SMX Advanced

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What a great week this has been! Why you may ask? Well this week I attended SMX Advanced over in Seattle, one of the most talked about and recommended search marketing conferences in the world.

The week started off with a trip to the Moz office for a look around, followed by the SMX Advanced conference and networking sessions, ending on Thursday with me and Stuart beating Matt Cutts and his team mate in a game of pool.

Beating Matt Cutts from Google in Pool at SMX Advanced 2014

But it was the conference that I was here for, and I wasn’t disappointed. The content that was available was great and came from some very experienced marketers. The calibre of the attendees was also extremely high, with some interesting questions being asked and some great conversations had during the networking sessions.

In this post I have provided my thoughts and some key points from a selected number of sessions that I thought you would be most interested in, and that would provide the most value.

The Periodic Table of SEO Ranking Factors in 2014.

The very first session of the conference was extremely interesting with some great points coming out of it. In it, Marcus Tober, Marianne Sweeny and Matthew Brown provided some very valuable insights, both from their own experiences and survey data.

One of the biggest take-aways from the session was to make sure that whatever you do, whether it is from a marketing or UX point of view, make sure it is done for the user. All three of the speakers spoke about the importance of site speed, and ensuring that both the user and the search engine were happy with load times.

Here are some of the key points from this session:

  • SEO has to be concerned with UX and UX has to be concerned about SEO.
  • Understand what Google are going to use when there are not enough links to rank a page but the page is of value.
  • Mobile usage is continuing to increase at a rapid rate, but how do you link to a page on a mobile?
  • 77% of URLs are different in search when comparing Mobile vs Desktop usage.
  • Don’t make the image too overpowering, as users prefer the content.
  • Content is important, but it is more important to have quality content. To understand whether you have quality content you need to conduct a content audit/inventory.
  • Update your content on a regular basis where possible, without changing the URL. This is especially true for those evergreen pieces that can be updated and shared regularly.
  • Create content for where the user is, not for where you think the user is. You can understand this by looking at pageviews and page/folder level within your analytics.
  • You really need to be utilising structured data, but you need to have the right markup implemented as it could lead to you lose clicks.
  • Focus on entity optimisation! This a big focus for Google, so you need to get up to scratch and quickly.

Keyword research on Roids!

For me, this session was mainly about the second talk with Rae Hoffman (@sugarrae) talking about how she uses SEMrush alongside other tools to find opportunities for optimisation and content. Now I am not saying the other talks weren’t great, I just felt that they were more talks about what you could do rather than providing actionable data.

Here are some of the key points from this session:

  • Conduct keyword research to identify topics that relate to content opportunities.
  • Utilise Analytics to identify the top 50-100 landing pages. Once you have these, put them into SEMrush to identify the keywords that they are ranking for.
  • Segment your keyword research into categories. These categories could include topics such as content marketing, category pages, related terms, and opportunities.
  • Do you know your position value? Use SEMrush’s total traffic, and remove the top 10 traffic driving terms to understand what portion of traffic they are driving.
  • Utilise the domain analysis tool within SEMrush to identify any keywords that you may have missed but your competitors are targeting.
  • You need to have a realistic understanding of whether you are really going to rank for a target term or phrase. Within SEMrush, they provide a keyword relevance score that will help you make the right choices.

During the Q&A of the session, there were two questions that drew quite a bit of discussion. The first was “what is more important in keyword research, search volume or conversions?” This was a relatively straightforward question in my opinion, with the answer being conversion first, utilising conversion rates to understand the potential money that you are going to receive, but if that isn’t possible then revert back to potential traffic.

The second question was how to utilise keyword data within GWT. The panel agreed that utilising the data was important but that the data is lost on a regular occurrence because GWT only shows 90 days worth.

Set an alert for every 90 days to download ALL of your GWT data or you will just lose it. – Rae Hoffman

and here are the slides…

What SEMs should do for Mobile.

A theme in a lot of sessions at SMX Advanced was that mobile is coming quickly, and the majority are not ready. Go and have a look at the Apple website on a mobile. Did you know that they don’t have a mobile website? Do they actually need one? Well that is another question, but it goes to show that if one of the biggest companies in the world don’t have it nailed down, then what hope do others have?

