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Searching for Content Truths: Search Leeds 2019

July 28, 2019 - Zak Averre

Search Leeds this year was one for the record books. With four stages, amazing speakers, free beer and the sunshine, it was a school trip worth the wait. I’d earmarked several talks on content marketing and SEO and with paper and pen in hand prepared to drink in the knowledge. These are my highlights.

How science can help you have better ideas – Kirsty Hulse (Many Minds)

How science can help you have better ideas (Kirsty Hulse Search Leeds 2019)

Kirsty was one of the first speakers on the day and enraptured the audience with her sincerity, knowledge and sharp wit. Her topic focused on the science of creativity and the need for agencies to allow more freedom for creative thinking and development.

Kirsty opened with a few statistics such as 76% of the 200 marketing directors she interviewed were unlikely to take a creative risk. This led to a hypothesis that 87% of content creators can’t get their best ideas signed off as a result. The ‘risk’ is what drives fear as more and more clients look to cookie-cutter solutions to their unique problems.

This reliance on going with tried and tested formulas is flawed as we are bombarded with adverts every single day. The average consumer is exposed to 4,000 ads a day with the use of ad blockers reflecting the feeling towards online ads. Rand Fishkin, a paragon within the SEO industry, has also warned that a 20% drop in mobile and organic CTR is going to start affecting SEO too.

Creativity for better results (Kirsty Hulse Search Leeds 2019)

This means the goalposts are shifting and content creation needs to move with it. Kirsty used the example of Starbucks and how they don’t sell coffee but an indie rom-com aspiration. This formed the basis for the three tenets Kirsty sees as key to future content creation.

Authenticity – it has to be real and come from a place of meaning

Timing – is it relevant and on our press agenda? Are we talking about it?

Originality – is it a new concept or an interesting take on an old concept?

Kirsty analysed high ranking sites across different needs by investigating the top 150 links earned manually in 2018. For each site. This daunting task revealed that the boost from a truly original concept far outweighed the risk. Kirsty went on to use problem-solving in the space race as an example. What she discovered is that creativity is not genetic but built by belief. Creativity takes many forms and Kirsty suggested several exercises and resources to practice being more creative. These ranged from taking a walk in nature or changing your scenery (a move towards more flexible working patterns) to a useful book (with truly terrible cover art) called How to Have Creative Ideas by Edward de Bono. One of the overarching truths was that our best ideas come to us when not under stress. Hint, hint, would-be employers.

Other ideas included using Slack and other messaging services for sharing ideas and becoming better at dealing with criticism. In the end, it doesn’t matter how you get there as long as you have a space where you can think of creative concepts that your clients will love.

Why most SEO audits are SH*T! – Bastian Grimm (Peak Ace)

Bastian Grimm was another presenter who got to bask in the lights of the main stage. His no-nonsense approach was perfect for his aptly named presentation as he got right to the core of SEO audits.

Bastian opened with some startling stats. According to a survey of 212 participants by his company, Peak Ace, he discovered that only 12% of clients are completely satisfied with their SEO audits. The majority fell into the ‘only partially happy’ while just over 30% thought their report was a ‘total disaster’.

SEO audits example spreadsheet

The reason for this gulf is due to that fact that most SEOs equate the number of pages to the quality of the work. This is wrong. SEO audits should be tailored to the needs of the client. Exporting a CSV file from Screaming Frog isn’t an audit and is more likely to annoy or mystify your client than help.

Bastian outlined the three key issues that need to be addressed before writing up an SEO audit.


Wrong Format/Output – What does your audience really need?

Symptoms vs. Causes – Start thinking in patterns

No Priorities – What are the reasons for the audit and how are they structured?

The format is key to understanding as it allows your client to read through the report in a way that doesn’t alienate them. This empowers your client to take your advice and make informed decisions.

Why most SEO audits are bad - Bastian Grimm

Symptomatic planning is fairly obvious but is worth mentioning. Don’t just put insert a massive table of URLs or results. Break it down into chunks and look for reasons/areas where your client can improve. 

Lastly, be sure to prioritise your report. Start with the most important areas of concern and work from there. This doesn’t mean always focusing on quick wins first or worrying about what the next Google update might do. Evaluate and decide on an order that is actionable and services your client in the long run.

Bastian’s talk was insightful and well worth listening to. He went on to break down example reports by the number of users and the industry of the site in question. If you have a moment’s time it’s worth finding a copy of his slides to see how your client fits into this dynamic.

Content marketing frameworks that will get you paid more – Stephen Kenwright (Rise at Seven)

Steven Kenwright is a popular figure at Search Leeds, kind of like a local football player playing for his hometown team. He has spoken at Search Leeds for several years and his insights and humour leave his audiences feeling inspired. This year was no different as he broke down, via gifs, memes, graphs, and insight, how to build, track and report on a content strategy.

Hype Cycle Search Leeds

Steve broke out some staples like the Hype Cycle and Laswell’s model of communication but used them in an interesting way.

Laswell's Model Search Leeds 2019

Steve asked the question, engagement is all good and well but did anyone care? Planning content means understanding your end-user and what they will do with your information. There are a few exercises that Steve highlighted including understanding the emotional drive behind a search query, forming an editorial board to revisit content and tweak it to fit the needs of your current users, understanding what the KPIs are for your industry or piece and following up with checks on performance.

Overall Stephen Kenwright provided insight and a healthy supply of gifs. Two great ingredients for a talk so close to the end of the day. His talk centred on how focusing, planning, executing and tweaking (even months and years after generation) are necessary to ensure the success of your content.

Search Leeds 2019 was an incredible experience and we can’t wait to see what 2020 brings. Till then we’ll be using all we learned to develop killer digital campaigns. If you’re interested in working with us on your next project contact us today and we’ll bring all we learnt to the fore.

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