At the beginning of March, I was lucky enough to head out to California, where the sun was shining, there was no snow in sight, and oh yeah, SMX West was taking place.
While this was my fourth SMX West and ninth SMX overall, each conference experience is a little different and as search evolves and new things arise, I always come home with a ton of great information and really interesting tactics to test.
This year, I tried to attend some different sessions (those a bit outside of my usual space of content and link building) and I wasn’t disappointed. So without further ado, here are my top takeaways from SMX West 2015:
1. #1 Rankings Don’t Mean Jack
For years we’ve been telling clients not to focus on rankings. Why? With localized and personalized results, knowing where your site actually ranks in search results has become pretty much impossible. What I see, might not be what you see, might not be what someone else sees, etc., etc.
On top of that, there are so many different types of search results that tracking rankings isn’t just difficult…it almost becomes subjective.
Take for example the search results shown on slides 4-8 (slideshow courtesy of Dr. Pete):
What would actually constitute the #1 ranking for each result? If we were to provide a rank in the traditional sense, we would choose the first true organic listed site. And in each case, the site is below the fold!
While the goal of being #1 isn’t a bad thing, understanding what #1 actually is, is more important than ever.
As Derek mentioned in his post from the other day, businesses have to understand what types of search results are showing up for queries related to their business.
If search results for your top queries show knowledge graph results or direct answer boxes, you need to figure out how to get there. Because the site that is listed there, is going to get that traffic and #1 won’t mean anything in terms of traffic.
As a side note, Ehren Reilly of GlassDoor gave a really nice presentation on direct answers and how companies can get their site included. I also recommend checking out Mark Traphagen’s recap of the Direct Answers panel, which covered a lot of information on how direct answers are transforming SERPs and what businesses can do to ensure their content is shown.
2. Mobile First is a Real Thing
For the past few years we have been hearing people say businesses have to think “mobile first.” In reality, the majority of people weren’t and seemingly, that was ok. Until now….for real this time.
At SMX, mobile was the conference headline as Google announced they would be releasing a mobile-friendly ranking algorithm on April 21st. To me, this is a very big deal, especially as Google never announces algorithm release dates.
According to Search Engine Land, “Google said it wants sites to prepare; so, you have a few months to get your websites mobile-friendly. Google told us it had been experimenting with mobile ranking factors recently, and now it is here. To prepare, you can use Google’s mobile usability reports and the mobile friendly testing tool.”
Google is also now showing a mobile-friendly tag in search results to indicate if a site is mobile friendly or not.
What does this mean for businesses?
For businesses, you need to understand how this will impact your website traffic. If a large volume of your organic traffic is driven by mobile, how will not having that mobile friendly tag affect your traffic? Probably negatively.
In addition, if you have a large number of mobile users coming to your site already and it’s not optimized for mobile, what are you waiting for?
One last note on mobile that I thought was interesting came from Dr. Pete, who noted that Google launches design changes in mobile first. If you want to see what’s happening in the SERPs, pick up your phone and search.
3. It’s All About the C’s
What C’s might those be?
We hear all the time that search is evolving but when you attend a search-focused conference and there are extensive conversations about customer happiness, conversions, and multi-attribution campaign planning, that really shows show far we’ve come.
Search is more than just Google and looking back through my tweets, I really loved this:
Your customers may never come to your site. You have to meet them where they are. Where are they going? #SMX
— Casie Gillette (@Casieg) March 4, 2015
I’ve said before that search is more than just Google and as online marketers, our job is to understand where our customers are searching.
I can’t possibly cover the great Schema session (Code) or attribution session (Conversions) but be sure to check out these recaps and presentations as the sessions were great and presentations worth seeing:
- The Next Generation Of Structured Data: Taking Markup To The Next Level
- Smarter Attribution with Google Analytics
- Actionable Conversion Strategies for SEMs
It’d be silly if I didn’t include a shameless plug to my own session, which focused on creating content your users actually want to read and want to share. You can see the full presentation here: