SearchLeeds 2017: 8 Key Takeaways

Last week, Joel and Gareth from Code’s Search & Content team went along to the SearchLeeds conference, now in its second year.
The event featured talks spanning topics from creative content campaigns to advanced technical SEO. You can view all the speakers’ slide decks here, but, if you’re after a quick summary, here are Code’s key takeaways.

1. Search is THE most intent-based channel

A simple truth, but a hugely valuable thing to remember – no other channel, digital or otherwise, gives us so much insight into the precise intent of our audience. We can literally see what people are typing or speaking into search engines, and use that to tailor content and experiences that address real needs. This is why SEO specialists should always be involved in things like customer research and experience mapping from the discovery stage of a relationship onwards.

Credit: Ellie England, Bing

2. By 2020, 50% of searches will be conducted by voice

This stat came up a few times over the course of the day, which proves that, whether we like it or not, the rise of voice search isn’t going to stop. With half of all web searches likely to be completed via voice within the next three years, ranking in the highest positions will become more valuable than ever, and the onus on brands and publishers to provide clear answers to real questions will only increase.

Credit: Barry Adams, Polemic Digital

3. Emotion matters, and colour’s a massive part of that

colours and emotions
We all know that people respond to content that triggers their emotions; emotion is especially important when it comes to getting people to share. If you’re trying to elicit a particular emotion with a piece of creative content, think carefully about the colours you use in the design, as this can really reinforce what you’re looking to convey.

Credit: Laura Crimmons, Branded3

4. Lack of budget is hardly ever the reason a content campaign fails

Let’s be honest – sometimes a content marketing campaign simply doesn’t deliver the results you expected; sometimes, it falls completely flat on its face. But when things don’t work out, you can pretty much guarantee that lack of budget wasn’t really the problem. It doesn’t matter how fancy your execution is, or how much resource you throw at promotion – if your idea is weak and your story is lacking, things probably won’t end well. By contrast, a well-timed, bargain-basement content piece thrown together at the last minute could potentially be a big success if the ingredients are right… a bit like the time [we revealed that 64% of Brits preferred James May to Fifty Shades of Grey, and got nearly 5,000 upvotes on Reddit]( Having flexibility and trust from your clients to create reactive (and sometimes edgy) content is key.

Credit: Paddy Moogan, Aira

5. News coverage doesn’t always produce the most valuable links

Content marketing is probably the most prevalent link building tactic these days, but often these campaigns are geared towards major media outlets like The Independent or The Daily Mail. Whilst it’s certainly no bad thing to get coverage on sites like those, an individual article quickly gets buried in the architecture of a site that vast. A link on a smaller site, with potentially less authority – for example, a charity like the RSPB – will likely pass more value overall.

Credit: Paul Madden, Kerboo

6. Featured Snippets are easy to get (as long as you’re already ranking in the top 5)

how to get a featured snippet
Featured Snippets can be a fantastic way of maximising your real estate in the SERPs and showing users that your page can answer their query before they even click. By simply formatting information with nothing more complex than HTML tables or bullet points, you can improve your chances of getting a Featured Snippet for many informational searches, but you probably need to be ranking in the top 5-7 positions already for this to happen.

Credit: Barry Adams, Polemic Digital

7. You can automate some of your outreach using Facebook Ads

We’ve talked before about using custom audiences to get content in front of key influencers more efficiently, but what about simply leveraging Facebook’s existing targeting options to place assets you’re promoting directly into the feeds of journalists you want to cover your story? It’s insanely simple to do – the only caveat is that the industry has a tendency to abuse tactics like this, so there’s a chance that journalists will become increasingly less likely to list their work details on Facebook, or start using ad blockers more widely to avoid getting spammed with content they’re not interested in seeing. Let’s hope the SEO community doesn’t run this particular method into the ground!

Credit: Paddy Moogan, Aira

8. SEO split testing looks set to change the game

We’ve been keeping an eye on Distilled ODN for a while, and Will Critchlow’s closing talk on the main stage highlighted how important SEO split-testing is likely to become. There were plenty of interesting exercises and examples that highlighted how difficult it can be, even for seasoned SEO professionals, to predict how well a page will rank, or to know exactly what needs to be changed to improve its chances. But by testing on-page changes at scale before rolling out across a site, we now have the means to validate (or indeed reject) recommendations based on their actual impact on traffic. Exciting stuff.

Credit: Will Critchlow, Distilled


Gareth Evans, Search Manager – @gaztruman

Joel Stein, Content Marketing Manager – @joelstein