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Lord of the Rings. SEO. Yes, they’re related.

In fact, according to Oliver, they have a lot in common.

(Bing + Yahoo = Merry and Pippin).

The Lord of the Serps has unmasked himself for your benefit here at Search Leeds.

If you hadn’t already noticed, SEOs are different.

“SEOs are weirdoes, and aren’t really like normal people. You guys are weirdoes!”

SEOs feel existential dread about Google. They’re obsessed about niche stuff like ‘nofollow and dofollow’.

Users are weird too, but they also have great insight.

  • They use standard devices
  • Unconventional software
  • They find obstacles
  • And they’re objective

So, we should listen to them.

Follow Oliver on Twitter @LordOfTheSERPs, @OliverBrett


When you made this account as a joke but now you’re on #SearchLeeds @sistrix Stage 2 at 16:10 today: pic.twitter.com/UdZeMzS7QW

— Lord of the SERPs (@LordOfTheSERPs) June 14, 2018

Follow Oliver on Twitter @LordOfTheSERPs, @OliverBrett


Why SEO wizards need user testing hobbits

Need we say more?

Oliver Brett leads a team of consultants at Screaming Frog by day and runs an SEO/LOTR-themed Twitter account by night. And he’s on Stage Two right now.

SEOs might be wizards when it comes to serving search engines, but sometimes you need the insight of a humble hobbit to help figure out what’s best for users. Oliver discusses how to bring UX into the auditing process to take your testing to the next level. What are you waiting for? Fly, you fools.

Follow Oliver on Twitter @LordOfTheSERPs, @OliverBrett


Julia’s essential checklist:

  • Check your server logs to see any unusual URLs being requested
  • Check Majestic for your indexed/linked to pages
  • Check Google Search Console for unusual queries, URLs, and crawl errors
So, what if you do get hacked?

 “If you only take away one thing from this talk, let it be this: always have a clean backup.”

Make a clean backup after conducting a health check, when you’re sure your site is clean. Keep it somewhere safe.

What else?

“Act quick – but don’t panic.”

These are Julia’s tips:

  • Don’t delete anything until you know what’s happened
  • Update all passwords
  • Remove or update vulnerable elements
  • Check if your mail server is affected
  • Clean your SERPs (look for parasite pages)

Follow Julia on Twitter @IrishWonder


The truth is, we are vulnerable.

(More now than ever before).

Vulnerabilities are growing YoY (even this second, as Julia speaks).

So, what can you do?

Undergo a ‘health check’. It should be part of your regular site audits

What you include is system dependent, but think about:

  • What gets indexed?
  • Check for known vulnerabilities using reliable tools (like WPScan)
  • Remove unused plugins
  • Revoke unneeded access

Follow Julia on Twitter @IrishWonder


Julia is mythbusting.

SSL=Secure Site?


SSL=Secure Connection.

“It has nothing to do with whether or not it can be hacked.”

Follow Julia on Twitter @IrishWonder


Why are we talking about security at a search related conference?

Why does security matter? What does it have to do with SEO and Digital Marketing?

Julia is going to tell us. (Hint: It’s not just because of GDPR).

“Security issues can give you SEO nightmares.”

Some of these include:

  • Ranking for keywords that have nothing to do with your site
  • Getting hacked

According to Google Webmaster Guidelines: You’re responsible for your own site. And if you don’t look after it, you might get a penalty.

“Nobody’s going to do this for you. Don’t rely on Google to help you with this.”

Because by the time you see a security warning, it might be too late.

Follow Julia on Twitter @IrishWonder


We’ve had a busy afternoon up here at Stage Two (ahem, standing room only at one point, ahem).

And a special thanks to Luke Carthy for stepping in last minute and saving the day with his outstanding lessons on the amazing things internal site search can do for you.

Join us for another lineup of brilliant talks to finish off a great day of technical revelations on Stage Two.


We’ve had a busy afternoon up here at Stage Two (ahem, standing room only at one point, ahem).

And a special thanks to Luke Carthy for stepping in last minute and saving the day with his outstanding lessons on the amazing things internal site search can do for you.

Join us for another lineup of brilliant talks to finish off a great day of technical revelations on Stage Two.


Join us at 15:45 on Stage Two to learn about

How to audit your site for security

With Julia Logan, SEO consultant at..

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‘To get anywhere we need to get our data right.’

That starts with defining outcomes, audit data, plan how to fill gaps, make sure it’s of quality, and then turn to technology.

Sam talks about how personas created out of data science even ended up informing face-to-face sales for a particular client. So it’s not just your digital campaigns that these things can help with.

“Advertising used to be simple”

Sam notes how it used to be things like TV, radio, and magazines, and now it’s pretty much everywhere. You need to think about comms planning, where you’re thinking of intercepting these people in the best way. You have to understand not only what channels people are engaging with, but how they’re doing it and the affect that’s having on their conversion journey.

“87% of TV viewers watch TV in conjunction with another device.”

So if you’re running a TV campaign, your PPC and other on-site work needs to be ready for those searches.


Audience data is vital

Once we understand audiences more effectively we can work better, says Jon. We have to integrate our audience information in a more effective way. Some people who did that incredibly well were Cambridge Analytica, says Jon. What it did both terrifies and impresses him, he says. On the other end of the scale, traditional marketing has an awful lot of waste, says Jon.

“Amazon are pricing products differently for different types of people.”

And that’s down to AI realising repeat purchasers will pay a higher price. Another example of audience data being used – whatever you might think about it.


The last word

The dynamic duo of Branded3’s Jon and Edit.’s Sam close out Stage Three.

How to deliver growth in the most efficient way possible
Jon Greenhalgh
Director of Paid Media, Branded3

Sam Wright
Media Director, Edit

Sam is a multi-channel media expert, focusing in on using data to benefit Edit’s clients’ bottom line. Adept at drawing actionable insights from statistics and unlocking sustainable business growth for clients across multiple sectors, Sam is an expert in integrated cross-channel acquisition strategies which drive ROI and consumer action.


‘These are the conversations you’re going to have’

C-level dashboards are going to be your lifeblood, says Elizabeth. You can get instant visibility of profitably, cost, and performance. You can track it over different periods, and see if the things you’re selling are in stock or out of stock and for how long. Helping you flag issues to clients about drops that might occur. Pretty helpful.

“This really changes the role of the PPC professional.”

Pricing is also absolutely key. When comparing your competitors, realise that they might be spotting your automation is a bot and giving you false data. And if you’re not competing in search against the people you’re measuring it’s not useful to look at those prices. Everyone needs to be aware of these kinds of things.

Clients are also going to be asking you about whether there’s enough stock, how long something was out of stock for, how bestsellers are performing.


Learn from high street failures

Google Shopping is turning everything on its head, says Elizabeth. She notes all the changes going on on the high street.

Back in digital we have things like increasing ‘walled gardens’ (such as Twitter etc.) and increasing machine learning. Where are you, as a professional, going to add value, asks Elizabeth.

“Machine learning has a lot more intelligence than AI.”

Elizabeth says AI is more about automation and machine learning is about nuanced solutions.

“If you want to really perform on Shopping you’re going to need a great quality feed.”

Elizabeth says you really need to change and test the product titles and descriptions. Which takes time, she notes, but that’s where automation comes in. Elizabeth pulls it back to the high street saying that although you might not want to change how you do things, you need to – high street stores seeing problems now didn’t change and adapt.

“Machine learning will change the PPC manager’s role forever.”

Getting to grips with cost centres is key, says Elizabeth.


Back to the future

Great Scott! More future insights, this time from Elizbeth Clark.

The future of shopping
Elizabeth Clark
CEO and Founder, Dream Agility

Elizabeth Clark is the CEO and co-founder of multi award-winning Dream Agility, an international conference speaker and bestselling author. The Dream Agility tech gives you the equivalent of an army of people working on your paid search, to a level of granularity that gives unparalleled results with relentless accuracy, thanks to Dream Agility’s patent pending platform with its machine learning, Visual AI and superior Feed Optimising. Dream Agility serve ads in over 20 countries from five locations – USA, Korea, France, Australia and not forgetting our head offices in Ramsbottom, UK. A Google Premier Partner (in the top 5% of Partners in the world) and one of only 42 approved Google Shopping Partners Globally.


Problems with attribution

John moves onto the ‘lightbulb’ paradox. Different channels taking ownership of conversions.

“As an industry, we really need to move away from last click. It’s not really fair on all the other channels.”

John says data-driven attribution modeling is too black box – it would be nice to know how Google is making its calculations.

Nearly half of time spent out of  all marketing channels is within digital, but we only invest 25% says John.

“Understand the problems in order to understand the solutions.”

And continuously improve. Take everything with a pinch of salet until you really understand the data, says John.


It’s all about personas

Looking into your personas is one thing, but to really take advantage you have to think about the problems they face, says John. Think about what’s stopping them converting and remove those hurdles. What can you do in your marketing to set these different people at ease.

Personalisation is great, but sometimes it can be too intrusive for some and turn them off.


Back from the break

Sweet… insights from John of Thorntons. (Sorry.)

Creating a data-driven customer journey with personas and smarter investment
John Rowley
Digital Marketing Manager, Thorntons

John Alexander Rowley has been passionate about helping businesses of all shapes and sizes improve their digital performance for almost 15 years. During this time he has helped shape the digital marketing strategies for multiple organisations across various sectors, most recently focusing on ecommerce growth at Thorntons as part of a €13b global organisation (Ferrero). John is accountable for over £1m in digital marketing overheads and manages an in-house team with expertise across Paid and organic search as well as Email/CRM, Affiliates, Social and Direct Mail.

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Our very own Stephen Kenwright closes the show

Branded3’s Director of Strategy is ending the day with his talk on how much brands are spending on SEO.

Amazingly, 2017 was the first year that UK brands spent more money on search than on TV ads.

Read Steve’s study here: https://www.branded3.com/blog/relevant-linkbuilding-study/


Pinching keyword insight from your competitors

Kelvin Newman from Rough Agenda and organiser of Brighton SEO is sharing his insight into alternative keyword research. Follow him on Twitter: @kelvinnewman.

“Just write for your user is a lazy suggestion”, we can better understand the user if we can better understand how other sites are writing about a topic.

Optimising your website’s #keywords? Take a page out of your competitors book recommends @kelvinnewman of #brightonSEO! Oh, and try using a tool called textise #SearchLeeds

— DeepCrawl (@DeepCrawl) June 14, 2018


Advanced integrated influence strategy and tactics
Lexi Mills from Shift6 is up next! Follow her on Twitter: @leximills
She’ll be talking about incorporating Machine Learning / AI to help with your SEO & content strategy.
Shes says that “50% of content is some publications is directed by AI.”

Just a few minutes in and already so many actionable insights from @leximills on using #ML and #AI like #publishers do for better #SEO and #PR results; make #content based on what’s trending on #amazon! #searchleeds pic.twitter.com/w2E9ANytRm
— DeepCrawl (@DeepCrawl) June 14, 2018


Retailers…Stop thinking store,start thinking story

Jasper Bell, Head of Commerce from AmazeRealise


Will robots destroy us all?

Kristal Ireland, Head of Ecommerce & Technology at Virgin East Coast Trains talks about the future of AI.

Kristal discusses the positives and negatives of AI in the work place – balancing human and financial opinions is a must, “robots aren’t human, we still need people”.

Follow Kristal: @kristalsmile

Absolutely amazing talk at @SearchLeeds by Kristal Ireland from @Virgin_TrainsEC on ethical AI and how we still need people – technology isn’t human. But also great examples on where there is AI for good #searchleeds pic.twitter.com/LiJtzgUOhj
— Robert Allan Jones (@robert_a_jones) June 14, 2018


Mobile first indexing

What, why and, more importantly, when? Jon Myers (@JonDMyers), UK Search Personality of the Year 2017 and Chief Growth Officer at DeepCrawl tells us everything we need to know!

“60% of web traffic is on a mobile device, and those users who have a bad experience are 60% less likely to purchase from that brand in the future”

If your site doesn’t load in 6 seconds, you’ve probably lost a customer.

#sitespeed by second 6 you’ve probably lost the client #searchleeds @DeepCrawl pic.twitter.com/jD5j96aycS
— Jason Barnard (@jasonmbarnard) June 14, 2018

In summary, the future of SEO is well and truly mobile. We need to think structured data, page speed, and usability.


Next up we have Danny Blackburn from Stickyeyes.

Danny is the content director at Stickyeyes and he’ll be talking about the link between great content marketing and getting to the top of the search results.

Give him a follow: @Danny_Blackburn

@Danny_Blackburn of @stickyeyes quoting @taranicholle – “Spotting patterns in what people wanted in their lives, and their obstacles, then creating content around that just plain worked.” #SearchLeeds #contentmarketing #SEO pic.twitter.com/mY3nSHLJWi
— Xpand Marketing (@Xpand_Marketing) June 14, 2018


What Happens when a Werewolf bites a Goldfish?

Hannah Smith, Head of Creative at Verve Search will be talking about how to come up with creative ideas that achieve results.

Twitter handle: @hannah_bo_banna

Hannah’s job is to come up with ideas which people will share and journalists will want to write about, but where does she get her ideas from?

Her answer..

Just think outside of the box!

“You get your ideas from daydreaming.
You get your ideas from being bored.
You get ideas all the time.”

Be inspired…

You’ll find cool stuff (like awesome data sets) and you should keep hold of it and you’ll connect the dots eventually @hannah_bo_banna #searchleeds
— Pedro (@AgencyPedro) June 14, 2018


Kirsty Hulse talking content and links

She’ll be answering the big question – How do we do it without breaking the bank?

Right now on the main stage @Kirsty_Hulse talking content and links – and how to do it without breaking the bank #searchleeds pic.twitter.com/jVPTIEnuHl
— SearchLeeds (@SearchLeeds) 14 June 2018

Kirsty’s 4 core themes to content marketing:

1. What are the 3 core objectives?
2. What is the value proposition?
3. What is the USP?
4. What is the consistent message?

You also need to think long term!

Great point from @Kirsty_Hulse .. always be evolving (that includes your SEO offer) .. #SearchLeeds pic.twitter.com/gwCt383AFE
— Mark Kelly (@markkelly333) June 14, 2018


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It’s almost time for SearchLeeds! With just 5 weeks to go until the conference things are getting busy in the Branded3 office and preparation is well under way. Now in its third year, SearchLeeds has become a place to share, network, and learn for marketers of all levels.

The conference is taking place from 9-5 on June 14th at the first direct arena. There’ll be 36 talks across three stages with plenty of topics covered, meaning there is something for every marketer.

If you haven’t already registered for SearchLeeds here are five reasons why you should be attending the conference:

  1. The speakers

We have carefully selected an incredible line-up of the smartest minds in the industry to speak at this year’s conference. The SearchLeeds speakers are chosen based on their content and industry profile to ensure that they’re of the highest standard.

Our speakers will be sharing their secrets, strategies, and processes with you, providing you with the latest insight to inspire you with new ideas and ways of working.

Across the three stages there’s so much to learn, with a huge variety of topics covered. The content is second to none and you’ll be hearing from key players in the industry including brands, tool providers, and agencies alike. The full agenda will be live in the coming days, so watch this space!

Can we get a round of e-plause for @Branded_3‘s @stekenwright @charlie_harris6 for that #SearchLeeds speaker lineup? What with @Kirsty_Hulse @filiwiese @jillquick @leximills @kelvinnewman @hannah_bo_banna @irishwonder @purnavirji @basgr @dawnieando @dergal & MORE, I can’t even… pic.twitter.com/8suaREhvA1

— DeepCrawl (@DeepCrawl) May 9, 2018

  1. The venue

We have picked the biggest venue we could find in Leeds to host SearchLeeds – the first direct arena. The arena can easily house over 2,000 marketers across the three stages and includes a bar and large exhibition area.

Our impressive main stage can comfortably seat over 2,000 delegates and we have supersized our second stage to accommodate up to 300 delegates. The third stage is a little smaller, providing a relaxed environment for 150 delegates.

The venue also has a large breakout area for quiet working. So, whether you want to catch up on emails or have a last minute deadline to reach, there’ll be a dedicated area for you to take some time out if you need to.

  1. The sponsors

We are incredibly grateful to our wonderful sponsors for their continued support. Without their help, we wouldn’t be able to keep SearchLeeds the free event it is.

Our exhibition area provides the opportunity to network with fellow marketing professionals in a relaxed environment. You’ll get the chance to meet and share knowledge with industry leading tool providers, agencies, brands, and many more.

Search Laboratory will be providing free tea and coffee throughout the day of the conference and you can grab a pint or two at the SearchLeeds beer garden, hosted by our friends at DeepCrawl.

  1. The parties

Catch up with old friends and meet new ones at our networking parties.

If you’re in Leeds the night before the conference, join our speakers, sponsors, and fellow marketers at The Brotherhood for our official SearchLeeds pre-party. We’ll be kicking off the festivities with a beer or two  ahead of the main event.

This year’s after party will be taking place at the Premier Lounge in the first direct arena. Join us for the post-event wind-down to discuss your thoughts about the day and have a few drinks with the other attendees.

  1. The location

There are so many great things about Leeds, and the incredible digital community we have here is one of them.

Home to our headquarters and to some of the biggest and best search agencies in the country, Leeds has over 3,500 professionals working across search marketing. Our event celebrates the thriving search sector in the city.

SearchLeeds is the only event of its kind in the North of England and is now the largest annual gathering of search marketers in this part of the country – something we’re super proud of!

And did we mention that it’s free?

Yep – all that, for free!

Register today.

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On what has been hailed as the hottest day of the year so far, we hosted our second edition of Leeds Loves Search as part of the Leeds Digital Festival. We were joined by 100 marketers and four awesome speakers at Duke Studios for an afternoon of insight into digital marketing.

We managed to pull ourselves away from the sun (and the beer garden at Duke Studios) to enjoy talks on AI, link building, PPC automation, analytics and more. Our speakers from Home Agency, Epiphany and Branded3 provided the audience with lots of actionable advice and plenty of helpful take-aways.

We would like to say a huge thanks to our wonderful speakers and Shelley Walsh from ShellShock UK who delivered brilliant talks and fielded questions in the crazy heat. Below is an overview of where to find the slides from the talks and you can also watch the conference in full here.

Leeds Loves Search talks: Talk #1:

Arianne Donoghue Paid Development Manager, Epiphany


The PPC robots are coming for your job

Huge thanks to everyone who came to #LeedsLovesSearch earlier today. You can find my slides here: https://t.co/V8a8KuLo53

And for anyone who is interested on my presentation in getting started with audiences in PPC, you can find it here: https://t.co/pGT8aX6EL4#LeedsDigi18 pic.twitter.com/7jJubEVoGT

— Arianne Donoghue (@ArianneDonoghue) April 19, 2018

Talk #2:

Neill Horie – Head of Artificial Intelligence Optimisation, Home Agency


Do you know if Alexa is lying to you?

Thanks! If you missed it, my talk on “Is Alexa lying to you?” is available at. This version even has annotations, so you don’t get overwhelmed by large images of English monarchs. #LeedsDigi18 #LeedsLovesSearch https://t.co/qNhxKknzlk https://t.co/yWYS0BatMP

— Neill Horie (@NeillHorie) April 19, 2018

Talk #3:

Emma Barnes – Senior Insight & Analytics Analyst, Branded3


Stop reporting on rubbish! 10 ways to fix your Analytics data

Super useful tips from our analytics genius @ejbarnes89 at #leedslovessearch @Branded_3 pic.twitter.com/IRpGbrWWjt

— Tim Grice (@Tim_Grice) April 19, 2018

Talk #4:

Stephen Kenwright – Strategy Director, Branded3


Redefining relevance: links in 2018

And our last speaker is Strategy Director @stekenwright discussing SEO ranking factors #Leedsdigi18 #LeedsLovesSearch pic.twitter.com/zu9qKLvrS3

— Branded3 (@Branded_3) April 19, 2018

Thanks to all of those who took the afternoon to come along to the event. If you’re looking for more events of this kind in Leeds you should check out our annual Search marketing conference, SearchLeeds. SearchLeeds is only two months away, taking place on June 14th at the first direct arena. With space for over 2,000 delegates, 36 international speakers, 3 stages, varied tracks and networking opportunities at our parties, the conference is one not to be missed.

And did we mention that it’s free? Yep – all that, for free!

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This article originally appeared in the April 2014 BrightonSEO newspaper.

“SEO is dead!” – the rallying cry of literally tens of people who know what good linkbait looks like.

The word “SEO” is being dropped by more and more agencies and tool providers, but search engine optimisation isn’t dropping from their attitudes.

We work in an industry where the KPIs of content marketing and PR are links and rankings. Social media should drive conversions and creative should be measurable. Thankfully we’re all SEOs and this is the kind of thing we do in our sleep.

