Brighton SEO is the largest search marketing conference in the UK and one of the largest SEO events in the world. With over 60 talks on this single day event from some of the most renowned leaders in the industry, any attending delegate was hard stretched to decide on which talks to choose. As the 2nd instalment of 2017 Brighton SEO conferences, this event adopted a focus on users, user intent, and how digital marketers can better understand their audiences. So, on the 15th of September, Makolab’s UK junior SEO specialist Colin Forrest attended this event and subsequently gave his insight into what he found most thought-provoking.
Unique ‘User’ Ranking Factors
‘One-size-fits-all’ marketing strategies are a thing of the past. Nowadays, in order to meet a customers’ needs and rank high in the SERPs – specifically tailoring your content is key. During a talk entitled ‘Why your mum is a ranking factor’, it was emphasised how important understanding customer intent has become. The creation of ‘personas’ by companies to better understand their audiences are an obvious example of this. Marketers who can provide content specific to each user’s potentially unique search queries are very much moving in the right direction. Furthermore, ranking factor research by Search Metrics revealed that not only is there a trend towards targeting individual users, but each industry (i.e. finance, travel, e-commerce) has its own specific ranking factors. This means that not only is it necessary to understand your potential user’s intent, but you should also know what ranking factors specifically apply to your industry. To do so will greatly enhance your capacity to advance in the SERPs. It looks like machine-learning algorithms are already working wonders for tailoring to specific user queries!
“If your website isn’t fully optimised for mobile, you’re really behind the times”, asserted Duane Forrester, VP of Yext. With more mobile devices than people in the world now and Google expecting 50% of all searches to be voice-based by 2050, this is hardly a surprising statement. But what does it mean for SEO? It means that understanding context is everything, and optimising for voice search a necessity now! Long-tail keyword planning will continue to play a significant role in SEO as people increasingly use conversational-style voice searches. Importantly, users are not using modern voice search features for all the same purposes. In fact, there is an almost even divide between search being used as a Personal Assistant (e.g. for reminders), for entertainment, general information, and – importantly – for local information.
Knowing how to optimise a site to appeal specifically to a local audience was another important take away from the conference. The natural orator Greg Gifford from US-based DealerOn brought this point home through a presentation of awe-inspiring 80’s movie references. Greg outlined how, if you want to optimise your site for local search, be sure to take advantage of your local situation and local relationships. Making sure you appear locally (e.g. Google MyBusiness) is now a necessary part of increasing in-store visits. 76% of users who used location searches visited the premises the same day; 26% of those visits were found to subsequently result in a purchase.
Whilst it may seem obvious, focusing on getting local inbound links to your site makes all the difference in optimising for a locality. According to a 2017 study by Moz, inbound links constitute the most important ranking signal for local search. It, therefore, pays to think about where you are likely to find links that allow you to rank highly for the most user-relevant search terms. Many SEO’s may only look for high Domain Authority (DA) sites and neglect important (but lower DA) local sites in the process. But in order to provide the most optimal results for users- Google assesses site relevancy, and local links are relevant!
Other talks at the conference also highlighted the power of harnessing your reputation through ratings and reviews, especially when focussing on a locality. Having user ratings on SERPs increased the Click-Through-Rate (CTR) by 22%, with a 70% higher CTR for sites with five-star reviews. As more and more users turn their trust to peer-reviews rather than salespeople, obtaining reviews to ranking well in search engines will continue to increase in importance.
A Keynote from Google
The keynote by Gary Illyes (the Google Webmaster behind the Fred algorithm fiasco) had some very ‘predictably mysterious’ Google-like qualities. Whilst Gary reserved himself to hold back on giving away information regarding future updates inside the Google universe, he did reveal that on the aggregate, search metric studies done by other companies (i.e. Moz, Search Metrics) were fairly consistent with what Google was really up to – good news for SEO’s using these tools!
The Google Webmaster also revealed that sites that have already switched over to HTPPS are receiving a subtle boost in their rankings. He also discussed how machine learning has been directed towards improving user search results in relation to users’ click through rates. It now only takes a few clicks for an engine to learn user preferences, but it will be interesting to see how this evolves for localised voice searches -e.g. “best margaritas near me”- will I get a cocktail or a pizza? We shall see!
You can watch the whole Q&A with Gary Illyes here: