By Cory Collins
11 May 2016

SearchLove Boston 2016 - A Page One Power Recap

My first-ever trip to Beantown (Boston) was an absolute delight. Thanks to the hard-working folks at Distilled for their organization and hosting of the SearchLove conference, the wonderful speakers who presented, and my fellow conference goers who enjoyed the event (especially those of you I talked to).

I had an absolutely fantastic time, joined by my colleague Nicholas Chimonas, Head of Research and Development here at Page One Power.

This post is the recap of the presentations and experiences I had at SearchLove. If you weren't able to attend yourself, it's my hope this post will help summarize the 2 day event.

Strap in, because I'll be covering a lot of information quickly.

The Speakers of SearchLove

Day One:

  1. Wil Reynolds: Moving From Inspiration To Perspiration
  2. Simo Ahava: The Search Marketer's Toolkit For Google Tag Manager
  3. Britt Klontz: Incorporate 'PR thinking' Into Your Content Initiatives
  4. Marcus Tober: Illuminating Consumer Intent Without Old-Fashioned SEO Tactics
  5. Emily Grossman: Mobile Jedi Mind Tricks: Master The Multiscreen Universe
  6. Greg Gifford: X Marks the Spot: A Treasure Map For Local Search Success
  7. Mike King: Developer Thinking For SEOs
  8. Rand Fishkin: The Measure Of A Marketer's Worth

Day Two:

  1. Will Critchlow: The Emerging Future of Search
  2. Mary Bowling: Local SEO: Search Experience Optimization for RankBrain
  3. Paul Shapiro: How to Automate Your Keyword Research
  4. Mackenzie Fogelson: Why Content Strategy Isn't Enough
  5. Kindra Hall: Storytelling: The Secret of Irresistible Marketing
  6. Justine Jordan: Performance-Drive Design: A Framework For Creating Awesome Email
  7. Chris Dayley: Powerful A/B Testing User Insights for SEOs
  8. Larry Kim: Hacking RankBrain: Four Strategies You'll Need to Survive SEO Judgement Day

Let's jump into it, shall we?

Wil Reynolds: Moving From Inspiration To Perspiration

Wil Reynolds, Founder of SEER Interactive, kicked off the conference with an important talk about frameworks, processes, and creating systems.

Although his discussion was intended to be about the actual work (perspiration) of digital marketing and SEO, I think more than a few people walked away inspired.

Top 3 Takeaways:

  1. Building a framework is extremely important. A good framework will help guide your team when you're not there, and actually make your people more comfortable since they have reliable processes.
  2. Include dollar signs in your reports! As much as possible, make sure you're tying everything to revenue. If you want increased budget, you need to show actual value (money).
  3. The framework for Seer's content ideation/scoring/creation is absolutely incredible. Check it out: 

Simo Ahava: The Search Marketer's Toolkit For Google Tag Manager

Simo Ahava is the Senior Data Advocate at Rektor.

Simo is a Google developer expert, AKA Google Analytics genius. I recommend checking out his personal blog here. His presentation was nothing less than astounding.

Top 3 Takeaways:

  1. Customize Google Analytics, or you'll be forever explaining it to your boss and team. Not to mention missing out on important insights.
  2. Google Tag Manager is a must for Google Analytics.
  3. Data is difficult. Data quality is earned, not acquired. If you want to be data-driven, then you need to invest into building quality data.

Britt Klontz: Incorporate 'PR Thinking' Into Your Content Initiatives

Britt, PR Consultant at Distilled, shared her own PR-based experience in content promotion.

Specifically, Britt discussed how to gain major media coverage for creative/interactive pieces of content.

Britt clearly had deep experience in promoting digital assets to journalists and shared her traditional PR insights into the digital realm of online marketing. Her presentation was informative, actionable, and entertaining. 

Top 3 Takeaways:
  1. Exclusivity is the key to most journalists' hearts. Pre-pitch (prior to content creation) as much as possible.
  2. The demand for multimedia content is rising, particularly for journalists. Mention any interactive/multimedia elements in your pitch.
  3. Aim for publications that are regularly featured (roundups) in other publications.

