It takes something pretty special to persuade anyone here at Write My Site to set a pre-6am alarm (it’s still DARK for goodness sake!) but the bi-annual Brighton SEO conference always makes the cut.
This year, we decided to be brave and opt for the technical SEO track, to see if there were any insider tips we could pick up that would help us better tweak our copywriting efforts for the all-powerful Google algorithm.
Here’s what we picked up from the sessions we attended …
Keynote: How I earned loads of links by ignoring SEO (Malcolm Coles, Product Director at Trinity Mirror)
Malcolm’s team was behind the hugely popular ‘How Much Are You Hated by the Daily Mail’ quiz, which earned so many links and so much traffic that it was ranked third for ‘Daily Mail’ in Google at the height of its fame.
These were Malcolm’s top tips for getting your content viewed and shared:
- When you send out a press release, don’t just include a quote, which journalists can easily use without linking to your site. Instead, direct them to something that can only be experienced on your website, such as the Wayne Rooney versus David Cameron earnings gif. (Note: that’s the second link we’ve given to Malcolm’s content, which rather proves his point!)
- Interesting and mysterious headlines receive clicks. Don’t give away all the information in the headline, as this removes the incentive for the user to click through to the article.
- Test out different headlines – the first one you think of won’t necessarily be the best.
- Your Mum is on Facebook! People won’t share stuff with swearwords in it because they’re aware of who might see it.
SEO Auditing Checklists and Processes (Pete Handley, Technical Director, theMediaFlow)
Pete loves, loves loves the Screamingfrog crawler tool (guys, if you’re reading, you owe this chap a commission). We’ll be checking it out right after we finish this round-up, but it’s one of the options for checking through your site to root out any SEO issues. This, of course, is a fundamental part of an SEO audit: you’ve got to establish what’s going on with your site at the moment, and then you can look to improve it.
The full SEO audit checklist can be downloaded from theMediaFlow website, but the parts we found most interesting from a copywriting perspective were to:
- Check for duplicate content off-site. For example, have you lifted portions of text from your ‘About Us’ page to add to a directory listing? Try to make sure all your content is unique.
- Check for duplicate title and description tags. This one’s really important, and it’s something we see on a lot of our new clients’ websites: by duplicating titles and descriptions across your pages, you’re telling Google that all your pages are the same!
- Review your information architecture. Has your navigation and internal linking become increasingly unwieldy due to adding and removing content over the years?
Consider overhauling the way your site is structured, so you have clear pathways for all your content.
Ecosystems in the age of semantic search (Jon Earnshaw, CTO, Intelligent Positioning)
We were very excited about this session, because keywords versus semantic search is a debate we’ve been involved in for years. We always explain to new copywriting clients that SEO has moved far beyond plugging a bunch of keywords into the content and hoping the site appears, as if by magic, at the top of the Google search results.
Thankfully, Jon’s talk lived up to our (rather high) expectations. He explained that:
- We have to stop playing the game – every development to Google’s search algorithm is about providing users with answers to their queries, not returning a load of content which appears to match a keyword but may or may not make any sense in the context of what is really being asked.
- There are many more routes to content than ever before.
- Trying to optimise the same keywords across multiple domains can result in the ‘gravity effect’, because they end up competing with each other and pulling each other down.
SERP driven case study (Rob Bucci, Founder, STAT Search Analytics)
Rob gave a fascinating session about geo-targeting. In non-SEO lingo, that means aiming to optimise for local area searches when you’re copywriting your website (e.g. “plumber in Brighton”). The case study element was based on a big US insurance company called Geico, who had optimised their site for each of the American states.
The findings that Rob drew from his case study and his wider research were:
- People tend to geo-modify their search queries when they have to go to the location to consume the product or service.
- Users are far less concerned about including localities in their search queries when the transaction can be carried out remotely.
- Always check the demand for geo-targeting: Geico operates in all 50 American states but the vast majority of local searches came from just 4 of them. Use keyword analysis software to pinpoint where the local demand lies and build your strategy around this data.
Engagement and Branding as Ranking Signals (Tim Grice, Director of Search, Branded 3)
Tim had a stark message for all content creators out there: if your content fails to engage, your website will lose traffic. Why?:
- Google says it wants to rank popular websites.
- The infamous Panda algorithm update has developed beyond its initial focus of clearing duplicate content out of the search results.
- The quality of website content is now under increasing scrutiny and Panda is now picking up elements such as poor navigation, unclear calls to action and high bounce rates.
If your content isn’t engaging its audience, ask them why not: Survey your customers and what they’d like to see on your site.
Think Eyes … Not Just Keywords (Adrian Durow, Founder, The ConversionArium)
Adrian’s speciality is conversion rate optimisation, which is every bit as important as search engine optimisation: You can dominate the number 1 spot in Google for every keyword, but if the users don’t click through to your site or do anything useful when they get there, your efforts have gone to waste.
Adrian gave an insightful presentation about the research he had carried out, looking at where people’s eyes tend to focus when they are sitting in front of a list of Google search results. The elements of a site’s Google listing that receive particular attention from users are:
- The domain name itself – possibly because it is in green.
- Keywords in the beginning of the title.
- ‘Award-winning’ and ‘world class’ in the title.
- Numbers in the title – possibly because they give a good indication of what the user will see when they click through.
Goodbye, and see you next year!
That brings us to the end of this year’s Brighton SEO round-up. We’ll see you in 2015!