I’ve also been conducting an agency review at the same time, thus picking up some interesting thoughts and tips, and meeting some great folk along the way.
Here's a short round-up of things I've learnt along the way....
1 Use analogies
A cute tip I picked up from the Telegraph’s Julian Sambles (who spoke at SES) was to use analogies to help you get buy-in from your senior managers and/or IT department when you’re trying to get work or resource signed off.
This isn’t a particularly new idea, but I thought it was a good one that got me thinking about how this could improve the requests I make to IT – i.e. trying to better communicate (in plainer language) WHY we’re requesting a piece of work.
A quick search for ‘SEO analogies’ uncovered some crackers like ‘a rising tide lifts all boats’ (to describe how links to one part of a site can help other parts of the site rank).
2 ‘A rose by any other name is still a rose...’Part one.
Sticking with the analogy theme, one of the funniest things I’ve noticed this year is that agencies are seeming more nervous to admit that they still build links, despite the fact that most SEOs still class links as one of the most important ranking signals.
At the same time there’s increasingly a cross-over between content, PR and SEO, so agencies are now calling their link building teams 'promotional teams', 'off-page teams', 'campaign teams' and of course 'outreach teams'.
Do you have any more funny names for what is essentially still link building activity?!
3 ‘A rose by any other name…. part two’
So 2012 was the year when over-optimised links (too many 'exact match' links, not enough ‘brand related links’) were bad and more 'natural' link profiles were good. So I’m enjoying the irony of everyone now seemingly changing tack and optimising their link profiles to make them look less-optimised!
Some SES attendees were even talking about targeting links like ‘click here’ as more natural-looking links… I was left speechless!
On a more serious note, this is a good change for the industry, focusing on quality over quantity of links and more natural-looking brand and long phrase-match type links.
As one SEO wise man recently said to me: 'chasing links makes you do weird things that your brand wouldn’t normally do'
4 ‘Ask not what your agency can do for others, ask what they can do for you’
I really enjoy agency reviews, and it was great to see so many good examples of great work and results. However, as a relatively ‘mature’ client I’d like to see agencies focus more on what they can do for clients, as opposed to a cookie cutter approach of what they’ve done for other people.
There was lots of chatter at the SES after-party about the role of agencies (e.g. all-encompassing vs. specialist) and how they should approach SEO+ PR/content/conversion optimisation.
Every client has different needs and a different set-up, agencies would do well to remember that and focus on what they can do for that particular client J
5 Future-gazing: Buying people, not links?
People are starting to talk about AuthorRank and what it means for rankings. While the debate rolls on, it’s wise for publishers and brands to start using Authorship so that they’re in a good position if and when it starts being used as a ranking factor.
The most interesting conversation I had about it was at SEObarcamp with Danny Denhard from Vouchercodes.co.uk and Bart Platt from Easyjet holidays where we discussed whether companies will eventually start buying people, not links?
And how companies will cope with highly influential authors leaving – will strong employee retention strategies be enough? Or should we all start building strong authorship signals now ready to cash in when we can?