SMX has become one of the largest search marketing conferences in the world, with session across Europe, North America and Australia. Last week, on the April 15th and 16th it came to London and, being Londoners ourselves, we doffed our caps, boarded a big red bus, and off we went. ‘We’ in this case being Julie McNamee, Mal Darwen and me
When we were there we were busily, frantically, scribbling down the speakers' pearls of wisdom, so if you’ve not read our 213 top tips you should now. But that was really only half of it, a few (hundred) tips to improve your marketing. There were also some really great discussions and clear themes that kept emerging. So I’m going to talk you through them if you couldn’t make it. And frankly, even if you could.
The Cookie Monster
For those who don’t know, the European Union recently enacted legislation requiring all webmasters to get the express consent of their users before they use any cookies. I’m not a lawyer, so this isn’t legal advice, but if you want more juicy information on what the law actually says, the UK government have explained it all here. SMX was dominated by talk about what this means, and how webmasters should respond.
Several clear threads emerged. Firstly, don’t try to dupe your users. Most marketers agreed that the more consent you ask of your customers, the happier and more engaged they will be. Yes, you might have fewer of them, but one consented customer is better than 50 who think they’re being tricked. Lisa Williams of Media Forte Marketing regularly gets her database of customers to opt in twice to email marketing campaigns. She does this simply because it works, so maybe if you take the time to explain cookies to your customers, you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the result?
Naturally the question on everyone’s lips was something along the lines of “But what should I do to not get sued?” Again this isn’t legal advice, I’m only the messenger, reporting on the views of non-lawyers. But the consensus seems to be that as a minimum, you should have a page on your website explaining what cookies you use and why. Written in a language your customers are likely to understand. After that, the chances are, the EU will go after one of the big boys first as a test case. So if you’re not Google, Facebook or MSN you should be OK for the time being. Did I mention this isn’t legal advice? That, by the way, is something you should get.
Oh, and the law protects EU customers (lucky us!) so if your site targets people in the EU, you’re still expected to comply. Of course, the powers that be are unlikely to go after all but the biggest non-EU sites but y’know, you didn’t hear that from me. You know what else you didn’t here from me? Legal advice.
Google+, the much-mocked social network from Google is becoming more and more central to its products. In the States it’s launched ‘Search Plus Your World’, which isn’t coming to Europe (or anywhere else?) yet. Or at least the date hasn’t been specified. No word also on whether the powers-that-be will think of a better name. (If anyone from Google is reading this, you should, in my honest opinion.)
We’ll be writing a lot more on Google Plus in the future, but the central theme is this: links are broken. Measuring sites by how many links they get is becoming less and less relevant as online behavior changes and fewer people (relatively) have their own sites to link from. It’s all Facebook, Twitter etc. With Google+, (can we just call it ‘Plus’?) Google is tapping into your real life. What are you an authority in? Why do your recommendations matter and how helpful are they to your friends? And your friends of friends? All these questions will be addressed by Google over the coming months. And by Wordtracker, obviously.
Panda-monium and Penguin, er, onium
SMX wouldn’t be SMX without endless discussions about Google’s latest antics. Like SMXs of yore, 2012 was no exception. Most discussions centered around panicked webmasters wondering what they could possibly do to reverse a drop in traffic. And actually, on a related note, talked about living in the world of the not-provided. (Where analytics doesn’t give you traffic volumes for an (increasing) number of keywords).
While the discussion was animated, a consensus emerged. As quality-oriented webmasters, you shouldn’t be trying to get traffic for individual keywords, so actually, that information doesn’t matter. Instead, look at how many people arrive at that page from Google. Focusing on a tiny number of keywords (oftentimes, just one) encourages you to manipulate the Google algorithm and essentially do more and more black hat (bad) things.
Similarly, the Penguin and Panda updates shouldn’t have affected you if you were doing the right thing – creating great content and only getting links from sites that ultimately linked to your site because they wanted to. Google’s algorithm is becoming increasingly sophisticated. Stop the black hat stuff. And don’t expect keyword traffic data back any time soon.
Well, that was SMX London 2012, surely the biggest to thing to happen in London this year. We’ll be back for next year’s. Will we see you there?