It’s been a month since the September 2018 edition of the magnificent Brighton SEO conference organised by Kelvin Newman. This is a conference that started in a room above a pub and has grown to become the largest conference in Europe – no small feat.
Beyond the insights I will give you in the next few paragraphs, it’s interesting to remember that agencies have always played the role of building big brands for clients and business.
It’s only in the last couple of decades that channels like Search and techniques like SEO have created a new space: the generic keywords, The ZMOT, the audiences, and the uncertain searchers e.g. people you can influence when they do not know what they need. In other words, pull marketing. Before that, you were just pushing your brand onto as many people as possible, without thinking of prioritisation of data signals, audiences or channels.
I was asked by the conference organisers to bring along a point of view that goes beyond SEO, by answering the question “what have big media agencies learned from SEO?''. I was also tasked to look at it through this brand lens: am I capturing demand I created, or am I trying to influence and capture people who haven’t made their mind up yet ?
SERP No Visit Searches cause disruption
Search engines are now surfacing the content from websites directly on the Search Engine Results Page. In itself, this is already a question from businesses: should I even optimise towards snippets? What’s the benefit for me if the user doesn’t even land on my website anymore?
Add to that the fact that organic snippets on Google increase Cost Per Clicks (CPCs) on AdWords for those exact keywords. This causes brands and businesses to rethink their strategy around generic keywords and informational searches.
My prediction here is that in two years max, we will have image in AdWords. There needs to be a level playing field between Paid Search and SEO for the whole Paid Search proposition to work effectively (and for the auction system to be fair).
Site Speed and its impact on sales
Speed has been a big topic for the last year, but I feel it didn’t get the importance it deserved. Speed is one of the easiest ways to improve your website experience, which in turn, pays back by bringing more conversions and sales. Talking about site speed in milliseconds is not sexy to any marketer, let alone the CFO you are trying to convince. we talk about speed in terms of conversion rate, revenue, incremental sales and ROI. This is what gets people up in the morning, so let’s align our (media) metrics with their (business) metrics!
As we now say to a lot of partners: it’s easier to double your business by doubling your conversion rate.
Voice Search – a trend but not yet a behaviour
You cannot do a conference in 2018 without talking about voice. My point of view here was a little different, explaining that as marketers, we need the data and the keywords. We need the performance indicators coming from voice if we want to justify shifting efforts.
Back when it was the year or decade of the mobile, at least we could see in our Analytics consoles that there was lots of mobile traffic coming through. We could see it was converting at a lower rate, so we knew how to build a strategy. With voice, we see nothing. There is a lot of industry noise, but we are not seeing the use behaviour develop just yet or which keywords are used in voice.
Beyond my talk, Rand keynote was an eye opener for many SEOs.
In case you don't know, Rand is kind of a big deal in the SEO community, having developed a humongous amount of content to help SEOs and marketers in the last 15 years.
Rand’s conclusions were, in essence, that generic search will die a slow death and will be dominated by “no click searches.'' Snippets and answers (in voice searches) will ultimately lead to surfacing THE best answer, not the 10 best results for you to choose from.
This is a fascinating point of view that you would have already arrived to if you have ever worked multi-channel or linked your branding and your DR campaigns.
A strong brand allows you to:
Offset your reliance on expensive hard-to-get generic keywords that are dominated by snippets towards brand searches (although these are still important togeneric search captures direct market share).
Improve your CTR on those said generic searches (if you have a clever one search strategy)
Improve your website’s conversion rate (brand trust + speed effect)
Let voice come to you. It’s a search after all.
Remember that SEO is a channel where you focus on harvesting existing signals. The key word here being existing. The community is now finding ways to create that demand, so as to not have to rely on the existing generics, which are increasingly in costs every year (they increase more in cost than in volume). So why not mitigate that increase by creating your own demand for your own brand?
After all, no one can steal that from you.