SMX East 2017: SEO Roundup

Posted on 16/11/2017 by Ben Wood

In this post, I've reviewed some of the best SEO talks from SMX East 2017. Key insights are presented throughout alongside links to the best presentations.

The majority of the talks at SMX are split between SEO and PPC, and while this post will cover the key takeaways from the SEO talks I attended, you can check out all the PPC takeaways in Owen’s post here.

featured image smx east

2017 Ranking Factors (SEMrush)

  • HTTPS: SEMrush found was that the higher the position in the search results, the more HTTPS sites there were appearing.
    semrush research
  • On-Page SEO: SEMrush calculated the percentage of pages that included a keyword in different page elements. The trend curves for correlation between keyword in title and page ranking actually appear flat, indicating that this isn’t a major ranking factor used to differentiate sites included in Google’s index:

keyword title

  • Content length: SEMrush found a correlation between content length and high ranking pages, particularly for long tail keywords
  • Bounce rate: increases after top 3 results (indicating bounce rate is a factor as top 3 pages have strongest bounce rate)
  • Links: typically websites in position 1 have twice as many referring domains as those in position 10

You can view all the slides from the presentation here:

SEMrush Ranking Factors 2.0: SEMrush 2017 Study With Unreleased Updates By Olga Andrienko from Search Marketing Expo – SMX

Why General Ranking Factors are Dead! (Searchmetrics)

  • Searchmetrics have seen a shift in search engine result types across different industries and have moved from looking at general ranking factors to industry-specific factors:

#SMX #11A @MarcusTober@MarcusTober#SMX #11A#SMX #11A @MarcusTober Different Industries – Different Ranking Factors eCommer...

  • Pages in Google’s top 10 results now load 2 seconds faster on average than they did in 2016, indicating an increase in the importance of increasing page load speed:

#SMX #11A @MarcusTober Page LoadTime (sec) Technical Tc 1 50% 150% 250% 350% 450% 550% 650% 750% 850% 1 3 5 7 9 11 13 15 1...

  • Keywords in title: compared to 2010 (when 75% of page titles include search term) only 48% of top 10 results included a keyword in title:

#SMX #11A @MarcusTober 40% 45% 50% 55% 60% 65% 70% 75% 80% 1 3 5 7 9 11 13 15 17 19 Desktop 2015 Desktop 2016 Desktop 2017...

  • Certain ranking factors seem to be more important in certain industries. For example:
    • More HTTPS results on page 1 depending on industry – e.g. finance vs travel – more HTTPS pages in top 10 of finance-related search results than there are in travel
    • More image results on page 1 depending on industry – e.g. travel vs. finance – more images in travel than in finance

You can view all the slides from Marcus’ presentation here:

Why General Ranking Factors Are Dead! By Marcus Tober from Search Marketing Expo – SMX

Ranking Factors: What’s Important and What’s Not (Herndon Hasty)

  • Audit page load speed consistently: use tools such as GTmetrix to assess performance on a granular level as well as using Google’s page speed insights tool.
    • More mobile searches = page load speed is more important
    • Page load speed improvements will:
      • Reduce bounce rate
      • Increase pages per session
      • Increase organic traffic
  • HTTPS: focus on moving all sites over to HTTPS regardless of industry, but prioritise this if you’re operating in sensitive industries such as finance
  • Focus on CTR by enhancing meta descriptions
    • Adding pricing and offers into meta descriptions resulted in 5-15% improvement in CTR in one case study presented
  • Natural traffic is now harder to come by:

#SMX #11A @herndon ©2016TheContainerStore,Inc.Allrightsreserved. Natural traffic is harder to come by Source: AWS Clickthr...

  • Changes to SERPs (search engine result pages) have driven down click-through rates – 40% of all searches do not result in a click – this is a result of larger snippets. PLAs (Product Listing Ads) have moved from right-hand side of results to top of the page
  • How can you optimise for changing SERPs?
    • Optimise for instant answers – expanding on answers to generic questions and optimise for virtual assistants
    • Look for terms that already have quick answers and you have high ranking results – optimise your page by adding bullets, more words to try and steal these answer boxes

You can view all the slides from Herndon’s presentation here:

SEO Ranking Factors 2017: What's Important, What's Not By Herndon Hasty from Search Marketing Expo – SMX

Harnessing the Power of Online Reviews (Rob Kerry)

  • Use JSON-LD to mark up reviews – this will help Google index your reviews
    • Google says they prefer JSONld vs. microdata or RDF
  • Amazon don’t mark up their reviews – they’re big enough that Google specifically extracts their data – however, don’t think that you can do this too
  • There is no guarantee that Google will accept your data or rating data
  • Rich snippet appearance is based on your websites perceived trust (DA)
  • Google less likely to display rich snippets if they’re not implemented correctly
  • How to increase review numbers:
    • One option is to use review platforms – this is a way of future proofing. The platforms do all the heavy lifting for you – some platforms even pay users to post for you
      • Bazaarvoice, Feefo and Trustpilot are three examples
      • If using 3rd party review tools – do not use their javascript integration, always use their api integration to get reviews into your page’s HTML
    • One option is to do it yourself
      • This gives you full control over data
      • Far cheaper in the long-term
      • Easier to moderate
      • Free plugins for review integrations
  • Always be wary of customers who may leave a complaint – be wary of asking for reviews as this will trigger negatives
  • How to manage reviews:
    • Regularly monitor reviews
    • Have a plan in place to deal with negative reviews – what will you do to act on this fast?
    • If you can’t fix it, find other sites that review your brand, and try and get them ranking above the negatives
    • Don’t take risks – consider the cost of someone leaving a negative review vs. just fixing the problem and avoiding it
  • How to automate review management – look at setting up review automation workflows

