Friday was a fantastic day at BrightonSEO – the Leadspring team were out in force and we have plenty to digest after a number of fantastic talks. Without going into too much detail, and mixing in my own opinions on the state and direction of SEO, here’s my top take-away themes from Friday’s conference:
Importance of brand
Google have been working for some time to try and get a handle on a company’s brand strength. It’s not an easy thing to ascertain in the online world, but the EMD (Exact Match Domain) update was just one example of Google taking steps to devalue sites which demonstrate a weak or nonexistent brand. There’s an argument to say that if your brand is strong enough, you’ll get a certain amount of immunity from updates affecting weaker sites. In fact, Lexi Mills alluded to this in her presentation, suggesting that if users didn’t see, for example, Interflora on the first page for relevant searches they’d just think that Google was serving poor results. Strengthening and building your brand via more traditional marketing methods (both online and offline) will be hugely beneficial for your business anyway and will ultimately reduce reliance on organic search.
Disavowal is now (almost) the norm
We’ve come across a fair few sites in the past year which have been badly hit by the Penguin update, and disavowal has been discussed and indeed implemented in some cases, but generally we’ve considered it a last resort. Having heard the Ex-Googler discussion panel at BrightonSEO, though, it seems that use of the Disavow tool has shot up considerably within the last few months, so much so that it’s become the norm to use it on any site that has been hit, regardless of whether the webmaster has received the ‘unnatural links’ warning.
Another tip from the discussion panel: when disavowing links, you might as well disavow whole domains using the ‘domain:’ instruction in the txt file. Webmaster Tools only shows a sample of your backlinks, so using it as a basis for your disavow document is unreliable; you’ll inevitably miss some links.
Big content is the future
This is nothing new, really, but was highlighted in a great talk by Hannah Smith of Distilled. If you and your client are willing to take the gamble of investing in ‘bigger’ content (defined by Hannah as taking 40 hours or more to produce, before outreach even starts), this can pay dividends – with a return on investment (if return is defined by high value links) far greater than is commonly achieved with ‘smaller’ content such as infographics and articles. The best content is that which solves someone’s problem and which is more comprehensive than anything else currently out there. Hannah stressed that great content doesn’t just build links to itself – you will still need to work incredibly hard on outreach to get the benefit of that time investment.
Lexi Mills, who once again added insight from the world of PR (which is becoming an increasingly important consideration for SEOs as the lines between the fields are further blurred), expanded on Hannah’s presentation with more tips on content creation and outreach. Great content, she says, brings the user into the story – a great example is the BBC’s tool which allows you to determine which number birth you were amongst the World’s population.
Local search – you don’t even need a website
A bold statement from David Whatley – he asserts that a website is not necessarily your first priority if you want to do well in local search. A good start is to audit your business’ presence across local directories – check for consistency and accuracy of key details. In particular, you should look to ensue your ‘NAP’ details (name, address, phone number) are consistent across all sites. Make sure you make use of all the words offered to you when describing your business, and also ensue you have copies of your logo in a range of sizes (to avoid squished, squeezed or blurry logos).
This only scratches the surface of the topics talked about at BrightonSEO, no doubt we’ll post more insight in the coming weeks.
Image credit: @KunleTCampbell (Twitter)