For this session, the main focus was on strategy and advertising, but one point that stuck with me is that people are having issues with tracking. We use many different mobile devices before we make a purchase, which makes attributing a purchase extremely difficult. This problem is something that will continue, but we would hope to be solved in the very near future.

Here are some of the key points from this session:

  • The question is not whether mobile is an important part of the process. Its about understanding how each device influences the consumer differently.
  • A critical step for mobile planning is to ensure your entire strategy, not just across mobile or other. It needs to be about business goals.
  • Mobile search drives multiple types of conversions – set kpis realistic to your campaign objectives.
    • enable click to call / call tracking.
    • mobile coupon codes.
    • enable location extensions.
    • in-store mobile offers.
  • Mobile search drives multiple conversions and can’t be measured in isolation.
  • Utilise mobile ad extensions within advertising to take up more real-estate.
  • Track calls using different numbers across devices & desktop.
  • There are still people who have flip phones and use WAP. This means that you need to advertise to using WAP text ads.
  • Use localised numbers rather than 0800 numbers. People like to see real phone numbers.
  • There are 3 major problems with mobile – low conversions / the SEM auction is broken / there are tracking issues.
  • It is very difficult to understand cross-device attribution as there are so many touch points across them all before a purchase/action is made.

One bit of information that shocked me the most was how quickly the click through rate changes from position one to two when comparing it to the current desktop studies.

Click through rate dropped by 45% from position 1 to 2 on mobile devices – Jaclyn Jordan

Creating blockbuster content

As you would expect with the changes over recent times, content has been a big part of all the sessions that I attended. There was a constant message throughout that content that goes viral will not happen each and every time. It takes time to understand what works for each audience, what piece of content is relevant to the consumer at the right time, and what it is that makes it different or better than anything else that is available.

Here are some of the key points from this session:

  • Quality of content is far more important than quantity.
  • Content going forward needs to be mobile-friendly, load quickly, have authorship markup, include social signals, and allow engagement.
  • Long form content tends to get more interaction, better engagement, and is shared and linked to more.
  • Having great social signals gives a much better indication of the quality of content, alongside authorship.
  • Use keyword research to help inform content, but don’t let it be the main focus of your content.
  • Determine what works using social signals, engagement, and links.
  • Ensure that you break up paragraphs for easy reading and use images to summarise concepts.
  • Images are meant to serve a purpose not just fill a space.
  • Use internal search for content ideas.
  • Ask your staff one question to gather as much information as possible. “What is the one question you get asked all the time?”.
  • Use research tools such as Google Instant, Uber Suggest and Yahoo Answers to see what people are looking for, and then create it better.

Content takes time. It can’t be done on a trial basis. It needs to be created, tested and updated to make it work.

and here are the slides…

Executing a Flawless Content Marketing Strategy

Here are some of the key points from this session:

  • Mobile apps are the future of content marketing, but you need HTML 5 responsive versions.
  • You need to have a strong call to action, otherwise what is the point?
  • Make your content interactive and engaging and it will help you achieve your goals!
  • Smaller newspapers generally have a more engaged audience, so look to these for coverage of your content.
  • Use Facebook Graph search to find journalists and gather as much information as possible. Use LinkedIn and send InMail for pitching.
  • Pitch as early as possible to have a better chance of getting interest and coverage.
  • Once you have a relationship, nurture it. It’s not a one night stand! Say thank you, use social and email to stay in touch, and be available.

and here are the slides…

You&A with Matt Cutts & Danny Sullivan

As you would expect this was by far the most popular session of the conference with so many attendees wanting to quiz Matt about what is going on at Google, and what is coming next. Once this session got going it was extremely fast-paced, so I am afraid I haven’t got many notes to share, however Rae Hoffman did an amazing job of tweeting and then fleshing out the content, so I would recommend going to have a read here.


Was it worth it? Yes! Most definitely. I have learnt and picked up a lot of useful information whilst also meeting new people within the industry on the other side of the pond. Now that I have experienced it, I am hoping that I can go back in the future, possibly as a speaker…

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