I'll expand on some of the quotes here, and you'll see some pictures of some of the slides from the presentations. Enjoy...
Day 1 (you can find Day 2 right here)
Keynote: The state of Search
Maile Ohye, Developer Programs Tech Lead at Google gave the keynote speech, which in some ways was a bit of Google PR, and in other ways an opportunity for Google to say "This is where we're at, and we're still learning". There was much talk of the importance of being optimized for mobile devices, and Ohye took the opportunity to recognise that some of the communication around the measurement and reporting tools available to site owners could be better (and that they were still working on it). Some of the more memorable lines from her talk (and the Q&A) were:
"today's challenge is serving users on multiple devices"
...and a quick history lesson:
In 1998, search was about matching search strings in web pages.
2006 brought sitemaps and results for .mobi sites (remember .mobi sites?)
2007 brought Universal search - news, videos, all kinds of goodness!
2011 - schema.org allowed site owners to tell Google more about content with entities and attributes - "things, not strings"
2015 - search results now give direct answers to questions like "who is Will Smith?"
"Search isn't just about ranking - it's about conversions too"
"Google continues to experiment and iterate with search, indexing and ranking between devices
During the Q&A, one question that came up was around Google giving direct answers to questions on the SERP page rather than giving the traffic to a web page that held that information. Maile's answer was polite, but direct:
"If you have a website, you have to evolve as well - what worked as information in 2005, is just a commodity in 2015. If Google search didn't give answers that were on other websites, people wouldn't use it for search as much."
"Protecting search against scapers is a "double digit figure for google" (think $10M plus) because it impacts users so much."
"Google is never looking to 'take traffic' from other sites, rather, it's trying to 'serve searchers' as best it can.""
"The recent work on mobile indexing and serps is just at the beginning - it's going to continue"
...and perhaps the most pertinent tip that Google can offer site owners wanting more traffic from Search:
Keywords are dead
I know that's not what you'd expect from Wordtracker, but to be clear, it's not keyword research that's dead; just the practice of dropping keywords into the 'right places' on a web page and expecting them to get you to rank automatically. Rather, this talk referred to the growing practice of using groups of keywords to describe entities and topics. @Kirsty_Hulse, @Dixon_Jones and @ipullrank took us through some of these concepts.
"voice search has doubled over the past year" (@Kirsty_Hulse)
Google has got very good at conversational search, and voice queries are much more conversational: (@Kirsty_Hulse)
"who is the prime minister > what school did he go to > whe else went to that school" - Google will answer all of these questions properly, and in order:
"google understands the language of speech - we're having conversations with our devices" (@Kirsty_Hulse)
"if you don't have a mobile-friendly presence, Google's tools & guides are a good starting point" (@Kirsty_Hulse)
"only 0.3% of sites have schema.org implemented" (@Kirsty_Hulse)
(schema.org is becoming more and more relevant; it was mentioned many times during the course of the day)
"Google Now could be the way that SERPs are heading - SEOs should be ready for this" (@Kirsty_Hulse)
"even though a keyword's trend might be in decline, volumes can still be HUGE #poker" (@Kirsty_Hulse)
"forums, user generated content and faq pages are great resources for answering questions searchers ask" (@Kirsty_Hulse)
"Google categorizes by data type and uses groups of data in its index to show best results" (@Dixon_Jones)
"...but marketers are more interested in topics than data groups..." (@Dixon_Jones)
"The PageRank algorithm applied to Wikipedia pages only shows that Swedish botanist Carl Linnaeus was more influential than Hitler or Jesus" (@Dixon_Jones)
"Connections between web pages are very similar to the connections between people" (@Dixon_Jones)
"keywords are the vehicle by which people search to fulfil a need" (@ipullrank)
"you can control the online conversation if you're big enough to create the keyword for search" (@ipullrank)
This comment was in reference to large brands creating offline campaigns that would lead their audience to search for a particular keyword - which is a great strategy, if you have the budget for it!
