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Manchester has long been the home of an innovative idea – mention the greats of Alan Turing and Sir John Alcock, and it’s not surprising to see why this city has become one of the most coveted locations in the UK. That’s why as we sat in the award-winning eco-inspired headquarters of Manchester Metropolitan University’s Business School, it was hard not to stare in awe at the hundreds of influential names coming together to celebrate the fifth ever SAScon; and looked forward to two days filled with a joining of minds that highlights the very best of the search, analytics and social media industry right here in the heart of the north west.


Brett Tabke, CEO and Founder, PubCon

Kicking off the keynote was founding member of SAScon and MD of Latitude, Richard Gregory – where he welcomed CEO and founder of PubCon, Brett Tabke.


It was a brilliant opening to the event, as Brett covered a variety of points including:

  • trends worth watching (with the average phone life lasting 2.2 years – research from the Pew Research Center)
  • last year’s fun fact: 91 per cent of all US adults have a mobile phone within arm’s reach (according to Morgan Stanley)
  • this year’s fun fact: the average smartphone user reaches for their phone 150 times a day (Morgan Stanley 2013)
  • by the end of 2014, the number of mobile-connected devices will exceed the number of people on Earth (Cisco).

His conclusion? Apps rule all and outdoes the effort of the mobile web, with people three times more likely to use an app as opposed to using a desktop site – while 98 per cent of cases sees the email opening on only one type of device:

  • 47 per cent of emails are opened on a smartphone
  • 18.5 per cent are opened on a tablet
  • With these figures in mind, it’s important that email must be designed appropriately for mobile.

Lastly, his trends for 2014 include:

  • digital currencies (BitCoin)
  • wearables (watches, rings, glasses)
  • 3D printing
  • drones
  • eLearning
  • neuro marketing
  • content
  • infinite scroll
  • ‘Pinterestification of web’
  • Devices are out, screens are in.

Our thoughts? Five stars, Tabke!

Pay to Play – Are paid search and social destroying organic?

Panel: James Lowery (Compeller), Phil Mackechnie (Travel Supermarket), Neil Yeomans (Lakestar McCann)

Debating around the question of ‘Should we stop looking for free traffic?’, the panel session proved to be lively and thought-provoking – featuring our very own Head of SEO, Neil Yeomans. The panel discussed the shift toward broader job titles for SEOs (such as inbound marketer and content marketer), and found what while the role of SEO was previously more technical-based, it’s becoming more important for SEOs to use their creative skills in the pursuit of search engine visibility.

Key thought: Overall it was agreed that SEO is still a vital element of the digital marketing mix. Neil Yeomans claimed that SEO is not for every kind of business anymore, and that there is more value to be had in other channels for different sectors eg companies operating within legal would be wise to invest in branding over SEO. The retail sector can still benefit from SEO, with keyword mapping and technical onsite work being more valuable than ever.

Learn how to produce persona success content in 45 minutes or less

Danny Ashton, NeoMam Studios

With content becoming more prevalent in SEO, it was refreshing to see content getting the recognition it deserved – with co-founder of infographic design agency NeoMam Studios, Danny Ashton, sharing his insights with the rest of the content community. His was a brilliant session that covered science and history – establishing a connection visual gratification and a concept known as the ‘Triune Brain Theory’ (established by neurologist Paul MacLean):

  1. Reptilian (associated with self-preservation – the oldest part of the brain)
  2. Limbic (ruling emotions)
  3. Neomammalian (appealing towards more complex and intellectual tasks).

Key thought: Through this model, Danny stated that by designing something of low complexity (geared towards a reptilian-thinking audience) would be a cheap solution – as opposed to creating content of high complexity, which would be a more expensive option. Some good examples of limbic content include sites such as Upworthy and BuzzFeed – and given that it takes us one tenth of a second to understand an image, for content professionals to ensure the widest reach (reptilian), designs must focus on issues such as brand and audience for successful engagement and exposure.

You are what Google says you are: How to ‘check out’ really well on Google

Nick Garner, 90 Digital and Jackie Hole, 22 Minds

This was, in essence, two separate presentations under the overarching theme of brand and reputation management. Firstly, Jackie presented an extremely interesting discussion of the implications of the recent right to privacy findings from the European Court. This obviously had tremendous potential to impact search, but it’s still unclear as to how. She also made an entertaining suggestion regarding Google, urging all present to try submitting a freedom of information request to the search giant in an attempt to determine exactly what information Google keeps on individuals.

Key thought: It was the second part of the session, led by Nick Garner, that we noted the importance of reputation management. For instance, he walked us through a case study on how he would go about planning a link building campaign to displace embarrassing search results appearing in searches for expensive Crème de la Mer moisturising cream – of particular interest, his research process for determining a link building plan, a video and blog entry on which can be found here.

Attribution – Success has many fathers, but failure is an orphan

Darren Herbert, Head of Conversion Analytics at Latitude and Russell McAthy, Director of Strategy at BlueGlass

The talk went into detail about how attribution modelling is currently used by both agencies and businesses, with research by Adobe and Econsultancy finding that 54 per cent carry out attribution modelling (of which 89 per cent are positive about doing so). However, one of the major obstacles to committing resource to attribution modelling is that it does not change bottom-line figures. The total sales and revenue, or number of enquiries for the business will not change no matter what channel gets the credit, therefore many still resist growing pressure to review attribution methods.

Key thought: Whilst the opinion was that attribution modelling was something of value already, it was acknowledged it is constantly evolving and maturing, with its importance only increasing in future with further development of cross device tracking, visitor ‘finger printing’, and greater integration of offline and only marketing efforts.

Content marketing for success

Panel: Nichola Stott (MediaFlow), Sadie Sherran (Falkon Digital), Anna Wilson (Tangerine), Kristal Ireland (Enjoy Digital)

Entering into a discussion about the key facets of content marketing, the panel talked about to what degree content design should be led by as well as client needs versus audience needs:

  • The importance of having prepared crisis response plans
  • Using Mumsnet and similar sites to research brand audiences
  • Building briefing documents for clients
  • Avoiding overly hasty responses to complaints
  • Never, ever, EVER, promising that content will go viral.

Twitter tips from Opta Joe

Simon Banoub (Opta Sports), chaired by Kristal Ireland (Enjoy Digital)

The session opened with Simon presenting a series of social tips (mainly Twitter) that have helped Opta grow massively over the last few years, comprising the following:

  • Relevancy is key. For example, people that are interested in football aren’t necessarily interested in cricket and rugby – so, rather than having one ‘Opta’ account, Opta segmented their strategy with separate accounts for football
  • Consistency is of huge importance. Opta chose a standardised format for their tweets across all of their accounts: Number > Fact > Summary Word
  • Be human. Be approachable. Encourage staff to talk about the brand (within guidelines). From an outside perspective, a company that is good to work for is most likely a company that is good to work with
  • Timing is crucial. It’s imperative that important events are tended to immediately. Additionally, check to see what time your target audience is most active. If your audience is only really active on their commute and during the evening, assess the effectiveness of posting during work hours.
  • Ask if it is necessary to be on every social platform. Depending on your business, not every social platform is going to be relevant. It’s important to invest time in what works for you.
  • You are on someone’s timeline for a reason. Be relevant. Add value. Be helpful…within your area of specialism.


It’s been an intense and jam-packed day, and we’ve covered a wide range of specialist areas in the short space of a few hours. Time to be ‘social’ with the rest of the attendees at Dog Bowl – catch up with us next week where we’ll share the second half of SAScon with you lovely readers! And don’t worry, we’ll try not to get carried away with the SAScon tradition of the dreaded Jaegertrain (coughs).