Report: SMX London 2013

Last week saw many of the leading lights in UK and international search come together at Stamford Bridge to discuss many of the hot topics including the impending Google Enhanced Campaigns changes, as well as the convergence between search and social. Caragh McKenna, group account director, UK for The Search Agency offers her thoughts and some of the insight she picked up from attending the two day conference.

As usual the calibre of the speakers at SMX was very strong and the topics were latest news with particular focus on impending search engine changes and the growing importance of social.

What I found particularly noteworthy was that it strongly reiterated the market’s evolving approach to quality linking activity based on offsite content in industry related spaces.

Dixon Jones from Majestic was not just selling an excellent link measurement/assessment tool but emphasising the importance of looking to quality surrounding the content pointing back to your site, a topic that was reiterated within the majority of the SEO sessions over the two days. Dixon provided some great advice in relation to growing your content networks looking at Site authority, Core Stories and utilising the right Connectors!

Chris Bennett from 9th floor was also speaking at this session and went further into the repurposing of content and the latest methods of doing so. The ideas and examples Chris shared from campaigns 97th floor had recently produced for clients in less than sexy sectors were really impressive – engaging. He showed us some fantastic infographics and highlighted the benefits of infographics if done creatively! A nod to “Why I hate Infographics” was amusing given this was a topic that was discussed in every content session. Big shout out to Slideshare in Chris’session!

Goal of external links and off site content to generate visitors to the “money page” – Jonathan Stewart at

A nice take away from Jonathan’s Stewart related to content sharing practices internally are an important education piece assisting with external content generation, idea generation and all round good internal communication.

Meanwhile the Is Link Building Still Crucial? session was well attended with this topic regularly scrutinized. A strong panel discussed the new approaches to link building.

Identifying appropriate target audiences is key to short and long terms strategies. This may be a laborious piece of work in the initial stages of a campaign but will provide the foundation for outreach over a successful campaign.

Death of anchor text – evolution to brank links, diluted anchor and natural anchor

Building out content profiles based on expanded keyword sets is something we have been working on at The Search Agency for our clients. This has resulted in a wealth of content from which to create external pieces but can also be used as a resource top support more traditional online PR pieces.

Creating relationships with bloggers and site owners is key but the message is to provide value to these sites too. If you are an agency with in house tools, can these be used to provide value to the blogger’s sites? Is the content you are providing engaging/ of interest to the blogs target audience. Providing content that is likely to bring value to the blog will boost the credibility of the property along with increasing your chances of getting further pieces placed.

Reaching out to the search engines where manual penalties have occurred - Remember the Google quality guidelines issued and refer back to these before using diavow or submitting a reconsideration request. This process was debated back and forth by the panel but the core message remained that adhering to Google quality guidelines will provide the best protection against incurring such penalties.

Hot Topic – Penguin 2.0 with the announcement from Matt Cutts a few days prior to the conference that Penguin 2.0 would be released in the coming weeks all panels raised some speculation as to what this might mean and how it would affect our clients. The general consensus is that it will result in further penalties applied to sites with very poor inbound link profiles or weak on page content. In the week that followed this announcement we have already seen receiving a page ban due to poor content.

Surprisingly mobile did not appear to play a big part in many of the sessions but was touched on throughout with Responsive Design still being the recommended approach. One nice tip on mobile was to use Bing webmaster tools to check responsive design.

The last presentation sessions I made on Thursday were social centred and the social platform that was the centre of attention was Google + . With Google I/O conference running in tandem with SMX tweets were constant surrounding the news of the release of a new version of Google + and checking it out during the conference I certainly enjoyed its mobile performance, however I’m still exploring my desktop version. It was more than apparent though that the social interaction at SMX was Twitter based with sporadic activity from attendees on Google +. Statistics shared though by Jim Yu of Brightedge and Marcus Tober of Searchmetrics presented convincing evidence of Google + growth path on the basis that it currently the fastest growing social platform.

The big takeaway from the Google + session I believe were the examples of big brands embracing Google + . As a growing platform, and most importantly as an integral part of Google’s current strategy, the short term win surely lies in creating Google + strategies sooner rather than later?

Overall panellists in the social sessions did agree that social signals are a factor in ranking algorithms.

In the final discussion session of the day, one question that was raised was one that I think a lot of agencies ask themselves – “where do you find good SEO people?” It was reassuring that the panellists all agreed that it’s still remarkably difficult to find strong and experienced SEOs. The agreed response from the panel was that hiring the people with the greatest experience was key and that SEO teams should be built in organic silos with the experts at the top and education being provided from senior members. A lot of the agencies seem to be in the same boat of training graduates to ensure good quality from the top down.

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