"The King of Content is nothing without the Queen of Distribution and the Duke of Data." 

Rob Stebbings


Five things we learned at SearchLeeds - part two

Last month, Partners’ digital duo Rob and Annis hopped on the train to Leeds to attend Branded3’s annual SearchLeeds conference. It was a brilliant and educational day, and we blogged about some of our key takeaways afterwards, but found we still had lots to say. So it’s time to buckle up for ‘Five things we learned at SearchLeeds: Part Two’…

What’s the next big thing in digital?

My day at SearchLeeds ended with Epiphany Search’s Malcolm Slade explaining the rise of ‘brand’ as a search engine ranking factor. We’ve known for some years now that keyword-based optimisation has increasingly limited applications: with Google’s ranking algorithms becoming ever smarter, SEOs can no longer game the system in the same way. The result is that high ranking positions now have to be earned through observing best practice, building easily-crawlable websites and following the Google Quality Rater Guidelines.

However, Malcolm has noticed that certain factors correlate with even higher ranking positions: those conveying reliability, trustworthiness, and all-round ‘brand sentiment’. These factors include contextual mentions from other reputable sources, positive customer reviews, and delivery of a good user experience – all of which must be earned through getting people to think, talk about, and search for your brand, rather than by simply popping some keywords into your image alt text. SEO’s about more than just quantitative figures these days, and Malcolm’s observations showed us just how much more.

‘Lightbulb moment’

I might not have expected to be immediately enlightened when the first speaker of the day at SearchLeeds stressed the importance of emotional connections aligned to digital marketing campaign planning. Yet that was precisely what actually happened when Branded 3 Communications Director Laura Crimmons took to the stage in the first session of the day and outlined the positive and negative emotions that most encourage content sharing.

Laura outlined the FOMO concept which lies at the heart of many a successful social media strategy. I must confess I wasn’t familiar with the concept of FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) before I stepped into the Leeds Arena but it was certainly my lightbulb moment of the entire day.

Be it positive (awe, excitement, amusement) or negative (anger or anxiety), it’s these types of emotions triggered which people don’t want to miss out on.

Amongst the successful campaigns cited was the time of your life calculator which reveals the amount of hours spent doing everyday tasks. Based on my answers I’ll have spent 1,574 days commuting to work in a lifetime, 748 days exercising, yet only 50 days cleaning. For sure it’s shareable content but there again if my other half reads this, I may be tasked with more domestic chores instead of time at the gym to balance things out!
It’s fair to say that Google’s ‘micro-moments’ concept was one of the buzzwords of the day. It’s been around for a while, and it’s certainly been mentioned at the last two search conferences I’ve attended, but it only seemed to exist as an abstract concept: something digital marketers should be bearing in mind for content and search marketing, rather than a framework people were using already.

But something I noticed at SearchLeeds was that, this time, the practical applications of the micro-moments framework seemed to be much clearer to everyone. From Danny Blackburn’s examples of how informational and commercial search intent can be used to formulate useful and engaging content, to Google’s Stephen Power demonstrating how our permanent connectivity affects the kind of searches we make, micro-moments are becoming a primary consideration for digital marketers – and it’s easy to see why.

Funniest presentation

As a PR and marketing professional I’m bound to agree with the notion that ‘Content is King’. It was Bill Gates who first declared the impact of online content way back in 1995 before the likes of Google, Facebook and YouTube even existed.

22 years later, the Head of Content at Response One, Toby Brown re-visited the royal family hierarchy and took things one stage further by declaring that the King of Content is nothing without the Queen of Distribution and the Duke of Data.

It’s hard to argue with that. And as Toby quite rightly pointed out, without content there’s no SEO and Google is obsessed with good content which is precisely why I attended SearchLeeds in the first place. I’m looking forward to 2018 already.
If you’re a fan of talks about site audits delivered by an exceedingly sweary Dutchman (no, I didn’t know I was either), Barry Adams’ afternoon session was the ideal choice. Barry, the founder of Polemic Digital, gave a paper on turning SEO audit recommendations into business gains – practical advice gained from years of on-page SEO for clients.

I’ll be the first to admit it: Barry’s talk was so technical that about sixty per cent of it went straight over my head – beyond some useful insight into title tags and Google Search Console, his session wasn’t particularly useful for the work that I do. But his relaxed presentation style, liberal use of the F word and evident enjoyment of his work made his talk genuinely fun – I never expected to find myself giggling about Rich Snippets, but there you go…
The Partners Group


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