SAScon 2014 – the Fifth Search Analytics Social Conference in Manchester (Day 1 Recap)

The 2014 SASCon edition gathered a number of SEO rock stars, striving digital marketers, PR specialists, journalists and local businesses. The two day SEO conference attracted a lot of reputed speakers, who were eager to share ideas with the rest of the attendees. It was a cozy event with an estimated several hundred delegates that has promise and ambitions to grow in the future. Here is a glimpse of some of the sessions in Day One that we attended and the valuable takeaways that one should definitely remember.

 Brett Tabke, founder PubCon

Photo credits: Andrew Wake, Don’t Panic Events

The Opening Keynote

by Brett Tabke

As a founder of PubCon, Brett Tabke sure knows how to captivate the audience. He shared interesting insights on “the new reality of the web”, as he puts it:

  • No excuse anymore. Mobile first all the way!

o By the end of the year, mobile traffic will overtake desktop.

o We are more and more dependable on mobile devices. The 2014 trends show that 93.5% of people tend to have their phone in arms reach.

o An interesting US study reveals fascinating results: female teens send on average 3000 messages per month via their mobile phones.

o Since phones are task-oriented, people are 3 times more inclined to use an app than a website on their mobile phones.

o The average age at which people get their first mobile phone is 13. (tell this to the kids in my local elementary school)

o Emails are now mainly opened either on smart phones (47%) or on tablets (18.5%). One should better think really carefully about how their newsletter looks on mobile!

  • Some trends for agencies to watch

o Online marketing trends for 2014? Content first, mobile first (as explained above), hyper-niche marketing is what will work best

o Web design trends? “Pinterestification” of the web, infinite scroll and “square is the new round”

o SEO is all about “content, content, content”; content is replacing links; verified authorship is the strongest signal since links

  • The future of the “Internet of Everything” is bright, from all imaginable home devices to smart cow-ear RFID chips. This will be helped out by transparent flexible screens that will be everywhere, supported by the cloud. Devices are out, screens are in.
  • Virtual Reality is going to be huge in the very near future. Tabke predicts 10 million Oculus Rift units sold by Q3 and Facebook VR v1 by Q4 in 2015. VR will be employed in various business niches such as gaming, e-commerce, event broadcasting, tourism and social media. Social media will become immersive and extremely addictive. Pretty soon Virtual Reality will rule our life both in our leisure and our everyday activities, work including.
  • Curious miscellaneous stuff

o A warning to startup enthusiasts interested in developing an app – 55%-60% of apps today make $500 or less in their lifetime.

o A nifty marketing tip for startups? Don’t forget good old-fashioned direct mail, still works efficiently in the USA

o Tabke admits that usually only about 10% out of all the information shared at conferences is new to the attendees, but, as he concludes – it is how you incorporate that new useful info to your working strategy and methods that really make the conference sessions worth it.


SASCon2014 Danny Ashton

 Photo credits:  Don’t Panic Events

Learn How to Produce Persona Success Content in 45 minutes or Less

by Danny Ashton, NeoMam Studios

The first solo presentation that attracted a lot of content strategists and online marketers was held by the founder of a rising 2 year old infographic design agency, Neomam Studios. He used an interesting neuroscientific theory, the Truine Brain model, to explain how content is perceived by the human brain and how to use this process to our advantage as marketers and thus successfully create engaging and memorable messages for our customers. Here’s how he explained the foundaments of the given theory:

The human brain consists of three planes:

  • The Reptilian Brain is associated mainly with our instincts, such as fears, aggression, domination, etc. Those sentiments are pretty basic and are constant – everyone’s affected the same way by signals that appeal to those senses. Proper examples of messages that trigger the reptilian brain are such found in porn and gossips (usually posted in the yellow press). The content created to appeal to the Reptilian Brain will have a larger audience; however the brand reputation is at risk when associated with messages that appeal solely to one’s survival instincts. The required budget will be rather high and the marketer will have two options: to buy traffic or to outreach to an audience that already has shown interest in similar content. The name “reptilian” is derived from the fact that reptiles and birds are the ones that are predominately driven by these basic instincts.
  • The Limbic System looks at the world on a more emotional level. Therefore, each message appealing to it will be perceived differently by each person. As Danny mentions, Buzzfeed and Upworthy are platforms where the posted content mainly appeals to the limbic system or to their readers’ emotions.
  • The main function of the Neomammalian brain on the other hand, is analyzing and engagement. Danny shares that his company is actually named after this particular brain plane. He explains that achieving higher engagement could only be possible by understanding the core mechanism of human’s mind.

Danny Ashton concludes that one should first understand what the emotional nature of his audience is and then find out how other to use this emotion to convey the company message and make it stick in their targeted readers’ memory.

