#SearchLeeds 2016: The Search conference that brought together the industry’s best

Last Thursday more than 300 delegates and 28 speakers from across the country gathered in Leeds Dock for SearchLeeds, the first conference around SEO in Leeds in three years.

Featuring speakers from prominent digital companies, such as Bing’s James Murray, Majestic’s Dixon Jones, HubSpot’s Matthew Barby and Pi Datametrics’ Jon Earnshaw, but also thought leaders like iProspect’s Pete Coates, Rough Agenda’s Kelvin Newman and Branded3’s Tim Grice, SearchLeeds aimed to become the new “talk of the town” in the Search industry.

With sessions covering the full spectrum of Search, the presentations gave attendees the opportunity to hear some of the industry’s leaders offer their insights and opinions on topics around paid, owned and earned media, CRO and user experience as well as audience analysis, digital strategy and marketing attribution.

If you missed your chance to be there on the day, we’ve gathered a few highlights below.

Swimming with sharks, making friends and finding there’s more to life than just “great content” (hard to believe, I know)

The morning sessions started a little after 09:30, occurring simultaneously in two venues: at the Main Hall in the Royal Armouries Conference Centre and at a short distance away at Dock 29 bar.

In the Main Hall, Manyminds founder Kirsty Hulse spoke about the importance of building relationships if you want to bolster your SEO performance and proposed a mix of practical and imaginative ways to achieve this in today’s competitive (and impersonal) digital landscape.

My personal favourite? Pitching insane ideas to clients – like the one that involved tea pots, airplanes and marijuana. We definitely need more of those.


HubSpot’s Matt Barby reminded everyone that great content isn’t enough – without great user experience, the right site architecture and targeted promotion your content will not be able to carry your digital strategy. Matthew also gave some handy “quick win” tips, like 301 redirecting your underperforming content to higher ranking pages to maximise its impact.

Matt Barby

Over at Dock 29, the day started with Linkdex’s Jono Alderson talking about the importance of not looking straight into customers’ pockets if you want your brand to flourish – meaning that if you’re only chasing conversions you’ll soon see the negative impact of this tactic on your conversion rate. Creating a memorable experience pays off and this is way easier now than ever before as you no longer need a big ecommerce site to sell efficiently – all you need is smart and sophisticated systems.

Pi Datametric’s Jon Earnshaw talked about one of the most dreaded moments in every SEO expert’s professional life – site migrations. It’s an extreme sport, migrating a site. Meaning a lot is at risk and there are many things that can go wrong if you don’t plan correctly. Jon offered examples of migrations-gone-wrong and then gave his most valuable tips to his audience. Most important of all? Involve SEO from the start!

How to avoid content confusion, create content that ranks and… become less innovative with your content marketing   

Search Laboratories’ Ian Harris picked on the fact that although 73% of marketers state they’re doing more content marketing than ever, 46% say it’s ineffective. Could this be down to being confused over what content marketing is and how to measure its success? Ian talked about the three main types of content – ranking, customer engagement and viral – and analysed each one’s main parameters, namely its SEO value, its aims, and how success can be measured.

Our own Tim Grice was excited last week after having spent a considerable amount of time reading Google’s Search Quality Rating Guidelines (yep, all 146 of its pages). He wanted to share his findings with the audience at SearchLeeds and talked about what each of Google’s quality raters looks for every time they assess a site’s quality in terms of expertise, authority and trustworthiness.

Tim insisted on the importance of positive reputation and trust signals in a site’s rankings. “If everyone hates your service and is willing to share their bad experience online, Google won’t promote your site as a good result in relevant searches,” he said.

Kelvin Newman, founder of Rough Agenda and organiser of BrightonSEO, gave the audience at the packed Dock 29 some good reasons why their content should be… less original. Using literary and cinematic examples, Kelvin explained how some recurring motifs employed by writers throughout the years and across different industries can be used as building blocks for content, helping content marketers improve their offering.


Time to stop best practicing. Just do it.

JustGiving’s Danny Denhard presented the benefits of inviting users to contribute content to your marketing platforms through the successful examples of Wikipedia, Airbnb and Red Bull partnering with GoPro. In the end, he proposed ways in which this flow of content from users can be encouraged and facilitated by brands.

Rob McGowan from Response One gave an insightful talk about audience analysis and explored how this can help marketers build better integrated campaigns. For Rob, data can be found anywhere; from leveraging your CRM to using YouGov’s profiler, marketers can discover a wealth of information about their audience.

It’s not just about the volume, though, it’s about what we do with this data. Rob talked about CRO powered by audience analysis and proposed ways in which marketers can collect, group and use the data they have on hand in order to plan better campaigns.

Branded3’s Director of Search, Stephen Kenwright, gave one of the last talks of the day. In a bold move, Stephen preferred to challenge his audience to take action rather than sit back and do nothing while trying to follow best practice tips. Drawing on examples of best practice advice from Google’s John Mueller and other industry leaders, Steve presented his own examples of brands who have done the opposite and were rewarded. It’s about maintaining a critical view of the tips you find out there.

The event ended with Kelvin Newman moderating an SEO panel featuring VP Ventures’ Patrick Altoft, Kerboo’s Paul Madden, and Bronco’s Dave Naylor. The four of them accepted questions from the audience and discussed the present and future of Search.


The night was young…

As the attendees were leaving the Main Hall at 17:30 many of them dropped by the reception to let us know how much they had enjoyed a day full of talks and opportunities to meet with some of the industry’s great minds.

In traditional Branded3 fashion, though, the day wasn’t going to end there. An after-party followed at Dock 29, where speakers and audience got to relax, enjoy a drink (or two) together and, of course, dance until the early morning hours.

There was only one question on everyone’s lips and, to kill the suspense, here’s the answer: Yes, SearchLeeds will be back next year. Stay tuned.

Thank you to everyone who spoke at, sponsored, and attended SearchLeeds. You made this day better than what even we at Branded3 could have hoped!

Thank you!


Search Leeds 2016 took place 7th July at Leeds Dock.

All slide decks from the day can be found here.


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