The future's not set: SearchLove London 2016 digested

This year’s SearchLove 2016 was held at the Brewery in East London. Speakers included Moz’s Rand Fishkin and Dr Pete Meyers, Wordstream's founder Larry Kim and Distilled’s Will Critchlow, plus plenty of first-time speakers from across the marketing spectrum.

Topics ranged from how to conduct an outreach campaign through to how to hack your server logs for data to improve your SEO, and onto the importance of telling good, relatable stories with your content.

It was a varied, wide-ranging agenda that had a staggeringly high hit rate - almost all the talks I listened to across the two days left me feeling excited and motivated about where SEO goes next. And the focus was most definitely on “what's next” - this year’s event was all about the future.

The Changing Landscape of Mobile

For me, the second day was by far the better of the two—the early session delivered a triple bill of back-to-back excellence. Kicking off was Distilled’s Bridget Randolph, with a talk titled The Changing Landscape of Mobile Search. This isn’t the “age of mobile”, it’s now the age of “internet everywhere”.

The desktop search results pages now offer the true “reduced” experience compared to the mobile experience, and this can be seen in how similar the desktop SERPs now look to the mobile SERPs—more card style results, no more right hand side ads, double headlines for search ads and so on.

Bridget’s talk looked ahead to the future - Google are set to roll out mobile page speed as a ranking factor, and have just announced a separate mobile index. Expect better content integration within apps like Google Maps and iMessage.

And there was a great overview of what the increasing use of Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) means for organisations—they’re not right for everyone, and there are unanswered questions around how tracking works for users who view content as an AMP, but they’re here to stay, and they offer a rankings reward for organisations who use them by positioning them above organic search results. This is daunting stuff - that ecosystem approach that Facebook are so focused on is being adopted by Google. They don’t want you to leave.

WhatsAppening with Chat App Marketing

Jen Stiles’s groan-inducingly titled WhatsAppening with Chat App Marketing followed, providing eye-opening insight into the organisations who are making good use of chat apps like Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp and Kik to talk to their customers. The three reasons why we should be thinking about this as a new channel for good? 

The costs associated with it are much lower. There are no pesky algorithms to game. And there’s no noise (yet) - this is untapped terrain for marketers and now’s the time to get involved. The BBC, TechCrunch and H&M were all used as examples of how to engage with customers, and I was impressed by the sheer potential for organisations to exploit this. But beware - customers don’t care about your resource limitations. Ensure a human is on hand to help where necessary.

Taking the Top Spot: How to Earn More Featured Snippets

Lastly, Rob Bucci's talk Taking the Top Spot: How to Earn More Featured Snippets was a great, data-heavy look at the hottest topic in SEO right now. It’s something we’re working on with our SEO clients at the moment, and there are all sorts of opportunities to occupy a coveted “position zero" slot - we just need to look harder. These featured snippets are the “cornerstone” of Google’s search strategy now, and they’re going nowhere. This was a geeky, tip-heavy talk that I’ll be rewatching when it’s online.

Machine Learning

Other highlights included Bas van den Beld’s talk on storytelling ("attention is currency")  and Dr Pete Meyers’ dive into keyword research in a RankBrain world. But Larry Kim’s Terminator 2-themed talk on machine learning, summed up the underlying themes of most of the presentations - where is this all going next?

Machine/deep learning is here, RankBrain is really happening, Penguin is making changes in real-time, Google is going to become your personal assistant, the ground beneath us is constantly evolving and shifting and we need to stay alert and seize marketing opportunities when and where they emerge.

We’re a long, long, long way from rewriting title tags and meta descriptions now, Toto. Buckle up. Stay agile. See you next year.  

Phil Mcminn

Phil McMinnHead of Search & Analytics

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