SMX London 2014: lessons learned

Posted by Saby Salvatierra on 22 May, 2014
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A summary of SEO and Social straight from SMX London

Since the conference last week, there have been SMX takeaways floating around left, right and center. You may have been keeping up with our live tweets or have seen our handiest tips, which you can find for both day 1 and day 2 on our blog. 

Now here’s my summary. I’ll be giving you a slightly more in-depth view of what I learned at the conference - there’s plenty here, including useful guidance on SEO and Social.

Engagement is a key factor.

Have you ever thought about how long do you stay on a site?

Think about how long you would wait to find out  the current time in London - the answer is that you wouldn’t waste more than a minute and that’s at the very most. If you’re looking for the history of London then you’re willing to search for minutes or even hours. It’s all about the type of information a user is looking for. 

Marketers: test, record, then test again

Those words began circulating around my head throughout SMX, and that’s because we were reminded many times of the importance of testing. This may sound obvious, but it’s a factor that is often forgotten. 

Janaya Wilkins (SEO Consultant, Ayima) began with focusing on sustainable campaigns.

Your team needs to get organised by planning and creating a simple framework. It’s essential to keep track of what your team are actually doing. Again, keep it simple, change one thing at a time then test and record your results - it really is textbook stuff.

When it comes down to reputation management you need to define what your success looks like. Write aims and objectives, and know your tools. Work with what you can and get yourself a research and content calendar, so you can easily look back and ask yourself did it all go to plan? If it didn’t then, adapt and refine, break down your tasks into bite sized pieces, and record and analyze what worked (and what didn’t). If it wasn’t a 100% success, then you have all the groundwork completed to help you start again -  and you should start again.

“Content is over optimized”

Grant Simmons (VP Search Strategies) said yes it is, but that it should be unoptimized. The words that stuck out were to think “thin to valuable”

It all comes down to the user. If you’ve got them on your site then you need make sure that your site is not only unique, but adding value to your user. Think about quality - doing less, but doing better. Is your site relevant to that user? 

Another question that continuously came up was - how do you become authoritative? In order to become authoritative, you need to have a good reputation, and for that you need to think of what you specialise in and focus on that. 

Quality of content

Another topic mentioned repeatedly was that the best content can’t just be any old content, it must be fresh, focused and on-topic. It’s mad to think of how many guest blog posts have been created for businesses that are either irrelevant or low quality or both!

Takeaways for writers -

  • If you have a smaller blog then try writing for a larger blog to promote your own. It will help raise your prominence as an author. 
  • Only write about what you know about and would be considered an “expert” on. 

Takeaways for businesses - 

  • Google+ is a great way to check out your potential guest bloggers and who they have written for in the past.
  • If your company only has one author, and that author decides to leave, you’re in trouble - ideally you should be using multiple authors.
  • In terms of content quality, you need to be certain that articles used are focused and well written, as that will result in better click through rates, which will have a positive effect on your site’s ranking. 

If you are going to be using guest bloggers, the content must be relevant to your blog and your audience. Use influential writers, and also research their writing before you agree to anything.

Top social tactics and the algorithm 

Alan K'necht (Partner: Analytics & Social, Digital Always Media Inc) stated that marketers need to be tracking more effectively. Suggestions included tracking brand mentions with alerts and using Google trends. There are, of course, loads of other ways of tracking brand mentions, not least of which is Twitter Search.

Engagement and knowing your audience is key, if you don’t have a community then don’t be afraid to create one - it's long haul and not going to be immediate but it can help you become influential.

Don’t be reluctant to use social media to promote your brand. It can work wonders by driving traffic and getting you ranked quickly. The lifespan of a tweet is around 30 seconds, and then it's gone, but the links remain, so you need to be using the Twitter for current updates.

If you’re not concentrating on social because it’s not in the algorithm then listen up - Alan K'necht mentioned that even if it's not in the algorithm, it gets Google looking at you - it's an indicator. Think of it this way - what was the share? How popular was the article and does it justify all of those links? Creating natural links is good for your article.  

Also, if you are not promoting your content and, no one is reading - why are search engines going to care about you?

What’s going on with Facebook?

With all the talk around Facebook, it was helpful to hear about optimizing in detail.

Bas van den Beld (Chief Editor, State of Digital) took to the stage starting with “Facebook is after our money”

Although we knew that, it’s now clearer than ever. For the audience to fully understand the Facebook update procedure Bas used an example of ‘ping pongs’, meaning every time you log into Facebook (as a user), Facebook has to choose between 15,000 competitors (ping pongs) to be seen on your news feed. So it’s becoming increasingly difficult to get noticed.

