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Search Elite – The New Search Conference

As the digital marketing conference season gets into full swing, you have probably purchased your tickets for the standard conferences already, but there is a new kid on the block – Search Elite.

Having attracted some of the best speakers in digital marketing, founders Craig Rayner and Jackie Bissell are looking to do something a little different to the conferences of old.

Speaking to Jackie about SearchElite, she was passionated about wanting to be different to what is currently going being offered by other conferences.

Jackie continued by saying “If I am taking time to visit a conference the key things I want to take from it are knowledge sharing, learning and networking.  Search Elite has been programmed to offer all of them.  To be able to spend a day with the experts in SEO/SEM discuss, make contacts and keep in touch with important changes within your industry are crucial to your job.”

This same passion ran through the conversations I had with some of the speakers I managed to talk to. They were also generous enough to answer a few questions about the first Search Elite and what attendees can expect from their presentations.

You can use the navigational links below to skip to certain speakers if you prefer:

Gerry White

How excited are you about speaking at the first Search Elite, and what are you expecting?

SearchElite has such a formidable lineup, it was a little daunting when I saw the rest of the speakers, knowing most of the personally I know this is going to be amazing, I know that I am going to be making so many notes, I love great conferences and this looks to be one of the best of 2017, so to be within this speaker selection is quite an honour.

Apart from your own talk, who are you most looking forward to seeing at Search Elite?

That is a hard one, I have seen Russel and Jono talk a lot, and typically make a point of going to see them, Judith is legendary, but I think I am going to have to say Jim Banks, my reasoning is simply that I haven’t actually heard him talk before but have read much of what he has written and his knowledge and experience is (and I hate to use the word twice) legendary.

Without giving too much away, what can attendees expect from your presentation?

When I first got into the wonderful world of SEO, websites were (or at least the ones I worked on) were fairly simple, table based layouts and simple images, the best way to show where we were vs where we are today is to watch the video – . Today most of my clients are built on ever more complicated platforms which to get something in takes months to get something in, often by the time it is ready I will be want to change the original specs “scope creep”, because SEO has changed something new has appeared … Imagine being able to test something quickly in SEO before you ask developers to build it, imagine every time a developer says – no you can’t do that, you can ‘hack it in’.

So if I can hack in something that has SEO impact, is this a good thing, should I be trusted with this much power? Should everyone who has this access? Is your website as safe as you think it is, is the workflow as robust as it needs to be, and why the developers are looking terrified when I can demonstrate to them that I can just hack it on. If I can put a Konami Code onto in ten minutes, I can record every keystroke you make, with GDPR this is something that should rightfully terrify your IT team.

Critically three points, you can do awesome stuff with GTM, you probably shouldn’t be using it as a CMS and finally you should probably be aware of who else has access to this backdoor to your website.

What do you think is the biggest barrier for marketeers moving further towards GTM?

GTM isn’t as simple as most people would expect it to be and despite the messaging from Google and advocacy from people like myself, users still need a basic understanding of tags, JavaScript and the web to really get the most from it. This isn’t necessarily, I am grateful that people who have a good technical understanding should still be involved in deployment to a commercial website (if only to preserve security, https and making sure that users privacy isn’t compromised). Google have recently introduced workspaces and with publishing rights already there, it does feel like they are making strides in the right direction.

For most websites, a couple of days training can certain start to get you a long way with GTM, but as I say I think this is something that should have a technical pair of eyes.

Any tags that should be being implemented via GTM that are not?

A lot of what I am talking about is almost a last resort hack, or alternatively a way of testing something that would otherwise be costly. GTM is not a CMS, it is a JavaScript injector – so if there is a better way of doing something, I talk about doing it this way as a way of testing something before I try and get too many developers on the task.

My personal blog site has hacks layered on hacks, with a side portion of code, this isn’t how commercial sites should operate (it is probably not how my blog should work) but if you aren’t testing it somewhere you aren’t learning.

