The promised Brighton SEO round up is here, amigos.

Yes yes, it’s about time, I know! One month on, I’ve managed to collect my jaw from the floor, scratched my chin in deep thought a fair few times…and collated a round up of the 13 search marketing insights from Brighton SEO that I found the most interesting, and above all, incredibly helpful.

1. Make your out-of-office work harder

Out-of-office emails are criminally underused. You could pay hundreds for access to an autoresponder/email pathway, or you could just put this little email bot to use.

Add links and calls to action. Make it stand out from everyone else’s. This will help your branding, be it personal or professional. If someone emails you, and gets a reply straight back (even if it is an out-of-office response), they’ll open it rapidly. Put something useful in there for them, something that makes them laugh or remember you, and you could turn lead into gold. That’s marketing alchemy, right there.

2. Getting to #1 place in Google SERPs is old hat – how about position ZERO?

Rob Bucci of GetStat did an excellent overview of a study his team have been conducting recently, on how to get into Google’s featured snippets. Incredibly, he revealed that you don’t even have to be on the first page to get into that snippet!! Who needs 1st place, when you can get position ZERO?!

Here’s how he broke down their process to snippet success:

  • Analyse your keywords, looking at keywords that appear on the first page of search results.
  • Create strategic new content targeted at snippets i.e. using the word ‘cost’ in the keyword query – 72% of queries that include “cost” in them have a featured snippet.

Next, tailor your content to appear well in future featured snippets by

  • bringing in question and answer formatting, answering just one question in content where possible.
  • slicing up your content with tables and sub-headings, with particular focus on using table tags and ordered lists.
  • polishing your existing snippets for higher CTR; messing with Google by adding further information to the entry on your page once ranking in the featured snippet.

And finally…

  • Don’t worry about where your page ranks for that term – you can still appear in the featured snippet, as long as you optimise correctly for them!

Now THAT, amigo, is how you “win the SERPs game without even playing” (kudos Rob!).

3. Different industries have different ranking factors

No matter what you try, sometimes traditional ranking factors just seem to fail these days. So why is this? Because of Google’s constantly evolving intelligence, claims Marcus Tober. In particular, he points out that different industries clearly have different ranking factors. Backlinks or referring domains for, say, finance, seem to have a negative correlation to SERP position (i.e. more backlinks = lower SERP), such as in the image below.

Backlinks do not seem to be positive ranking factors for finance companies
You can view all of Markus Tober’s slide deck on SlideShare for free.

Why is this? That’s a question for Google really, but it’s clear that relevancy factors are very important for SERPs these days, and of course user intention is hugely important. A link to an article on financial advice, for instance, may not be as indicative of its reliability and accuracy than say the brand’s reputation as a credible source of important advice. In contrast, eCommerce sites do not necessarily have this need, and so backlinks are clearly weighted higher when ranking.

4. Page speed matters now more than ever

Think searchers are impatient now? Well according to Nichola Stott:

Young adults spend between 11 and 25% less time on your content.

Apparently this means the attention span of Gen Z is around eight seconds.

Eight. Freakin’. Seconds.

That’s less than a goldfish!

Google have claimed before that page speed is not a direct ranking signal, but let’s be honest – it’s an important factor for other well-known signals. If your page is slow to load, you can bet your bottom dollar that you will see more people bouncing; especially if you are not instantly recognisable as an authoritative source. Bad bounce rate? Negative affect on your rankings in the search results, I’m afraid, and adios Gen Z!

5. Be fast, be mobile, be everywhere

While we’re on the subject of Gen Z…Nichola also spoke about how to reach the Gen Z 40% of the online audience.

Gen Z are using and switching between 5 different devices, are more fond of private messaging apps than social media, and that’s reflected in the rise of WhatsApp, SnapChat, and Twitter’s recent addition of a share via private message option for tweets. BuzzFeed was also mentioned here, with an astonishing 75% of their content NOT on BuzzFeed itself. What this means is you need to STOP focusing on your website – it doesn’t matter. The web is interconnected, and with the rise of personal agents like Amazon Echo, your audience may not even be using simple search as much.

YEAH! HIGH-FIVE! Wait…are the robots taking over?! via GIPHY

That means your content needs to be everywhere, because that’s where your future audience will be: Multiple mediums, multiple devices, multiple contact points. That means the Rule of Seven is even more important, too!

