Searchlove 2016: Boston – Our Favorite Takeaways

Searchlove 2016

It was a rainy Tuesday and Wednesday in Boston, but that didn’t stop hundreds of marketers from gathering at the Joseph B Martin Conference center at Harvard Medical School for the infamous two-day Searchlove Conference. While the predominant focus of the conference is Search Engine Optimization (SEO), topics also ranged from content and storytelling to email marketing and PR. Well-known industry speakers like Wil Reynolds (Seer Interactive), Rand Fishkin (Moz) and Larry Kim (Wordstream) were in attendance along with agency and in-housed digital marketers from across the United States as well as parts of Europe. How lucky to attend such an influential conference in my very own backyard?

And now I’m back at my desk, almost a week later, with 17 pages of typed notes that I just can’t wait to share with the world. But I won’t bore you with all seventeen pages; here are my top takeaways from Searchlove Boston 2016 that not only will help me be better at my job, but also help me as a digital marketer in general.

1) Will Reynolds – Moving from Perspiration to Inspiration

Slides: Click here

Will Reynolds shared his struggles of scaling and growth at Seer Interactive, and touched on putting frameworks in place in his and his teams’ day-to-day, as well as the practice of “question asking” and how to pitch ideas. One of my favorite quotes form the conference was from Will: “Remember that every query is a person. You are marketing to people, not algorithms.” It’s always important to take a step back and remember that we are still marketing to people, especially when you are surrounded by such large quantities of data on a day-to-day basis.

2) Simo Ahava – The Search Marketer’s Toolkit for Google Tag Manager

Slides: Click here

I have to admit. I totally geeked out during Simo’s presentation. When Francis, one of our agency’s partners, texted me to let me know he was on his way, I admitted to my dorkiness. And yes, it was 2 hours into the conference and I was already concerned that my laptop battery was dying. #FirstWorldProblems

Simo Ahava

Simo talked about how powerful of a tool Google Tag Manager is for implementing web analytics like Google Analytics, as well as arbitrary JavaScript code. He provided hacks for measuring content engagement, using content groupings to help widen data in Google Analytics as well as extraction and injection of meta data. I absolutely cannot wait to start playing around with some of his codes and implementing for our clients in Google Tag Manager.

Oh, and I found an outlet, in case anyone was worried.

3) Greg Gifford – X Marks the Spot: A Treasure Map for Local Search Success

Slides: Click here

Greg had one of the best presentations, in my opinion, at Searchlove and any other conference I had attended in the past few years combined. He didn’t lie when he prefaced his presentation with, “I talk really fast.” Greg focused on the changing Local SEO space and how ranking factors for Local Search are becoming more and more complicated.

Among the knowledge that Greg dropped, he talked about how important it is that your NAP (Name, Address, Phone Number) are consistent online, 100%. Every character needs to the same, otherwise you are sending a bad signal to Google.  Greg talked about a client he had where there were about 15 different versions of the client’s business name floating around, on his website alone! After cleaning up his client’s business name and citation sources, the business won the #2 position in organic SERPs and the #1 Map Pack result.

Did I also mention he referenced 121 movie comedies throughout this 45-minute presentation?


4) Michael King: Developer Thinking for SEOs

Slides: Click here

Michael talked about how the technical end of SEO has become increasingly complex and our tools are not keeping up. He gave case studies referring to different technical implementations, talked about the shift from HTTP to HTTP2 and how multiplexing is going to increase page load time, as well as how to layer log files on top of Screaming Frog data to help you spot what’s really affecting your analytics.

Michael also confirmed my suspicion that 302s in fact DO NOT pass page rank, even though John Mueller of Google announced in February that 302s pass page rank. Luckily, our agency has always recommended 301s for redirecting.

Another powerful statement from the conference was said by Michael: With the most recent changes to SERPs (removal of right hand rail, 4 ads above the fold, etc.) Organic position #1 is now technically position #8.

5) Mary Bowling – Local SEO: Search Experience Optimization for RankBrain

Slides: Click here

I had the pleasure of sitting next to Mary during lunch on the first day, so naturally I was excited to hear her presentation. Mary touched on how Search Engine Optimization is shifting to “Searcher Optimization.”

Mary talked about maximizing local knowledge panels, and the importance of using 360 degree photos of your business (which, in-fact, isn’t that expensive to get!). She also mentioned the importance of utilizing JSON-LD (JavaScript Object Notation for Linked Data). Google is currently doing a BETA test with big brands. Instead of looking at information from bulk uploads in Google My Business, they are looking at websites to extract location information directly from websites.

Mary also talked about the importance of getting positive business reviews. Less than 10% of local businesses have reviews, but of course this varies by vertical. This is such a great area for opportunity to help increase your local SEO ranking! She also referenced a quote from Will Critchlow, Founder and CEO of Distilled:

“It really doesn’t matter if we are pleasing algorithms designed to please people, or pleasing people directly.”

6) Paul Shapiro – How to Automate Your Keyword Research

Slides: Click here

After Paul’s presentation, I made it my own personal goal to learn Python. On average, keyword research for a microsite that contains anywhere from 1 – 49 pages can take up to 6 hours a month while a larger sit with 100 – 249 pages can take 18 hours a month. Paul gave step by step instructions for automating keyword research by utilizing APIs from Google AutoSuggest, Search Console, Adwords, SEMRush and GrepWords and plugging them into a tool called Knime.

Very cool stuff.

7) Kindra Hall – Storytelling: The Secret of Irresistible Marketing

Slides: Click here

Kindra went into detail about how a story is not a tagline, a slogan or a mission statement. It isn’t copy or beautiful images. It isn’t vague, or high level principals of theory. A story happens in a particular moment. There is a beginning, a middle and an end.  There is emotion, not just information. And lastly, there are characters to care about and something at stake. It’s no secret that in marketing, the best story wins, but marketers are missing opportunities to connect with their customers because they don’t know what a good story is anymore.

My favorite takeaway from Kindra? Don’t think of a story of having a beginning, middle and an end. Instead, think of it as Normal, Explosion and New Normal.


You ever wonder why we watch the news and we don’t bawl our eyes out? It’s because we didn’t know what the “normal” was. Clients want to hear about a problem when you are telling a story. Remember to be vivid with details, include emotions like struggle and hope and include specific strategic details that your client can connect with.


In the ever-changing digital landscape, it’s so beneficial to attend conferences like Searchlove in order to help expand your knowledge and drive strategy that is focused on out of the box thinking. As Larry Kim mentioned, “be a unicorn in a sea of donkeys.”

Melissa Sciorra

Melissa Sciorra, SEO Director. Follow her @mel_arroics!

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