I currently find myself on the long train journey back to Somerset following an inspiring visit to SASCon 2013, a two-day conference covering SEO, analytics and Social Media. My train is running almost an hour late (joy) giving me a bit of extra time to reflect on the last few days of meeting new people, conversation and learning.
I have to say that I was truly impressed with the event and the SASCon team did a fantastic job of putting together a conference that was advanced and professional with an extremely high level of speakers whilst at the same time having an informal feel that created a lot of interaction between speakers and delegates during the sessions and the Manchester Metropolitan University Business School venue was the perfect venue for the event.
This was my first visit to Manchester which turned out to be possibly the friendliest city I have ever been to (two days of glorious sunshine may have helped). This was also my first conference since the latest Google Penguin 2.0 update a couple of weeks ago and so I was looking forwards to hearing the experiences of other consultants and SEO’s within the industry. I don’t intend to try and summarise the sessions that I attended, the guys from Koozai did an admirable job of live blogging every session which you can read on the Koozai Blog.
A few months ago I presented one of the sessions at BrightonSEO which pretty much covered how I could see things going within SEO (The video is here) and my thoughts seem to have been supported by the overall message that I took away from SASCon.
Online visibility is still very much directly tied to links and until search engines can find another signal that is as strong then it is likely to remain this way. What is rapidly changing is the ability of search engines to classify and attribute authority to these links which has lead many agencies to migrate away from pure SEO towards a combination of SEO, Content Marketing and PR in fact there were very few technical presentations at SASCon. The majority of the sessions focussed on how to create and deliver different types of content, earning authoritative links rather than building them.
There couldn’t have been a conference this close to a major Google algorithm update without a lot of discussion dedicated to it. There appear to be a lot of differences between the original Penguin update last May and the latest Penguin 2.0 update last month but for me the most noticeable difference is the attitude of the SEO industry towards the update. Last year there was outrage, denial, devastation and tears. This year there appears to have been a much more accepting attitude towards the update with many SEO’s looking at it in a positive light, even a lot of SEO’s that were left stamping their feet last year (myself included).
During the two days of SASCon there was a lot of discussion around link penalty recovery and avoiding future penalties with many sessions that were completely off this topic veering towards it and discussing. For me this highlights the extent to which the last year or so of updates have dramatically changed the attitude of our industry. Previous talks of scaling, automating and outsourcing have switched to quality, reputation and authority.
There was one major statement in my presentation at BrightonSEO that I think I got wrong, this was ‘The Term SEO is here to stay!’. The few short months since Brighton has seen SEOMoz rebrand to MOZ, SEOGadget is rumoured to shortly follow suite and multiple agencies have switched the service headings on their websites from ‘SEO’ to ‘Digital Marketing’. My feeling now is that SEO will still remain a term that is very strongly tied to what we do but it will possibly revert back to the more technical on-page aspects that it used to cover and that it will fall under the overall banner of digital marketing.
Despite the seeming acceptance of the latest updates amongst the majority of SEO’s, Google has still managed to create grumblings that I suspect will grow in volume over the coming weeks/months and may possibly reach a crescendo with the launch of the Google Glass Product. Privacy issues are producing ever growing levels of dissatisfaction with SEO’s. The levels to which Google collects and uses our personal data appears to go relatively unnoticed by the vast majority of people but conversations over the last few days have opened my eyes a bit to how widespread data collection is and how much worse it is likely to get with new Google products such as Analytics Premium where Google asks businesses to upload personal data about their customers. Barry Adams in particular put forward many thought provoking ideas and he delivered a very convincing presentation of why personalisation within search results is possibly a very bad thing rather than the usually accepted view that personalisation is good.
My train journey home is coming to an end so I will wrap this post up although there is much more in my head following my trip to Manchester than I have covered here. SASCon was a brilliant conference, maybe not recommended for the complete newbie but I will certainly be encouraging people to buy a ticket in the build up to the event next year.