SASCon – 177 Useful and Actionable Takeaways

Last week myself Ben & Mithul attended SAScon. This second year of Manchester’s search and social conference was even better than last year, with talks spread over 2 days rather than the previous year’s one and a change of venue to the excellent and accommodating Hive.

We have broken down our favourite talks into bite sized pieces so that you can digest the most useful nuggets of information so do share it around if you find it useful!

Click to see notes on each of the following talks

  1. Retail Panel
  2. Paid Search Innovation (and Google Remarketing)
  3. Enterprise SEO
  4. Market Focus – Travel
  5. Negative SEO
  6. Attribution & Beyond
  7. Link Building Secrets
  8. Global Search
  9. Stat-o-rama
  10. Social Commerce
  11. Market Focus – Gaming
  12. Mobile Marketing Goes Mainstream
  13. Feeds & Microformats
  14. Analytics 2.0
  15. Location, Location, Location
  16. WordPress SEO

Retail Panel

  • Customers want to be treated as individuals so personalisation is important.  Target and segment your customer base.
  • Generic copy may compromise this personal aspect so think about how you would talk to your customers and make sure that your copy reflects this.
  • Use SEO to promote your products and your brand, use PPC to segment your audience further.
  • Utilise all assets of the search results to improve delivery.  Google product results are a good way of conveying the breadth of your product range.  Google local listings obviously a good way of targeting geographical segments.
  • Tailor search and usability to work with other media – e.g IPad interface work much differently to a PC so do what you can to encourage engagement.
  • re:  proposed cookie laws – IP recognition could be an alternative.
  • People are impatient – make the journey to purchase as short as possible.
  • Retailers should consider mobile Apps to target returning customers (e.g Ebay’s App which makes it quicker to use the site).  Don’t develop an App just for the sake of it – if your site is purely a mobile site then there is clearly no need for it.
  • Forget waiting round for ‘mobile phone internet’ revolution – we’re past it.  Thanks to IPad and tablet PCs we’re now in the age of ‘mobile internet’
  • Analytics is your friend – use it to determine how you can make the customer journey easier/shorter.
  • Use Facebook to research your customers so that you can segment and target them.
  • Many people are logged into their Google account all the time so don’t be afraid to use Social channels to help pepper their results with links.
  • Facebook ‘likes’ are supposedly worth around $2 so keep conversation going on your Facebook page to encourage more ‘likes’.
  • If you operate within a niche market then your following will be more likely to engage you and be passionate abt the products you sell.  The hard part is finding things to talk about, which is where many large brands fall down.  Smaller brands can capitalise on this.
  • Don’t pigeonhole yourself as an SEO/Affiliate/Social – think like a marketer.
  • Affiliate marketing is underutilised by many retailers – if you have the capability to generate a recruitment campaign then make use of affiliate marketing if you can.


Paid Search Innovation

  • Product extensions highlight particular products within your ads.  Excellent way to get pre-qualified traffic to your site and boost your CTR.
  • Be wary of competitiveness as this may reduce CTR.
  • Paid video ads will be coming soon – currently rolled out in US only.
  • Google +1 hasn’t been completely rolled out to UK yet although when it has been it will be a good way to merge Social and Paid Search.  Recommend paid ads to friends in your social circle.
  • When considering paid search, make sure you take into consideration your spend across all media and determine where money should be spent on a day-to-day basis.
  • TV advertising has a positive correlation with PPC clicks – estimated that clicks from TV drop off after 4 weeks.
  • Press sales promotion also has a positive effect on PPC clicks.

Google Remarketing

  • Google remarketing involves showing paid ads to past customers on sites in Google’s display network.
  • Remarketing is a simple way to interact with people based in their past interactions with your site.
  • Add a remarketing code to the pages of your website.  Once added, you will start to build up a list of ‘contacts’.  This list must have a minimum of 500 people on it before it becomes actionable.
  • The more targeted the traffic, the more effective it will be.  For example, it will be less effective if placed on your home page.
  • Determine the best time of year to remarket your products (e.g Christmas) and make sure that you don’t remarket for too long as this will just end up annoying your customers if they constantly see your ads.
  • If you are using image ads then bear in mind that they can take up to 2 weeks to be authorised.
  • Don’t worry too much about the quality of the design of your adverts as it is far more important that they STAND OUT, rather than look professional.
  • If your adverts don’t have a call to action then use these to help build your brand/message.
  • If you own more than one site then make use of cross promotion.
  • Create remarketing lists for users who shop by season/month.
  • Use remarketing to send users to your Facebook/Twitter page.