Marcus Tober: Illuminating Consumer Intent Without Old-Fashioned SEO Tactics

Marcus Tober, founder of Searchmetrics, presented on the importance of searcher intent and the fading of old-fashioned SEO tactics.

As the founder of Searchmetrics Marcus has more access to data than just about anyone within the search space. His presentation included much of that data to highlight trends.

I believe Marcus is right in his assessment that user intent is becoming ever more important as search engines evolve. How much Google moves away from traditional factors and signals remains to be seen.

Top 3 Takeaways:

  1. SEO is evolving, perhaps faster than ever. User intent is more important than ever before, and old tactics meant to accomplish a singular goal are less successful.
  2. Use the wayback machine to gauge how much (or how little) your competitors are updating their content. Old content may equate to opportunity.
  3. Google uses a variety of signals and metrics in ranking. Don't blind yourself to manipulating one tactic. 

Emily Grossman: Mobile Jedi Mind Tricks: Master The Multiscreen Universe

Emily Grossman is a Marketing Specialist at MobileMoxie.

To be frank, my experience in mobile is fairly limited. I was extremely impressed with Emily Grossman's presentation. She very clearly is an expert in the subject, and was sharing important insights with others in the room.

I'm not shy to admit that parts of her presentation however went over my head.

Top 3 Takeaways:

  1. Mobile continues to grow. Over half of searches on Google are mobile, 30% of all online shopping purchases are on mobile, and 90% of mobile internet users browse at home.
  2. Speed and display is all important in mobile. Amp is worth investing to if 
  3. Apps are increasing in visibility, and are worth considering for a mobile audience. May tie into Google Now in the future.

Greg Gifford: X Marks the Spot: A Treasure Map For Local Search Success

Greg Gifford, Director of Search at DealerOn, had the best presentation of SearchLove in my opinion. Funny, jam-packed with insight, and well-paced. Greg's a natural presenter, with supreme command of both his subject and the room.

I'd never seen Greg speak before, and I was completely blown away. I don't do much local SEO, but his presentation made me wish I did more.

Top 3 Takeways:

  1. Google has reversed the rules on local more than I'd realized. Local SEO sounds like the old days of SEO, with unclear and often reversed advice from Google.
  2. Make sure to include city and state in the: title tag, H1, page content, image alt text, URL, and meta description.
  3. Include the NAP on every page, marked up with schema.
  4. You must use a local phone # not a 1-800.
  5. Make your blog about your locality, as well! Greg recommended a 50/50 split between industry and locality.
  6. Links from highly locale low DA sites are pure gold.
  7. You can find plenty of local link building ideas in Greg's post on SEL.

I realize that was considerably more than three, but I couldn't resist. If you have the opportunity to see Greg speak, I highly recommend it.

Mike King: Developer Thinking For SEOs

Mike King, Founder of iPullRank, has a natural stage presence and technical chops few can match. It's an odd combination that makes for a wonderful presentation.

I'm not going to lie: I don't have the technical understanding Mike says SEOs need to be competitive in today's environment. After seeing him present, I intend to change that.

His slide deck below should help anyone begin.

Top 3 Takeaways:

  1. SEOs need to get back to our technical roots. BUT, we need to know how to effectively explain why technical improvements matter. Tie back into revenue and user experience.
  2. Site speed is the next big play from Google. SEOs need to know the critical rendering path. AMP leaves the code in Google's hands, out of our control, but it is ridiculously fast.
  3. This quote sums Mike's presentation very well (minus all the coding and technical suggestions): "Let's stop chasing the content train and get back to making experiences that perform."


Rand Fishkin: The Measure Of A Marketer's Worth

Rand Fishkin, the founder of Moz, is perhaps the most prolific and experienced speaker within the SEO industry. He's definitely one of the best known.

Rand did not fail to deliver in this speech; he went beyond the typical tactic sharing and discussed work behaviors that lead to results.

Top 3 Takeaways:

  1. Measuring the work that leads to results is the most direct way to improve results. Just watching results doesn't actually tell us what is making the difference. The more we track and measure our output, the more we can improve result-effecting behavior. For further reading check out Dr. Pete's Moving from Lag to Lead (one of my favorite posts).
  2. We need to use analytics to find out which inputs produce successful outcomes. Check out these two posts from Moz and HubSpot about blogging frequency.
  3. Marketers should set work goals (i.e. 2 Facebook posts a week for 12 weeks) and measure that against expected outcomes. Results achieved? Reinforce the work behavior. Results failed? Switch work behavior.

Personally I love the idea of better tracking which everyday work leads to the results we most need to achieve. Again, go read Dr. Pete's post about measuring the work, instead of goals. He does a fantastic job explaining the concept. 

Will Critchlow: The Emerging Future of Search

Will Critchlow is the cofounder and CEO of Distilled.

As the title of his presentation promises, he discussed the emerging future of search. Specifically he talked about personalization, intelligent personal assistants, voice search, the importance of context, and how this all will translate into a different version of search than we have today.

Top 3 Takeaways:

  1. Intelligent personal assistants, personalization, and context are going to change the way we search. The goal of these changes is results based upon what you mean, not what you say, with results based upon your goal, not what text is on the page.
  2. Voice search is right around the corner, and will power the next trillion searches. Hound is absolutely crazy. Check out the video here: 
  3. Smartphones are actually more capable than desktop computers. Smartphones take photos, knows where it is, knows who your friends are, can tell if you're walking, running, or in a car, is always on and available, has notifications, and interacts with technology around it. PCs only have the web.

Mary Bowling: Local SEO: Search Experience Optimization for RankBrain

Mary Bowling is the co-founder of Ignitor Digital and an expert in local search.

Top 3 Takeaways:

  1. Make sure to add pics to your Google My Business listing. Increases clicks to your site by 35%.
  2. Reviews in local listing drive a huge increase in engagement (360% increase in clicks).
  3. Use real photos in your pages and across your site. Don't fall into the stock photo trap.

Paul Shapiro: How to Automate Your Keyword Research

Paul Shapiro is the Director of Search Innovation at Catalyst. Don't miss his personal blog, Search Wilderness, where he shares actionable advice for all things SEO.

I've interacted with Paul for a few years but SearchLove was my first chance to see him present (and meet him in person!). Paul's one of the nicest, down to earth people I've had the pleasure to meet in SEO thus far.

Paul's presentation was the most actionable at SearchLove. Paul tackled an important topic that literally every SEO spend hours upon (keyword research), and demonstrated how to both be more effective and efficient. That's no mean feat.

Top 3 Takeaways:

  1. Automation can save a ridiculous amount of time! If we spend 18 hours per month on manual keyword research, automation can save 45 full days over a five year period.
  2. We need to stop reporting keyword research in Excel spreadsheets. Use bubble charts to demonstrate keywords that have high traffic and low competition.
  3. Paul literally shares the exact process to automate your keyword research in this slide deck. Set aside an hour and give it a try. Seriously.

Mackenzie Fogelson: Why Content Strategy Isn't Enough

Mackenzie Fogelson, founder and CEO of Genuinely, presented the importance of brand in marketing, and how authenticity translates online.

Specifically, Mackenzie discuss why a brand needs a purpose, which should be based upon the problem your company aims to solve, appeals to your audience, staff, and company culture.

Top 3 Takeaways:

  1. The Internet is saturated with content, from companies of all kinds. The world is smaller and more crowded than ever before. You can't pour marketing into every channel and expect a return.
  2. The best way to cut through the noise online is with authenticity and purpose. Making money isn't your purpose. The problem your company solves is your purpose, and what will bring an authentic audience to your brand.
  3. Brands need to transcend technology, and content strategy alone isn't enough.

Kindra Hall: Storytelling: The Secret of Irresistible Marketing

Kindra Hall is perhaps the only story telling consultant in the world.

Unsure what to expect from the presentation, I admit I worried it would be vague and lacking in actionable advice. I'm happy to say Kindra proved me quite wrong, creating an interesting, insightful, story-filled presentation that provided more concrete advice than I could have expected.

