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13 Lessons Learned From 13 Years Of Running Search London

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13 Lessons Learned From 13 Years Of Running Search London

I have been running Search London, a networking event, for 13 years, and it has been so successful that it has become a major feature in the SEO conference calendar.

I originally launched the event in October 2010, but I will be celebrating its 13th birthday on February 26th, 2024, in central London.

I wanted to share some of the lessons learned so that others who have an idea and want to run events can do so outside of work.

When I launched Search London, my objective was to provide a safe place to share search industry news and promote a wide range of speakers, including those presenting for the first time, where they could talk about their case studies and show the audience how they could also generate such positive results.

1. Choose Unknown Speakers

Many speakers at Search London were originally unknown in the SEO world but have gone on to present at BrightonSEO and other larger conferences.

When I first started speaking, it was difficult to secure a speaking role as I needed experience – but as I did not have any, it was very difficult.

I don’t want this to be a barrier for others in our industry wanting to present. Over the past 13 years, we have had at least one new speaker at each event, meaning we have heard from over 70 first-time participants.

2. Have Enough Time For Networking

The other objective of Search London is to provide a safe space for those to learn more about SEO, PPC, and social media.

When I was an Account Director at an agency, I did not have the support from a manager to help me – yet, as I was leading a team, I had to know more than the members of my team did.

Therefore, I wanted to create a place where I, along with others, could learn from each other and have enough time for networking and getting to know more people in the SEO community.

We start our events at 6 p.m. and have the venue until 10:30 p.m., though we sometimes go on to 11 p.m.

Many of the talks start early, and we have enough time to discuss the presentations and the topics that are going to be presented.

3. Choose Speakers From Different Backgrounds

When I first started Search London, there were a majority of male presenters in our industry and many of those with years of experience.

I wanted to have a more equal balance with more women presenting.

I also did not necessarily want presenters from large agencies or brands but those from small companies or those running their own businesses.

I made sure we had a wide range of speakers, not just from London but from elsewhere in the world.

With Search London going online, we now have a lot more reach. I do not want location to be a restriction to those presenting.

4. Make It A Learning Experience And Have Focus

I have always favored practical work versus theory.

Presenters share real case studies, and none of the talks are theoretical. It does not matter about the size of the budget that is available for a project, but the results.

I always encourage people to ask for audience questions; each speaker has a Q and A slot after the talk, and most presenters stay at the event for the whole evening so attendees can ask speakers questions.

Running networking events requires a clear agenda and focus.

I did not just want it to be a group of people getting together without some specific idea or inquiry. Therefore, it was important to have at least one speaker.

I wanted to make it as informal as possible, as this is an event people are attending after work.

It is important to remember that those people attending the event have probably been sitting down all day at work and need a stimulating environment in which they are free to circulate and ask questions.

I always have a screen up at the beginning so people know where the talks will be and attendees can organize themselves.

5. Have Scholarship Tickets

Scholarship tickets were something I did not do when I first started running the events. Instead, I asked companies to purchase tickets for their staff.

However, now,  I can offer scholarship tickets and will be doing more in 2024.

It is important to offer an easy method for companies to purchase tickets for their staff to attend your event.

6. Find A Central Venue With A Separate Room

When I first started running Search London, I was in central London.

Post-COVID, not as many people were working at the office, and many were working from home. However, location is still very important, so choosing a venue that is central and well-connected makes it easy for people to come after work.

Very often, pubs have an area that can be rented, which can be a great option – but make sure it is a separate room. Otherwise, it can be very noisy. Monday and Tuesday nights are typically the cheapest nights to rent a room.

Try to find venues where the minimum spend is less than £1000 a night, and if you do not reach the minimum spend, ask if you can purchase drinks or food to take away.

7. Do Not Share Email Addresses

Data protection is a very important subject and when I first started having sponsors, many asked for email addresses of attendees.

I have never shared email addresses with sponsors.

If you want to do so, follow the example of BrightonSEO and ask attendees when they register whether they want to be contacted by sponsors and are happy to have their personal contact or work details shared.

8. Charge For Events

In the beginning, Search London was free, as it was on Meetup. That worked well when I did not have to reach a minimum spend at the pub.

However, when pubs started charging, and it became harder to find venues of more than 50 people capacity, I wanted to have a guarantee on the number of attendees.

Charging a small fee and selling tickets via Eventbrite has helped guarantee numbers. However, there have been cases where I did not charge as we were being hosted by a company.

For example, at the first in-person event after COVID-19, November 2021, we had 193 RSVPs, but then only 50 people attended.

Luckily, we were not renting a venue as the Trainline team was hosting us – but if people had actually bought their tickets, then there would not have been such a dropout.

Once people have paid for a ticket, they are much more likely to go to the event, unless, of course, they have an emergency.

9. Have A Good Team

You cannot do everything if you want to grow your event.

When I moved to Australia at the end of 2012, I realized I still wanted to continue to run Search London, but it was not physically possible to come back every two months.

