On Saturday 3rd of March 2012, it was time for the 7th ThinkVisibility conference to take place at the Alea Casino in Leeds, UK. #ThinkVis is one of my favourite UK SEO conferences, with an equal measure of interesting insights, some of the best SEO minds in the UK (and further a field) and good fun for all.
Below is a run down of the 6 talks that I attended and all of the great tips that I picked up:
Certainly one of my favourite talks of the day. The content was very relevant to some of the main clients I have been working with and doing a lot of the research for. Essentially some great ways of tying SEO activity directly to the bottom line, something that is a constant struggle for many SEOs. My top tips from this session are included below:
1. Identify top revenue generating keywords “focus on where the money is”
2. But, don’t forget about brand terms – they often convert the best
3. Find out which product pages you have (unexpectedly) good rankings for; consider increasing the price and/or upselling.
4. Use internal [site] search and track it in GA, a great source of promotional activity
5. Site structure is key in SEO for eCommerce
6. As much as possible upload multiple hi-res images for each product. Ensure that all alt attributes are filled in too.
7. Build a GA filter for image search traffic, often shows you how little traffic converts from image search but can uncover areas of interest/investment.
8. Use faceted navigation. Name facets appropriately, using keywords and brands for SEO purposes. Filter/block facets that don’t add semantic value (prize, size, etc). But beware of the potential for duplicate content issues.
9. Write unique descriptions for each product as good as you can make them, this does help!
10. ‘Gamify your shopping cart’ drive a user to purchase additional items e.g. “only £3.50 to go to qualify for free shipping!”
11. “Ensure that delivery information is right there on the product page, if people go looking for it, you may lose them!”.
12. DON’T 404 OUT OF STOCK PRODUCTS! Keep the page and identify to the user that it’s out of stock.
13. If a product is out of stock then include related products/cross-sell. Then, after a grace period 301 redirect back to in-stock products to retain link equity.
14. “You are Google Shopping’s bitch”, but utilising tracking parameters in Google shopping feed can help with this.
15. Attract seller reviews (note: different from product reviews) to enhance you Google Shopping visibility. Attract these from shopping comparison sites, such as: Ciao UK, Dooyoo.co.uk, Kelkoo UK, PriceGrabber.co.uk, ReviewCentre.com, TrustE-Marketing, TRUSTPILOT, Feefo
16. Attract product reviews, but remember! These don’t need to be created on your own site can come from review sites.
17. Mark up product/seller reviews with Schema.org. Microdata for products reviews (star ratings) and also for store locations if you have different ones…
18. Link building for ecommerce should utilise the following methods: Blogger outreach (very powerful if used correctly), awards, giveaways
19. Once you have engaged with bloggers: Invite them to industry events, award ceremonies, conferences…?
20. Focus link building on product category pages where possible, otherwise “if the product is discontinued you’re screwed”
21. Encourage social sharing of products by including social sharing buttons on product pages and order confirmation product, ‘it’s not hard to do and it does help!’
Barry is one of the UK SEO ‘heavy weights’ and is a name often bounded about when regarding SEO for eCommerce, therefore having him talk and socialise (over and above just interacting with him via Twitter & Facebook) is a shining example of why events like ThinkVisibility are so great. Great talk Barry, hopefully see you again soon!
See Barry’s talk on SEO for eCommerce on Slideshare.
What was a rather strangely named talk also turned out to be a really useful one for the day. All SEO conferences tend to have anywhere from one, to several ‘link building’ talks, often they can be repetitive or tend to cover much of the same content. Jon’s talk was not like this. It focused very much of link research and the utilisation of a large variety of tools for link prospecting, largely to my delight Excel! Some of my top points are listed below:
22. Generate really good content to acquire links, after a post that loses authority; embed links to your money pages or 301 redirect.
23. My Blog Guest is a great tool for researching guest blog opportunities.
24. Top tip: for My Blog Guest is to “Go to the end of the listings, you’ll tend to find more established blogs”
25. Simply searching for ‘list of [keyword] blogs’ can provide a number of blog link prospects
26. Build your own Google docs blog scraping tool, like Distilled identified in this post. Use this to scrape potential blog link prospects
27. ‘Learn from your peers’, search for the ‘big sites’ in your industry e.g. Vogue – then go through to their related sites. Then scrape.
