SearchLeeds 2018 and the Future of SEO and Search Marketing

On Thursday 14/06/2018 the largest search marketing and SEO event in the North of England took place at the Leeds First Direct Arena.


Now in its third successive year, SearchLeeds has become an increasingly important event within the digital sector, as can be seen by the continual rise in the number of attending delegates from around 1,300 in 2017 to well over 2,000 this year. It also included 34 industry leading speakers from market leaders such as Deep Crawl, Search Laboratory and Branded3.

Therefore, due to the significance of the event CDS could not help but attend to see what could be learned and as the event progressed there appeared to be an overarching narrative that dominated the talks. This indicated that the future of search marketing was becoming increasingly more creative as opposed to its previous focus on technical SEO best practice. 

Consequently, with the landscape of SEO and search marketing rapidly changing to accommodate the new creative focus, the importance of producing quality content within a competitively supercharged digital market place is paramount. Where previously the strategic use of keywords in order to accumulate links was the dominant method in SEO best practice, though this remains a pivotal factor, the quality of site content as well as the steady volume of production of this is vital to future consumer engagement.

This is in large part due to the increasingly dynamic nature of search marketing consumers. As the search digital marketing has become more and more competitive, consumers have become used to being able to find relevant, engaging content that they want, when they want it. As a result of this, having a well organised website with strategic keyword usage, strong structured data and may still help rank a page well in search engines but in the eyes of many professionals the future of consumer engagement lies in high quality content.

This is especially true of long-form content that comprises of 2,000 words plus, as moving to an increased output of this type of content has seen large increases in conversion rates such as the case of Highrise Marketing, which saw an increase of 37.5% in its conversion rate following its addition of long form content to its homepage.

Key reasons for the increase in the uptake of long form content include the fact that they keep consumers on a page longer than short form pieces, allowing a greater opportunity for companies to put across their ideas. This consequently helps digital organisations gain further credibility in their ideas and establish greater levels of thought leadership. 

Additionally, while production of highly engaging content is essential, the optimisation of this content is also a vital factor in order to extend its reach and presence. With various rumour circulating that search engines are beginning to preferentially rank longer form content, taking the opportunity to optimise site content has rarely been more pressing.

Several presentations from companies such as Deepcrawl and Branded3 contained highly informative information both to facilitate an increased presence of an organisation’s content as well as ways to analyse which content is most effectively fuelling consumer engagement and click through rates.

Rachel Costello from Deepcrawl gave an illuminating talk about the various website signals Google uses to avoid indexing duplicate content and how failing to use these signals in combination with each other can confuse Google’s algorithms leading to duplicate content being indexed anyway. For example, using internal and sitemap links to content can have the effect of overriding canonical tags attached to content leading to the content URL being indexed by the search engine.

First Direct Arena

Therefore, combining website signals; canonical tags, internal linking, parameter handling, backlinks redirects and sitemaps in a strategic manner will go a long way in restricting duplicate content and focusing consumer click throughs on desired content URLs. Testing the effectiveness of a website’s signals is also possible through SEO toolkits like those provided by Deepcrawl and also SEO Powersuite.

Additionally, the presentation given by Branded3’s Emma Barnes highlighted further ways to help optimise and guide the creation of engaging content through the use of Google Tag Manager. These include tags to measure page views, time spent on page and whether internal searches return relevant results. The value of these tags and the data that they provide is that with thorough analysis they can help guide organisations in creating smarter more effective content.

The associated data would reveal what types of content are receiving the highest click through and consumption rates and thus which content an organisation could benefit from creating more of and just as importantly which to make less of.

As the habits of consumers and search marketers have changed by focusing on more engaging content, so too have search engines followed suit in striving towards the development of more intelligent and humanised search algorithms.

This was a theme that dominated the numerous presentations at SearchLeeds 2018 highlighting the increasing consensus of the importance for organisations to take steps in preparing themselves for the impact of these developments. Speakers such as Purna Virji of Microsoft highlighted the increased intelligence of search engines and how they are moving from traditional indexing of results to increases in actual understanding of site content.

Considering the advances made in Google’s Rankbrain algorithm for example, indicators suggest that organisations will be able to rely less and less on the technical aspects of SEO for increases in rankings as search engines increasingly begin to understand essence of the search queries that are put to them and react more intelligently.

While this will clearly subvert the existing methods and structures present within search marketing many SEO professionals view this as a positive development. More than anything it will force digital organisations to gain a better understanding of their customers, their needs and how they use search engine queries to inform their choices. 

So what impact could these developments have upon CDS and how best can we move to prepare for the effect of these changes? What seems clear from the ongoing narrative in the future of search marketing is that in such a packed and highly competitive digital marketplace, failing to rise to meet these changes is not an option if companies wish to retain an edge.

Increasing both the volume of content as well as the quality of this and then broadcasting this in as many available mediums as possible will be pivotal in reaching wider audience with the message of who CDS is and what we do. To achieve this there must also be an entrenched understanding of the current customer base as well as a constant pursuit in understanding new customers as CDS’ reach widens.

This will then allow for the creation that will cater for customer’s unique needs and keep them engaged as they interact with our content. Achieving this will help CDS to continue in the words of Leed Odden to ‘be the best answer’ for our customers.   

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