Applying theory to practice, such as a successful infographic, is a tough task. Since positive outcome can’t be 100% guaranteed, Danny’s team has adopted the approach of testing their work prior to the mass release date. They share the infographic with Imgur and/or Reddit users and monitor closely the posted feedback. Then they tweak according to constructive comments and come up with the final draft of the project. This test is really not that time consuming and is practically free, so it is really easy to conduct. What he did not mention is that there might be a downside to this practice as it cannot guarantee that the feedback will come from a sample representative of the targeted audience.


Nichola Stott, Judith Lewis and Paul Madden

Scaling a Model of Earned Authority in Organic Search

with Nichola Stott, The MediaFlow

Judith Lewis, deCabbit Consultancy

Paul Madden, LinkRisk


This was a very interesting panel that again stressed out one of the main topics of the event – how important it is to put up organic, authentic effort into building authority and relationships online. Nichola shared a view that we at OptiLocal have always shared – when in the initial stages of work with a client, one should take a consultancy approach and ask them many questions to get to know their business, especially what makes them special, why should they be in position one. As the complexity of modern SEO increases, we should completely and undoubtedly get used to the fact that  SEO is a full-blown marketing effort and approach it as such.

Nichola also shared what she thinks the perfect SEO team consists of – technical specialists, a content strategist and outreach people. This goes to show how difficult it is to build organic, high quality links – you need to be very smart and strategic with the content you create and allow time to create relationships with businesses and bloggers in the correct niches. Judith supported Nichola in her opinion stressing how important it is to set the expectations high when building relationships online. She should know, she’s a relationship management guru and elaborated a lot more in the are in Day 2. 

A good point that Judith made about authenticity was to always strive to build links of all different types (such as video, text, image, etc.) and not just concentrate on one tactic such as infographics. She also encouraged SEOs (later on in another presentation of hers as well) to not shy away from citations (defined as a mention of your company name, not necessarily a full NAP citation as defined in Local SEO) as a type of quality reference to diversify your links.

Finally, after having devotedly looked for it for several minutes, Nichola shared with us a marketing book that she felt was a must read for every good marketer. Later on in the day, she shared with me that she regards this as one of the two or three marketing books out there with the biggest amount of real substance that are really worth the read.


SASCon 2014 Rishi Lakhani

 Photo credits:  Don’t Panic Events

SEM Rush – 5 Ways to Use Spying Tools to Deconstruct Your Competitors Strategy

By Rishi Lakhani

As eloquent as he is, Rishi Lakhani starts his presentation with the disclaimer that he is not too much into making presentations. Then he quickly goes straight to the point and lists down the specific competitor spying opportunities that the SEM Rush tools offer. If you are curious to learn his tips you should definitely read his comprehensive guide on using SEM Rush at his blog.

Rishi bases his presentation on the recent infographic compiled by Aleyda Solis on SEO Competitive Analysis Workflow and while he does not agree that Alexa is a good choice to capture all relevant websites (especially for the UK), he definitely puts forward the pros of using SEM Rush when prepping a detailed competitive analysis.

A good advice he shares is to evaluate all the link prospects of your competitors through LinkRisk. He also adds that SEM Rush is a good source for learning where your competitors invest their money (what paid ads they work with). The platform also shows you what their advertised landing pages are (if different than the homepage) and how that works out for them.

If you are to analyze sudden traffic changes, Rishi, recommends verifying the exact dates of those in SEM Rush and then using the (formerly known as Wayback Machine) to check the actual outlook of the website in the past (at the specific date you might have added bad or duplicate content or otherwise negatively impacted your on-site presentation).

To spy your competitors Rishi advises to take some other essential approaches like:

  • Signing up for their newsletter
  • Following them on the social networks
  • Monitoring their PR releases
  • Applying for a job at your competitors’ or post a job on your own
  • Setting up Google alerts
  • Monitoring affiliate sites.

Additional tools to keep in mind include:

  • Simply Measured – offers social medial analytics including FB metrics
  • Copernic Tracker – allows you to monitor a specific number of pages and if any content change occurs, it sends you an alert
  • BuiltWith – shows you what tools/plugins, platforms are used to create a given website – information that could be used in comparative analysis and in lead generation.
  • Google Trends – could be used for brand reputation management
  • Spy On Web – use it to check how many domains correspond to a given IP, etc.

SASCon 2014 Jeff Coghlan

 Photo credits:  Don’t Panic Events

Keynote – The Human Interface

By Jeff Coghlan, Matmi

Hardly anyone who has attended SASCon this year could deny that Jeff’s session was one of the most artistic and entertaining presentations out there. It was unmistakably marked by the speaker’s very nature – “I’m a hippie at heart but I love technology”. Jeff takes us through the recent history of how humans interfaced with technology, from old school remote controls, through Playstation’s more intuitive dual shock joystick that gives the user feedback, to Xbox Kinect where you are the control. The tech geek in him applauds the development of how we interface with technology – “My grandma couldn’t use a computer, but can use an iPhone.” The hippie in him is also happy that personal devices and decentralized sources of quality content “killed Rupert Murdoch” (to the cheers of the audience!), referring to the decline of the traditional model in which a few big corporations control all we see and possibly to the media mogul’s particular inability to adapt to the liberation of information. Throughout the presentation, however, Jeff admitted his concerns about the possible negative implications that modern technology can bring us. With much humor (kudos to Jeff for the laugh-out-loud moments, British humor is the best) and yet quite seriously he admits how risky our dependence on technology may turn out to be if we are not smart. The pros of tech innovations are countless; however with this rapid growth they pose a serious threat to our privacy.

