Here are my notes from this week’s Search Love conference held in London. They are far from comprehensive (or even coherent), but you may pick out the odd tip that could help with your own SEO strategies.

[It's important to note that Distilled's Search Love is aimed at professional SEOs and the strategies being discussed are at an advanced level. If you're looking for a more basic guide to SEO, I'd suggest looking at SEOmoz's Beginner's Guide to SEO or Google's Webmaster Guidelines.]

Monday 24th October 2011

Everything’s easier with Fans – Rand Fishkin

Leveraging the power of community to build a phenomenal inbound marketing machine.

Exposure to a brand builds brand familiarity, associations etc

Every piece of content earns links because the community already exists. SEO with a single tweet!

UGC (User Generated Content) builds the community and links (e.g. YOUmoz, Q&A Forum)

Tips to build a community

  • Rarely succeed if built to benefit a brand e.g. Barbie
  • What do we do that our community are interested in?
  • Features meet site and user needs/goals
  • Find early adopters, get to know them, reward them, pay them to contribute, tweet at them, comment on their blog
  • Don’t show metrics until they look impressive
  • Be prepared for a lot of work – content creation

Tips for growing a community

  • Profiles – point of pride
  • Never let the community feel empty
  • Analyse content that gets the most interaction/signups + find ways to repeat
  • Recruit community manager
  • Take very, very few brand-biased moves – don’t ask the community to publicise the brand
  • Reach out to contributors that ‘go cold’

Dealing with community challenges

  • Establish guidelines, refer to them everywhere (e.g. removing off-topic replies)
  • Trolls – boot ‘em out early and often
  • Transparency

12 kick ass hacks for communities

  1. Recognise the work of other people (12 UX design post)
  2. Name drop – get in google alerts
  3. Get contributions from major industry players ask them to take a survey, interview etc
  4. Use social signals as “points” in your gamification
  5. Create a ‘common enemy’ – not another brand, but a concept or an idea
  6. Build smart notification signals
  7. Invitation-only – powerful motivator
  8. Help members become social participants – important if audience is not tech savvy
  9. Publish a single, popular feed of your content – Google pass value from republished articles if linking.
  10. Get your community searching w/ particular phrasing and you can influence suggest and instant
  11. Bolster thin content pages by pulling community content that exists externally
  12. Give users the power to share/embed/re-use what they create for you on their own sites

Big Business SEO – Tom Critchlow

Justify projects with trial projects

Big companies become less agile

Invest in data – get larger data sets, competitive intelligence

Missing link – Chief Content Officer

LinkedIn – use contacts from execs, directors to build relationships, huge power for link building

The next level of social integration – Mat Clayton

Don’t need a ‘like’ button – need to rethink what we’re doing, how we design

Create FB app and add ID into a script on your site to see who is logged into Facebook – gives an idea of potential audience

Distribution < = > consumption

Facebook open graph tags  – important to use

Appdata – for competitor social data

Custom land page for FB users – connect with users – your friends are already here! One case study showed this reduced bounce rate from  37% to 18%

200-300% conversion rate increase using faces in the FB like box app

Can take 2 years to get the followers you need

FB recommendations bar – 2 lines of JavaScript

Users need to know their friends are there from the start

Tell users that a conversation exists that’s relevant to them – feeds, notifications?

The modern SEO’s toolkit – Will Critchlow

As an SEO, we need to speak the language

Install Ubuntu on Mac OS’s Virtual Box, use command line, check log files

Use wireframing for demonstrating concepts to clients

Balsamiq – allows you to take a screen shot and annotate it (Skitch – alternative)

Screenr – public screencasts (video). Quicktime allows you to do it privately on Mac

Project management tools – Trello

Chrome developer tools

Keep up with the Joneses – Joanna Lord

What are the competition doing, where do we stand compared to them?

Likes grow, but are new likes growing?

Simply measured – social media analytics

Blogscape (SEOmoz tool) – compare you against competitors and the industry as a whole to see if your gain is an overall industry gain, or just applies to you

Cotweet – platform specific vs campaign (trackur)

Follow the money – are they bidding on your terms, will they out bid you?

FB and LinkedIn – little return for most niches – are competitors advertising? Money to burn?

Twitter advertising – not able to track conversions

What are they planning for? Anticipate new directions

Using social media to recruit?

Empower the people who love it

Start tracking today!

Drive action – opinions don’t make money

visibli – sentiment

WordPress SEO – Joost de Valk

Xml sitemaps for content and video

Custom post types (custom fields?)

Redirection plugin, if issues occur, switch it off. Avoids the use of .htaccess. Never log redirects

Where is SEO going? Panel (Rand Fishkin, Tom & Will Critchlow and Richard Baxter)

Google secure search results and keyword data – threat from search based retargeting? Use of Google’s referral data.

Dan Zarrella – Twitter CTR Heat Map – where should you place links in your tweets?

Outreach – Is it all about hustle? – Rob Ousbey

Outreach does not equal Link building

Priorities for outreach – build relationships > get coverage > acquire links

Identifying (blogger) targets

  • Allintitle:list keyword blog
  • Allintitle:”list of” keyword blog
  • Competitor analysis – who links to competitors’ content?
  • Followerwonk – find outreach contact
  • Niche directories tumblr, alltop

Making contact

  • Have a goal of building a relationship, not building a link
  • First contact strategy
    • Follow them on twitter =>
    • Comment on their blog =>
    • Retweet something of theirs =>
    • Comment again =>
    • Email them

Journalists – rely on people sending them information, still need to build relationship, keep the contact going, won’t publish the first content sent. You become valuable to the journalist, providing the expert opinion/stats that they need for their story.

Don’t stop building and maintaining the relationship once you’ve got the link, moving on to the next relationship. Keep in touch, flatter them, give them things that will benefit you. Send them a Christmas card, keep reading their blog and commenting.

Profile links by great, good average and poor, then with and without anchor text. Map the profile and decide where you want it to go and focus on those links.

Build content, build links – Wil Reynolds

(Seer interactive)

Social doesn’t have the impact people believe – too many other factors

Social shares, followers, klout all mean jack – but they shouldn’t!

Broken links on blogs – gets you ‘in’ with blog owners

use Google Suggest for content ideas

Find out what the blog’s audience cares about, wants to share,  etc

Postrank extension for Chrome shows comments, tweets on content


Show potential blog targets that you’ve taken the time to read their blog and see what content is popular and then suggest they publish your post on a similar topic

#1 have a marketing plan
#2 long posts suck – infographics are the future – no one wants to read
#3 who commented, who tweeted, who linked
#4 pay major player – blackhat?
#5 use Google image search to find re-published infographics and request a link back

.govs, PEW charitable trusts, Foundations pay good money for research reports

Look at RSS feeds on Quora for questions they answer – possible to drop into iGoogle

Build content for search terms that people are actually searching for

Give it up – all speakers

I’ve been sworn to secrecy! Sorry!


Tuesday 25th October

Personalisation, Profiles and Privacy – Ciaran Norris

EU Cookies Directive – need to take action before the 1 year’s grace ends in May 2012

Search results mean nothing – need to get social

Making competitor analysis useful – Wiep Knol

Competitor identification

  • Competitors are more than what’s in the search results – those are just the tip of the iceberg, there are more sites with potential to be a big threat.
  • Competition Checker – easy to build £100
  • Similar sites, alexa related sites etc

Gathering and processing

  • SEOtools for excel
  • Open Site Explorer
  • Majestic SEO


  • Link type – blog, directory, affiliate, articles, news etc
  • Majestic SEO – link growth pattern

Use competitive insights for your own strategy

Gamification – Richard Baxter

Points systems

Using game mechanics to motivate people

Ribbon Hero 2 – Clippy’s second chance – learning Microsoft tools

People become more committed to your platform/site

Loss aversion is a better motivator

Get your customers to introduce new customers and offer rewards – referral schemes

Staff endorsement on comments/answers

Real World Link Building case studies – Patrick Altoft

Goal – create just enough links to rank #1 without it being a threat to the client

Don’t start link building before improving the site

Custom report in analytics for questions (keyword: who, what when etc) – see what people are asking – long tail search – content writing ideas. Include the question that’s being asked

Vary anchor text

News method – Brainstorm => shortlist target sites => Press Release => Blog post => Social => Syndicate => Rewrite => Publish

Include keywords and hashtags on twitter and tweets get scraped and added to lots of sites

Competwition – win stuff using twitter

Digital media section on your site for videos, images, presentations, graphs, charts – free to use if credit it back with a link.

Check links are still live, same anchor text, no of external links, target url, indexed, bad words, moz metrics

Does effort = profit? Few links are worth > £250 (including time)

The past, present and future of link bait – Hannah Smith

Link bait has been happening before social media

Spoofs, April fool’s day pranks

Controversial stats – iPhone owners have more sex than Android owners

Genuinely useful. Best is not good enough – do better

Mitigate against failure to guarantee success

What does a CRO expert bookmark? – Stephen Pavlovich

Evernote – screen capturing software – capturing ideas – works on your phone too

“Before you commit to 24 months, give us 10 minutes” – carphone warehouse

Human face – hand written – “this is Louise she really works here”

Take inspiration from other industries

Test and develop

How brands should do SEO – Martin MacDonald – MC Hammer involved in new search engine. sign the petition against Google hiding keyword data

Head to head – Live site reviews – Will Critchlow and Rand Fishkin

Body copy – 16 pixels minimum

User surveys – is this authoritative? Would you give your credit card details to this site?

Content idea – use Screencast videos of development/graphics work

Competition – write the article with the most tweets/shares and win a [insert prize]

Further Reading

Check out the reviews and awesome photography on

SearchLove Conference London 2011 – Day One

Search Love Conference London 2011 – Day Two

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