ANDREW MARSHALL reports from a leading conference on how companies can benefit online from search engine optimisation

In a room packed full of marketers desperate to improve their company’s website, we were treated to hundreds of practical tips, techniques and concepts that could be used to drive sales online.

The most eye opening presentation at the SearchLove event in London this week was given by Patrick McKenzie of Kalzumeus Software, where he showed examples of how he had doubled the revenue of some websites without them making any changes to the way they do business.

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His company uses conversion rate optiminsation techniques to test how users interact with your website and then make it easier or more compelling for them to buy.

These techniques are made to look easy when you see the results in a presentation but McKenzie described how only one out of eight tests are successful.

One company that has been very successful in its efforts at optimisation is Mixcloud. Mat Clayton, one of the founders, showed the audience how ingenuity, hard work and determination to be the best has paid off for them.

By building their own software to monitor how users interact with their site, they have been able to constantly make the changes which will keep people coming back.

As Mat says: “If you are very good at retaining users, then spend time and investment on acquiring new users. If you’re great at acquiring users but your churn is really high, then focus your time on reducing the churn.”

The core topic of this conference, run by digital marketing agency Distilled, is SEO. As this industry has been given a bad name in recent years due to unethical techniques to trick search engines and companies misspelling the service, founders Will Critchlow and Duncan Morris have made great efforts to both rebrand SEO to inbound marketing, and convince people not to use the old ways.

The theory behind this is that SEO users should become more like traditional marketers and build their brands online, rather than using short-term techniques to gain traffic from Google.

This change of direction for the SEO industry was demonstrated during the live site review section of the event. Three companies had submitted their websites to be reviewed live on stage by the experts and receive tips and ideas on changes they could make.

At past events this might have involved ways to capture easy traffic from search engines, but this time the ideas were more about ways to make your website a better experience for visitors and emphasising how your website can help solve a problem in their lives.

Another aspect to the event was showing the audience the most up to the minute change that Google has made and how this will affect your business.

This area was best tackled by David Mihm, talking about how Google has changed the search results to show more local businesses. This is where small firms, with an address in a particular town or city, will have search results linking to Google Maps for particular searches in Google, e.g. “televisions in Glasgow” and allows them to compete with the big international brands who don’t have stores or offices in that area.

Other highlights from the two days were: Guy Levine on the future of small business SEO; Will Reynolds talking about how to avoid getting penalised by Google; Heather Healy on how social signals affect search; Richard Baxter on link building techniques; Dave Peiris talking about the benefits of having side projects; Paul Madden telling us how to outsource and automate laborious processes; and then Phil Nottingham on best practice for using video to boost your marketing online.

For marketers and business owners in Scotland, attending SearchLove is a big investment when you take into account tickets, travel and accommodation costs.

However, when you balance these costs against the number of practical ideas that you take back to your business and the number of industry experts that you get to meet, it’s a price that’s worth paying at least once.

For those businesses that still can’t justify the costs, there are more accessible events in Scotland such SEOProSco in Glasgow and Edinburgh.

Andrew Marshall is Search Engine Manager for S1, part of the Herald and Times Group