28. Use Google operator inurl: “guest post [keyword]”
29. Looking through competitor backlinks using ahrefs and check ‘lost links’ for the date when links were lost. “pounce before they know what’s happened”.
30. Use Followerwonk to find popular bloggers, search for url in the bio, then scrape using Google docs.
31. Use the BuzzStream Buzzmarker add on to speed up process of link prospecting and tag sites on the go
32. Use the Multilinks add on, allows you to drag to select all links on a page, then either open all links in separate tabs or export to .csv
33. Use SimilarWeb add on to shows similar sites
34. Use SEO Tools for Excel to pull through PageRank and Social Metrics
35. The best tool for link building is gut feeling
36. When thinking of content, use the websites own ‘popular topics’ are a great way to understand what to write blogs on – it tells you what works!
37. Import website XML sitemap in Excel. Do this by opening Excel > Navigate to ‘data’ > click ‘from web’ > paste XML sitemap URL. You can then, use SEO Tools for excel to pull in social activity for the ‘top pages’ on a site.
Jon delivered an insightful and technical take on link building, focused on automation and quick methods of discovering quality link prospects. In his argument, more time can then be focused on developing good content and fostering relationships. He also showed a harmless passion for business focused reality TV shows, using an example from The Apprentice and Dragon’s Den to frame some of his examples, a novel approach!
Jon also came out with one of the best, and most shared, quotes of the conference “link building can be like making love to a beautiful woman”. Great work Jon!
See Jon’s slides here Link Building Lessons from Swiss Toni
Lunch: SEO Weakest Link (get it…?)
Up next was a talk that, in honesty, I had no idea what to expect. It turned out to be a refreshing talk about design and it’s central [and often overlooked!] importance for websites. My top tips from this talk are included below:
39. “Rankings don’t equal profits… Pretty website don’t equal profits…”.
40. “Ranking highly in search doesn’t allows equate to profits from the site, if site is ugly and unusable people won’t engage…”
41. The 4 basics of a website include a logo, navigation, content and a search area. Should be core to all designs.
42. The web is designed to be used by anyone, anywhere. Don’t over complicate things or you will lose people very quickly.
43. “Content precedes design. Design in the absence of content is not design, it’s decoration.”
44. Lovely depiction of the Heirarchy of User Needs (Aarron Walter) using in ascending order ‘Functional, Reliable, Usable, Pleasurable’.
45. “The only important thing about design is how it relates to people” (Victor Papanek)
46. People will talk about great design, Kean showed an example of a great 404 page from Blippy
47. Calls to actions… “should be clearly labelled & as far to the top of the page as possible.”
48. “Designers are meant to be loved, not to be understood” (Fabien Barral)
Kean delivered some very thought-provoking insights into design and it’s importance on the web. People often forget how closely human psychology and SEO are so closely related. Without due attention, the design and usability of the web can be a big influencer/deterrent for your website.
Great work Kean, you can find the original deck here.
Next up was Carla Marshall to talk about Video SEO, an ever-growing area of SEO and something that has brought us great success at Quirk historically. Other than a great presentation title, there were also some great takeaways:
49. Important to understand that Video SEO is best as part of an integrated campaign.
Carla identified the differences between 2 video SEO strategies, ‘hosted’ and ‘posted’ video. Hosted being when it’s hosted on your own site, posted when it’s hosted on another site e.g. YoutTube, Vimeo… etc
For ‘hosted’ video:
51. Provide an embed code, you will get the link from this when the video is republished, upload to social media channels (YouTube and Vimeo…etc) and allow easy sharing of content
52. Create an MRSS feed for your video
53. Make sure each video need its own landing page and URL
54. Good tip: Repurpose the content from your videos. Turn the transcription into presentations, images, podcasts, PDFs… Use SpeechPad for video transcriptions
55. Create a video sitemap even is the video is posted to YouTube. “Google will not index you content if it doesn’t know where it is”
56. Use SmartVideo to upload and get quick indexing of your videos.
57. Last week Google announced that they will support Schema for video.
For ‘posted’ video:
58. YouTube is strongly influenced by tittle tag, tags, engagement of video, use of embed code, how often that video is found via Google.
