Those of you who follow M2 on Twitter will know that Tom, Zoe, and myself have been in Las Vegas this week attending Pubcon 2013.

Pubcon is one of the biggest international gatherings of search and social media innovators ever assembled. It offers a week-long look at the future of SEO, social media, and online marketing, presented by over 200 of the world’s best speakers in more than 150 cutting-edge sessions.

Apart from surviving the week without losing my house and car in the MGM casino, there were many highlights, so I thought I’d share a few:

Keynote speech by Matt Cutts

Unless you’ve been under a rock for the last few years, you’ll probably have heard of Matt Cutts – the closest thing our industry has to a rockstar.

Matt currently heads the Webspam team at Google, and works with the Search Quality team on search engine optimisation issues.

When I saw the queue rapidly forming just to get a photo with him, I thought David Beckham had arrived!

But joking aside, it was great to hear about future plans of the all-powerful Google, ‘straight from the horse’s mouth.’ It seems obvious that everything they are doing is geared up to move more and more towards rewarding quality content written by real people, for real people.

The Hummingbird algorithm was discussed in some detail, but although it technically affects 90% of all searches, Matt was quick to point out that it ‘won’t rock your world in the same way as Panda or Penguin.’ It’s really about Google getting more sophisticated in recognising conversational language in our searches, and understanding the context of a search to produce the best results. 

For those of you who care, he also pointed out that there would be no page rank update for the rest of this year.

Social media and search collide 

Only a year ago these were two very different topics, but now they’re rapidly merging together as social media directly impacts search results. Particularly interesting is the rise of Google+. One of the agencies here ran a test page that they engineered to be invisible to Google. After a few weeks, they used the +1 option six times. Within three minutes, Google had crawled the page; ten days later, it was indexed. All of the experts we spoke to believe it will only be a matter of time before page rank is also influenced. The take-away messages on Google+ were that it’s here to stay, and should be factored into your plans, even if just to establish authorship, which I’ll touch on now…

Authorship

Authorship (The term Google use), or Author ranking (coined by the industry), was most certainly one of the hot topics this whole week. As mentioned above, Google is pushing quality content by real people with a body of work to their name. It’s absolutely critical that we all get ahead of the curve on this one and start writing content that is attributed to a designated company contact, building that persons authority (Obviously we can help with the actual writing…ssshhh). You do need to follow some steps outlined by Google to set up the technical side of this and integrate your content with your Google+ account, but it’s not too difficult, and we’ll be happy to point you in the direction of some guidelines if you need them.

Content marketing v Content strategy

Most prominent (not really a big shock) was the topic of content marketing, most notably the difference between content marketing and content strategy. I think we’ve all been guilty to some extent of blurring that line, saying that we’ve got a content strategy when really all we’re doing is producing content without much of a plan behind it. In the race to get frequent content into the public domain, it’s all too easy (and we’ve been guilty ourselves) to lose sight of our objectives, intended audience, the best channels for distribution, and whether the article will prompt engagement and be shared etc.

We also heard a lot about the importance of identifying and evaluating key influencers, and then proactively building a relationship to encourage them to share your content with their own network, thus widening your reach. 

Over the coming weeks, we’ll be speaking to our clients about the strategy behind the content they produce – 

  • Have they put together an editorial calendar, segmented their audience, and thought about topics and issues they’d like to hear about? 
  • While a drip feed of lower level content is important to keep engagement ticking along, are they making the most of that content?
  • Are they positioning themselves as the ‘expert in the room’ whenever they put their brand out there via a piece of content?
  • Once content is produced, what are the best channels for distribution, and how will they proactively encourage the sharing of that content to an audience that’s wider than their own network?

All in all, it’s been a fascinating week which I’m sure will benefit our own business, and hopefully this can be passed onto our clients.

If you’d like to know more about our trip and the juicy titbits we picked up during the week, feel free to give me a call or drop me an email – ben.hollom@m2.com / 07703576689.