We are creative

In another time, and another life, links cost $15 each – plus another Fiverr to pay the copywriter you were using. And the exchange rate used to be excellent. Being “good at outreach” meant convincing the site owner to field the PayPal fees.

Now if you want to build links your “link building team” has to be capable of PR, copywriting, designing and often developing. Or you have to pay an agency to do that and somebody is going to have to see an invoice. Now it matters if nobody sees your links because an arbitrary output of “search visibility” doesn’t impress the C-Suite.

As a result SEO agencies are delivering creative campaigns that many media agencies would be proud of. As an industry we’re capitalising on the fact that people have to see our output faster than the creative industries are learning how to do the things that we’ve known for years: who holds the keys to the internet, and how do we measure success once the door is open? It’s like Bill Bernbach said (not about SEO), “if nobody notices your advertising everything else is academic.”

The output of SEO is visibility. Good job really.

We are channel hoppers

Despite the fact that we’ve been basically ignoring Bing and Yahoo! for years we’ve suddenly become extremely proficient at channel hopping (2018 note: stop ignoring Bing). We drove the social revolution; now we’re driving the demand for content marketing as brand marketers are realising that link building is dead (link building – not building links).

Any SEO worth his salt is fluent in Google Analytics, and as a consequence we find it laughable how difficult traditional agencies find it to track the ROI of content and social. To us it’s available in a few clicks, and it comes in the form of traffic and transactions – not abstract concepts like “brand awareness” (we drive that too).

We’re the ones driving mobile (because we know it’s good for SEO), and we learned a long time ago that “because Google likes it” isn’t a good enough business case, so we developed robust ways to project traffic (without even a single drop of keyword data), suggest how it might impact conversion rate, and how quickly we can pay off the investment. We can do this because we know where customers come from.

We understand that Facebook runs on an algorithm, and therefore what makes it into people’s feeds must be chosen based on some sort of signal. We can work with that. Marketing on Facebook and Twitter is impossible without great content…but Matt Cutts taught us that years ago.

We’re adaptable

If you’ve been doing SEO for a year or two you’ll no doubt have realised that our livelihoods are mostly reliant on a single website we have absolutely no control over. If Google shut down tomorrow (not likely) – or went completely paid like Facebook is probably about to (more likely) – the SEO industry would survive. Every single day, when we come to work, something has changed and we have to do things slightly differently.

We survived Penguin, Panda, manual actions. The guy who lost eBay $200million got another job just fine. Google has been conditioning us to keep up with the digital revolution for the best part of a decade.

Rankings don’t come from being good at SEO. They come from knowing how to leverage PR, platform, content, creative, data, development teams, social, paying Google lots of money…we have the broadest skill set of any marketers. Google could go down at any second and we’d know roughly what we could do with our lives – 17 (now 21) years of SEO and nobody outside of the industry has much clue how Google works.

PR died so search could live

As the 00s progressed PR agencies frequently failed to retain their creative talent and – understanding that this wasn’t strictly required to deliver coverage for their clients – increasingly hired people who could “smile and dial”, according to Applied Futurist Tom Cheesewright.

“This is why SEO agencies turned up in the late noughties and kicked their asses” he says. Now link building has become PR the race is on between PR agencies who want to convince brands that they’re good at SEO, and SEO agencies who want to convince brands that they’re good at PR. But the infrastructure required to deliver a great search campaign has changed substantially. PR agencies are building better links than we were a decade ago, but are they doing better SEO than we are now?

“SEO is dead” is dead

Articles declaring that SEO is no more seem to be getting less and less frequent, and more and more pretentious. Now “search is just a layer of social media” – or “traditional SEO is dead” and there’s a new way of doing it.

Search isn’t dead. Google is a shopping channel and we help you sell more stuff. Google is also an information centre, and we help convince your customers that they need to buy your stuff. Search has become marketing, and marketing has become something much less useful as the numbers of listicles and syndicated press releases explodes (2018 note: same, but “with AI”).

The SEO industry stopped syndicating press releases years ago. The internet complains that we ruined it for everyone, along with directories and blog comments. They questioned how we could sleep at night, knowing that we just weren’t adding value to people’s lives.

In reality we knew exactly what value we were adding. And we knew that it was often more than they were. The company’s SEO guy knew that X goes in and Y comes out – and that there was nobody else in the company that could prove, without ambiguity, what value they were adding.

When a person searches Google for something they’ve shown intent that they want to see something come out. SEO is the purest form of permission marketing. We’re giving the people what they want. In our decade of spamming the internet we provided more value – and inconvenienced fewer people – than 100 brands with flash mobs.

Marketers of all disciplines have done plenty of crap stuff over the years. The only difference is that our crap stuff worked.

The good old days never ended

Far from yearning for the “good old days”, the SEO industry has just found new ways to add value. For us, X will always go in and Y will always come out – the difference is that X looks a lot nicer than it used to. It’s probably interactive, it’s probably multi-channel, it’s probably disruptive – it’s probably a lot easier to get buy in from the key stakeholders so that we can do it in the first place.

…and instead of SEO budgets going to Content Marketing agencies, SEO budgets are going to SEO agencies who know Content Marketing. That might have shrunk, but brands have become convinced that they need a Content Marketing budget as well – and that goes to the SEO agencies that know Content Marketing too. As an industry we’re taking up more and more PR budgets. SEO budgets haven’t shrunk at all. The SEO team/agency (delete as appropriate) feeds into everything, and brands with sense are letting us get at the other pots.