Tim Sheed, who came to the very first Search London event, helped organize the in-person events along with Luella Ben Aziza, Russell McAthy, and Mike Chidzey.

Once I came back to live in Europe, Tim continued to help and was the co-organizer of Search London for the in-person events.

10. Move Away From Meetup Once You Have A Regular Group Of Attendees

Search London was originally a Meetup group, and it is still on Meetup; however, as I have started selling tickets for events, these are now sold via Eventbrite.

As Search London grew, I should have started an online community away from Meetup.com, for example, on Facebook or Slack in recent years.

11. Build A Network

Although I did not have an online community or following, such as on Slack or Facebook, I was an editor for State of Digital. I started as a blogger and met a lot of writers in person.

From building this network of writers at State of Digital, I asked some of them to speak at Search London.

From running Search London, I was invited by Mike Chidzey to co-host SEO Office Hours, where we have an informal weekly chat with two special guests answering people’s website and SEO issues.

12. Start Sponsorship Early

In order to secure a sponsorship, it is important to start looking early for a suitable sponsor or venue.

When I first started running these events, I did not ask for much sponsorship.

Now, I ask for sponsorship for as many events as possible.

I would recommend those starting their own events not be shy about asking for companies to help support the event.

13. Plan More Time Than You Need For An Event

Days and weeks pass quickly, so it is important to give yourself enough time to organize the event. I like to always organize at least two months in advance. I ask people to pitch to speak at Search London.

If you can, try and secure sponsorship from at least one company, and have your speakers guaranteed as soon as you finalize a date.

Never be complacent and assume that because people have come in the past, they will continue to come.

For example, one event we ran in March 2018, we had just ten attendees. There were more who had signed up, but due to the extreme cold weather causing snow in some parts, many were not able to come.

In Summary

Be open to new ideas and change the format of your meet-up.

Although I have been running these events for 13 years and they have been successful, there can never be a time when it becomes routine.

Choose different venues, different topics to be presented, new speakers, and keep up with new ideas and new technology.

Everything is moving so fast, and it is important to keep up with trends and developments in the industry.

Make it as exciting as possible so that everyone will look forward to the next event and will continue to come and be part of the great SEO community.

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Google To Upgrade All Retailers To New Merchant Center By September

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Google To Upgrade All Retailers To New Merchant Center By September

Google has announced plans to transition all retailers to its updated Merchant Center platform by September.

This move will affect e-commerce businesses globally and comes ahead of the holiday shopping season.

The Merchant Center is a tool for online retailers to manage how their products appear across Google’s shopping services.

Key Changes & Features

The new Merchant Center includes several significant updates.

Product Studio

An AI-powered tool for content creation. Google reports that 80% of current users view it as improving efficiency.

This feature allows retailers to generate tailored product assets, animate still images, and modify existing product images to match brand aesthetics.

It also simplifies tasks like background removal and image resolution enhancement.

Centralized Analytics

A new tab consolidating various business insights, including pricing data and competitive analysis tools.

Retailers can access pricing recommendations, competitive visibility reports, and retail-specific search trends, enabling them to make data-driven decisions and capitalize on popular product categories.

Redesigned Navigation

Google claims the new interface is more intuitive and cites increased setup success rates for new merchants.

The platform now offers simplified website verification processes and can pre-populate product information during setup.

Initial User Response

According to Google, early adopters have shown increased engagement with the platform.

The company reports a 25% increase in omnichannel merchants adding product offers in the new system. However, these figures have yet to be independently verified.

Jeff Harrell, Google’s Senior Director of Merchant Shopping, states in an announcement:

“We’ve seen a significant increase in retention and engagement among existing online merchants who have moved to the new Merchant Center.”

Potential Challenges and Support

While Google emphasizes the upgrade’s benefits, some retailers, particularly those comfortable with the current version, may face challenges adapting to the new system.

The upgrade’s mandatory nature could raise concerns among users who prefer the existing interface or have integrated workflows based on the current system.

To address these concerns, Google has stated that it will provide resources and support to help with the transition. This includes tutorial videos, detailed documentation, and access to customer support teams for troubleshooting.

Industry Context

This update comes as e-commerce platforms evolve, with major players like Amazon and Shopify enhancing their seller tools. Google’s move is part of broader efforts to maintain competitiveness in the e-commerce services sector.

The upgrade could impact consumers by improving product listings and providing more accurate information across Google’s shopping services.

For the e-commerce industry as a whole, it signals a continued push towards AI-driven tools and data-centric decision-making.

Transition Timeline

Google states that retailers will be automatically upgraded by September if they still need to transition.

The company advises users to familiarize themselves with the new features before the busy holiday shopping period.


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Meta AI Introduces AI-Generated Photos to All Platforms

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Meta AI Adds AI-Generated Images to Social and Messaging Platforms and Expands Availability to More Languages and Countries

Meta just released multiple updates to Meta AI which brings advanced image generation and editing capabilities directly to Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp feeds, plus availability in more countries and languages.

