Our Top Takeaways from SearchLove, October 2017
Another recurring digital marketing industry conference, SearchLove, has finished for the year. If you weren’t able to attend it, then don’t worry as we did. SearchLove is run by both Moz and Distilled and is an international event with conferences in cities such as London, San Diego and Boston. Unlike its cousin BrightonSEO, SearchLove is more concentrated around digital marketing as a whole, so there are talks on paid advertising, email marketing as well as organic advertising and more. As it’s a 2 day event there is also more of a focus on workshops and training courses, something that although offered at BrightonSEO is not the prime focus.
As with our previous piece, we have decided to provide an expert perspective of the talks at SearchLove to see if there was anything that came out the event that was unique and not covered at the Brighton event. Also we dig further into trying to see what are the underlying themes and trends in the industry that may change the way in which we do our job in 2018.
There were quite a few synergies between SearchLove and BrightonSEO this year that we found, but we also feel that the discussions here at SearchLove were geared more towards the agency side, rather than client side of digital marketing which was the main focus at BrightonSEO.
The similar themes being discussed related to keyword research/optimisation, link building, creative content applications and the pillars of SEO in general which was also touched upon at BrightonSEO, so if you want a further in-depth dissection of the core pillar topics, then we recommend that you check out our seven takeaways from BrightonSEO.
However, SearchLove did provide a number of insights into areas of digital marketing that are not as talked about and although some of these are more multi-channel strategies, not specifically SEO, they are still areas of digital marketing that brands need to be aware of.
Visual Search & Marketing
With the rise of technology, SEO and how we search is definitely evolving in ways that nobody could have predicted ten or even five years ago. One of these happens to be visual search, which covers a number of areas traditionally focused on by SEO’s (image optimisation, visual merchandising, etc..) however, there is a new emerging trend of using your smartphone to search for products or use your camera function to engage with a brand.
Google have been working since at least 2013 on optimising its visual search results algorithms, going from related images to their own version of Pinterest to using images in web results in 2016, and now in 2017 using similar items to what has been visually tagged by the algorithm. Visual marketing is taking off in a big way nowadays thanks to machine learning and other developments in technological factors that have recently been implemented.
Social media is also attempting to launch a form of visual search as well, known as content-based image retrieval, with Pinterest starting to incorporate visual searches and combining it with searcher intent as mentioned above; for example, if you take a picture of strawberries on your mobile device and search using both Pinterest and the image, it will start displaying strawberry recipes as it attempts to learn searcher intent.
As such, going forward, you need to ensure that your e-commerce website has plenty of imagery, both in lifestyle and product formats, to ensure that customers are easily able to find your products in SERPs and then potentially make a purchase of that product. Visual search in both its forms is only going to keep getting bigger as more people use their mobile devices to search visually on a search engine, either as part of content-based image retrieval or via Meta data keywords.
Whilst images are traditionally an under-optimised area of SEO that usually gets relegated to the rear when it comes to prioritising workload. Optimisation of imagery is still key for SEO purposes, not only in light of this new development in search technology but also to give an SEO benefit. Over 25% of all searches that drive traffic to a website come from the Google Image search or featured image boxes within the results.
At the moment, with 11% of searches now having an image block present in the SERPs, this encompasses both product queries as well as informational searches, so this is applicable for a lot of websites. Optimising your image blocks should be a key feature going forward in your e-commerce strategy, and this can be achieved by a range of measures including:
- Ensuring the image shows the product clearly
- Inserting structured markup so that the image can be easily crawled
- Submitting an image XML sitemap for Google
In our experience image SEO needs work on over 90% of the top ecommerce brands ranking in the top 10 for their associated keywords.
Visual Search & Marketing
One point that was touched on during SearchLove this year was incorporating data into all aspects of digital marketing. With the rise of Big Data over the last few years, it is imperative that your data sets are cleansed on a regular basis to ensure that you are capable of using them to the fullest capacity without outdated data causing issues.
From there, you need the ability to filter the data you already have, and also get data from multiple sources so that you are able to see the full picture of how well your website is performing. Whilst Google Analytics still uses Not Provided for the majority of your keywords, it is possible to use third party tools, such as SEMRush and Moz to get an idea of what you are ranking well for in terms of specific pages and at times keywords as well, which can then be used to implement further optimisation fixes on pages of your website that aren’t working well.
By building a data warehouse even from an SEO POV you can easily filter and pull reports on your top ranking keywords, their click-through rates and engagement to see if any further enhancements can be made to boost their raking positions. Also this data can give you insight into the customer journey and by having this data you can start to create some CRO/UX improvements with AB/B testing to improve engagement and conversion rate.