The world needs SEO to drive marketing forwards. We come from a mindset where we optimise everything. We have never just provided rankings – we provide introductions between businesses and customers. The big budgets are still in TV but the scattergun approach is becoming less and less effective.

There’s a myth that Google hates SEO, but in reality the search engine knows we’re making life easier for millions of people (and Google employees). The sad fact of the matter is that the only people who really write “SEO is dead” articles are people who work in SEO, desperate either for clicks, or to set themselves apart from other consultants, agencies and professionals who have taken the churn and burn approach in the past. It’s a safe bet that they don’t believe a word they’re writing, and that regardless of whether they sign off their article with “Content Marketing Guru” or “Inbound Marketing Manager” (or worse – “Social Media Strategist”), what they’re really doing – day in, day out – is search engine optimisation.

There’s only one thing that has really changed. It’s harder. It’s a damn good job we’re good.

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Leeds Digital Festival kicks off today, with 156 events taking place from April 16th to April 27th. The largest of its kind in the North, the festival celebrates all things digital. Following on from the success of last year, Branded3 will once again host a half-day mini SEO conference: Leeds Loves Search.

Everything you need to know about Leeds Loves Search
  • What is it?

Leeds Loves Search brings together leading marketers from Leeds for afternoon of insight into PR and fake news, artificial intelligence, paid media, and technical SEO, looking at how all of this will impact Search in 2018.

  • Where is it?

The event will be taking place at Duke Street Studios from 14:00-17:00.

  • Who will be there?

There will be an audience of more than 100 marketers and speakers from Epiphany, Home Agency, Hermes, and, of course, Branded3.

  • Why does Branded3 run it?

We think it’s important to celebrate the thriving digital sector we have here in Leeds, and initiatives such as the Digital Festival provide a unique opportunity for marketers in the North to get together outside of London.

It’s the main reason why we enjoy running events such as Leeds Loves Search so much and why we decided to host our conference, SearchLeeds, here in the city.

  • Can I still get tickets?

Leeds Loves Search has sold out, but fear not – you can still get your hands on tickets for SearchLeeds. As with the Digital Festival, SearchLeeds is the largest event of its kind in the North and is a great chance for the digital sector meet, share, and learn in Leeds.

Leeds Loves Search agenda

14.00 – 14.25 – Arianne Donoghue – Paid Development Manager – Epiphany
Talk: The PPC robots are coming for your job
What it’s about: As we head from the Information Age into the Automation Age, the spectre of AI and robots taking our jobs is high in people’s minds.

In this talk, you’ll find out why and where you should be embracing automation and what sorts of things you should be doing to add value where the robots can’t.

14.25 – 14.50 – Neill Horie – Head of Artificial Intelligence Optimisation – Home Agency
Do you know if Alexa is lying to you?
What it’s about:
Neill and his team have spent the past year delving deeper into the intricacies of where AI assistants pull their information from and the impact and opportunities this brings for brands.

In this talk, Neill will discuss their findings – most specifically some of the eccentricities demonstrated by different AI Assistants, the accuracy problems they face, and how marketers can compensate.

14.50 – 15.05 – Break

15.05 – 15.30 – Emma Streets – Senior PR Manager – Hermes
The role of PR in the era of fake news
What it’s about:
Public relations is back. For some of us, it never went away. Managing a brand’s reputation has never been more important as truth and trust have become even more precious. No sector is immune to the need for a solid PR strategy that’s earned at heart and social by design.

Overcoming algorithms that favour and enable the spread of fake news, the role of PR today is multi-faceted and demands a rich experience that can stretch from managing a crisis online to developing a creative content campaign that ticks every box, from search and engagement to news value and influence.

15.30 – 15.55 – Stephen Kenwright – Strategy Director – Branded3
Talk: Redefining relevance
What it’s about: 
How important are links for SEO performance in 2018? What are the most important factors we need to consider when we’re building links? Steve will talk through two large-scale recent studies undertaken by Branded3, looking at ranking factors and link metrics – and how we can use these to drive better results.

15.55 – 16.20 – Panel questions 

16.20 – 17.00 – Networking drinks 

We’re excited to attend some of the wonderful events that are happening over the next two weeks and see what this year’s digital festival will bring. If you’re attending Leeds Loves Search, we’ll see you on Thursday at Duke Street Studios!

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“Take PR [PageRank] for example, getting a link from a high PR page used to always be valuable, today it’s more the relevance of the site’s theme to yours, relevance is the new PR.” – ex-search quality team member Andre Weyher interviewed by James Norquay in 2012.

Relevance of linking pages placed pretty highly in our 2018 SEO ranking factors report. It’s also pretty easy to get links within relevant content (easier than influencing anchor text or recipient page, for instance). Almost everyone in the SEO industry agrees that finding relevant link targets is huge task for link builders (maybe the most important task) but this is rarely measured in a ranking factors study simply because it’s really hard to process that kind of semantic information at scale unless you’re Google.