#SMX #12C2 @RobKerry DIY Review Management – Flow Diagram Customer buys product or books appointment Email sent to custome...

    • This will intercept unhappy customers – you then get to make them happy again
    • Turns 3 stars to 5 stars if managed correctly
    • Dramatically reduces low reviews on third party sites
    • Increased customer loyalty and lifetime value

You can view all Rob’s slides here:

Harnessing The Power of Online Reviews By Rob Kerry from Search Marketing Expo – SMX

Reverse Engineering Google’s Local Search Algorithm (Dan Leibson)

#SMX #12C1 @danleibson A Method To the Madness

  • What are local ranking factors?
    • Number of GMB reviews has a huge impact on local performance
    • GMB photos also play a part, followed by keyword in business name
    • If you have keyword in business name, then you will appear 1.5 positions higher according to this research
    • Website factors included number of words on GMB landing page and number of images on GMB landing page
    • Backlinks are important
      • Backlinks with city and keyword in anchor are still important
  • Multi-location brands have thousands of more links than smaller businesses due to multi-location landing pages
  • Best option for multi-location business is to build a store locator page and individual location pages – page per location is still important, but store locator can drive a lot of links
    • Brands with locator pages rank better than those without
    • REI, home depot and whole foods have great locator pages
  • Pack performance differs between search query type – still difference between explicit vs implicit search locations (tacos in X vs. tacos)
  • Proximity is new number 1 ranking factor, but Google don’t order pack in this way
    • Google use proximity as a sub-ranking factor
  • Near me searches – having physical address in city of search and in titles makes it more likely to show up in pack results
  • Store locator pages – include word ‘near me’ in the title tags will boost their organic performance within a certain region
  • Add widget on pages to link to ‘find an X near me’ will improve performance of individual pages for near me searches
  • Invest in local link building and website rather than GMB and off-site local – Moz local search ranking factors support this in that links are continuing to increase

You can view all Dan’s slides here:

Reverse Engineering Google's Local Search Algorithm By Dan Leibson from Search Marketing Expo – SMX

The Power of Featured Snippets (Glenn Gabe)

  • Hard-to-ignore featured snippets in 2017 – they receive special treatment by Google and can drive massive amounts of traffic
  • Literally every search contains featured snippets now
  • Google Assistant added 100m more Google featured snippets into its system in the last year
  • How much traffic can they drive?
    • As an example – 73% of all organic traffic to an example landing page was driven through a featured snippet
  • How to keep a featured snippet?
    • They are seriously temperamental so you can’t rely on keeping them
    • They could be:
      • Paragraphs
      • Lists
      • Images
      • Lists and images
      • Tables – don’t forget about HTML tables
  • “People Also Ask” is on steroids
    • They infinitely load
    • “People Also Ask” has gone up from 9% to 30% of all search queries
    • Power of informational content is clearly on the rise
  • Featured videos are now even bigger than featured snippets
    • Video results take up huge amounts of space
    • Google now use ‘suggested clips’ for answers to the questions you have created:

#SMX #22A3 @glenngabe • Will highlight a segment in the video. • And take you right to that spot. • And keep you in the SE...

  • AI is being used to surface “up shots” for featured snippets
    • Google Pygmalion team
      • Use sentence compression algorithm to surface ‘up shots’
      • 100 PHD linguists feed the algorithm handcrafted examples
      • Algorithm separates gold data from silver
  • Google can serve images from third party websites in other featured snippets
    • Google can serve your images in your competitors’ featured snippets
    • If Google can find better images they will use them rather than yours
  • AMP version of pages is now listed in featured snippets – this could be a competitive tactic to win in featured snippets
  • If your site is trusted, then you can achieve featured snippets really quickly after publishing
  • Voice assistants are growing in complexity
    • Google Home is infinitely smarter than Alexa
  • Featured snippets can be triggered for breaking news
    • Featured snippets can change based on query volume to a better answer, or a more recent answer
    • Site quality will impact reliability of featured snippets
  • Mobile content will be preferred for FS as Google moves towards a mobile-first index
  • How to research featured snippets?
    • You can download your competitors’ featured snippets from SEMrush
    • Rank tracking allows you to dice your data by ranking keywords and the type of query
    • Ahrefs surfaces structured snippets
  • How to win featured snippets
    • Using bullets, tables, being concise, using strong images, short-form content can also yield featured snippets – no need to write lengthy content just for the sake of it
    • Research competition – it’s easier to replace one when it’s there, rather than generate a new one. If someone has one and you’re in the top 10 then go after it
  • Remember, it’s temperamental so don’t get discouraged if you drop out for a short period

You can see all of Glenn’s slides here:

The Power of Google Featured Snippets in 2017: Analysis, Case Studies and Recommendations By Glenn Gabe from Search Marketing Expo – SMX

Website Migration Best Practices (Bastain Grimm)

  • Migration types and terminology – we need to start using right terminology, not just ‘migration’ as an all-encompassing term:

#SMX #22A2 @peakaceag Migration types and their potential impact on SEO Keep in mind: Often these types overlap – or multi...

