SearchLove: How This #SEO Conference in London Almost Melted My Brain


Yup, it is a real conference, focused on SEO and run by the amazing Distilled, an online marketing agency in London.

The name SearchLove is…..intriguing? Confusing even.

And as one speaker found out upon arriving at UK border control, don’t say you are visiting the UK for “search love”. Not surprisingly, it might hinder your entry into the country.

One thing you cannot be confused about though is the quality of the speakers at this conference, and the depth of SEO (and related) stuff you will learn.

It was so good it nearly caused my brain to melt.

Before I get to that however, let’s remind ourselves why conferences can be so good for you. (well this is my take on it, anyway)

Why You Should Go To Conferences

Kinda like “an apple a day”, I find “a conference or two a year” keeps the creative juices flowing and the motivation pumping! Especially when you run an online business.

Why should you really go to conferences though?

Here are the most important reasons:

  • get out of the office and meet new people (and for someone like me, who works at home – it is also a serious sanity check)
  • learn a shipload of new stuff in your industry (or at least a slightly different take on all the things you know and take for granted)
  • learn stuff that ain’t in any book or even online (some of the gurus keep their juiciest stuff for live presentations, and some of that is NOT even recorded)
  • grow your network of amazing peeps in your industry (and make some great friends too)
  • get a great massage or cappuccino! (not true of most conferences, but SearchLove has it all baby, yeah!)rand
  • stalk your idols (I finally figured out how Rand Fishkin gets his mustache oh so curly!)
  • discover new cities and cultures (and nearly get run over by big red buses because they are driving on the left – correct? – side of the road)
  • get away from your colleages for a few days (and make them jealous by spending their education budget for the year)

And the list goes on (and on and on).

But you get it, right? You really want to go to a conference like SearchLove too.

It’s a break, an education, a motivational boost and a networking event to boost your business or career, all wrapped into one!

Is SearchLove Really That Good Though?

I have been to 3 conferences in the last year (before this one) ranging from massive and insane (SXSW in Austin, TX) to the very intimate (i-Scoop Marketing Conference in Antwerp).

And yet, SearchLove still managed to really impress me!

Let me put this in even more bullet points for easy and relaxing reading (yes you can kickback on the couch to read these):

  • top speakers who not only know their stuff, but also know how to present it (rarely was there a boring moment or an “I know all this already”)
  • with almost no fluff, there was only one track over two days so you saw all the presentations and did not have any FOMO
  • stunning venue (an old brewery in the centre of London)
  • smooth organisation (everything ran like clockwork, with no tech hiccups, easy to see presentations and timely breaks with lattes!)
  • convenient after parties with lots of tasty beers, that were….FREE! (thanks to Moz, SEOLondon and Screaming Frog!)
  • nice little touches like a real espresso machine run by a great Barista, and on day two – free 10 minutes massages, and lots of nice nibbles at break time (not sure how many kilos I gained)

Ok, not everything was perfect. So let me be somewhat honest…

  • the wifi sucked big time (luckily I did not have to work on anything serious, but this is often the case at conferences, so I forgive you Distilled) Note: someone invent a wifi throttler to stop those wifi hogs! I saw a few of them watching videos and downloading masses of images! may you never come back to SearchLove you fiends!
  • it was expensive, but I can see why (quality costs, so get over it)
  • Warning- pet peeve: I wish the organisers (of any conference) would put a reasonable gap between after-parties and the last presentation (drinking on an empty stomach is fun?!, but should not be encouraged at every conference – yet usually is). I know, you can go to dinner, then the drinks, but most of us don’t!

Now for the good stuff…

Highlights From The Conference

(yes, the coffees and massages were awesome, but let’s focus here people!)

Ok, you just want the meat of it (and to get all the goodies for free!) here are some of the great things I learned from the zen masters at SearchLove.

Search As We Knew It Is Going, Going….Gone?

Tom Anthony opened the conference with some great insights into how extreme the changes in search are at the moment, without many of us even consciously realising it.

5 search factorsSEO is no longer a simple and linear:

  • go to Google
  • type in a few keywords
  • check out the results.

Now there are a whole swathe of things influencing search like context (are you on your mobile right now?) and behaviour. Google has figured out how to use and leverage data from all sorts of things like location, browsing history, previous queries (and being able to chain queries together) and much much more. Google are almost becoming human.

(off point: is the singularity almost here?)

Our jobs as SEOs are starting to get a lot harder, and we need to wake up to how the whole ecosystem is changing and influencing search.

Are We Missing A Lot Of Potential Customers In The Funnel? (This Means $$$)

These ideas were taken in a new direction by Jono Alderson of Linkdex, who showed us that ONLY trying to catch visitors just prior to conversion is perhaps not that smart.

