The way we search is changing - what I learnt from BrightonSEO 2017

By Harry Gardiner

13th April 2017

Twice a year for the last four years, I’ve made a pilgrimage of sorts to what is very likely the largest gathering of digital marketers in the UK: BrightonSEO.

As the event’s advertising suggests, it’s come ‘a long way from a room above a pub’, and is now jam-packed with SEO professionals, paid media experts, marketers, and a handful of other employees who just fancied a Friday by the beach. All of whom come to hear exceptional talks from some of the world’s top digital marketing talent.

2017 was no exception: boasting a line up stronger than ever before, the conference was heaving with people willing to learn the latest from the world of digital.

I had an exciting mix of content marketing and paid media talks to attend, so it was with anticipation that I entered the Brighton Centre on an exceptionally sunny Friday morning.

Key takeaways

For those of you in a TL;DR mood, the key themes I took from this year’s event can summarised as such:

  • Optimise for speech—voice searches are on the rise, If your site isn’t optimised properly, it might get left behind.
  • Be smarter when targeting—in the world of super-intrusive devices and personal-information-hungry social platforms, there are ridiculous amounts of data available to you if you know where to look.
  • Get hyper-relevant—when you can target your advertising based on what cereal your audience prefer, there’s no longer any excuse to be targeting broad waves of people.
  • Understand how to use the information you have—knowing whether or not one of your Facebook fans likes Corrie is great and all, but it’s pointless if you don’t understand how to convert that knowledge into sales.
  • Get friendly with tools—as is always the way, if you’re struggling to do something, somebody on the internet has probably already invented a tool to do it for you.

Want to learn more? Here’s the first instalment of a series on what I learned. This week: content marketing, the future of search and paid media.

Content marketing and the future of search

Did you know that you no longer need a screen or keyboard to search Google? As Raj Nijjer explained in his great talk, AI and Structured Data: How Voice Search Raises the Stakes for Businesses, we now live in the age of intelligent search. Twenty-four million voice-first devices will be shipped globally just this year, and 50 per cent of searches will be by voice-activated by 2020.

Nijjer explained that because we now search differently, sites must also present information differently. He pointed to Google’s local rankings – those that matter most to brick and mortar businesses – and how three key factors affect a brand’s success. These are, according to Nijjer:
• Relevance.
• Distance.
• Prominence.
Ensure these attributes are properly optimised on your site, and you’ve taken the first steps toward the new screenless future.

Using paid media—a.k.a. the science of making money

Like it or not, search is moving away from keywords and taking a more behavioural approach. It’s adapting to the way we think and act and, because of that, the way we treat online ads needs to change too.

There’s no point in targeting people that don’t actually want to see your ads or would ever be interested in your brand—you’ll just end up spending time and money broadcasting to an audience that you don’t care about, and who don’t care about you.

As Jennifer Holt of ConversionWorks pointed out: “77 per cent of businesses are dissatisfied with their lead quality.”

So, what can be done?

Brands need to get a better grasp on Google Analytics (GA), AdWords and social ad platforms to begin with. One thing that Holt and her fellow speakers all highlighted was the high volume of hyper-relevant audience data that’s just waiting to be used.
For example, digging into the advanced segments section in GA can help to:
• Decrease ad costs.
• Grow your customer base.
• Give your brand an ‘early move’ advantage.
Pretty good, right? It can get better. Here’s some extra tips from us:

  1. Combine this data with information from AdWords, and you’ll be able to build a ‘family tree’ of sorts of your audience, separating people into super-specific categories.
  2. Start by splitting those who convert from those who don’t, and then work from there. Look at spend, age, location, their likes, the time they visited.
  3. Get super stalky and build out incredibly specific audience personas that help you understand who you’re advertising to, inside and out.

That’s all for part one, but watch this space on the Eulogy blog for round two, where we’ll cover sequential ads, social advertising, and a whole host of tools to help you hit optimise your advertising.