Top 3 Takeaways:

  1. Stories are deeply ingrained in all of humanity. Science supports the power of stories, showing an increase in cortisol and oxytocin in the brain, basically increasing attention, empathy, and emotion.
  2. The biggest storytelling mistake is forgetting to tell the actual story — instead only alluding to the story. Stories happen in a particular moment, with a beginning, middle, and end. They also need to include emotion, and have characters at stake.
  3. The best way to remember how to craft a story is to tell the "normal", explain the "explosion", and then explain the "new normal" — this is the essence of most stories.

Justine Jordan: Performance-Driven Design: A Framework For Creating Awesome Email

Justin Jordan is the VP of Marketing at Litmus.

I help craft our email marketing and looked forward to Justine's presentation. Little did I know much of her talk would reinforce and reinvigorate my love of the rest of my job as well — creating content across the web.

I believe well-formatted content is as important as well-written content. Because no matter how brilliantly written a piece is, it's not going to get read if it's just a block of text.

Much of Justine's talk pushed the power of design, along with some gems about email marketing in particular.

You can see her slides here:

Top 3 Takeaways:

  1. Good design is solves problems. Design in email marketing is about helping readability, improving understanding, and guiding attention. Without design in emails, you'll fail.
  2. Email is a personal medium, not a matter of scale. Make sure your emails are personalized to your audience, because it's a chance to speak to each one of them directly.
  3. 75% of emails are displayed with preview text in the box. 43% of emails are viewed with images disabled. Know what your emails are saying.

Chris Dayley: Powerful A/B Testing User Insights for SEOs

Chris Dayley is the founder of Dayley Conversion.

I haven't had the opportunity to do much CRO. Chris' presentation discussed A/B testing specifically to improve CRO and user experience.

Chris' presentation started with a story of his annual review. All year Chris successfully increased traffic, and eagerly awaited his review. However, he couldn't speak to any metrics beyond traffic increases.

It's a story every SEO has experienced at least once, and I thought it was a great tie-in to the importance of A/B testing and importance of tying traffic to revenue.

Top 3 Takeaways:

  1. Don't get wrapped up in vanity metrics. Pageviews are great, but you know what's better? Revenue. Don't go into a meeting with a CEO (or C-suite in general) and talk about traffic to the site.
  2. Test everything! Surprises are bound to happen. Don't rely on focus groups, surveys, or anything where an audience knows they're being monitored. People don't act rationally.
  3. Different devices drive different expectations. Consider testing different content formats/sizes for different devices (i.e. mobile vs. desktop). Content will perform differently across devices - responsive isn't enough.

Larry Kim: Hacking RankBrain: Four Strategies You'll Need to Survive SEO Judgement Day

Larry Kim is the CEO of MobileMonkey.

Despite the unusual title, I really enjoyed Larry's presentation.

Larry essentially believes that optimizing CTR and conversion rates as much as possible is the best way to create future safe pages in search. And he had clear ideas on how to achieve these "unicorns". 

Top 3 Takeaways:

  1. Larry believes RankBrain relies upon CTR data and boosts content which consistently receives more clicks. Regardless of his theory, he believes that machine learning will make the SERPs increasingly winner-take-all.
  2. Larry recommends optimizing titles not for keywords, but for emotional triggers and social shares. This can be tested using paid ads (especially Facebook) to see how well received a title is. He recommends testing 10 very different titles.
  3. Don't A/B test minimal differences. If your content isn't converting well you should dramatically change your offer.

To read more about Larry's thoughts on optimizing CTR and conversion rates, check out this post he published recently on Moz.  

A Few Other Recaps and Blog Posts from the Event

The organizer of SearchLove, Distilled's Head of Events Lynsey Little, wrote a fantastic recap here

Nick Eppinger wrote a great recap of the overall themes embedded within the conference and presentations over at LunaMetrics. It's a good debriefing and I agree with much of what he writes.

Patrick Coombe also wrote a personal recap of his experiences and thoughts of SearchLove on Elite Strategies here.

Melissa Sciorra of 451 Marketing wrote about her favorite presentations here

Cory Collins

Cory Collins is the Business Development Manager at Page One Power and has been with the agency since 2012. Cory is an SEO strategist, writer, runner, and outdoor enthusiast residing in Boise, Idaho, with his wife, daughter, and (too) many pets.