Creating Blockbuster content
"video is a really important tool online that doesn't get enough attention" (@andyatkinskruge)
"content should be 100% dedicated to customer needs - no advertising, and no fee to view" (@andyatkinskruge)
"presenting video 'news' relevant to your audience breaks through the noise and generates referrals" (@andyatkinskruge)
"hiring in expertise can help when creating blockbuster content" (@andyatkinskruge)
"youtube has amazing tools to measure engagement" (@andyatkinskruge)
"internal company newsletters can be an arena for inspiring stories for content generation" (@andyatkinskruge)
"Typeform is a visually attractive way to survey your audience" (@Yaelkochman)
"interactive landing pages can increase conversions" (@Yaelkochman)
(Wordtracker's home page is interactive... just sayin'!)
"providing ready made spreadsheets for complex or dull tasks can really help to engage customers" (@Yaelkochman)
"create meaningful experiences to make your brand memorable" (@Yaelkochman)
"content is just a platform for creating audiences of value" (@simonpenson)
"There's no better place than Facebook for starting to build data on your audience" (@simonpenson)
"align your personas to famous people wherever you can!" (@simonpenson)
(this makes them memorable, and easier for your team to relate to them)
There's a content strategy toolkit available at zazzlemedia.co.uk/content-strategy-toolkit - I've not checked it out in detail, but there are a few handy things there!
The most common SEO mistakes, and how to fix them
Everyone loves to have their mistakes pointed out to them... well, perhaps when that comes with actionable advice. @lauracrimmons, @MrJonPayne and @ArnieK (who once made recommendations to a site whose traffic then doubled) shared some wisdom around SEO errors, both for existing sites and sites undergoing migration.
"repurpose your most important links when you're doing a site migration" (@lauracrimmons)
"Links: it's not about quantity" (@lauracrimmons)
"You don't need to pay for links - it's far better to generate the good content. You're not smarter than Google." (@lauracrimmons)
"It's not all about links any more. On-site content and UX matter a lot more now." (@lauracrimmons)
"Having too many CTAs can mean you risk just sending people back to the SERPs - they're not necessarily ready to buy directly from their search. Presume only 1% of your traffic is ready to buy - the rest are still doing research" (@lauracrimmons)
"Make your content visible to the customer rather than hidden away in a separate part of the site" (@lauracrimmons)
"The most common SEO problems include bad and duplicate title tags, and poor or thin content" (@ArnieK)
"If you confuse Google, you will lose" (@ArnieK)
"Businesses that provide the right information to Google will win" (@ArnieK)
"Always include images (or even video) in your content " (@ArnieK)
"Images: reduce file size, use relevant keywords in filenames, include sensible alt & title attributes. Context matters. " (@ArnieK)
"when optimizing videos on YouTube, use the Tags, which can help your video appear in the 'suggested' or 'similar' videos section" (@ArnieK)
"list all of your content ideas in a spreadsheet and put them together in an editorial calendar" (@ArnieK)
"relaunching your website? make sure you've done a 301/302 redirect map from the old site..." (@MrJonPayne )
"check that your 404 page returns a 404 status and not 200" (@MrJonPayne )
"check the quality of urls, titles, alt text, meta descriptions and ensure that your marketing department hasn't de-seo'd the language there" (@MrJonPayne )
"check you have the correct analytics account and property in place" (@MrJonPayne )
"use Google's mobile-friendly test tool" (@MrJonPayne )
"use Screaming Frog to check for duplication on subdomains, page titles and descriptions" (@MrJonPayne )
"make sure you've removed 'no index' from your pages, and that you've removed 'disallow' from robots.txt" (@MrJonPayne )
"post-launch - test all of your forms and buying process to make sure they work!" (@MrJonPayne )
"after about a week, check WebMaster Tools for any issues" (@MrJonPayne )
That's it for our Day 1 roundup - we'll have more for you for Day 2!
If you have any other tips, hints or takeaways to share from SMX, just drop them in the comments!