59. Use YouTube closed captions to target additional phrases.
60. YouTube META data: The title is all important. Make the title keyword rich but don’t keyword stuff it. The first 27 characters are the most important.
61. YouTube Descriptions: Use the ‘above the fold’ section, first few sentences that show without the user clicking ‘more’. Include the URL in format http:www.example.com in this section, will create a link to your website.
62. Best practise: Offer multiple formats, include target KWs and include ‘video’ in the title (matches search data), encode your video with targeted metadata,
63. On site: Unique landing page + URL per video, build internal and external links to the video page.
Carla covered a good amount of common-sense points that are more-often-than-not, completely overlooked when utilising video material for search. She spoke from experience and tried-and-tested methods that we at Quirk will certainly be utilising moving forward, if we don’t do already.
Click here to see Carla’s presentation Why YouTube is so Much More Than Kittens & Car Crashes on SlideShare.
This was no doubt the most confusing title of the day and after meeting James during the lunch break I decided I’d give it a go. It turned out to certainly be one of my favourite talks of the day. While not ‘hardcore SEO’ it was great to hear as James explored, to great detail, why there is a consistent trend for bloggers and authors to state that ‘[everything] … is DEAD’. James’s argument was essentially “whether you’re using it for dramatic effect or otherwise, it’s just annoying, so stop.”
While there were no ‘key takeaways’ as such, I’ve included a couple of interesting things that James brought to everyone’s attention, below:
64. ‘Endism’, isn’t true to life, even though many famous philosophers (Plato included) have debated it. ‘Writing did not destroy memory’, ‘television did not kill radio, or movies’…
65. Statistics ‘make it easy’, most statistics are used out of context, or are just dumb’.
Understanding Google Crawling & Indexing (Pierre Far, Google)
The final session of the day was held by Google’s very own Pierre Far, who works as a Webmaster Trends Analyst. Poor Pierre was plagued with technical difficulties with the main screen cutting out consistently throughout the beginning of the presentation and ended up, bravely simply sitting on the edge of the stage and talk us through the presentation as he went along.
66. Fetch as Googlebot in Google Webmaster Tools indicates to Google a URL that you want to be indexed.
67. There are now 3 mobile GoogleBots
68. Google scheduler, “changing the URLs that Google actually knows about”. Trade off: try to get as many URLs as possible…without overloading the server”.
69. 500 error on robots.txt file signals major server issues and will stop all other crawl activity until they see 200 status code.
70. Google understands most duplicate content is unintentional and “it doesn’t hurt”. But still important to fix if you can.
71. Google will only change the title tag to increase relevancy e.g. in a situation where you homepage is titled only ‘Home’ then it may substitute this for something with greater explanation of what’s on the page in question.
72. Rich snippets, USE THEM!
Pierre delivered a good talk and it is always good seeing Google representatives at SEO events. To see some additional links that Pierre gave reference to you can see his post on Google+ here.
Presentations that I missed:
- Website Analytics – 60% of the time it works every time (Anna Lewis, Koozai)
- 25 Useful things your can do with WordPress [eBook] (Dan Harrison, WP Doctors)
ThinkVisibility 7 was another roaring success and a great example of why the UK is one of the world’s leading markets for SEO. It has a huge following of passionate and intelligent people working in the industry and luckily enough we’re lucky to have events such as this to meet up and exchange ideas. My hat goes off to Dom Hodgson who organised the event and even brought a bouncy castle in for the after-party (see below), absolutely excellent work sir!
Also, I can’t end without sending a MASSIVE personal thank you and on behalf of Quirk London to everyone at Manual Link Building, particularly Gareth Hoyle, Dan Bell and Rhys Wynne. And to all of the new and old faces that I met while there. See you next time!
Oh, and yes. I did wear a penguin suit to the conference…
Thanks to Sk8geek for the awesome photos from Think Visibility 7