On Thursday 20th June, Jonathan and I made the exciting trip to SearchLeeds 2019, “the largest digital conference in the north of England”. A day chocked full of intriguing insights, terrific tips and priceless pointers, the event did not disappoint, with over 2,000 people attending.
Having lived in Leeds for a little over a year now, this was actually my first venture to SearchLeeds, having only been to similar yet smaller Lincolnshire-based events in the past.
Eagerly armed with a notepad and at least five pens of varying proficiency, swinging a tote bag given to me upon my arrival as if I was a kid on his first day at school, I had my eye on a number of the 48 talks scheduled throughout the day. In fact, that was the most difficult part: picking which ones to go to, knowing I would inevitably miss some vital insights elsewhere.
I was keen to soak up as much as I could from the event, much like a dry sponge tossed into a swimming pool on a hot summer’s day. I know what a lot of you are probably thinking: “What a nerd…” And I don’t blame you, I would be too at this point. However, would a nerd sneak back to the free beer tent at lunch and snag himself an extra one for his “friend”, only to drink it all to himself? I don’t think so. That sort of daredevil behaviour could only come from the enigmatic, mysterious, extremely cool outsider from Brigg.
Anyway, it’s safe to say SearchLeeds 2019 was a successful mission: I left the First Direct Arena brimming with notes and fresh ideas to bring back to Knapton Wright HQ. Whether the spring in my step came from this new knowledge or the fourth, fifth or sixth pint, I’m not sure, but I digress. Without further ado, here are some of my key takeaways from the event…
1) Content Marketing Strategies from Google That Stretch Beyond Keyword Research
As a marketer, you can quite easily spend an insightful talk figuratively kicking yourself in the shin, silently muttering under your breath: “It’s so simple, why have I never done that?” or “I used to do that, why did I stop?”
That was certainly the case for me when listening to AnswerThePublic.com‘s Sophie Coley, who spoke to us about the power of Search Listening. While there is a plethora of tools and data to use when conjuring up your content strategy, it’s easy to ignore the ones staring you in the face almost every time you use the internet.
Search Listening is essentially gathering data through searching for your relevant topics, products, services and industries. Sophie recommended the following fantastically simple and effective techniques for content ideation:
- Using spaces to spark Google autocomplete suggestions, which you can then use to influence content. For example, you could type in ‘Why do teenagers hate…” and then look within Google’s suggestions for content ideas, if your target market is teenagers. Or, you can flip it and type “Why do __ [double space] love skateboarding”. If your business is in skateboarding, you suddenly have new ideas for buyer personas.
- Using “like” searches to discover influencers. If, for instance, you’re a hairdresser or are in fashion, you could type “how to get hair like _____”. Each suggestion is a potential influencer, and someone you can either partner with on a PR campaign (if you’re big enough!) or use to create content off the back of.
- Use “for” searches to find buyer personas. An example of this would be, “chicken recipes for ______”. If you were a culinary or hospitality business, this then gives you potential content and blog ideas such as “chicken recipes for kids, dinner parties, slow cookers etc”. Another example could be “SUVs for _____” Each suggestion that comes up in Google autocomplete is a potential gap in the market for an SUV dealership.
- Use “a” vs “my” searches to think about the whole customer journey.
2) Fake News Can Be A Good Thing
Having joined Knapton Wright straight off the back of a short PR internship (after completing a journalism degree), I still see Public Relations as a bit of a dark art, a mysterious yet powerful avenue of marketing that I am yet to fully immerse myself into.
I was therefore delighted to be able to attend a couple of PR and journalism-orientated talks, my favourite of which (and no doubt many people’s favourite judging from the animated applause at the end) was Oliver Brett’s talk, entitled ‘How to make fake news for links’.
That’s right, Fake News, the two words that make you roll your eyes, sink in your chair and guffaw. But no, turns out, fake news can be fun and witty and exciting and everything that’s great about working in marketing! No, that’s not the beer talking. Hear me out…
Oliver Brett and his team at Screaming Frog have made full use of fake news or, “linkbait”, as he called it throughout his hilarious talk. He has worked with all kinds of businesses and industries, gaining national and sometimes worldwide news coverage for some of the wackiest ideas.
Gone are the days of infographics, according to Oliver. Instead, you need to create data driven pieces, high-quality content marketing, funny fake news items and products and the like. Here are some of my favourite examples from his talk:
- The Pee Cape – An idea conjured up in the toilets at a local pub, Oliver and his friends at Screaming Frog came up with the Pee Cape, a long cape with a suction cup that you pin against the wall, using it to shield yourself from onlookers while using a urinal. This was a completely fictional product they created for a client of theirs: a plumbing company to be precise. However, many journalists and members of the public could not work out whether it was in fact genuine, and the comical product gathered the client thousands of links, with the news story spreading as far as CNN!
- 7,000 Lance Armstrong DVDs – Some of you will recall the moment Lance Armstrong admitted to taking performance-enhancing drugs. It shook the sporting world, but nobody more so than the man who had just bought 7,000 of Armstrong’s DVD, just a matter of days before the cyclist revealed the truth to Oprah Winfrey. The BBC actually reported this, using the mocked up photo of a man holding 12 DVDs in front of a bunch of empty boxes!
- Solar-powered England shirts – Remember when there was a big scare in the media prior to the 2018 World Cup that the Russian ultras were going to be battling it out with the English hooligans? Oliver tapped into this by teasing a solar-powered t-shirt with an England flag on the front that, at the flick of a switch, would change to a Russian flag, ensuring you could remain safe, no matter who walked by you in the street. When you have time to think about it, you know this is of course nonsense, but again, it did not stop many national newspapers from publishing the story.
3) Using Social Media For Search Strategy
Ideation, the struggle (or beauty) of every content marketer. In today’s world – dominated by the constant flow of information and endless platforms to find it on – there is no excuse to lacking ideas for creative content.
The most effective search strategies are the ones that pull data and ideas from a wide variety of sources, and one that can sometimes get put on the backshelf in terms of ideation is actually social media. Not for Will Hobson of Edit, though.
Will educated attendees of his talk on the importance of making social networks a key part of your search strategy. He provided the following reasons why…
- Social media is a great place to not only spread content, but also find it. Use the likes of Reddit’s top trending and Buzzsumo to discover shareable content on various platforms and subjects.
- Facebook and Instagram groups are ideal for finding content that ‘works’. Tap into emerging trends such as ‘Rate My Plate’ and similar groups to create your own spin on popular behaviour.
- “Keep your clients close, and your competitors closer.” Look at what the competition is doing by keeping an eye on their content. An easy way to do this is to create a list on Twitter. Remember to mirror their successes but with a new and fresh spin to continue standing out.
- 54% of journalists are more likely to respond to a personal connection. If you’re looking for PR coverage, reach out to them using your personal account, rather than your business account. They receive messages from the latter constantly, but a personal connection is a lot stronger.
These were three of my favourite talks at SearchLeeds 2019, but we enjoyed many more. It was great to spend a day with like-minded people sharing innovative ideas, and I, no doubt much like many other attendees, am certainly already counting down to next year!