  • Make migration a multi-step approach
    • Be granular to understand what hasn’t worked – if you do it all at once it’s hard to go back
  • Think about crawl budget: how long does it take to crawl every URL on your site?
    • If X number of urls on your domain are only crawled in a day, then this will impact how long it takes Google to re-crawl your site – see Google Search Console pages crawled per day for an example of this
  • Pre-migration health-check
    • As a minimum, check for broken internal links or 404s, and ensure you download all 404s before migrating
  • Protocol migration (HTTP > HTTPS)
    • Ensure canonicals and rel=alternate are changed
    • Ensure hreflang tags are changed
    • Assess old redirects – always reassess legacy redirects and map to new URLs
    • Transfer old disavow file over to new HTTPS property on search console
  • Post-migration checks
    • Log file analysis
    • Review HTTP status codes over time and top crawled pages on a daily basis
    • Search Console will have a bit of delay, so log file analysis is preferable (should be done first)
  • Don’t be scared about a short-term drop:

#SMX #22A2 @peakaceag Ideally it should look like this #2 Protocol migration: from HTTP to HTTPS; 2 weeks visibility dip (...

  • Things to make your life easier during site migration:
    • Google search console DNS verification – you can do this before deploying a site to live environment
    • Copy robots.txt file across to new site
    • Don’t forget to redirect images – they need to be 1:1 redirected to avoid masses of 404 errors and loss of image search rankings
    • Use Screaming Frog JS rendering > spider configuration > rendering and use XPath to test
    • If you’re having issues, use HTTP 503 status code. This tells Google to throttle crawling – you can combine this with ‘revisit after’ tags
      • If you have severe issues, then you can serve 503 error for robots.txt URL

You can view all Bastain’s slides here:

Migration Best Practices: Successfully Relaunching Your Website By Bastain Grimm from Search Marketing Expo – SMX

AMP: Do or Die (Aleyda Solis)

  • Focus on page load speed to reduce the chance of users bouncing – the increased chance of users bouncing per second is huge:

#SMX #14A @aleyda To avoid making users to leave the site

  • More mobile organic traffic for AMP pages than for non-AMP pages based on case study
  • AMP adoption is on the up, especially for large publishers:

#SMX #14A @aleyda This has incentivized its adoption, 
 especially among big media oriented sites

  • AMP is not a silver bullet, but can be used to increase visibility in mobile search
  • Ensure you test AMP plugins/versions of your site to avoid styling issues:

#SMX #14A @aleyda <> You want to avoid this ORIGINAL MOBILE PAGE AMP URL VERSION

You can view all slides from Aleyda’s presentation here:

AMP: Do or Die? By Aleyda Solis from Search Marketing Expo – SMX

AMP is for Everyone (Google)

  • AMP is now used by large e-commerce retailers such as eBay and Carved
  • AMP content is hugely customisable and now supports ads:

#SMX #13A @benmorss Banner ads Sticky ads Flying carpet Promoted content Video ads

  • AMP now supports dynamic content:

#SMX #13A @benmorss <amp-bind> lets you change page content after a user action <amp-list> lets you get data from your ser...

You can view all Ben’s slides here:

AMP Is For Everyone By Ben Morss from Search Marketing Expo – SMX

AMP: Lessons from 10+ Case Studies (Eric Enge)

  • Load time has a huge impact on sales, especially for high traffic sites:

#SMX #13A @stonetemple Company Load Time Change / Results Impact 0.1 second increase 1% decrease in sales $1.3B / year 1 s...

  • 51% of users are already looking for the lightning symbol as they understand this content is quicker to load –
  • eBay has invested heavily in AMP:

#SMX #13A @stonetemple “Ebay has invested heavily in AMP, and remains fully committed to it. (We are) focused on rolling A...

  • There is a method of fixing AMP analytics issue – see session stitching solution
  • Don’t rely solely on AMP plugin versions – ensure you fully commit to an AMP implementation, test and re-test to ensure there are no issues

You can view all slides from Eric’s talk here:

Amplify Your Digital Marketing: Lessons From 10+ Case Studies By Eric Enge from Search Marketing Expo – SMX

In Summary

SEO is constantly evolving to keep pace with Google’s changing algorithms and new consumer technology. The shift toward large-scale technical SEO activities such as AMP implementations and page load speed improvements vs traditional on-page SEO is a clear indicator of this. Of course, I have only summarised the points I took across the SEO sessions from the conference, so if you’re interested you can view all 100+ presentations from SMX on the Marketing Land website.

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