Search Leeds is only in its second year and it’s already needed a venue upgrade to the world class Leeds Arena. With three tracks of talks across the day there was a lot to take in and a lot to digest.

We’ve tried to distil the most important insights of the day into a condensed list. Given the exemplary calibre of the speakers, the amount of speakers presenting and the amount we can still discern from our fevered, caffeine-fuelled note taking, we can’t quite do it the justice it deserves!

search_leeds Search Leeds 2017 - The Key Insights

The following is a cross-talk selection of the key insights that you can start using in your business today:

Social campaigns:

  • Great campaigns use emotions to make content shareable – remember the old media adage ‘if it bleeds it leads’.
  • Social can be, in a sense, overrated. Face to face word of mouth can be up to 93% of the conversation. So ask yourself: “how am I creating the ‘watercooler’ moment? Does this pass the ‘pub test’?”
  • It’s not all about the $$$ – pure spend alone won’t get the same results.
  • Always ask: Why do people buy x? And ask: ‘Why is it important to us?’ three times. Really drill down into the root of the emotion behind the campaign.

Links, links, links:

  • Links used to be a volume game, now AI and Machine Learning run the show
  • But don’t believe the hype – links haven’t gone away
  • Tests strongly suggest links still work – in one instance a link disavow was performed too aggressively, trimming the file, and only trimming the file, boosted organic traffic by 37%
  • The core algorithm now has protection from link manipulation – but you should still control any links you have that could be considered manipulative
  • Penguin 4 had a bigger impact than many people think (“Penguin is eating parts if your link profile”)
  • Link profile comparisons are now practically impossible
  • “Link building is fucking hard” but again, bear in mind “more budget doesn’t always reduce risks” and “link campaigns rarely fail because of budget”
  • So why does it fail? No story, doesn’t add value & poor execution
  • Ways to avoid failure, regardless of budget:
    • limit scope – restrictions boost creativity
    • Avoid the interactive content trap – static content can often perform better (and traditional PR doesn’t use overly visual content; it uses data, relevance and timeliness)
    • Create a ‘cheat sheet’ to help visualise ideas
    • Add friendly stalking to your outreach. E.g – outreach to a journalist, then later run your content using Facebook ads targeted to job type ‘journalist’.
  • The Content Driven approach: Ideas → Design → Build → Outreach
  • Content should be mobile first
  • Update old data sets – this is great for lower budgets. Take previous years’ content and plug new data in.

The Future of Search

  • It won’t just be SERPS; search will be powered by AI, omni-present and seamlessly cross-device
  • Search will be personal, pervasive and predictive – overall offering a more human search experience
  • Personal:
    • Better voice recognition
    • Better intelligence in Personal Digital Assistants
  • Pervasive:
    • Cross device seamlessly (desktops, mobiles, watches etc)
    • There will be 50bn mobile devices by 2020
  • Predictive:
    • Better auto suggestions
    • Crowd-sourced data for illness prediction
  • We’re looking at ‘Conversations as a Platform’ – powered by AI, Machine Learning and natural language processing – we will see messaging as the new browser

Advanced Data Insights

  • There are more opportunities than ever to feed real business data into campaigns
  • It’s important to look for business data outside of analytics/adwords
  • Clients usually ask for: broad CPA, certain number of leads, hit a certain cost per sale etc – these restrict us as they are channel goals, not business ones
  • Data ideas include: putting a product feed through Excel/a VB script to create super granular campaigns. Takes campaigns from 10s of groups to 100s or even 1000s. Bringing in CRM data to classify the quality of leads and feed this back into audience profiles
  • Think about how data and development can make the client’s campaigns more agile


Thank you so much to the whole Search Leeds crew, the fantastic Leeds Arena team and of course all the speakers for putting on a fantastic event (and to SEMrush for some delicious cookies).

We can’t wait for next year already; but first we need to fill our task backlogs with all these amazing ideas.