On Friday we made our way down from Oxford to Brighton for the latest Brighton SEO conference. After a 2 and a half hour car journey and quite possibly the strongest coffee I’ve ever had the pleasure of tasting, we were ready to listen to some of the top SEOs.
Here are my 5 key takeaways from the day:
‘Intelligent’ search is the future
First up in auditorium 1 was Raj Nijjer, talking about the role of AI and structured data. He suggested that by 2020, 50% of all searches online will be voice searches; this could be due to the household adoption rate of voice assistants, such as the Amazon Alexa and Google Home, which has seen a 140% year on year increase.
To ensure that you appear in intelligent search results, you must be in the Google knowledge graph. Webmeup describe the different ways to do this, e.g. creating a Google+ account, claiming your Google+ local listing as well as using structured data.
Generation Z communicates with images
Purna Virji, senior training manager at Microsoft gave a talk on the rise of keyword-less searches and specifically, the use of images in search and communication.
Purna explained that generation Z (those currently aged 1-20,) communicate more with images, compared to millennials who prefer to communicate with text. This will have a big impact on the way this generation uses search.
Visual search has been evolving for years; in 2001, 250 million images were accessible by Google images, and by 2010 this figure had risen to 10 billion.
Now through image searches you can upload an image and use it to find similar images, rather than using keywords. This isn’t only convenient, it allows users to search for something when we don’t have the words to describe it.
The rise of AI has played a vital role in the increased accuracy of image searches, with Bing’s captionbot.ai being able to describe what is in the image, the relationship between several subjects in the image and even emotions being shown.
AI and image search has started to be used in more and more areas, from retail sites like Amazon, social networking sites like Pinterest to accessibility & inclusion services such as Google translate.
Play fair with outreach
Sam Charles, writer of the Strawberry Squeeze lifestyle blog and managing director of SEO agency Float, gave a talk on blogger outreach; specifically on incentivising bloggers without buying links. Having knowledge from both sides of the relationship, she’s witnessed the good as well as the bad.
She explained that while outreach usually involves some kind of incentive, this doesn’t necessarily have to be money. Offering your time and resources can be much more valuable to bloggers. Sam couldn’t be clearer about how bloggers are always looking for help from SEO consultants, designers, developers, photographers, lawyers and accountants.
The one warning that Sam couldn’t push enough was to play fair. Don’t agree to promote the content through a newsletter or social channels and then go silent. Also, do NOT pretend to be someone you’re not!
Create marketing people want to engage with
Graham Macfadyen, head of marketing at Barnardo’s, gave a presentation on content strategies for digital audience growth. He referenced the term used often for content marketing, the ‘new’ marketing, which involves sales messages being intertwined within storylines, with one example being Red Bull’s space jump, although he did explain you don’t need to jump out of space to promote something.
Graham outlined 4 steps for audience growth:
Work out what you want to be known for
Graham previously worked for The British Library and asked this question, with the answer initially being ‘well everything’. To be able to compete in several of the library’s key fields, they had to focus on several areas.
Find a role in peoples’ lives
Graham used a quote from John V. Willshire, “make things people want”, rather than “making people want things”; not that this always comes off, with Graham giving the example of Coca Cola’s ‘share a coke with’ campaign.
What this step means is that a business has to work out whether they want a momentary reaction or an ongoing role in peoples’ lives.
Design for growth
Graham suggested that it is important for businesses to structure the content and understand the content relationship. The example he gave was the content they had at The British Library relating to William Shakespeare, such as information about the various plays that he wrote throughout his life. The problem was, the content was scattered around the 109 different websites the library had and so there was little structure to the digital content. To combat this, The British Library restructured their infrastructure, bringing in a ‘stock and flow’ model. This de-fragmenting of the online content massively improved the online experience for the user.
Structured for the channel
Graham spoke about his previous experience of a content team that needed restructuring in order to avoid duplication of content and to create a structure in which storytelling can be created done successfully.
He finished his talk by saying “people follow stories, not brands”, this stood out for me as it summarises the importance of great content and the positive impact it can have on engagement and revenue.
Customer reviews are more trusted than family and friends
Edward Cowell from MediaCom gave a talk on ‘untapping the potential of customer advocacy and reviews’. During this talk he explained how online reviews were more trusted than recommendations from friends and family. This outlines the importance of reviews to ecommerce businesses, with Edward also stating that businesses with no reviews could see a 64% decrease in conversion rate.
What was more staggering during this talk was the fact that 61.5% of businesses do not ask customers for a review, and as the saying goes, if you don’t ask, you don’t get.
Edward went onto explain that it’s important to target those customers most loyal to your business, as they are most likely to leave a more positive review. The way to target those loyal customers is through working out their net promoter score.
If you have reviews for products on your website, it’s important to ensure that the review is visible to users and search engines, or choose a platform vendor that does it for you (e.g. Amazon).
Intelligent search is the future – ensure that your business is on the Google knowledge graph
The next generation (or generation Z) prefer to communicate with images, which in turn affects the way they prefer to search
Incentivise bloggers with your time/resources, while playing fair
Your content strategy doesn’t need to include someone jumping from space – identify and create content that users want to read
Don’t underestimate the power of user reviews, so don’t be scared to ask for them from your most loyal customers