Main Takeaways from SES London
By Marion Hirtzig - Head of Digital Marketing.
4 days, 3 keynotes, 36 talks and around 500 attendees from all over the world: that was SES London 2014, which took place from 11th to 13th February - with a day of workshops on the 10th. At the moment everyone who could make it to San Jose, California, is at SMX West, but SES London still remains a major event in the UK.
At Orantec we do everything from website creation to digital marketing, and SES London was the first digital conference I have attended. The 3 days of talks gave me a great insight into what to expect for 2014, and a lot of great tips to take away.
With updates like Penguin, Panda and Hummingbird, the SEO landscape has changed a lot in a very short time, and I really enjoyed listening to experts talk about the best practices for the year to come – and sometimes reminisce of the good old days when link-building was as easy as a phone call. If you didn't have the opportunity to attend SES London 2014, I would like to share with you what stood out for me, and what Digital Marketing experts predict for the year to come.
Google and Google+
We don't know how or when Google will hit us with another update, but we can bet they will, in their attempt to put the consumer at the centre of everything and to answer consumer questions and needs, as Ian Carrington from Google pointed out in his keynote. Even better, the next step for Google is to anticipate the consumer’s behaviour. One piece of advice Ian gave was for brands and companies to “be there, be relevant and be optimised” - key concepts for Google in the year to come. But then should the SEO community really trust what Google say? Black hat SEO Ralph Tegtmeier thinks we shouldn't wait for Google to provide us with answers in what to do next, as this is a war, and you shouldn't "ask your enemy to advise your army on where to aim."
It was interesting listening to talks mentioning G+ and authorship – which is said to help blogs and websites have greater value and rank better - and to see that experts are still divided on the issue. Indeed, Paid Search specialists Alan Coleman and Brendan Almeck at Wolfgang Digital deem it necessary to have verified G+ accounts and authorship. During their talk about the rapidly changing face of Google, they quoted Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt who said in his book The New Digital Age that “within search results, information tied to verified online profiles will be ranked higher than content without such verification, which will result in most users naturally clicking on the top (verified) results. The true cost of remaining anonymous, then, might be irrelevance.” However, some Digital Marketers such as Paul Madden from LinkRisk and Kristjan Mar Hauksson from SMFB Engine, who gave a talk on links and on driving the right traffic to your site, are still not convinced by Google’s authorship. Paul and Kristjan are of the opinion that, since Google is already manipulating the SEO community into doing their dirty work by cleaning up bad links (which ultimately helps them with crawling websites), it makes sense not to believe everything people from Google say.
Being there at the right time, with the right message
Everything revolves around the consumer, and in order to be heard we really need to listen to them and offer them what they’re looking for: we need to give the answers they’re seeking and content that interests them - social updates, blogs, etc. With 3G expected to reach around 90% and 4G over 60% of the world population by 2019 (according to the November 2013 Ericsson Mobility Report), page load times are becoming less of an issue allowing us to go further and make more use of videos to send our message. A client of ours once told me that his children didn’t read to learn new things, they watched videos on YouTube - and they do acquire new knowledge. As a consequence, we need to think about using more images and videos to connect with our audience, particularly a younger audience.
Social: Planning for the moment
You cannot have a brand and not be present on social platforms anymore, but you need to find a voice, and show a human “face”; people want to interact with a human being more than a faceless business. Different platforms attract different kind of social sharers, from trendspotters and passionates to provocateurs and careerists, so in order to be successful on social media, we need to find the right voice and the right platform to achieve our objectives.
With social media, it’s important to be ready for the moments you can plan for (marketing campaigns, sports events, tube strikes or even the weather) and to be ready to seize the moment and join conversations - at the Super Bowl black-out in 2013, it took just 4 minutes for the first promoted tweet to appear.
No matter what you call it, link-building or otherwise, links still matter, but we must now prioritise quality over quantity. One example given by Paul Madden during his talk was that of a recent cleanup where they removed, at the client’s request, 85% of their links, after which their rankings slightly improved. The main concern nowadays is fear: should I accept this link? What will happen if I get rid of this backlink? Paul Madden and Kristjan Mar Hauksson are clear, for them we should just jump in and disavow any link that doesn’t seem relevant - if they’re not bringing us any referral traffic anyway, why keep them? Also, another good piece of advice was to start disavowing links (through Google Webmaster Tools) before receiving a penalty from Google. We also need to keep in mind that negative SEO is more active and alive than we may think, which means that we need to check our backlinks regularly (weekly if possible, at least monthly) in order to disavow any new links that we did not request and are not relevant.
Mobile is the future: an increasing number of people own several devices connected to the Internet (on average 3 per person in the UK), and 49% of people search on their smartphones every day (according to Our Mobile Planet, a study made by Google and IPSOS). Furthermore, according to Ian Carrington, around 70-75% of the UK population own a smart device, and this figure is increasing.
Here at Orantec we’ve been pushing the benefits of responsive websites for some time and it’s good to see the figures backing us up. It really is time to go responsive!
Most experts who talked at SES London seemed to agree on one thing: you can only go so far without help from Paid campaigns. Paid social updates can help you grow your audience, and PPC can somewhat help replace “Not Provided” to find out what keywords bring traffic to your website, and get some insights and information for geo-targeting, for instance.
I cannot compare SES London (which next year will be called ClickZ Live) with any other conference since this was a first for me, but I can say it was an amazing experience with brilliant keynotes and many great talks on blogging, paid advertising, link-building, content marketing, etc. My favourite talks were definitely those by the Wolfgang Digital team, Paul Madden, Kristjan Mar Hauksson, Lee Odden and Bas van den Beld, but the others were really good too. If I had to sum up the main takeaways for me after 3 days of the conference, I would say that in 2014 we need to be mobile-friendly, watch out for video opportunities, plan for the moments we can, focus on the consumer and use paid campaigns to give a boost to our on-going SEO efforts. And if you have separate teams for SEO, social and PPC, make sure you communicate and work together towards common objectives. After all, the main objective is to gain greater online visibility, isn't it?