SearchLeeds 2018 has finally come and gone. Another year of fantastic talks across three stages hosted by the Branded3 team. The key topics of 2018? Artificial intelligence, Progressive Web Apps and love for data feeds. Below are my takeaway headlines from the 30+ talks from the event. Plus, more in-depth talk-by-talk write-ups can be found over on Impression’s SearchLeeds 2018 blog. Be sure to check them out!
Mobile, Mobile, Mobile
A (very) common theme at #Searchleeds 2018 was mobile. There were a vast number of talks (including mine) which discussed mobile, and two key topics stood out: Mobile experience and mobile indexing.
Mobile expereinces focused on speed (a great talk by @basgr from Peak Ace on international site speed) and usability (The past, present and future of mobile by @dergal from JustEat). Specifically, there was a lot of debate on native mobile apps vs progressive web apps. And the jury is still out. Some favour native apps to deliver ease of purchase frequency, whilst others prefer the unified experience (and economy of scale benefits) from increased investment in a responsive website.
The other hot topic around mobile was focused on indexing. With Google’s anouncement that mobile-first indexing is coming (and has already been implemented in some cases) has lit a fire under many SEOs. But a fantastic presentation from @JonDMyers on ‘The Mobile First Index, what, why and more importantly when’ really highlighted the tangible impact and potential benefits from mobile indexing. Plus, a light sprinkling of taking matters into your own hands rather than leaving your fate to Google’s automation (see point 4 below).
Artificial Intelligence & voice search
Artificial intelligence was probably THE single most-talked topic of the event. And there were several different opinions, with talks from @purnavirji of Microsoft (Title: Intelligent search and intelligent assistants: Exploring the AI-era of search), @schachin of Sites Without Walls (Title: Entities, Search, and Rank Brain. How it works and why it matters) and @kristalsmile formerly of Virgin Trains (Title: Will robots destroy us all? Putting ethical debate back into the narrative about the future of AI).
AI opinion is split
Opinions varied from ‘The T1000 is coming, run for the hills‘ to ‘I can’t wait to have a robot do my laundry‘. Personally, I alignd most closely with @kristalsmile‘s talk, focusing on a balance between HR and Financial departments (although not sure I agree on the controversial comment that ‘male-headed organisations care less about employees’, but there we go). She more than any other highlighted the need for AI to have a purpose. I’d take that a step further and argue AI needs to solve a common customer problem (hence the need for persona marketing).
Voice search isn’t there, yet
There was also a lot of talk on voice search. Again, a lot of chat around how cool the potential for voice search is. What’s missing at the moment, I beleive, is the tangible (read; commercial) upside from voice. Sure, long-tail keywords are increasing in popularity through voice assistants, but what does this mean. There was some insight around Amazon’s Alexa and ‘Amazon Choice’ products, but I think there’s some way to go on this topic yet.
Love thy data
A fantastic presentation from @HannahMckie1 (former PPC Manager at Misguided) really hit home the importance of loving your data feeds. It’s something that I’m guilty of not doing in the past, so there was some imediately actionable insights shared from Hannah to make sure my data feed wasn’t pulling it’s punches.
@Elizabeth Clark from Dream Agility also spoke on the power of data, especially when combined with in-house tools and machine learning – The focus being on changing the dialogue between agency and client to become more collaborative. Again something close to my heart (be it with AI or otherwise).
Don’t (always) trust Google
Finally, there was a suprising amount of uncertainty around Google. From mobile indexing to an attribution-model black box, Google came under more stick than I was expecting. If anything, I think it highlights the need for Google to openly and transparently communicate with SEO’s across the globe (something they’re already trying to crack through live video, etc) and also to listen to SEO’s to ensure they’re trusted – Especially with increasing decision making moving from human to machine.