6. One second less page load time = 2% increase in conversions

For every 1 second they reduced page load time, Walnut Labs found that conversions increased by 2%. That might not sound like a lot, but just think of the marginal gains if you can reduce your site speed from say, 4 seconds to 1. That’s a potential 6% increase in conversions – and that is worth fighting tooth and nail for. Here, the Golden Rule is that making positive changes to the front end of your website qualifies as a quick win, and therefore the most important part of your website to optimise for improved page speed.

7. Fontsquirrel eases the IE woe you never even knew you had

So it turns out that good ol’ Internet Explorer is slower than Chrome. Surprise surprise, right? Well the reason behind this is that IE reads ALL styles from your site’s CSS (e.g. for fonts), rather than just pulling from the the styles that are in use.

You could have 8 different types of font in use on your website (please no), but only two in use on your blog post or landing page. Tough luck, IE is still going to window shop all of them before deciding – so it’s worth cutting these down, or even using inline CSS to determine when you want certain fonts, instead.

This is where Tom Bennet of Builtvisible suggests using Fontsquirrel. If using a font purely for your logo, then you can just select the letters you are using for it with this handy freeware. Doing so will reduce demands and requests on the site for all those unused letters. Simple, but effective.

8. You can’t moderate it, so embrace the fail on social media!

Admit your failure and add a bit of humour to the situation. It’s okay to fail, and showing you are human helps your audience identify with you. Email marketing campaigns where I have had to send a client’s apology email to their email list because something went wrong on the client’s/brand’s end receive an astronomical amount of positive feedback and open rates. You’d be surprised at how many people suddenly open a ‘Sorry!’ or ‘Whoops!’ email. Generally, people appreciate people admitting they got something wrong, so don’t be afraid to do so on social either.

9. Canonical tags are sooooo important for eCommerce sites

Most of us will know by now how important canonical tags are, but it’s one thing knowing what you should be doing, and another seeing firsthand the horrendous damage failing to do this can cause.

Using Waterstones as an example, Jon Earnshaw explained how multiple formats of one book causing a huge fluctuation in the SERPs.

Waterstones 'The Bone Clocks' page jumping erratically from first page to no-man's land in the SERPs
The recent eConsultancy’s article on this from Jon Earnshaw at Pi Datametrics is well worth a read, and is the source of this image.

Why was this happening? Well although it wasn’t immediately obvious, it’s because Waterstones sold a hardback copy of the book, and also a paperback…but no canonical tag telling Google which it should look at. There’s only so much you can do to differentiate the two formats of book, after all, and so Google hammered each page alternately with a penalty depending on which was in higher demand at the time. Which if nothing else, is proof that Google’s search algorithm is always watching…

10. Expand/hides are ignored by Google for rankings, but NOT for penalties.

It’s tough to explain this any better than Jon Earnshaw already has in his talk, but basically although Google recently announced their bots would ignore expand/hide functionalities on websites for ranking purposes, Waterstones found out the hard way that a book they sold was definitely being penalised in the SERPs for having it’s official blurb in the expand/hide description, because the book’s publisher was also using this same content. “Boom! Duplicate content!” says Google’s algorithm, and adios amigo to Waterstone’s formerly high-ranking SERP for the book.

11. The U.K. has an advantage for Local SEO tips and tricks

Follow the U.S. experts, such as Greg Gifford. Updates could roll out months ahead of the U.K. (and historically have), meaning that by the time it reaches the U.K., our friends across the pond have researched the hell out of it, and we are prepared. Maybe obvious, but often the best tips are.

12. Links with low domain authority don’t have to be bad

These are actually VERY powerful if they are local businesses, and will WIN local SEO for you! It doesn’t have to be a choice between Authority or Locality either – both will help you; even if it’s just a tiny local Church or venue. If it’s local, it’s a winner for boosting your Local Search presence.

13. Contact forms and webchats are the key to building audience personas

Customers input queries on your site with a contact form, right? And maybe sometimes those queries can seem a bit one-purpose: They ask a question, you answer. But what you don’t realise is that this stuff isn’t just gold dust for your marketing – it’s freakin’ stardust!

No, I’m not kidding. Impression‘s Laura Hampton (@lauralhampton) points out that, whether it be via webchats or contact forms, this kind of communication with your customers is key to gaining insight into their motivations. Here, customers input queries via the site, create drafts in the backend of the site, and can then be made into posts or topics. Now we know that personas are most powerful when we are able to empathise with them, and lend human traits. So what better way to create and then reach your audience personas than by using your audience’s own queries for user-generated content?

Well rounded?

…and that’s it for our Brighton SEO round up this time around. Did you glean any other brilliant insights from Brighton SEO? Let us know by sharing this article with your thoughts, or leaving a comment below!

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