For further information on building an SEO focused data warehouse this, we recommend viewing Will Critchlow’s slideshow from SearchLove 2017.
Mobile First is a hot topic
We’ve touched on this previously, but it is worth reiterating as the Mobile First Index (MFI) is going to affect everyone in 2018. It’s an evolution of the so-called “mobilegeddon” that was being touted in April 2015 as part of an on-going evolution for mobile customers.
If you’ve not already started, you need to be using responsive design where appropriate, correct canonicalisation, ensuring page speed is optimised and website security is in place so that HTTPS is correctly installed. A recent survey revealed that 78% of websites still aren’t using HTTPS correctly, and with newer versions of Chrome now using a badge to indicate a site is unsafe, you need to ensure that you are fully compliant with HTTPS requirements.
The above insight is key, as in time it looks as if Google will be rolling out “not secure” test to a brands Google search result if the site is not secure. This could have a devastating effect on a company’s website as some consumers may not click on a site that says “not secure”. Therefore in 2018 it may be time to invest in securing a HTTPS SSL certificate and creating a secure website to mitigate this potential risk.
Something worth paying close attention to is the rise of Progressive Web Apps, or PWAs. This is a slight evolution on AMP and allows the user to install the website on their mobile device’s home screen, and acts as a mixture of normal website as well as an experience outside of a traditional website, as you can even set it up to send push notifications like a native app would or deliver different content to offline users (although this isn’t particularly great for SEO purposes).
We’ll be touching on how MFI affects your SEO positions and general e-commerce strategy as well in future posts as there isn’t enough space to write here about how the update will affect your business.
Your content strategy needs revamping
As was mentioned at BrightonSEO, content and the strategy behind it require careful planning to maximise ROI. Whilst content is great for building links, you need to have a solid distribution plan behind your rationale for creating content; there’s no point creating content for contents sake as this can at times cannibalise existing content, and whilst a hero campaign costing up to £20,000 may be a flashy extravagance, this often has a low ROI and can often not generate enough links to justify using it as part of your content distribution plan.
Also brands should try not and invest in one hero piece of content as the risk of failure is too high. A better strategy would be to create multiple smaller campaigns therefore the potential for success is a lot greater based on the numbers game approach.
One point that you should be considering when creating and implementing content is to use it in a lateral position alongside your other marketing tactics. This always includes focusing on searcher intent and answering customers’ questions that they may have around your products or the industry in general. Creating content around purely advertising products is often bad people may not engage with it and third-party sites will never use or link to content that is too brand heavy.
And as one final point about content, is that over the years the trend has been to use surveys and poll data to develop content. Many publications are now choosing not to use primary survey data based on the recent influx, therefore investing time and money to create a survey may leave you with a piece of content that is unable to be distributed.
A better way to create content that is less cost and has a lower risk potential is to use data sets that already exist. There is a lot of data out there on subjects and industry profiles that is hidden in whitepapers and reports, by devolving through these documents picking out the key points and creating a piece of content this way of repurposing data into an easy to understand format is usually more beneficial than building your own survey.
Social listening has been around for a few years now, but it’s only been recently that it has taken off properly in terms of brand engagement. Whilst this point seems like its related more to social media channels, in truth this also ties into SEO as well with both content and linking building as well as the rise of visual search and marketing.
Social listening should always be on brand and been seen as an evolution of customer service. With the rise of visual search, it’s now possible for brands to actually engage further with customers or potential customers in social channels from the development of visual listening. This form of social listening does not relate to brand mentions it is actually focuses more on brand imagery and logos within people’s posts. This form of image recognition adds another level to brand engagement and consumers no longer need to mention the brand on social, the brand can locate these people from the evolved software.
Overall, SearchLove 2017 showed that digital marketing is evolving at a fairly rapid rate, and that it is key for digital marketers to keep up with all the latest developments to ensure that they stay ahead of their competition as well as keep maintaining best practice in all aspects of digital marketing.
There was less of an emphasis on technical SEO focus, and more of a technical digital marketing focus overall at SearchLove, which was to be expected given that BrightonSEO is the more SEO-focused conference of the two.
The main takeaway from SearchLove was to focus on digital marketing as part of your brands overall marketing strategy to boost consumer engagement and customer acquisition. One of the most important themes for us was the priority of social, mobile and enhanced search which are more in-tune towards making search more accessible and easier for the consumer. By developing multiple touch points, enhancing the consumers user experience and making the process more seamless this all increases the consumers brand perception and ensures a smooth buying journey (search, engagement and conversion).
If you have any questions about ensuring that your company has solid foundations for the technical aspects of digital marketing, or if you’re wondering how to improve your data lists, then get in touch with us today at firstname.lastname@example.org or call01793 238 697