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Pubcon Las Vegas 2017: Top 6 Takeaways.

Malcolm Slade, Head of Technical SEO

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Malcolm Slade

Head of Technical SEO

So, I have returned from Las Vegas, the jet lag has passed thanks to huge amounts of good quality chocolate and I am ready to reflect on my first experience of a US conference.

I'm going to talk about my honest opinion of Vegas, Pubcon and whether it's worth the cost and 11-hour flight for us UK marketers and of course, I will be discussing my key takeaways (N.B. these are my views and not the views of Epiphany).

If you want to jump straight to the takeaways please click the following link: I don’t want to read all the well-crafted and honest fluff. Take me to the Top 6 Takeaways.

How was Vegas?

In the past 20 minutes in the office, I have answered this question 10 times. In a nutshell, at 4am it is lovely, the architecture is definitely worth seeing, they have excellent comedy and shows, everything else is dire. Moving on…

How was Pubcon?

Personally, for me, Pubcon was the best conference I have ever attended. The vast majority of speakers I saw were excellent. The networking was on another level and the whole event from start to finish was totally polished. Where the networking at other marketing conferences such as Brighton SEO (which I rate very highly) are often quite alcohol-orientated, here it genuinely felt like everyone was there to learn and push the industry forward.

Would I recommend attending Pubcon next year?

This is a tricky one as it really depends on you and your place in the industry. Personally, I've been around the block a bit (search marketing-wise) and got to the stage where few talks provide me with brand new knowledge. You're expecting me to say; “If you're like me, Pubcon is a waste of time” aren’t you? Well, I'm saying the opposite.

I pitched the case for attending Pubcon as an opportunity to see how our overseas friends approach things. I wanted to see a different angle and different faces. Yes, many of the common speakers from the UK circuit were in attendance, but they were the minority. People like Greg Gifford, Jake Bohall, Eric Enge, Patrick Stox, Rob Kerry, Bill Hunt, Stephen Spencer, Scott Polk, Eric Kuan, Nathan Johns, Gary Illyes... (this is just from the first day and a half so I'm cutting it here before it gets silly) seeing them live and being able to question them, really was an experience worthy of the effort and price tag.

If you're slightly earlier on in your search marketing career, then honestly I probably wouldn't recommend attending from the UK. You'll get just as much out of the write-ups, videos and attending Brighton SEO; as long as you take note of my first takeaway…….

Pubcon Vegas 2017 Takeaway 1: Don’t believe everything you read in a write-up or tweet

140 characters, which literally became 280 characters during Pubcon, can say a lot. But it can also say a load of crap. One thing I learnt / witnessed whilst at Pubcon was just how damaging a quote or similar can be when taken out of context and without the surrounding conversation.

I did a bit of live tweeting myself, but soon became a bit angered by the way certain comments were reported and then spread blindly. I tried to do a bit of firefighting (check my Twitter @SEOMalc) but the effort I suspect was largely wasted. But anyway, I'll be writing a separate post to explain that further.

Pubcon Vegas 2017 Takeaway 2: Local SEO is a big deal

Obviously, I knew this before going and we've had great success for our clients but during Pubcon it quickly became apparent just how important local SEO is and even more so for larger countries like the US.

I would absolutely recommend that everyone look at the following presentations[*][i]:

Reviews across multiple sources, local links and accuracy across citation sources (NAP etc.) still seem to be the big wins along with schema.

Pubcon Vegas 2017 Takeaway 3: Schema is going to be big in 2018

We all know about the importance of position zero and the benefits of using various mark-up to assist with click-through rates. Well, it looks like schema is on the cusp of a big explosion and Google itself (via its representatives at the conference) have pretty much confirmed the importance of schema moving forward as their algorithms evolve through 2018 and beyond.

check out these presentations for info [*][i]…..

