Vault and suspected key to Google winning the mobile ad game.

Matthew then goes on to expand on first speaker Ian Miller’s discussion about where Google is heading, in terms of Google Now, the future of SERPs and the requirement of designing for a responsive world. He also goes on to discuss the targeting of localised results, which reaffirms much of what we are already seeing in the industry; the move from desktop to mobile and available retail space for organic mobile search and contextualised search.

What Did We Learn?

The next step for search results, as was the common theme throughout each presentation from strategy to link building and semantics; search is about understanding and contextualising the user experience.

How do we link the interests, actions and purchase decisions of audiences to create more valued experiences and thereby more organic conversions? A great example Matthew used, was the Alchemy API, a cloud platform that makes it that much easier for you to create smart apps that deeply understand the world’s conversations, reports and photos so you can align your business with customer preferences and intent.

#brightSEO 2014

Overall a great day, with very informative, fun and insightful speakers, who left us feeling more confident in our knowledge and ability. And of course it wouldn’t be a day of SEO if it didn’t leave us wanting more – much conversation was had on the train ride home.

So if you’d like to know more about what the industry movers and shakers are up to and how you too can become one of the major organic search players, why not contact one of our SEO experts to get started today.

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