Hence, the emotion and message-wise high point of the presentation that came in its end is that we as individuals need to take personal responsibility of how we use technology. Jeff makes a hot plea for us to join Reset the Net day (is it a coincidence that he was presenting on that day?) that is aimed to reduce surveillance and help personal privacy – “We need to take this control back, or it will destroy us all” and “he who controls the screens controls the universe”. He wants to enjoy being a hippie and a tech geek because he can’t part with either aspect of his personality and because he believes that we, humans, can be smart and brave enough to use technology in a “win-win” way. Strong message presented in an overwhelmingly simple, yet winning way!


SAScon 2014 Nick Garner

You Are What Google Says You Are: How to Check Out Really Well on Google

By Nick Garner, 90 Digital

What resources do we actually trust? Nick quotes the Edelman’s Trust Barometers results according to which:

  • Social media is about half as trusted as search results
  • Search results are nearly as trusted as the traditional media
  • 73% of users think that search engine results are very/reasonably trustworthy

In a reality where Internet defines our opinion of what is valid and trustworthy data, one’s privacy and image become easily threatened. Nick discusses how the new EU ruling “The Right to Be Forgotten” allows people to remove links to content that presents them in an “objectionable” light. The pros and cons of this law are yet to be assessed. Chances are that there will be a number of people who will take advantage of this “right”, but still the enforcement of this regulation might very well be “a step in the right direction for data protection”.

Questions like:
• Don’t we have the right to remember too?
• How is this even manageable?
• Who decides what does and what does not have the right to be forgotten?
normally arise and are yet be addressed.

The online reputation management proves to be a really important area to invest your efforts in, as Nick shares: “Reputation is SEO & PR tied together”. And while “SEO gets tougher and tougher, reputation will progressively be more attractive to brands.”

SASCon 2014 Content Marketing for Success

 Photo credits: State of Digital

Content Marketing for Success

with Nichola Stott, The MediaFlow

Sadie Sherran, Falkon Digital

Anna Wilson, Tangerine

Kristal Ireland, Enjoy Digital

This panel discussion offered an interesting view over the content creation from both PR & SEO perspective.

As Nichola puts it “regardless how random the product might be – “there is always a specific target market to focus on”. Even company producing bricks could create a viral content campaign by popularizing industry jokes for example. As she explains, people should aim at presenting their target audience with shareable content and thus reach a wider audience.

On a more humorous note Anna advises to get to the pub when in a “writers block” and eventually come up with a pretty creative idea.

According to Sadie, and probably every purist content strategist will support her opinion – content should no longer be created to acquire links and fuel link juice to a given website – it should serve much higher purpose instead.

SASCon 2014 social

 Photo credits:  Don’t Panic Events

Delegate Social at Dogbowl

“You flew here all the way from Bulgaria?” – we got asked this question countless times at the social after Day One. Attendees, presenters and organizers were equally astonished that we’d fly “all the way” from Bulgaria (understand a three hour flight) to visit the event.
On one hand, we understand their genuine surprise having in mind that SAScon is indeed still a relatively small gig with some delegates coming from all over Britain, but most hailing from the Manchester area. As said earlier, in total we estimate that several hundred people attended the event. The social at the Dogbowl, a cozy bowling bar between our venue and the center of the city, was informal to say the least – it felt like a wild night out among old friends. We would have felt like we were crashing the “SAScon family party” if it weren’t for everyone’s friendliness and openness.

On the other hand, we don’t really understand the locals’ shock that foreigners would come for the event. It has been growing considerably over the past few years. It is also set in a very convenient location in well-connected England. There aren’t many good European events in the tight SEO & Social niche, so with better marketing I see no reason for the event not to become more widely popular in Europe.
We met and chatted with everyone from speakers, to academics to organizers while throwing a few balls. It was nice to feel the sense of community, hopefully one that will grow for all European to benefit from.

Share your thoughts & stay tuned for Day Two Recap coming soon!

2 thoughts on “SAScon 2014 – the Fifth Search Analytics Social Conference in Manchester (Day 1 Recap)

  1. Hi Vladislav and team.

    Thanks for a great write-up and for including some of my sessions.

    Another of the books that I mentioned when we talked that I would really think you would enjoy and benefit from (if you’ve not yet read); is “Made to Stick” by Chip and Dan Heath.

    1. Hi Nichola,

      Was a pleasure to be at the event. Will put the book on my list, thanks for the recommendation!

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