Pubcon Vegas 2017 Takeaway 4: Speed is still a massive issue and may be about to become more important than ever

One of the plus points of mega jet lag was that regardless of when I went to sleep (9pm, 10pm or in the early AM) I always woke up at 3.30am. Denny’s was open so all is good and it meant that I was fully switched on for the early morning session of day 3 featuring Gary Illyes (@methode).

Speed has become a bit of an obsession of mine over the last two years and during the open questions part of the session, I was able to ask Gary if there were any updates regarding a topic I had broached with him in the past when mobile-first indexing was first talked about.

“Are there still plans to increase the impact of site speed as a factor throughout the transition to mobile-first indexing?” (Me, 11/2017)

Gary was quite open about the fact that it makes sense to do this, however Google is having more problems than expected getting it to work as intended. This makes perfect sense as most sites currently doing well in organic search, still have shockingly slow mobile experiences.

I personally hope Google pushes mobile speed more in the future (outside of AMP) and we can start making some serious inroads towards a faster mobile experience in general.

More presentations [*][i]:

Pubcon Vegas 2017 Takeaway 5: I may well have been right all along!

I’m a technical SEO, I love problem-solving and I loving looking at things differently. I hope I'm good at what I do and in 2018 I genuinely plan on doing what I can to help the industry move forwards.

Outside of technical SEO, I have one other passion relating to SEO. Brand. I am a little obsessed with it and believe it to be the future of SEO. I tried to get it on people’s radars in 2012 and a more confident me toured the UK talking about it in 2017: https://www.slideshare.net/epiphanysearch/brand-the-only-future-ranking-factor-malcolm-slade-speaking-at-brighton-seo

I regret not presenting this same talk at Pubcon, because there were hints around the subject but nothing as direct. What did happen though was Gary Illyes gave me enough ammo to validate what I was saying. Here are my notes, obviously they are out of context etc. but these are my interpretations:

  • The manual quality reviewers work on the concept of entities, looking at way more than proxy measures like links etc.
  • Semantic mark-up is about to go nuts and Google uses this to understand you as an entity even if it has no visible impact on SERPs.
  • Mentions can be used as a classifier of an entity if they are found where reviewers expect to find them. Wikipedia would be an example.

Also hot off the press, Jim Stewart (@jimboot) just shared this with me and I approve (and I’m crazy jealous):

Pubcon Vegas 2017 Takeaway 6: Google Quality Raters review sites on mobile and have done for some time

This comment seemed to get lost due to the noise around Gary’s comments on disavow files (separate post later), but he commented that Google has been reviewing sites using solely mobile devices for around two years.

I did not know this, nor have I heard it before so thought it worthy of its own point.

If you're not reviewing your site as a mobile user, shame on you. I would even go so far as to say you should be hooking up your devices to Chrome rather than relying on Chrome mimicking.

Jennifer Slegg (@jenstar) did an excellent presentation regarding Google Quality Rater Guidelines that really is a must-read for anyone working on content, strategy or SEO in general. I can't find the presentation anywhere at the minute but this post (also by her) pretty much sums it up: http://www.thesempost.com/google-quality-raters-guide-mobile/

To conclude....

Writing this has actually worn me out, but I have planted my stake for 2018 so I guess I had better get used to it. Here are some quick fire points to end on:

    • Links are not dead!
    • Mobile speed is important
    • Technical SEO is still crazy important
    • Build a brand for your customers and Google will follow
    • Pubcon loves beards
    • Bing I believe now supports AMP
    • Wikipedia is a trusted source for entity data
    • Greg Gifford is as crazy as me
    • American Airlines are inferior to BA

There. I am done… for now!

If you have anything to add (like your presentation, *nudge nudge*), please let me know via the comments (all of which are moderated) or @seomalc.

Malc out.


[*] I am trying not to recommend any presentations I did not personally see or have vetted, so apologies if I missed any, which I am sure I have.
[i] Pubcon have provided all presentations to attendees behind a password so I can share those and have therefore requested decks from the presenters mentioned above. I will add more as/if they respond.