Enterprise SEO

  • Referrs to companies which turn over £10+ million per year and which update their content on an hourly basis.
  • You are likely to be dealing with different data centres which are based in different countries so make sure that they are all SEO compliant.
  • Be clear what you are requesting and what languages/search engines to take into consideration.
  • Set up teams to deal with each market segment and ensure that they are trained to ensure effective delegation of work.
  • Big brands are slow to recognise how important SEO is.  In general their websites will have been built before the web became really popular.  This means that their sites’ structure/architecture is likely to be insufficient/ineffective.
  • The biggest problem for enterprises is ‘getting stuff done’ .  Board members haven’t been properly exposed to SEO so as a result they don’t really care.
  • When talking to board members, speak in a language they understand: talk BUSINESS, not search.  E.g instead of saying “our web agency quoted £50k to update URL structures”,  say “we’re losing £50k quarterly on unnecessary PPC spend”.
  • Teach search to as many people in the organisation as possible.  Remember that developers are your best friend and that beer is the best way of getting them on board :)
  • Educate stakeholders and C-Level execs so that they ‘buy in’ and realise that SEO is paramount and necessary.
  • Big brands tend not to think of SEO as a customer acquisition tool.  Constantly build on this awareness.
  • Big companies tend to understand PPC, but not SEO so talk to them in terms of SEO.
  • Make use of SEO and content for branding purposes.  Any brand will have thousands of non-brand transactional phrases. E.g ‘how to articles’ relating to your product/brand.  Make use of exact match domains for these queries if appropriate.  Even if visits to these domains don’t convert immediately, will help to get brand exposure.  Provide quality content and then expose the reader to your brand when they least expect it.  Find terms which have very low competition to help you generate content.
  • Put GA code on your 404 page and see which pages are being referred to it.


Market Focus – Travel

  • Youtube has helped to reach an audience beyond TV.
  • People visit 15 sites over 15 sessions, spending 2hrs 14mins before finally booking travel.
  • Brand is becoming less of a motivator when it comes to making a purchase, with price being a bigger motivator.
  • Search is fundamental to the travel sector with 90% of search terms being generic.
  • Users who click on sponsored terms are 1.5 times more likely to convert.
  • 15% of search queries now come from mobile devices.
  • 69% of business travellers are looking at video when deciding to book travel.
  • Google owns 96.29% of the mobile search market.
  • Factors which put pressure on travel business: weather, economic, sporting, natural disaster and competitors.
  • 2011 Vs 2010:  searches for all inclusive holidays up 227%, searches for cheap holidays are up by 80%.
  • Social media increasingly used to find destinations.
  • Twitter is increasingly used to get recommendations – people will now trust reviews from people they don’t know.


Negative SEO

I’ll keep notes for this section brief and applicable to general SEO as we don’t condone or practice any of the techniques discussed from this panel.  I have only included quotes/tips which I think may help to spread awareness of certain practices or security issues.  If any of the SASCon organisers or panellists take issue with any of the below pointers being published then get in contact and I’ll remove them.

  • If your blog is on a subdomain then it is treated as a separate site so if it gets hacked then only that subdomain will be effected.  If your blog is on a /blog subfolder and gets hacked then your entire site will be affected.
  • Server security should be considered the equivalent of fending off negative SEO although there is no way you can 100% protect yourself.
  • Detecting Malice is an excellent resource for security issues.
  • “The easier it is to install, the easier it is to hack”
  • Check your site speed and check your site cache date – if any of them change drastically then the chances are that your site has been hacked.

Told you I’d be brief!

Attribution & Beyond

  • One attribution model does not fit all situations.
  • Actions are rarely driven by a single website visit, instead they are driven by multiple marketing channels.
  • A  journey to action can often take days or weeks.
  • Configurable rules for defining the attribution period: fixed length of time, period defined by visit gaps.
  • How long is your average path to conversion?  If it is 2 weeks then there is no point checking a revised campaign after a few days
  • To grow your business, establish what is currently persuading your clients and ‘amplify’ these factors.
  • Instead of providing a drop down ‘how did you hear about us?’ menu on your contact form, make it an open text field as the information entered will enable a much more actionable response.
  • Try using 4Q to get an evalution of the usability of your site.
  • Identify the persuasive assets on your site and note the elements your prospects didn’t see as well creating a wishlist of assests you need to acquire.
  • People often implement GA badly – make use of it to find out how many pageviews a particular keyword generates.