Acquiring links from relevant pages is more important than acquiring links from relevant domains. We said as far back as 2014 that link building on big sites beats link building on relevant sites almost every time. For example we work with a lot of brands in the travel sector but we’ll very rarely work with travel blogs for 3 reasons:

  1. More people like to travel than read travel blogs – the greatest number of lookalike customers will be reading national press or, as we’ve found in this study, finance-related websites
  2. The percentage of travel bloggers selling links – compared to bloggers in other verticals – is pretty high. If we’re asked to pay for a link we’ll first steer the site owner to some information about why that’s a bad idea…and second, pull out of the opportunity and blacklist the blog. This makes the travel blog pool pretty shallow for us (but if you want to fish in that pool go for your life)
  3. We think domain authority is a bad metric to use in link acquisition but not all of our clients agree…so sometimes we have to work with it. The median press site tends to have a higher DA than even a highly authoritative blog. We know that the journalists working at many publications are desperate for good stories, whereas the highest authority bloggers have hundreds of emails per day from people working in PR, SEO, influencer marketing…and they maybe publish one thing (and charge a premium for it). We genuinely find it easier to build links from national press than from blogs – this study is us putting our money where our mouth is.

So we’d rather not use DA (and toolbar PR has been gone for years now), but we do need to justify the link targets we’ve chosen. For this reason we typically set referral traffic as a secondary success measure when we’re scoping a linkbuilding campaign – not because we expect that traffic to convert (even though it frequently does) but because we want to prove that the sites we’re acquiring backlinks from have the right readership. If a reader clicks through from the publication to a client’s site there’s a good chance that our content is on the money.

…and we don’t like to just guess which publications have the right readership for our clients – we keep a database of the links we’ve built; who we built them for; and what they achieved. Branded3’s digital PR team use custom built tools that pull contact information and past performance statistics from our database when they’re compiling a seeding list of target sites for the campaign they’re working on.

What you’re looking at

…is one of the statistics we look at when we’re justifying our choice of link targets to our clients: referral traffic from previous links we’ve placed (several thousand of them, for more than 150 client websites). We used REGEX and our database to identify traffic driven through links we’ve built.

Both client sites and referring sites have been (manually) categorised by industry (note we’ve categorised sections of national press websites e.g. the Telegraph’s travel section is under Travel, not news). The sites broadly fall into the following categories:

  • Betting and iGaming (e.g. bingo, casino, poker)
  • Finance (financial services clients that don’t fall under Insurance or Loans, which we’ve split out separately – so banks and financial comparison websites in particular)
  • Healthcare
  • Home retail (e.g. baths, kitchens, wallpaper, sofas)
  • Insurance
  • Loans
  • Marketing (that includes us, so if you’re trying to market your digital marketing agency this is the category for you)
  • Motors
  • Sports (including sports betting)
  • Travel

The aggregated data is displayed in the infographic, so you can see at a glance what the topic traffic driving niches will be for your business. We’ve also included a Google Sheet containing the top 100 traffic driving sites and which industries they tend to send traffic to (with some additional sectors like fashion, food and drink and outdoor, where we work with a few businesses – you can see our client list here). Feel free to download the doc and slice/dice as appropriate for the sector you’re in.

How we use this study
  • When we have an opportunity to work with a site (via a journo request or keep in touch activity) and a client asks us if the site is worth pursuing we can tell them how many referral visits it’s driven to similar clients
  • When we’re compiling a seeding list for a campaign and we want to set up an exclusive to launch it we can show our client whether the journalist has the right audience for them e.g. if we want to launch a campaign for a healthcare client we’ll probably try to launch it on dailymail.co.uk (depending on the brand) because that’s driven the most traffic in the past
  • We know which journalists send traffic to our clients so we make sure we maintain those relationships and are as helpful as possible
  • If a publication has referred only a small amount of traffic to a similar client’s website we’ll dissect the specific campaign and use the learnings to inform our new campaign e.g. independent.co.uk has only driven 1 referral click to clients in the video gaming sector previously…if a similar client wants to work with the Independent we’ll tailor the campaign messaging to be more relevant to that audience
  • Prioritising display or native advertising opportunities (links we placed on ibtimes.co.uk drove nearly 24,000 clicks to travel clients so we might want to work with ibtimes.co.uk in other capacities)

Referral traffic is a secondary KPI/one piece of the puzzle…if you don’t want to build a link to your finance site on bbc.co.uk because it only drove 2 clicks to a bank we work with then you’re doing it wrong. Likewise, we’re saying that you might want to build links to healthcare sites on the dailymail.co.uk – but we’d still rather have a link from NHS.uk if we can get it (in fact we’ve built several links on NHS.uk and they haven’t referred much traffic). In this case, the piece of the puzzle might be visibility, because the NHS competes with our healthcare clients on many keywords. We wouldn’t look at DA because dailymail.co.uk has 94 and NHS.uk has 56…

We’re working with new sites all the time, which have obviously never referred traffic through our links before. Remember, data is great but it’s no substitute for building trust in your team through consistent, brilliant delivery.

If you need any more convincing why relevance is important in linkbuilding we’d recommend Cory Collins’ post on the PageOne Power blog.

Did you find this study useful/did you hate it? Give me and Branded3 kudos/abuse on Twitter.

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We created SearchLeeds in 2016 with an objective to deliver a free to attend event where the search community could meet, share and learn in our hometown of Leeds.

The event far exceeded our expectations during its first year and what was planned as a single-track event for 350 delegates quickly became a two-track conference for 500 attendees. Speakers on the day came from a diverse range of companies, including Majestic SEO, Bing, Search Laboratory and Just Giving.

