SAScon 2014 Search Round-Up

SAScon 2014 SAScon is one of the UK’s leading conferences in Search, Analytics and Social. Every year the best (and those aspiring to be the best) from the SEO, digital and social media industries gather in Manchester for some great presentations on all things digital and social alongside technical explanations of the latest analytics developments, software and innovative technologies, and of course, bowling.

This is the first in a series of theMediaFlow team’s round ups of our top takeaways from the Search sessions at SAScon. At such an exciting conference there’s lots going on so we’ve picked out the best bits from the presentations we attended over the two days, so this post will cover a link penalty panel from Peter Handley, Paul Madden and Tim Grice, as well as tips on competitor spying from Rishi Lakhani.

SEO Penalty Shoot-out - Recipe for Success

The Panellists:
 Pete Handley is our very own Client Strategy Director at the Media Flow, he is known for his technical expertise, hreflang tool and technical audit checklist.

Paul Madden has a decade of experience in SEO, and a co-founder of LinkRisk helping businesses manage and audit their link profiles.

Tim Grice  is the Director of Search at Branded3, he is a well-known blogger and speaker at numerous digital conferences.

When it comes to search engine optimisation everyone is looking for the simple 1-2-3 on the way to success, at SAScon the SEO Penalty Shoot Out panel including Tim Grice (branded3), Paul Madden (Link Risk) and our very own Peter Handley from the Media Flow took on some tough questions for creating a recipe for SEO success.

Perhaps the biggest takeaway from the morning panel was the debate surrounding whether links need to be removed fully or if a simple disavow file is enough to reverse the effects of a manual penalty or limited rankings for algorithmic reasons. There was a clear divide on this one; whilst Tim Grice supported the idea of going straight to disavow files when it came to cleaning up your link profile, Paul Madden was much stronger in his belief that link removal is an important stage in the process too.

Whilst Paul’s method of removal would seem the most comprehensive in preventing the link from returning and further problems from the same domain, it doesn’t account for the time constraints and chance of negative PR backlash on attempting removal. I think it’s important to remember that no two cases are the same when it comes to links. If there is a clear individual behind the site who is contactable and responsive then it seems illogical not to request link removal, however, this idyllic situation is not always the case and some of the worst links to your site may just need to be disavowed due to the nature of them.

The main point of agreement for the panel was that either way a clean backlink profile is key to any successful site.


SEO success comes from being able to achieve a high ranking that is justified by the high quality content on your site. The panellists found themselves asked to strip this complex process back to basics with a step by step recipe. Whilst this isn’t an extensive list, the very fundamentals of ingredients you need are here:

Step 1: First source a large scoop of market research and sift finely until you are left with a target audience and their key areas of interest.

Step 2: Combine your research with some fresh new content, keep it related and relevant. It’s important to opt for the highest quality when selecting content to ensure the best SEO.  Now leave your site somewhere visible to allow the rank to develop.

Step 3: Whilst your SEO visibility is rising, send some invites out to your friends. Social media is a good way to do this and let the community know all about the great content you’re producing. Make sure no troublemakers are invited though as you don’t want any bad links to your site!

Step 4: It’s important to keep an eye on your site and keep checking as its ready. By controlling the extra ingredients added into the Google mixing bowl (tenuous cooking reference but I clearly mean links to your site) you should be able to rank highly through a genuine, quality site.

Homemade SEO is always the best so if you don’t want to bake your own, don’t head to the high street stores to buy your links instead opt for your local producer and use a quality SEO agency.

Ways to Use Spying Tools to Deconstruct Your Competitors Strategy

Rishi Lakhani is a freelance consultant and expert blogger, he offers technical insights and expertise at numerous conferences and is a well-respected source within the industry.

There is no formal education in SEO and online marketing; you need to work in competitive industries and test yourself.

Spying tools can help you to deconstruct your competitor’s strategy, enabling you to always be one step ahead of the competition. Rishi presented his top tips on using the tool SEMrush to undermine your competitor’s strategy and develop your own counter-plan, as well as a few sneaky tactics without tools that could help.

SEMrush is a tool that collects massive SERP data for more than 106 million keywords and 71 million domains, whilst most people in the SEO industry will be familiar with it already, the complexities of it and extent of its uses are often not fully understood. This bit got technical, and to spare repetition I’d simply recommend you head to Rishi’s very own guide on it, a definite must-read for any SEMrush users.

Take Rishi’s advice here and start by signing up for the tool; experiment with it until you become an expert. Being relatively new to the SEO industry I cannot agree more with Rishi’s advice, the best way to learn is through doing and practice.
Rishi’s tips and tricks for real spying:
• Sign up to email – every time they email a 10% discount, send a 15% discount straight away
• Sign up to affiliate program – ask questions to their affiliate managers about conversions etc. and see what information they will give you.
• Sign up for PR releases - see what they’re going to do in the future and see if you can do it better and quicker, e.g. if they’re going green by march, you go green but better and be louder about it.
• Apply for a job or ask them to apply for a job with you and ask for a presentation of their best performances for their current brand.
• Google alerts
• Like their fb and twitter
• Monitor affiliate sites
• Try to gather your own analytics data on their site: add a + sign to any bitly links to see the analytics and social interactions for that page. Experiment with staging, test and dev put before competitors domains to find their development site.

Keep an eye out tomorrow for parts two and three of our SAScon 2014 round-up focusing on our top Social and Content takeaways from the conference.

Feature Image source:

Jun 19 2014

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