ICS-digital Heads to Search Leeds

On Thursday, June the 14th, the third ever edition of SearchLeeds landed at the First Direct Arena, a literal stone’s throw from the ICS-digital HQ. The conference is always one of the highlights on the SEO event calendar (and our regular calendar because we’re so cool), bringing together the biggest and best in the search industry. We just couldn’t resist heading up the road to this year’s event once again for a day of insights, killer lanyards and free beer. The day was full of some of the best people in the field and I wanted to sum up my favourite talks of the day.


The future doesn’t exist in silos with J Schwan @ St Ives Group

J Schawn, the chief digital officer for the St Ives Group wants to change how we departmentalise and work with other areas of an agency, as well as when working with other agencies. He stressed the benefits of having strong collaboration and communication between internal departments within an agency. It’s an old saying but, as the media landscape changes and digital continues to go from strength to strength, we need to think like an SEO, but work like we’re in PR.

There are no enemies or competitors; we are all working together to change the SEO landscape. We must be positive and collaborative even with other (and often competing) agencies when working on the same project. They are not the enemy and it’s not about making the competition look bad or making yourselves look good; it’s about doing your best for the client or project in hand.

He finished his talk on connectedness, reimagining the static model of separate, unconnected departments. We need to start viewing structure as a full cycle with lots of communicating, adding adjoining communication paths to encourage synergy across campaigns and departments.


Useless Projects with Rob McGowan @ Edit

We’re all a bit unsure about AI and its capacities and uses within SEO. But how advanced is AI becoming? It is becoming a huge part of search with such things as voice recognition and predictive searching, but how beneficial can it be?

Deep Blue was an AI controlled robot, programmed to play chess. Someone once said that “saying Deep Blue doesn’t really think about chess is like saying an aeroplane doesn’t really fly because it doesn’t flap its wings”. Deep Blue was one of the most successful and well-known AIs of modern day, however, we all have AI in our pockets, from predictive text to Siri and Cortana. In recent years, several chatbots on social media have quickly turned nasty and have had to be removed ASAP, just showing how intelligent and sometimes gritty AI can be. EXAMPLES

In recent years, people have tested AI to re-write Harry Potter and create films. For example, even though the narrative might not make tons of sense, a machine created everything in the short film, Sunsprng. Coming up with everything from the script, the characters, as well as the location and set design. Sunspring may not make loads of sense and the uncertainty and lack of direction makes for fairly creepy viewing, but to say this was all created and devised by AI; that’s pretty damn impressive. You can watch the full film here.

However, it's not all sunshine and rainbows. “If AI is an amplification of society, then how we all act will define its future.” The nastiness and prejudices attached to some AI are purely caused by the consumer experience, as AI learns from what is already out there. Take a look at Microsoft's chatbot that has since been deactivated after it turned into a Neo-Nazi sexbot.

He ended the talk on one of my favourite bits from the day. Tanzania is a very under-mapped and under-explored country, so aid workers don’t know the location of a lot of the civilisations across the country. With the use of Edit’s Classifier and Google Maps, the software was created to be able to map out towns, buildings and settlements across the country that were previously unknown, dramatically decreasing the response time and connecting those that need humanitarian aid. Charities including British Red Cross and Missing Maps are now rolling out the prototype in Tanzania and it will be able to be applied to any under-mapped location.


Content Marketing that won’t break the bank with Kirsty Hulse @ ManyMinds

Possibly my favourite speaker of the day, Kirsty is straight talking and knows her stuff. The most important take away was that it is your IDEAS, not your ASSETS that are everything. The most successful creative content campaigns don’t have to cost the earth; sometimes they’re cheaper than a round of drinks or even free. There are some incredible yet inexpensive tools and platforms that can create truly gorgeous content to get those links, and it’s about harnessing these tools to bring your amazing ideas to life.

  • Slides - a great tool to create stunning and professional slideshows and presentations

  • Timeline - one of my favourite platforms out there at the minute, allowing you to create interactive and slick timelines

  • Fake iPhone messages - we see these used in memes more than anything but never underestimate their application

What happens when a werewolf bites a goldfish? with Hannah Smith @ Verve Search

OK so I purely had to go to this talk for the title and it turned out to be one of the strongest and most attended of the day. The basis to the talk was the importance of idea generation. Some campaigns will work extremely well and some just won’t. Its about viewing these as not a problem; the lack of success aids future success, understanding the ways that your idea didn’t come to fruition.

Neil Gaiman is an author of novels, films and basically every form of creative writing. He famously hated being asked where he gets his ideas from and always gave a funny and often sarcastic reply from his bank of favourites. These ranged from, the “idea of the month club” to the little shop in Bognor Regis. However, a young child once asked him where he gets his ideas from and this time he wasn’t so cold. He said, “you get ideas from daydreaming, you get ideas from being bored. You get ideas all of the time.”

The only difference between writers, marketeers and creatives is that they notice that when they’re doing it. So, when you next feel yourself procrastinating or twiddling your thumbs, be aware of the thoughts in your head. The biggest thing to consider is ensuring you’re providing journalists with content that allows them to write the stories they want to tell. Create something valuable for journalists, even more so if they don’t have the time or resources to do the research themselves.

When gaining links, it is these amazing pieces of creative content that can set the ball rolling. It is all about that one piece of top-tier coverage that gets the ball rolling and your story gets traction. Even through articles with no back-links, it’s the general buzz and conversation that will bring it to the attention of other publishers, rather than them receiving yet another outreach email about your great content.


Branded3 did an amazing job once again and we had an amazing day. If you haven’t been to SearchLeeds before, I would definitely recommend the visit. See you all next year!