The 2017 event saw a change of venue when we moved to the first direct arena in Leeds with the ambition to achieve over 1000 attendees. The event took place in mid-June and saw 39 speakers take to the mic across three stages covering topics including Technical SEO, Digital PR, Content Marketing, Analytics, Social Media and more. The speakers were from a variety of different businesses including Bing, Google, Auto Trader, River Island, Deep Crawl and SEMrush.

SearchLeeds 2017 Official Event Video - YouTube

We were fortunate enough to be supported by a number of leading Leeds based agencies including Search Laboratory, Epiphany, Journey Further and Stickyeyes. All sponsors were hosted in our large exhibition space and we opened and closed the event with our pre and post event parties respectively.

In total, over 1000 delegates attended across the day and the event feedback was overwhelmingly positive.

Aleyda Solis – International SEO Consultant, Speaker and Author – Orainti:

Goodbye Leeds! What a wonderful time I had at #SearchLeeds – thanks for an amazing event ???? so good to share, hang out and learn like this! pic.twitter.com/uzQ51FI8ZA

— Aleyda Solis (@aleyda) June 16, 2017

Arianne Donoghue – Paid Development Manager – Epiphany:

Does anyone else get post-conference blues? Always feels a little sad returning to “regular” working life after great days like #SearchLeeds

— Arianne Donoghue (@ArianneDonoghue) June 16, 2017

Danny Blackburn – Content Director – Stickyeyes

Big thanks to @Branded_3 for the opportunity to speak at #searchleeds – really enjoyed it. Top event. ????????????

— Danny Blackburn (@Danny_Blackburn) June 15, 2017

SearchLeeds 2018 – What to expect

For 2018, our challenge is to not only deliver above and beyond our previous success, but to achieve an event that continues to improve for the delegates, speakers and sponsors alike.

The event pre-party will take place on the 13th June at The Brotherhood, Leeds, offering space for delegates to network, eat and drink ahead of the main event.

This year we will once again host the event at the first direct arena, where our impressive main stage accommodates up to 2000 delegates and 12 industry leading speakers. The line-up includes Purna Virji from MicrosoftDeepCrawl’s Jon Myers, Lexi Mills, Hannah Smith from Verve Search, Claire Robinson from Realise, and Jasper Bell from Amaze, with more names to be confirmed in the coming weeks.

Following feedback from attendees, we have increased the size of our second stage by nearly double, with a capacity of 300 this stage will cover Technical SEO across the day.

Our third stage, hosted in the FD Bar is sponsored and moderated by Search Laboratory, and will cover Paid Media, for an audience of 150 delegates.

The exhibition space for 2018 holds spaces for 20 stands and free tea and coffee for delegates, kindly supplied by Search Laboratory. This year will also see the introduction of dedicated break out space, allowing our delegates to continue working throughout the conference if necessary. DeepCrawl will also be hosting a Beer Garden, allowing thirsty attendees to unwind with a pint of beer throughout the day.

Finally, we invite all delegates to join us at the end of day for the event after-party taking place from 17.00 onwards in the Black and White Lounge within the arena.

For more information on SearchLeeds and how to register please head to www.branded3.com/searchleeds

For sponsor enquiries please email charlotte.harris@branded3.com

We’ll see you there!

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We’re pleased to announce that we will once again be running Leeds Loves Search as part of the upcoming Leeds Digital Festival, which kicks off on the 16th April and continues until the 27th April. The festival takes place over two a two-week period and looks to host over 100 digital events across Leeds.

Leeds Loves Search is a free to attend, half-day mini conference, hosted by Branded3, where you will hear from leading digital marketers within Leeds. The conference follows on from the success of last year’s sell-out event, where we were joined by speakers from Epiphany, Home Agency and Blueclaw, with an audience of over 100 digital marketers at Headrow House.

This year, we’re hosting the event at Duke Street Studios on the 19th April from 14.00 -17.00pm.

You can register now and secure your space for free via this link.

Speakers for this year’s event include:

Arianne Donoghue – Paid Development Manager – Epiphany

Having started off her digital career client side over a decade ago, Arianne has worked for both agencies and brands in-house, specialising in all things paid search. She is now back agency side, supporting on paid media digital strategy. A regular on the conference scene, she’s also an editor and contributor at popular site, State of Digital.

Stephen Kenwright – Strategy Director – Branded3

Stephen is Strategy Director at St. Ives Group-owned search agency, Branded3. His job, among other things, is to integrate search marketing into St. Ives’ 800-strong digital and innovation team. He also organises the north’s largest Search conference, SearchLeeds.

Neill Horie – Head of Artificial Intelligence Optimisation – Home Agency

Neill is Head of Artificial Intelligence Optimisation at The Home Agency, with a passion for making things clearer via organisation. To that end, he’s involved in projects in the hope that regardless of whether it’s a new website or an old product brochure, it’s clear what’s what.

Emma Streets – Senior PR Manager – Hermes

With more than 12 years’ experience in PR and later, social media, Emma has experienced the seismic shift from traditional media relations to the inception of digital media for brands first-hand.

Emma has led national and international communications programmes for clients across FMCG, entertainment, fashion, automotive and not-for-profit sectors that incorporated brand launches, traditional PR and social media relations, event management and thought leadership campaigns. Today, Emma leads PR activity at Hermes, the second largest carrier in the UK and responsible for delivering more than 270 million parcels a year on behalf of 80% of the UK’s top retailers.

Register for free here:


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