There was absolutely no phone signal, and everything was running completely off-schedule, but we had a pretty good time at SearchLeeds 2019 – the biggest search conference in the north – and we did some learning too!

We sent our Content Executive Liv, our Junior Digital Exec Alana, and our PR Exec Hannah off precisely 62.2 miles west for the day, just so they could tell us about the talks they loved, and share the nuggets of knowledge they came back with.

How science can help you have better ideas, Kirsty Hulse

Speaking for her third time at the conference, it’s fair to say Kirsty Hulse is a seasoned SearchLeeds pro. She’s the founder of Manyminds as well as a new venture, Roar Training, and her 25-minute talk on creativity made a real impression on our Content Executive, Liv.

Essentially, what I took away from Kirsty’s mainstage slot, is that creativity is queen, and brainstorms suck. She talked about how, in our ever-changing consumer climate, it’s getting harder and harder to cut through the noise.

In a world where we’re exposed to over 4000 adverts a day and ad-blocker usage (particularly in Germany for some reason 🤔) is on the rise big-time, what we need to be doing is appealing to our audiences… emotionally 😢

And how do we do this? Creativity, duh!

Kirsty reminded us of some of the most successful content marketing campaigns over the past year (I’m looking at you Always, Nike) and what they all had in common. It was three things, in fact. Creativity, emotional appeal, and risk.

Kirsty showed us MRI scans that were taken while consumers were evaluating brands, and the scans clearly exhibited the fact that people use emotions when deciding whether to buy a product or not, rather than information such as facts and figures.

She also said that while creativity doesn’t guarantee performance, it certainly boosts it. Because of this, we need to start investing in developing creativity as a skill. A skill that can be learned, a skill that can be developed and a skill that can be applied to our emotionally-led campaigns.  

How do we do this? By flexing our creativity muscle, as it were, more regularly.

“We can consciously influence ourselves to have greater creativity […] by practising exercises which require it.”

Not only do businesses need to develop habits to enable their staff to be creative, but it’s something we need to make a habit of ourselves. And this doesn’t just apply to the people in ‘creative’ roles – whatever that means.

“People aren’t either technical or creative, they can be both”. *insert picture of Mary Jackson*

After recommending a few activities to get our creative juices flowing, plugging her own blog (nice, Kirsty) and completely dissing brainstorms, Kirsty left me with a glowing feeling of optimism for content campaigns in the future.

UX and marketing: a tinder match made in heaven, Jill Quick

Jill Quick, Co-Founder of The Colouring In Department, definitely encouraged us to swipe right when it comes to integrating user experience in marketing. Kudos to the graphics used in this presentation (click here for a visual delight), our Junior Digital Executive, Alana, thoroughly enjoyed.

One of my main takeaways from this was that user experience is the key to everything. Yep, I said it, EVERYTHING! Whether that’s to improve your organic rankings on Google, build a loyal customer relationship, or gain that all important conversion; the experience a user has on your website affects their perception of your brand and ultimately – whether they will buy into it. Remember this blog?

I’ve picked a few of the best examples, as there were so many… Here are some strategies that may just change your life… and your marketing!

Strategy 1: Getting into the mindset of a consumer is the ultimate goal. One way to do this is to create a customer empathy map (much more in-depth than your average persona), a series of questions that enable a bigger picture of who your customer is as a person and how they behave.

Who they are, what makes them tick, what language they use, what their pain points are, what platforms they use, what their hopes and dreams are, who influences them and so on – are all things that help to narrow down how they think, how they buy, and how we can market to them effectively.

Strategy 2: Think about the journey that your customer goes through – this is key to informing the keywords used in your website copy and advertising (if you use paid). Creating content that informs the multiple stages of the buying process helps with the ranking of your website.

Being able to solve the questions that your consumers have at each stage keeps them on your page, without them having to look elsewhere for the info they need. You know what that means… lower bounce rates and higher session durations. Result!

Strategy 3: One very sneaky, but very clever, way to improve your offering to consumers is to implement user-centric content. Jill used the genius example of trawling through customer reviews of similar products to identify pain points and themes amongst consumers.

These findings can help create solutions to integrate within your offering. Answerthepublic.com also comes in handy to inform your keywords and identify topics surrounding your product or industry.

Thanks for your words of wisdom Jill, we may steal a few of these for ourselves (don’t hate us) – they’re just too good to ignore.

Search Listening (and The Spice Girls), Sophie Coley

Turns out it’s not just that bearded guy working behind the scenes at answerthepublic.com, Sophie Coley works there too, and she had lots of search listening tips that she brought up north for content marketers like us!

