Search Camp 2017 Roundup

search camp 2017 seo

On a cold rainy morning in December, several dozen Google nerds descended on the Butlins resort in Bognor Regis for the inaugural ‘Search Camp 2017’. We were very pleased to be counted amongst the ranks.

The two-day conference was kicked off with a few words from the friendly, knowledgeable Nick Wilsdon, Global SEO Lead at Vodafone. He promised an event full of interesting perspectives as well as some good fun – and we were not disappointed. Over the next two days we heard insights and SEO tips delivered by experts from all over the world.

All of the talks were engaging and informative, but a few in particular stood out to me from an SEO perspective. Here are a few of those highlights:

Accelerated Mobile Pages [AMP]: Do’s and Don’ts for Success

A well-known name in the industry, it was a pleasure to finally catch a talk by Aleyda Solis. Speaking with great clarity, Aleyda gave some very useful tips about getting the most out of AMP from an SEO perspective.

The topic of AMP came up several times throughout the two days, cementing what I had already suspected – that 2018 will be the year we see AMP hit the radars of every good SEO professional. What I perhaps hadn’t perceived was the scope of the potential pitfalls for more complicated AMP rollouts, including multi-language sites.

Perhaps most exciting was the news that AMP for ecommerce is finally maturing. Previously there were several standard ecommerce features (such as ‘out of stock/in stock’ flags) which were not translated to AMP successfully. However, with these bugs now ironed out, some websites are reporting 40% increases in mobile transaction volumes on AMP!

We also discussed how to properly track clicks and website usage to get meaningful data from AMP and the nuances involved in this.

The top-line point to take away for SEO right now was that the correct canonicalisation and 100% mirroring of content between AMP and standard mobile pages is crucial to success in search. As of February 2018, Google will begin taking punitive action where content differs. This also extends to structured data.

How to Dominate Local SEO in 2018

Greg Gifford, Director of Search & Social for US car dealership giant DealerOn, delivered an incredibly insightful, informative, not to mention hilarious talk. It began with a reminder of the differences between Google’s ‘organic’ and ‘local’ algorithms and went on to cover some oldskool local SEO link acquisition tactics which still deliver ranking value.

Crucially, it was an eye-opener in terms of specific, “Super Mega Top Secret” campaigns which are worth pursuing. Plenty for us to be getting on with there.

Greg Gifford Local SEO

The talk also included 141 references to comedy movies spanning the last 50 years. #badass

There’s too much to cover in detail here, but feel free to get in touch if you want to talk about local SEO in 2018.

Lego: Content Strategy & Link Earning

This talk gets an honourable mention for making everyone in the room so damn jealous. Luis Navarrate Gomez, Head of Global Search Marketing for Lego, talked about how he finds and capitalises on content opportunities. It was great to see how Lego’s marketing metrics are reported throughout the organisation on big, shared screens so that reach, tipping points and engagement events can be monitored. Very state of the art. Very cool.

From Lego Batman to user-generated content, Luis talked about some of his best campaigns and how they generated amazing off-page SEO results without ever having to ask anyone for a single link. He simply engaged people and the links followed.

Words of Wisdom

Even though it mostly concentrated on managing in-house SEO teams, there were a few points that really struck home during a talk from Oscar Carreras. As the director of SEO (EMEA) for Expedia, Oscar has a huge amount of experience, not only of managing SEO but also of managing people.

The main thing that stood out for me was that he learned (the hard way, by the sounds of it) that the best way to achieve fantastic results with an SEO team is to allow them to make mistakes. SEO moves forwards at an incredible pace and is very competitive, so in order to truly dominate you need to allow good people to experiment, right at that cutting edge. Sometimes they might not get it 100% right, but that’s the best and fastest way to learn!

The best way to achieve fantastic results with an SEO team is to allow them to make mistakes.
Oscar Carreras, Director, SEO, EMEA, Expedia

Another great piece of wisdom came from Simon Heseltine. I’d never met Simon before but it was apparent that anyone who was anyone knew this chap well. I chewed his ear off over lunch on the second day and could tell why he is so well-respected!

Two directors of a company talking to each other:
Director 1: What happens if we pay to train our staff and they leave?
Director 2: What happens if we don’t train them and they stay!?
Simon Heseltine, VP of Search, ForRent

I’ve never heard a more concise and elegant argument for investing in your team!

Looking to the Future

The last talk on the second day was from the inimitable Tom Cheesewright, Applied Futurist at Book of the Future. Possibly the coolest job title in the world?


As I know from my early days in agency-side marketing when Tom was my boss, this guy is blessed with incredible foresight when it comes to technology. The whole room sat intently listening to what the future might look like, taking in Tom’s engaging anecdotes, thought experiments and possible scenarios around topics including augmented reality and automated ecommerce.

How much mental energy do you really want to invest in purchasing underpants?
Tom Cheesewright, Applied Futurist, Book of the Future

Tom sees a future where brands and people are evermore connected via intelligent, predictive technologies allowing us to ‘outsource’ more of the menial day-to-day tasks that otherwise distract us from higher consciousness thinking. Indeed a very convincing argument was made.

A particularly interesting point was raised about ownership of the highly personal ‘big data’ that would need to be generated for this kind of technology to work. With GDPR coming in later this year, Tom suggested that we may very well see offline or ‘closed circuit’ data collection coming to the fore, allowing individuals to reclaim ownership of more of their data. A parallel was drawn to Ryan Gosling’s home helper and holographic companion, ‘Joi’, in Blade Runner 2049 –  Joi’s programming and data storage existed entirely on a USB-like portable memory drive, away from prying superpowers.

They do say that life imitates art!

The Venue

It wouldn’t be right to talk about the event–hopefully the first of many–without mentioning the wonderful venue and staff. The rooms were amazing, the venue was clean and very modern, the food was great and the staff were incredibly helpful.

Thanks to everyone who made it possible, including Don’t Panic events who ran the whole show and the sponsors; Yandex, SEMrush and Majestic.

Check out #SearchCamp on Twitter for more insights.

Posted by Paul

Paul is our Head of Marketing and digital strategy specialist. A Google certified SEO expert and Member of the Chartered Institute of Marketing, he has worked on award-winning campaigns since 2003.

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