Key Takeaways from SMX Advanced 2018 in Seattle

Takeaways from SMX Advanced 2018 Last week, I had the opportunity to attend SMX Advanced. This search marketing expo is organized by Search Engine Land and takes place in Seattle every year. It's sponsored by the biggest names in the business, including Google, Bing, Acquiso, Quara, Yext, and many more. The automotive space is one of the world’s most competitive industries, making it vital to implement the proper tactics and leverage new technology in order keep improving your online presence. SMX Advanced aims to do that by, putting search experts from around the world into one room and let them share their tactics, ideas, research and experiences. From the sessions I attended, I took away some great new ideas and tactics to put in place in our own strategy. Here's some of my key takeaways.

Don’t Follow Every Trend

Search engine ranking are volatile. When chasing that coveted number one position, it can be easy to try every new SEO trend. You may read an interesting blog post and proceed to try that new thing on your site, or sign up for a new expensive software that promises to up your game. This behavior needs to stop. There are too many variables. Every industry is different; every location, audience, business, content management system, and so on.

"63% of the time the top 5 positions of a SERP change month-to-month."

Data from RankRanger and Mordy Oberstein.

A notable example of marketers following a trend was the popularity of Google Lighthouse site audit tool. Marcus Tober from Searchmetrics shared data they’ve gathered that compares rankings and the five key performance indicators from Lighthouse: performance, progressive web app, accessibility, best practices, and SEO. Their results showed no correlation between these KPIs and search engine page rankings. The only KPI that showed to be a small indicator of rankings was SEO. This is perfect example of why testing new technology is important before jumping into the trend. Pro Tip One strong correlation to rankings that Marcus shared was content width, meaning mobile readability.

Problem Solving Checklists

From a couple different sessions I took away some actionable checklists. Site Migrations All site migrations can be a headache, whether they are just going through a protocol change or a complete domain name switch. Melody Petulla from Merkle discussed some of the best and worst practices when it comes to site migrations, while also laying out a rough outline of pre-to-post migration checklist.
  1. Pre-migration This involves 90% of the workload. Save a list of every URL and previous and current XML sitemaps. Don’t forget to look for old URLs and old parts of the site. You must save everything, at that points it’s okay to block bad previous resources.
  2. Ready to Launch Just before you new site is ready to launch, declare the migration to GSC and Bing Web Tools. Then, submit the new XML sitemap, test Robots.txt, and fetch your primary pages before submitting them to index in GSC.
  3. Post-launch After the site’s launch, analyze your server logs. Find out if bots are prioritizing your site like you do, see if pages are being over-or-under indexed. You can also analyze your crawl data to get even more in depth information.
Something Went Wrong In the Deep Dive into the New Google Search Console session Marcela De Vivo from SEMRush discussed how to handle a site after it has lost a significant amount of traffic.
  1. Site Map Audit Make sure all the pages in your XML sitemap give you a 200 status and that none of them are blocked by Robots.txt.
  2. Technical Issues The index coverage report in the new GSC gives you three different potential errors; Errors: pages that are not indexed, Warnings: pages that require attention and may or may not be indexed, Excluded: pages that are typically not indexed, and Google thinks that was your intention. It is GSC job to gives us these issues but our to decode them, make the proper changes and then fetch and request indexing.
  3. What pages lost traffic? In the performance report, compare total clicks over the period you wish and filter the rows by difference. You will be able to tell right away which pages lost the most.
  4. What keywords dropped? In the same performance report, filter for specific queries to see if just one keyword dropped or a large set of the same terms have dropped.
Pro Tip Use multiple filters to diagnose issues. This is an easy way to find pages or queries that are below your click-through rate or impressions goal.

Voice Search Bigger Picture

Another session that sparked my interest was Voice Search Personas and Future Tech, hosted by Eric Enge from Stone Temple and Duane Forrester from Yext Before beginning to optimized for voice search, you must build personas. Everyone speaks at different pitch, tone, frequency, etc. Even more importantly, everyone responds to people's voices differently. In every voice search circumstance there are countless variables. In order to build your brand’s persona you must understand your target audience to the highest degree possible. How do they speak? What voice will they respond to best? Once brands begin to do this, more frequently, and as technology continues to evolve, these two believe we are headed for digital personal assistants. Just tell your phone to book your next trip, tell your car to order dog food, tell your watch to preheat the oven, and behold, a complete seamless interaction between your needs and everyday technology.

Thoughts for SMX

From the sessions I attended and people I networked with, it was a great experience. There is no replacement for getting in the same room as very talented and knowledgeable people to share ideas. I shared some of my key takeaways, but the expo had much more to offer. Looking forward to SMX Advanced 2019!