Another example - are you a fan of Starbucks? 

Well their Facebook has around 36 million likes, at one point 15% of their fans would see their updates - but now, only 1% sees unpromoted updates. Although it’s more of a challenge now, with some focus and understanding of your fans/users/customers, you can still achieve. 

You also need to ask yourself how having 100,000 likes helps your company. Look into and understand your goals and the reasoning behind them. if it turns out that loads of likes doesn’t turn into real engagement or conversion, maybe you should move on...

Understanding your audience 

If you don't understand your audience, you will never get any reach. Be proactive and follow different audiences to begin to understand them. To be successful you need to be on Facebook at the right time, right place with the right topic - it’s hard but possible. 

Facebook takeaways:

  • Emotion plays a huge role in engagement. 
  • People share on Facebook so they can look good to others. 
  • As a Facebook page owner, you are facilitating engagement and the facilitator is always underestimated. 
  • Republishing is ok. You can use the same content, just angled differently. The chances are that people didn't see it the first time. 
  • Most importantly, don't just be social, be relevant.

Get creative!

Creativity was drilled in by various speakers. 

Craig Lister (Head of Reprise Media UK) spoke about users having more access to content than ever before. It’s true; people read more than they ever have and people want more entertainment. 

When was the last time you liked a page on Facebook? If you were to go through the pages would you remember why you liked them? Probably not. 

Let's consider why you unlike pages or unsubscribe from social channels. It’s down to the page not being updated, content is annoying or irrelevant, or that you’re being talked at and not to. Keep in mind that a robust and thriving social environment involves a value exchange with your audience. 

Think about what you want as a user - content, consuming more content, and sharing content. Do you share stuff that you would talk about with your friends? The answer is most likely yes. Focus on what people talk about face to face. It’s about sharing what makes you laugh, or a bargain or discount - or something newsworthy related to your interests.

Practice what you preach

 “Treat others the way they want to be treated”. That goes for social too.

If you’re a huge fan of YouTube videos then make sure your company is utilizing videos too. Research what people around you are enjoying and use that information as a starting point. Find ways to make it work for your business. Don’t just back out and say you don’t have the budget. With platforms like Vine and Instagram it’s easy to create something unique and relevant to your business for next to nothing! 

There are no excuses, so get creative.

Does Google+ improve rankings?

Again, although not in the algorithm, Alan K'necht said that Google +1's are definitely an indicator of quality (like other platforms), and quality is a factor.

The great thing about social media is that it is incredibly accessible! it's about having a clear strategy and clear data and just deploying it. If you have a small budget, that's ok - be clear about your goals and keep the momentum going!

Twitter promoting and analytics

Again, be creative! Stand out by being unusual - having a strong  personality is one of the easiest ways to do it. 

Who are you? That’s what you need to answer before you can think about promoting your business. What is your USP? Knowing what you aren't is often easier to define than what you are.

A tip from Kelvin Newman (Founder and Managing Director, Rough Agenda) is to create an adjective list With that list you’ll be able to start to define the identity of your company. 

Twitter takeaways

  • Use Twitter analytics, it’s great!
  • With the new design in place, remember to pin your "best" tweets.
  • Implement twitter cards - especially if you are a publisher
  • Use Followerwonk more than you already do
  • Use Tweet Binder - find out who’s the most active twitter user on a particular topic, industry or event. Where are they marking top for popularity? If they are up there on impact ranking then they are most likely going to be influential and beneficial to you.
  • Promote a tweet - if you are spending time on social you should be able to spend a little bit of money on promoting. 

YouTube success

It’s the second largest search engine in the world! If you're not using YouTube you're overlooking it!

Is it essential to have a YouTube channel?Well, if your goal is to send people back to your site, then focus more on using your video on a landing page rather than in a YouTube channel.

If you're after engagement, put your video on YouTube rather than self hosting. It’s all about viral seeding. When it comes down to budget, you don’t need to spend a fortune. There are many free built-in features you should be using in YouTube such as custom annotations that can direct traffic straight back to you site and improve CTR.

There’s also a video location option in the advanced settings, meaning your video will show in local results, which is great for local SEO.

Akiva Ben-Ezra reminded everyone to transcribe videos and upload transcripts, as words will be indexed by Google, and will help your rankings. YouTube can do it for you but it’s not very accurate, so either do it yourself or use a third party tool to do it for you.

If you're building subscribers, then spend time creating a channel, as this can help your SEO efforts. Remember big brands have a ranking advantage if they have a high number of subscribers. 


I hope this has clued you up on some of what you missed at SMX. Don’t forget to check out our takeaways for day 1 and day 2 to make sure you have all 219 tips covered.

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