Many CRO tags modify the on page content, which if done using GTM often will result in the user seeing this content before the tag has managed to fire – this causes an odd flash, or if the content is of a different size, content can jump around the page, resulting in users clicking in the wrong location. I have also seen an increase in people blocking JavaScript, this is through plugins such as Ghostery, so nothing critical to a conversion.

One thing I have noticed increasingly is a lack of awareness of the tags deployed through GTM, theses should be audited regularly, are they still in use, are they up to date (if you are sending hits to a domain or worse executing JavaScript from an unknown source, you could be setting you and your users up for a world of issues).

The future of analytics is increasingly managed by tag management and this will open the doors for increasingly interesting CRO hacks and tools to be deployed…

David Iwanow

How excited are you about speaking at the first Search Elite, and what are you expecting?

I’m always excited to speak at new and upcoming events as there is often a lot of energy from the audience and there is not the usual roster of speakers. I love several of the existing conferences but I’ve found for growing my industry networks and finding new and interesting people to follow on Twitter new conference are often a better option if I have a limited budget for conferences. The other aspect which I like about Search Elite is that the ticket price makes the conference attractive to a larger range of folks who might not be able to spend £1-2k on tickets.

Apart from your own talk, who are you most looking forward to seeing at Search Elite and why?

I’d say Gerry White who is speaking on the topic of “using and abusing GTM” which is certainly a very interesting way to implement some SEO hacks with limited development support to test before rolling them out. Also interested to see what Jono Alderson who is speaking on AMP which is certainly something that is gaining traction for sites as a quick way to significantly increase the page load times along with some bonuses such as visibility in the Google AMP results widget. There are also some great speakers that always bring plenty of energy to stage such as Sam Noble and Judith Lewis that you have to ensure you catch their session.

Without giving too much away, what can attendees expect from your presentation?

So there should hopefully be some fairly actionable items that people could actually start to setup during my presentation if they wanted to…. but much of it is starting to encourage people to think more along the lines of capturing everything so you can do the analysis later if you need. There is a lot of basics you can setup today after reading this post if you really wanted to such as create custom alerts in Google Analytics if you don’t have the time or resources to check your Google Analytics account daily. Same thing around measuring the load time of your website, you made those recommendations to your developers last year to improve the platforms performance metrics but did it work, if you had of been tracking this you would have a years worth of data to measure the change.

How important do you think automation is going to be for marketeers, and how can they implement them easily?

Automation is key to doing a number of tasks that are time consuming or prone to data entry errors such as reporting. No-one likes to do monthly reporting as that’s wasted time, a SEOs time is better spent on analysis of the data and making recommendations for the upcoming months… think more about making actions based on data than just puking up Google Analytics data into an email. There is a lot of manual and repetitive tasks that most SEOs likely do daily, weekly or monthly but the best advice I ever received was from Brad Geddes of Certified Knowledge that said his team works to automate anything their team does manually more than once. So I’m not talking about the full automation of SEO such as your page titles need to have this keyword to rank that some platforms offer. My idea is more so along the lines of you have 30% of your page titles under-optimised and of those page titles that are under-optimised they are now receiving less traffic than optimised page titles, and this change to the code happened on the 3rd March which was linked to a platform release that broke a template.

Bas van den Beld

How excited are you about speaking at the first Search Elite, and what are you expecting?

I’m very excited to be speaking at the first Search Elite! When Jackie and Craig first told me about the plans, I knew they were on to something good. They don’t just want to create a new search conference. They really want to make a difference.

Apart from your own talk, who are you most looking forward to seeing at Search Elite?

They are all friends of mine, so I am looking forward to seeing them all :-). But if I have to choose one, it’s David Iwanow’s talk on “Automate or die”. I’ve been looking into a lot of automation recently, so am very interested in learning more about it.

Without giving too much away, what can attendees expect from your presentation?