Link Building Secrets

  • Find journalists and bloggers via Twitter – journalists actively monitor the #journorequest hashtag.  Alternatively try searching on Journalisted.
  • Video listings are much less competitive than organic listings.  Tubemogul is a useful tool to get your videos distributed to multiple video channels.
  • Site reviews are massive – find a way to incentivise users to leave a review.
  • Put a copyright note/watermark on your images.
  • Forums are still good for getting targeted links.
  • Send emails to your customers asking them to follow you on Twitter/Facebook.
  • The best votes/links take time and effort to win.
  • Site SEO + Resource cost + Risk of Failure = ROI
  • Useful CSV tools: Zoho.
  • Use Majestic SEO for data collection, run top 10 URLs for a particular keyword through it and determine what sites link to at least 2 of these URLs.
  • Make use of SEM rush and filter using the following metrics: domain authority, page authority.  Import into Zoho.
  • Try using Blekko – has good link data.
  • Link building has to be about creating relationships.  Even controversy is a good way of building ‘relationships’ – e.g sent out a press release saying that they were kicking out fat people.  Eventually lead to a link from BBC.
  • Make use of ‘badges of honour’ e.g SEOMoz badge – helps to build community and engagement.
  • When looking for guest post opportunnities, search for “inurl:category/guest + keyword”.  Alternatively when looking for brand related guest post opportunities, search for “<brand> -site:<>”
  • is a useful backlink tool.
  • Custom search engines are excellent for finding link building opportunities.
  • Try running a broken link checker on an authoritative site in your niche.  If you find a broken link then email the site administrator and see if they can offer you a link in return for the favour.
  • Find trade associations worth joining via
  • For crowdsourcing, try CrowdFlower.
  • For survey results you can utilise along with press releases, try Toluna.
  • For sponsorship opportunities look at
  • If you find yourself the subject of negative publicity then utilise this to emphasise the unique nature of your business.  E.g Easyjet are frequently criticised, but PR is used to remind people how cheap they are.
  • Rather than try to get a link from someone’s WordPress blog post, try to get them to create a separate page and give you a link from that as it will be more valuable in the long term.


Global Search

  • Culture matters – every country has it’s own unique behaviour, although all people are equally sophisticated, impatient and lazy.
  • Trust is built through cultural relevance.
  • Buying and paying are environmental factors.
  • Google is not everything  – e.g it barely exists in Korea.
  • Dont abuse keywords and be aware that they are not directly translatable.
  • Have a content strategy and be aware of what types of content are required for a particular marketplace.  3 types of different content:  freshly crafted content, translated content and modified/updated content.
  • Google webmaster tools allows you to implement correct geo-targeting.
  • Make sure that any links you build are local – the value of of a link is that much more when it is local.
  • Share link juice between local domains.
  • Yandex indicates that it will be moving into western markets quickly and eventually go global.  Google appear to be ignoring this.



  • Biggest growth areas in search within the past 3 years: email, entertainment, news & media, shopping, social networking.
  • Adult sites have seen their share of searches halved, from 12% to 6%.
  • 13% of all traffic from Google now goes to social sites.
  • Share of traffic across social sites: Facebook 54%, YouTube 19%, Twitter 3%.
  • 1 in 6 of all page views in the UK is on Facebook.
  • 1 out of every 10 visits to a website comes from Facebook.
  • No company can afford to ignore social and as retail moves more and more towards it’s ‘early’ adopters will benefit most. Assuming getting in now can be considered ‘early’.  Either way, B2C or B2B needs to develop their social strategy as soon as possible.
  • Monetisation will be the next big thing in 2012 – giving independant producers the ability to make money off their work.
  • Agencies don’t do content very well (although we would beg to differ of course!).  Involving the client and independant producers in the creation of high quality content is a great idea (on this we do agree).


Social Commerce

  • 71% of 18-30 year olds say that they are influenced by friends and family (on buying decisions) – Given the explosion of social over the last few years, that now represents a huge amount of buying influence that can be utilised by retailers.
  • $300bn spent on digital marketing – 50% of this will be social commerce by 2025.
  • On day one of GAP’s Facebook deal they generated $11 million in sales.
  • Using social should be about building brand awareness and loyalty, not selling. If you turn off your customer, they will tell their friends and family and they will be turned off.
  • Generate good will, good feeling and that will be passed on. This will generate sales better than pushing your latest product/deal.
  • Monitoring social mentions and responding, whether they are positive or negative, will paint you in a good light always.
  • Social commerce can and should be taken to mobile – people always have their phones and will always talk about their purchases. Make it easy to buy via mobile and share via mobile about your brand.
  • With the changes to SERPs social should be optimised as part of the overall search strategy – social likes/shares means more real estate in the SERPs on both Bing and Google.


