Search Leeds is the North’s largest search conference and one of the most popular in the UK. It was held in the Leeds First Direct Arena and had over 1000 attendees from the digital marketing industry, mostly from agencies across the north of England and beyond.
The first thing you notice upon arriving at the event is how large it actually is. There are a lot of
crowds and a lot of energy as people start to mix and interact with each other. Not only is this an excellent opportunity to learn the latest in search but it also a good place to send your executives for a bit of networking.
The speakers began at 9.30, across four stages. Many of them were household names in search marketing, none more so than Kirsty Hulse, Founder of Many-minds, who chose the SearchLeeds event as her last formal speaking engagement before heading off to pastures new.
The most popular talk of the day, however, belonged to Britney Muller, Senior SEO Scientist at Moz, who discussed machine learning for search marketers. In what became the events most tweeted talk, Muller explained how new technology would inform and enhance best practices going forward, getting us all excited for the future of an industry that has wrongly been called “dead” more times than we can remember.
For those who don’t know (yet), machine learning is a subset of artificial intelligence. The idea is that with a combination of programming and statistics we can give computers the ability to learn and retain new things, ultimately achieving a level of intellectual capacity (and statistical analysis) that humans can only dream of. Muller was quick to point out that any machine learning models we create will only be as good as the data we feed it. The good news, however, is that you can start building that model today, using a variety of tools that are already out there and completely free to use. Google Codelabs is a natural first step for those of you who are interested.
An honorable mention also goes to Shannon McGuirk of Aira, who held a fascinating talk on how data can help supercharge link building with digital publishers. If you need help with link building efforts and outreach we recommend that you look up her materials and take a lot of notes. In this talk, she gives the exact days of the week and the exact websites that are most likely to provide you with valuable backlinks.
If back and forth panels of industry experts are more your bag than stage 4 is probably where you want to be. Throughout the event, there were a number of standout discussions about staying competitive in a crowded marketplace – something which is extremely important as digital takes over more and more aspects of our lives. Apart from this there were a number of panels dedicated to Women in Digital, at once challenging the oft-dominated male speaker space and debating on the state of the industry as a whole. There was also a humorous SEO bullsh*t battle, where brave challengers battled against each other with their SEO beliefs.
Matt Howells-Barby, Director of Acquisition at HubSpot, was a favourite speaker of the KIJO team members in attendance. His talk focused on “everything you need to know before scaling your SEO internationally” and gave us a lot to think about as we push into wider markets. If you work with international clients or want to increase your knowledge of penetrating these markets then you should check out the SlideShare summary of his presentation for some golden nuggets.
Now that we’ve set the stage of what actually happened at the event, let’s wrap it up by weighing the positives of attending with the negatives:
The Positives Of Attending Search Leeds:
It’s always nice when things are free and this was no different. Considering the sheer scale of the event and the quality of the speakers it was amazing to us that SearchLeeds was free to attend. There are other conferences that have similar (maybe worse) speakers that charge quite a bit of money for no more value.
A great experience for your team in general. We were so impressed we are looking to send more of the KIJO team next year, as well as pushing for one of the speaking spots. If you run an agency or have a vested interest in search marketing then we recommend you do the same.
All of the slides from all of the talks were speedily put online, offering an excellent free resource of information for attendees. As an example, here is HubSpot’s Matt Howels-Barby’s talk on Everything You Need to Know Before Scaling SEO Internationally. This is an absolutely fantastic value for no money.
The event, whilst focused on SEO, is not just about search marketing. A lot of the talks have wider applications and relate to other areas of relevance, including design and sales. There are a lot of takeaways for agencies willing to sit and listen even if your primary focus is not SEO.
The arena bar was packed full of industry experts and agency workers, making it a great place to network and meet people you could potentially add value to. The free beer (courtesy of Deep Crawl) did not hurt either!
The Negatives Of Attending Search Leeds
The fact that the event is free should be a huge green flag for any agencies or marketers out there wondering if it is a worthwhile investment of their time. The truth is, as industry experts, the KIJO team actually learned a lot and generated a lot of ideas from the speakers we listened to. There really aren’t any negatives to attending SearchLeeds other than you might have to catch an early train.
Big Things Moving Forward…
After the conference finished at 5pm the KIJO team members in attendance took the opportunity to visit the highly-rated Dakota Grill. Whilst we were there, enjoying our food, washing it down with one glass of red (ok, two), we got thinking…
Why isn’t there an event as good as this in the Midlands?
Maybe, just maybe, there will be soon…