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BrightonSEO April 2018 – SEO will never die

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The search marketing conference, BrightonSEO, has been getting more and more popular each year and, after two hours of refreshing our screens in order to get tickets, it was evident that 2018 was to be bigger and better than ever before. With a jam-packed itinerary, we were ready to soak up as much SEO and SEM learning as possible and here we’ll share our key takeaways for anyone who couldn’t make it.

[Quality] content is king

Here we go again.

Potentially the most overused phrase in search marketing but with every conference, every blog post, every webinar, we’re only further convinced of the importance of content in SEO’s future. As developments in search chip away at reducing the significance of keywords, and with a stronger focus on intent and brand, content will only increasingly serve a purpose in conquering search competitors.

So, it was no surprise that the first talk of the day in Auditorium 1 on the main stage was entitled ‘Content’.

Searchmetrics’s Marcus Tobar kicked things off by turning everything we’d thought we knew upside down. For years we have preached the value of consolidating microsites into subfolders and subdomains but Tobar’s suggestion is to find and own your niche. Using the example of About.com and how it’s improved its search visibility by separating out its subdomains into specialist domains, such as thebalance.com, lifewire.com and thespriuce.com, Tobar showed that, through content specialisation, About.com has regained huge amounts of traffic.

The key thing to remember about content specialisation and opting for separate domains is that the topics have to be different. Very different. The About.com case study worked because it was trying to rank for hundreds of highly specialised, polar-opposite subjects.

So, yes, specialise but consider your options carefully when it comes to separate domains over subfolders and subdomains – the key takeaway from Tobar’s talk was, whatever option you choose be sure to consider it carefully – it can have a huge impact on your site visibility!

Avoid duplicate content like the plague!

The other point to consider in separate domains vs subdomains is the villain that is duplicate content. Tobar’s talk was neatly followed up by The Hotcourses Group’s Eleni Cashell speaking on ‘How to Unleash the Power of Unique Content’. Highlighting that as much as 29% of the internet is made up of duplicated content, Cashell used her own experience to illustrate just how detrimental duplicated content on your site can actually be for your site visibility. It’s not new news, but it acts as a reminder of the importance of quality unique content for ranking highly in the search engine results pages.

Important: The Lowest rating is appropriate if all or almost all of the MC [main content] on the page is copied with little or no time, effort, expertise, manual curation, or added value for users. Such pages should be rated Lowest, even if the page assigns credit for the content to another source. – Google Search Quality Elevator

Social who?

The final talk in the content track boosted our egos a little, Buzzsumo’s Steve Rayson spoke about the findings of their Content Trends Report in which he found that, yes, SEO has a future and it has an increasing importance over social media. As social media platforms update their algorithms and give less precedence to posts that take readers outside of the platform, it’s ever more important to ensure you have content ranking for the right, valuable terms. Buzzsumo found that only 5% of content gets more than 343 shares on social media and dark social equates to 65% of all shares. So, without being able to track the shares your content is getting, how can you assign it a value?

That’s not to say there aren’t ways to utilise social media for your brand in the changing social landscape. Marie Page from The Digiterati focused on the importance of businesses creating Facebook groups rather than pages.

Facebook has recently had a strategic shift to focus on community rather than promotion, favouring posts from friends and family over company posts. Marie talked about the benefits of creating a Facebook group to promote your brand.

Using the example of Dell, who created a Facebook group to provide tech support, Marie was confident in Facebook groups providing much higher reach and engagement for a business.

Facebook groups allows the business to show the people behind the brand whilst also letting them take a back seat in the conversation.

Marie was quick to point out that a brand should be more of a facilitator of conversation rather than controlling what is said all the time. By doing this the brand is able to let the users create more worthwhile content that the users want to read.
Facebook groups can also be a good way to capture your target audience’s email, in line with GDPR of course. For example, your brand may decide to offer a worthwhile freebie to your group members in exchange for an email address or sign up.

Think story first

Because content is so ingrained in us as a full funnel agency, it was great to see such a focus on the subject this year at Brighton. Our day finished with a second content track, this time focusing on the importance of creating content that really speaks to your audience.

Using the Xerox case study, Nandini Jammi shared some harsh home truths, “no one cares about you”. That’s to say, why should your prospects care about you or your product? They shouldn’t. They care about answers to their problems and that’s what your content should respond to in order to sell your product. You need to talk about your business without talking about your business.

If that weren’t enough, Digitaloft’s James Brockbank followed it up by saying journalists don’t care about you either.

“Journalists don’t cover content, they cover stories”.

Why would a journalist write about and link to an interactive infographic about trees, for example, when they could write a story on the declining varieties of trees in England by region, linking to your stats? When creating and strategizing content, think about the potential headlines off the back of the content and let that lead the process. Think story first, not format first.

Go mobile or go home

Rounding off the conference was the keynote, which this year took the form of a Q&A with none other than Google’s very own John Mueller. Despite working for Google as a Senior Webmaster Trends Analyst, a role that should put him at odds with the SEO community, Mueller acts as a sort of SEO spokesperson on Google’s behalf, answering the questions on Google’s algorithm updates that many others wouldn’t.

Attendees were able to submit their questions via a Google Doc (how else!), and while unfortunately ours wasn’t read out, a lot of important ground was covered. Starting with mobile-first indexing.

Just last month it was confirmed that Google is rolling out mobile-first indexing, meaning that where previously Google used the desktop version of a page’s content for crawling and indexing, Google will now be using the mobile version. Mueller confirmed that this means, if you don’t have all of your content on the mobile version of your website then, that content wouldn’t appear in the SERPs at all, even on desktops.

Even the Search Console team have tried to argue that none of their users use their tools on a mobile, so should they have a mobile version? As Mueller said, that’s the wrong way of looking at it. No one uses their tools on a mobile… yet. If you don’t have a lot of mobile traffic that doesn’t mean you’ll never get a lot of mobile traffic, similarly, it could just be because you’re offering up a poor mobile experience that is forcing users to opt for the desktop version.

SEO will never die

Mueller finished by saying “I don’t know whether SEO will live forever.”

After a brief and loaded silence from the room, he laughed and gave in, “there’ll be an aspect of SEO for a long time. Regardless of whatever AI future there will be.”

So, there you have it, from Google itself, SEO will never die.

Despite the rise of position zero and voice search, image search and AI, there are just more ways for users to find answers. These new ways will not put an end to traditional search, at least not for a long time yet. The public like to find out answers for themselves and what recent events have only further proven is that people don’t just trust what they are told. They research. They look at the options, the alternatives. Is your brand where your customers are looking?

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