Market Focus – Gaming (Unibet)

  • Word of Mouth (WOM) is the ‘untrackable’ source of customers.
  • 67% of all consumer decisions are influenced by word of mouth
  • 93% of customers identify WOM as the best, most reliable source about ideas and information on products. This is increasingly online.
  • 74% of people hearing a personal, negative recommendation were influenced to buy another brand. This shows the power of reviews.
  • 44% of consumers claim to avoid buying products that overwhelm them with advertising. You spam people, they walk away.
  • Focus on identifying your core customers and find out where they are – forums, blogs, etc.
  • Join conversations, reply to blog posts, get involved. Always provide great customer service and cool products. Look after your customers and they will do the selling for you.
  • Concentrate on service and brand and you won’t need to worry about selling. Just make sure you do it in the RIGHT places.
  • Tracking is essential so you now what works best.


Mobile Marketing Goes Mainstream

  • 36% UK smartphone penetration.
  • 15% of all search quieries coming through mobile devices.
  • 23% of all time spent on internet from mobile devices.
  • 10% of UK shoppers use smartphones to haggle instore.
  • 90% of UK shoppers use smartphones to check prices instore.
  • £38m value of UK mobile advertising market.
  • 50% of users on mobile start with search and the trend is growing.
  • Social: 40% of tweets on mobile and 100m Facebook mobile users.
  • Mobile search is growing. It’s useful, it’s measurable. Those that are struggling to see the value should be splitting out their campaigns.
  • Click to call feature is 30% more likely to convert into a call than just a number.
  • Having a mobile optimised site (or at least landing page) will increase conversions.
  • Google is big into mobile and if they are, you should be.
  • PPC clicks are increasing, but CPC is increasing more slowly – huge value to be had from mobile CPC. CPC almost half on mobile than that of desktop, again, offering value.
  • You need to split out your campaigns so you can see the value and identify the trends coming from mobile against desktop.
  • General reluctance from clients to move to mobile so far, but that is decreasing. Cost is a factor (optimising sites, more spend on PPC).


Feeds & Microformats

  • There is a lot of data out there that is clearly viewable and understandable by the human eye but search engines struggle to do this.
  • Use hReview for e-commerce sites (but Google are currently not approving this one) and hRecipe for structuring data in a recipe.
  • The advantage of Micro Formats is that they appear as rich snippets in the SERPs, allowing you to gain more landscape and possibly more clickthroughs.  Good example of a site using this well is Seatwave.
  • Test your rich snippets with this tool from Google.
  • RSS feeds are a good way of sharing content to create links back to your site. Feeds can be used all over the net and a great start is Feedburner.


Analytics 2.0

  • Only measure metrics that get stuff done’ i.e. actionable metrics which should be at the heart of every analysis:
  • Track people who use your site,  search and then leave – this means there is something wrong and improvements are required.
  • Track the average order value of the site, you may be able to improve this by adding upsells like Amazon do.
  • Segment conversion rate and monitor in this way, overall conversion doesn’t mean much.
  • Investigate the time on pageviews and look to increase them.


Location, Location, Location (Welcome to Yorkshire)

  • WTY made the first branded Foursquare page in Europe in order be unique and get Yorkshire online with more exposure.  They are now one of the most popular brands on FourSquare and have trained 1000 retailers on how to use it to their advantage.
  • 17% of social media users actually take advantage of location apps.
  • 63% are looking to engage with large brands.
  • Claim your assets on location platforms if you are a business
  • Too many coupons can devalue brand.


WordPress SEO

  • Many people are looking for tricks to optimise a WordPress site when their time could be more productively spent on the structure of their site.
  • Use custom post type for different types of content.
  • Breadcrumbs can help inner pages rank better as they provide structure.
  • Never tag something with the same name as a category as this causes duplicate content.
  • Use a permalink structure of:
  • Use the W3 Total Cache plugin to help with page speed issues.
  • Use Google libraries for content distribution.
  • Use wp-smush it for image downsizing.
  • Optimise social buttons as each of these has their own iframe and cause speed problems.
  • A number of plugins are very risky to use as they open backdoors to your site.
  • There are a number of premium WordPress theme sites available which users should be wary of as the code is very questionable.  Build your own themes to avoid these problems.
  • Written by on 23rd May 2011 at 10:10
  • “Fluid Creativity is an award-winning, multi-service digital agency based in Manchester.”
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  • Paul Morris

    jesus – now that is one long/ detailed/ good post. I summarised all the useful sascon mentioned seo tools and have documented them on my blog in case you are interested –

  • Paul Morris

    jesus – now that is one long/ detailed/ good post. I summarised all the useful sascon mentioned seo tools and have documented them on my blog in case you are interested –

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