3 Aug, 2017

What We Found at Search Leeds

On the 15th of last month (June), our Commercial Director Martin Oates and our Digital Marketing Manager Rachael Hand (that’s me) headed off to the Leeds First Direct Arena for the second ever Search Leeds conference hosted by Branded3.
This year the event boasted sponsors including SEMRush, Deep Crawl, Screaming Frog and Bing to name but a few, and the list of speakers was equally impressive with representatives from Polemic Digital (my favourite speaker of the day), Google and Search Laboratory all in attendance.

We kicked off our day at the main stage, where Tim Grice from Branded3 gave the introductory speech after walking out on stage to the Billboard Hot 100 chart topper “Yeah!” by Usher (a questionable song choice no-one ‘confessed’ to making on the day). Nevertheless, he was promptly followed by another Branded3 employee; Laura Crimmons who encouraged us all to “get emotional” with our marketing and take inspiration from advertising aces like Disney.  

From there the topic of conversation moved on to the murky matter of link building. Paul Madden from Kerboo asked if “links as a metric in 2017 are still relevant” and if they are, “how do we ensure value”, while Paddy Moogan from Aira discussed “how link building can work for everyone”.  

My ears pricked up at this point as link building has always been one of the more delicate aspects of any SEO strategy. Particularly after Google threw yet another proverbial spanner in the works in 2014 when Matt Cutts suggested that guest blogging was starting to decay and it’s use as SEO strategy was questionable.

Incidentally, the outcome was that yes, links are very much still relevant but it’s the old quality over quantity compromise that’s the key issue.

After a quick break, it was back into the main stage to catch up with James Carson from The Telegraph who talked about “how SEO and social work together at a large publisher”. While this seemed like a niche topic initially, it actually offered some really useful and easily actionable takeaways for companies working in any number of different sectors, and it certainly gave me some food for thought.

Next up Danny Blackburn from fellow Leeds digital agency Stickyeyes took to the stage and gave us “a content blueprint to drive serious SEO success” and then Stephen Power from Google (and yes that is his real name) got up to close the morning session.

Now you might say it’s not a search conference without Google, but it has to be said, that while Stephen played a pretty impressive video, full of all the aspirational and inspirational content Google is known for, the talk itself delivered little more than those over-repeated advertising guidelines we hear so often from Google. So it’s safe to say, I expected a little more from the search giant, but there were a few nice statistics included and like all marketers, I couldn’t really resist that.

I mean did you know that there’s been a twofold increase in the number of “near me” searches in the past year? Or that 100M+ hours of “how to” content have been watched on YouTube so far this year? Or finally that 82% of smartphone users consult their phones while in a store deciding what to buy?

After lunch, it was back to the main stage once again (we did eventually head to other stages) where Steve Baker and Neil Astin from Epiphany, Leeds’ leading search agency, discussed “desire, data and developers: 3 key facets of improving paid search performance”.

Sticking with the paid search theme, Samantha Noble from Koozai was up next and she gave us her predications for the paid media strategies of the future and if she’s right (which we’re pretty sure she will be), then there’s some seriously exciting stuff on the horizon for search marketers everywhere. Personally, I’m excited about Facebook Value Based Lookalike Audiences and the possibility of Google Pop Up Map Ads

After Samantha’s talk it was my turn to hightail it from the main stage over to see Barry Adams from Polemic Digital give his talk on “turning SEO audit recommendations into business gains” on the Search Laboratory stage. This had to be one of the most popular talks of the day. Not only were all the seats taken, but the aisles were full, people were planted on the window sills and stood against the walls. As for me, I got tucked in front of the sound desk and spent the session sat crossed legged, in a fashion that reminded me of assembly time at primary school. The pins and needles were well worth it though.

Not only did Barry deliver quite a few laughs, but he also offered some really practical SEO advice including one little snippet that may surprise many SEOs: optimise your Meta titles for 110 characters and ignore the visual limit of 60 -70. Why, because 110 is the character limit for structured data.

After that bombshell it was time for another break before I headed back into the Search Laboratory stage to catch up with Ned Poulter from Pole Star Digital and his take on Facebook Ads and “the shifting landscape from keywords to audiences”. This was an interesting but reassuring talk for me as while it’s great to hear how other businesses are using Facebook Ads it’s even better to hear that here at Pixelbuilders we’re already using the latest ad formats and targeting techniques available. Pats on the back all round for that one.

From there, Lydia Hinchliff from MediaCom talked about “fuelling content in the dark” and then last, but by no means least, I headed back to the mainstage for the final talk of the day. Stephen Kenwright from Branded3 closed the day with a talk on “how to be Amazon (and beat Google at Search) which proved to be very interesting.

The only thing I want to know now is what Mr Power made of such a title?