After all, everyone is doing that. So you are just competing with the masses. (punch yourself in the head now)

Instead, his real point was that we are missing out on a huge amount of potential customers by not delving into the whole buying journey and exploring the countless opportunities earlier on in the buying cycle.

Got you thinking? I hope so.

Does Google Lie? (aka Are Becoming Even More Google Evil?)

Moz 2015 Ranking FactorsRand Fishkin presented this year’s Moz Search Rank Factors report, with a few twists. (no mustache pun intended)

It was great to see his passion for the splitting of ranking factors into industries, as this does truly bring clarity to them. As we all know, each industry and what affects rankings and visitors to such sites can vary insanely! So why should ranking factors be generalised?

Buzzfeed does not equal

However, what stood out to me were his comments on not paying attention to Google (too much). Through some experiments, such as Moz’s own migration to HTTPS  (and here is some more https data from Search Metrics) it has been shown that https cannot be clearly proven as a ranking factor. Despite Google stating that it is.

Rand’s Question To Us: “Can we trust Google?”

Answer: Doubtful.

Of course Rand made it clear that no one really knows (it’s SEO after all), but you should all be very careful when blatantly following Matt Cutt’s advice. It is often misleading or wrong, and this has been shown over and over again.

Emotional Impact Can Make A Huge Impact On Conversion

Talia Wolf showed us how emotional insights can make a huge impact on conversions and she also gave us a great framework for achieving this.

It was great to see some new ways of looking at conversion optimisation without just analytics, A/B testing and more stats.

We all need to improve conversion instead of just focusing on “getting more traffic” anyway. If you double your conversions on existing traffic, (say 0.5 to 1%) it has the same end result as doubling your traffic (all things being equal).

Sometimes more SEO is not the answer people.

Get Noticed By The Right People

And then there was Larry Kim‘s presentation. His reputation was raised a notch or three in my eyes with his rapidly delivered tips on getting rankings, links, attention and even TV appearances through some sneaky use of Social Ads. Go Larry!

His idea is to NOT try to get masses of shares and clicks, but instead to target the right people and get a knock-on effect as a result.

I also love that he is using social ads to try to replicate the effects of outreach, but at a fraction of the price. A great idea!

He also gave us a whole slew of tips for Facebook and Twitter advertising that you can even use to help rank!

Crappy Content Is Just Not Working Anymore (Create Epic Sh#t)

When it comes to getting links these days, the old spray and pray (or dropping a load of crappy content on the world) is no longer working. That is not to say 95% of people are not still doing it, but it’s an uphill battle we all have to stop fighting.

To help us reach new heights Lisa Meyers from Verve showed us some jaw-dropping case studies that earned her clients a bucketload of high DA links!

Of course, a lot of the content was absolutely stunning, and we don’t all have the budgets to achieve this (like this festival music search from Expedia) but the principals are the same.

Be creative. Out-think your competitors. Work smart. Create stunning stuff.

But she was not the only one.

A case study by the effervescent Will Reynolds at Seer demonstrated how insane pieces of content can even beat some amazing competition in the SERPs

Just type in “pinterest guide” into Google, and you will soon find his team’s stunning guide to Pinterest right near the top.

And not only did his team create an epic guide, they also tracked what is working within it (depth of scroll, amount of video watch, desktop vs mobile). And they are constantly optimizing to make it even more epic!

number-instagram-photos-yearOne of Distilled’s Team, Vickie Cheung, also presented in this area showing how amazingly creative pieces have managed to win their clients masses of juicy links too.

It pays to be creative. More so than just being consistent or writing long form content.

I also greedily ingested Anum Hussain’s presentation which showed us a case study of how Side Kick (and Hubspot side project) uses content to absolutely kick ass in terms of rankings and links.

Some of her ideas and insights really got me thinking.

Not so much because they were ground breaking, but because when all tied together you can see how various search ranking factors can help you win in the long run.

Epic content + internal linking + topical authority = SuccessClick To Tweet

This seems to tie in well with the new SEO way of thinking: write about topics not keywords and you will win in the end.

And I have seen this myself with various pieces of content lately too.

For me, this kind of stuff was the highlight.

So Many Presentations, So Little Time

Of course there were loads of other great presentations at the conference such as Aleyda Solis’ on finding the right questions in SEO anaytics, Casie Gillette’s on tools in PR and outreach and Phil Nottingham (of Wistia) who showed us how to thrive in the new world of Social Video. And many many more.

These were just my highlights.

Final Brain Melting Thoughts

Getting away from the office and standing on the cutting edge in your industry can blow your mind.

And at SearchLove, not only do you get an amazing latte, you also get mind blowing content.

See you there next year!

Thanks Distilled Team and Speakers.

About the Author Ashley Faulkes

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