What to Know: SMX West 2014 Takeaways
It was a busy month here at KoMarketing and it’s hard to believe that it’s already April 1st. More so, it’s hard to believe that SMX West was three weeks ago! Typically, I like to do my conference recap immediately after a show but this time I thought I’d use a different approach – take a step back and let things simmer for a bit.
I’m glad I did, because as I looked through my notes and read some of the recaps, I became much more aware and focused on the themes occurring throughout the show versus the tactical recommendations. These themes were certainly indicative of how the industry is evolving and it was interesting to see and hear.
1. Everything is Becoming Personalized
It’s no secret that personalized search has become a huge part of Google over the years. Between location, search history, and now Google+, two people are rarely going to see the same results. This is also the case with Bing, as they too are using social signals in addition to location data and search history.
But personalization is going beyond the search engines, with social networks working to be as personalized as possible. According to Ruslan Belkin, VP of Engineering, Twitter, when a user searches on the network, they look at who you follow, who you interact with, and where you’re located, to give you the most relevant result. They are also developing tools like Magic Recs and Discover to provide personalized push notifications and information to individuals.
For companies, this increases the need for targeted content and better connections. Businesses must meet the needs of their audience, provide the information they are looking for, and take advantage of the opportunities social media offers.
2. It’s About the Brand
One of my favorite themes throughout the show was around branding. The bottom line is, companies can no longer just put stuff out on the web and expect search engines to show it. It’s now about trust, relationships, and being a brand people like.
Rand Fishkin, Founder of Moz, noted in his presentation “those who aren’t building a brand, will struggle mightily in the years ahead.” Why? Because as Justin Sanger, CEO at LocalSupport, stated, “Google wants to rank the real world and the real world is brands and people.”
For search marketers, and marketers in general, we need to ensure that everything we are doing is for the sake of building a brand. Links, content, social media, etc. all have to indicate you are a real brand that people like and trust. We can no longer just put up content for the sake of putting up content or build links because we think it’ll help rank a site. Our goal should also be to get people talking about the company – in social networks, on blogs, in the press, etc.
3. Links Still Matter…But Be Careful!
One of the biggest challenges currently facing search marketers is in understanding what is acceptable to the search engines (well, mainly Google) and what is punishable, specifically around link building.
It seems as if every month there is a new penalty or a new story about a site being punished. However, at the conference, both representatives from Bing and Google admitted that links still play a large role in how they rank sites.
So what does this mean for marketers?
Basically, don’t be stupid. Link building is something that can and should be done. However, it does go back to being a brand and doing things that help you as a business. Most of the link building tactics provided were around creating valuable content for your audience, identifying press opportunities, and generating links that make sense (i.e. identifying unlinked brand mentions).
Don’t waste your time building links for the sake of building links. Build links that are going to help your business.
4. Start Using Schema Markup
The past few conferences I’ve attended, I’ve tried to listen in on what people were saying about Schema, html markup that allows you to provide more information to the search engines about what’s on a page. Derek has been writing about Schema for a while and it’s something we have started implementing for our clients.
At SMX West, Schema was all the rage. eBay and Disney both gave fascinating examples of how they are using it, and more importantly, the results they were seeing. eBay saw a 200% traffic increase for the categories they had implemented Schema markup on while Disney (who didn’t provide actual traffic numbers), discussed the testing they had done on their video descriptions. When looking at what video descriptions were being pulled into search results, they found Schema markup was being shown 70% of the time. That’s a pretty big impact!
For businesses, now is the time to get on the Schema bandwagon. While there is some technical work involved, some CMS systems like WordPress have plugins that help add it for you.
Along with these themes, the main takeaway for me was that the search industry as a whole is finally realizing we need real business tactics. No more spamming the web and trying to game the system. Businesses need to be thinking about how they can give customers what they want on the web…because as it turns out, that’s also what search engines want.