I’m very excited about my talk. For many reasons. For one, I’m not doing it alone! I’ve been working on a great project the past year together with Daniel, who is a coach, a facilitator of change processes. Together we worked with a big Dutch Insurance company to get their staff to a higher level. It wasn’t just about sending knowledge. It was about embedding the knowledge in the organisation. I can only say: it was revolutionary!
I wrote about it here:
I’m bringing Daniel to London to join me on stage to talk about this. It will be awesome.

Digital Marketing is key to so many organisations, but there are many that fail at implementing it correctly. How can these businesses, big or small move ensure they start to implement things correctly?

What a coincidence, it’s what I will be talking about at the event! ;-).
Let me highlight a few things that I feel are most important:

  • Firstly, you can’t do anything without buy-in from C-level. Support from management is crucial.
  • Secondly it’s hugely important to know and agree on what you are trying to accomplish. Make sure everyone is on the same page.

For more, come see my talk 🙂

Samantha Noble

How excited are you about speaking at the first Search Elite, and what are you expecting?

I am really looking forward to being part of the first event. The team behind Search Elite have worked so hard to make sure they have a great mix of speakers from varied disciplines so that the audience all walk away with lots of great insights and actionable takeaways.

Apart from your own talk, who are you most looking forward to seeing at Search Elite?

Honestly, I am looking forward to seeing everyone talk. Every single person on the speaker line up are friends of mine and I love watching them speak. I always learn something from each and every one of them and the event in May will be no different based on the topics they are covering.

Without giving too much away, what can attendees expect from your presentation?

I am splitting the talk into two parts. The first part is going to look at what information we can obtain about our audiences through making use of the paid media platforms. The second part is going to show you a load of different tips and techniques for using the audience data to really enhance your paid media campaigns.

With in-house teams in particular focusing more on understanding their audience to deliver more targeted marketing campaigns. What are the biggest challenges facing them when it comes to data gathering?

Understanding where to start and actually what to do with the information once they have it. There are so many platforms packed with loads of different reports but until you understand the opportunities there are, it makes it super hard to know where to begin. I am hopeful that my session will help them to understand what needs to be done.

Jim Banks

How excited are you about speaking at the first Search Elite, and what are you expecting?

I am truly honoured to be invited to speak at the inaugural Search Elite, I am sure in years to come this will become a staple in the “search education” calendar. Getting a new event off the ground is not easy. I expect the event to be sold out and for attendees to leave with some amazing actionable takeaways to justify the time and expense out of their busy schedules

Apart from your own talk, who are you most looking forward to seeing at Search Elite?

I’ve seen all the other speakers (apart from Gerry) speak before. They are always really entertaining and informative. I’m also excited to have the all speakers Q & A after my session. Judith is always great to watch, there is usually chocolate involved.

Without giving too much away, what can attendees expect from your presentation?

I’m a huge fan of people leaving with actionable things. Given that I am the last speaker standing between the attendees and the bar, I think I owe it to them to make it good. I’ve seen a lot of advertisers, many of them big brand names, doing incredibly stupid things. I’m going to be naming and shaming a few of them, in the spirit of educating the audience. As much as I like social amplification, I think some of my presentation I will want under Chatham House rules, so no tweets, no shares. So that, plus a few good stories from the paid media trenches.

When it comes to paid media, most focus on Adwords. What platforms other than Adwords are providing customers with the best return?

It’s really important that advertisers join the dots. None of the visitors they get spend all their time on one platform, so knowing where they move to and how you can continue the conversation is important. Adwords is not just one product, it’s many, so YouTube, Remarketing, Shopping, Display all play a part. Bing is always a bit of a secret weapon for our clients, and if it bought correctly you can also get decent returns from Yahoo Gemini, but it’s a bit of a tight rope. For advertisers that are online retailers / ecommerce, then Amazon is also a platform/channel that yields great results. Amazon have actually become one of the biggest advertisers on Google Adwords basically doing arbitrage, which means you get extra amplification from Amazon spend. Most importantly, buy a ticket, I’ve not even scratched the surface and with 40 minutes to speak I aim to cover a lot of ground.

Judith Lewis

How excited are you about speaking at the first Search Elite, and what are you expecting?

I’m very excited about speaking at the first Search Elite because I’ll be a part of a very new and exciting search conference featuring some of the finest minds in the industry. I travel and speak at conferences all over the world but London is the home to some of the greatest search minds in the world and so I expect to be wow’d by the information in the talks.

Apart from your own talk, who are you most looking forward to seeing at Search Elite?

Probably Jim Banks. I think his session is extremely interesting and could be quite surprising for a lot of people in the audience. But I think the whole day looks pretty strong with a lot of interesting speakers all coming together to lend their expertise to the subject.

Without giving too much away, what can attendees expect from your presentation?

I wanted to do a session that covers some of the more neglected stuff. No one talks about the importance of some of the more advanced but to me still basic stuff. I realise crawl budget, minification and competitor audits aren’t sexy but I’m bring back the sexy in SEO… I know there’s no “sexy” in SEO but there should be 😉 My session is going to look at a bit of why social and search are important together, why you need to monitor the competition, and how I#39;ve been working with clients to make things work better.

With SEO constantly changing, what do you see as a must do to move the needle tor 2017, especially in a tough industry such as travel & tourism?

I see the travel and tourism industry as being two different beasts in a sense. Having just finished speaking at the International Wine Tourism Conference I met so many tour operators who really were not visible online and who relied on other ways to get clients. On the other side of the coin I net a number who had their SEO game well set. I spoke about strategy and the future but also attended a number of talks. I feel that oddly social is not being appropriately integrated into an overall digital marketing approach and I feel that in the quest for links, it’s being left behind. I also often see a lot of fundamental technical mistakes. There’s a lot about the Travel & Tourism vertical I’d like to see change. It isn’t just about comparison sites – a lot of the industry is about promoting a destination and getting there is only a small part of the puzzle. Moving the needle is going to mean taking a step back and reconsidering your strategy and looking at a fully integrated digital marketing approach, instead of overweighting to PPC or SEO.


Jono Alderson

How excited are you about speaking at the first Search Elite, and what are you expecting?

I’m really looking forward to it. There’s a really strong set of speakers, and I really like the agenda – the topics cover pretty much everything end-to-end, so I’m hoping to level up in a whole bunch of areas. This is the kind of lineup I’d want to attend to see, so it’s a privilege to be part of the mix.

Apart from your own talk, who are you most looking forward to seeing at Search Elite?

So hard to pick! If I had to choose, it’d have to be Gerry’s session on hacking SEO with WordPress and GTM – we’ve had a lot of pub talks about the kinds of things you can (but probably shouldn’t) do, so it’ll be really fun to see what he’s been up to. I like the sweet spot between SEO, Analytics and Tech, and this should tick all the boxes.

Without giving too much away, what can attendees expect from your presentation?

Some technical performance tips and tricks which you can try yourself, or use to beat up your developers. From database design to CSS flow optimisation, it’s going to get a bit geeky…

Though mobile first has been a focus for search engines for a while now, do you feel that enough companies and/or marketeers are giving it enough thought and why?

I think that many brands are treating it as just-another-thing that they have to think about, and aren’t really ready or equipped for. They still have broken websites, poor users experiences, slow pages, mountains of 404 errors, etc – and now we’re asking them to be multi-device, too!? In many cases, I think that the challenge is less of a technical one, and more about building a compelling business case which gets attention, sponsorship, and resource. Challenges with multi-device tracking and attribution make that hard, and obviously, most businesses have multiple (often competing) priorities with finite budget… Hopefully, Russell’s talk on multi-channel data might give people ammunition!

It certainly sounds like the conference is going to be great, with lots of actions to takeaway. I am certainly looking forward to attending and learning as much as possible from this group.

If you havent’ registered yet, but you are interested then you should definitely come along. I am able to provide you with a 10% discount code when using “danielbianchini10” during registration.

I look forward to seeing you all there, and if you are attending do come and say hi!

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