Essentially, search listening (which is a term, I think, Sophie coined herself) is the process of understanding what an audience truly thinks, based on the unbiased perspectives of millions of people, using the ultimate source of insight; search data.

Unlike social data, search data doesn’t ignore the hundreds of thousands of conversations we, as consumers, have with Google every day.

Why would we bother using search data? The reasons are three-fold.

  • The data set is huge
  • It’s free
  • And there’s absolutely no research bias.

Sophie started things off by highlighting just how much people are willing to tell Google about their personal lives. Some examples of popular searches were:

  • I just ate undercooked chicken
  • I’ve just been fired
  • I’ve just cheated on my girlfriend

We (humans) turn to Google in some of our most desperate moments, but also in our not-so-desperate moments too, and that’s what we (marketers) can use to our marketing advantage!

Enter: The Spice Girls

spice girls search listening blog

Each member of our (yes, our, don’t dare disagree) favourite 90s five-piece corresponded to one of Sophie’s search listening tips.

I won’t run through the details, as that would be TOO MUCH 😉 and, quite frankly, it’s Sophie’s story to tell. You can find her slides here.

What I will tell you, is that Sophie’s talk was everything the 90s child AND content marketer in me needed to hear, and I came away feeling incredibly inspired to make search listening a bigger part of my job.

All things mobile in a mobile-led world! Optimise or fail, Jon Myers

Jon, MD and Founder of Ascending Media, provided our Junior Digital Executive Alana with plenty of juicy stats that she can’t wait to whack out at her next dinner party.

Everyone knows that mobile is right now. It’s the day to day, and could even be described as old news, but in an attempt to reignite our love for the topic, Jon painted a wonderful picture that helped us (again) understand just how important mobile is – and it’s actually quite exciting! 📱

Just to pique your interest slightly, here are two of my favourite little nuggets of information we were presented with:

  • On average, people spend 5 hours a day on their smartphone(s!)
  • Google search accounts for a whopping 96% of all mobile traffic

The presentation was split into four categories to help us prepare for the mobile revolution that’s happening right now:

  • Voice search
  • Mobile first index
  • Mobile SEO
  • Speed

Voice search –  When it comes to voice, Amazon is king.

“Alexa… add potatoes to my shopping list.”

But you don’t need me to tell you that. With Alexa being built into almost every device Amazon is producing (speakers, tablets, remotes and so on), there’s no wonder why she’s one of the most popular options for voice search.

P.S. – did you know 68% of people using voice search are comfortable transferring money via voice devices?

Another important nugget for all the SEO pros out there – 60% of voice search results utilise featured snippets. In essence, it’s so important to optimise your content, especially the first paragraph, for featured snippets if you want to rank higher for your targeted search queries.

Mobile first index – From now until the end of time (I’m maybe being a bit dramatic), every website built will be indexed mobile-first, which makes sense, considering Google’s mobile index powers half of all search activity.

Structured data is also essential for Google to understand the content of your website. Don’t hang about, get your website ready for mobile!

Mobile SEO – Another fantastic stat this way comes… 55% of all clicks go to the first 3 organic search results. In order to get those sweet sweet clicks, you need to make sure the content that you’re producing is going to attract the right type of traffic – and lots of it.

Similar to voice, the first paragraph within your content should be optimised for featured snippets and should answer the searcher’s query straight away. Titles and meta descriptions should be keyword rich (but not too rich) and it’s a good idea to include multiple versions of the same keyword throughout, to target different users with the same searcher intent.

Clickthrough rate is a big factor towards your organic ranking, so you need to gain the attention and drive the click. 

Speed – As a Digital Exec, one of the main things I have to keep in mind is speed. It’s crazy how much speed affects the performance of your site (the benchmark is around 1 second). Jon enlightened us about just how important that benchmark is.

jo myers search leeds presentation

Compressing images, minifying HTML, minifying and render blocking CSS files and Javascript (preventing the downloading of files that aren’t essential to the website loading) and caching plugins (such as WP Rocket or Fastest Cache) all help to increase the speed of your site.

Testing the speed of your site is as simple as pasting your domain into an online speed tool, such as Page Speed Insights or Test My Site. This will display your speed for both mobile and desktop and provide a list of recommendations to improve.

That’s it from me folks, now get a move on, your site’s not going to optimise itself!

Unfortunately, we had big plans back in Hull so had to miss out on the after-party. If anyone has any goss on what went down while we were travelling down the M62, let us know on Twitter!

And if you want to know about past conferences we’ve been to, click here to read last year’s blog!