New Meta AI Creative Tools

Meta AI is bringing AI generated and AI Edited photography that can be generated at the moment a user is making a post or sending a message with a new tool called Imagine Me.

Imagine Me is a prompt that can be used to transform an uploaded image that can be shared. This new feature is first rolling out as a beta in the United States.

Meta explains:

“Imagine yourself creates images based on a photo of you and a prompt like ‘Imagine me surfing’ or ‘Imagine me on a beach vacation’ using our new state-of-the-art personalization model. Simply type “Imagine me” in your Meta AI chat to get started, and then you can add a prompt like “Imagine me as royalty” or “Imagine me in a surrealist painting.” From there, you can share the images with friends and family, giving you the perfect response or funny sidebar to entertain your group chat.”

New Editing Features

Meta products like Facebook, Messenger, WhatsApp and Instagram now have advanced editing capabilities that allow users to add or remove objects from images, to change them in virtually any manner, such as their example of turning a cat in an image into a dog. A new Edit With AI button is forthcoming in a month that will unlock even more AI editing power.

Adding AI generated images to Facebook, Instagram, Messenger and WhatsApp within feed, posts, stories, comments and messages is rolling out this week in English and coming later to other languages.

Screenshot of a Facebook user adding an AI generated image into their post

Meta AI In More Countries And Languages

Meta AI is now available in seven additional countries, bringing the total countries to to 22. It is also available in seven more languages.

List of Seven Additional Countries:

  1. Argentina
  2. Cameroon
  3. Chile
  4. Colombia
  5. Ecuador
  6. Mexico
  7. Peru

Meta AI is now also available in the following seven additional languages:

  1. French
  2. German
  3. Hindi
  4. Hindi-Romanized Script
  5. Italian
  6. Portuguese
  7. Spanish

Advanced Math And Coding

Meta AI is making their most advanced model, Llama 405B, available for users to take advantage of its advanced reasoning abilities that can answer complex answers and excells at math and coding.

Meta AI writes:

“You can get help on your math homework with step-by-step explanations and feedback, write code faster with debugging support and optimization suggestions, and master complex technical and scientific concepts with expert instruction.”

Read the official announcement:

Meta AI Is Now Multilingual, More Creative and Smarter

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System Builders – How AI Changes The Work Of SEO

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Kevin Indig's Growth Memo for SEJ

AI is terraforming tech. The content and SEO ecosystem is undergoing a massive structural change.

Human-written content gains value faster for LLM training than for end consumers as the pure profit licensing deals between LLM developers and publishers show.

Publishers struggle to survive from digital subscriptions but get millions that go straight to their bottom line for providing training data.

Content platforms, social networks, SaaS companies and consumer apps coat their products with AI. A few examples:

  • Spotify DJ (AI-generated playlist).
  • AI Overview (AI answers in Google Search).
  • Instagram AI personas (celebrity AI chatbots).
  • Ebay’s magical listing (turn a photo into a listing).
  • Redfin Redesign (try interior designs on real house pictures).
Image Credit: Kevin Indig

The quality of machine-generated content (MGC) challenges human-generated content (HGC). I ran an experiment with my Twitter and LinkedIn followers: I asked them to choose which of two articles was written by a human and which by a machine – and they had to explain their answer.

Only a handful of people figured out that AI wrote both pieces. I intentionally framed the question in a leading way to see if people would challenge the setting or believe that one piece was written by a human if told so.

  • Not an isolated experiment: A survey of 1,900 Americans found that 63.5% of people can’t distinguish between AI content and human content.1
  • People seek help: Google search demand for [ai checker] has reached 100,000 in May 2024 (Glimpse).
  • Dark side: scammers use MGC to make money, as 77% of AI scam victims lost money.2
Search demand for AI checkerImage Credit: Kevin Indig

The quality level of LLMs pushes SEO work towards automating workflows and learning with AI, while writers will take content from good to great instead of zero to one.

Boost your skills with Growth Memo’s weekly expert insights. Subscribe for free!

How AI Changes The Work Of SEOImage Credit: Lyna ™

System Builders

Clients, podcasters and panel hosts often ask me what skills SEOs need to build for the AI future. For a long time, my answer was to learn, stay open-minded and gain as much practical experience with AI as possible.

Now, my answer is SEOs should learn how to build AI agents and workflows that automate tasks. AI changes the way search works but also the way SEOs work.

AI + No-code Allows SEOs To Automate Workflows

A few examples:

1/ Cannibalization

  • Old world: SEOs download search console data and create pivot tables to spot keyword cannibalization.
  • New world: SEOs build an AI workflow that sends alters, identifies true keyword cannibalization, makes content suggestions to fix the problem, and monitors the improvement.

2/ Site Crawling

  • Old world: SEOs crawl websites to find inefficiencies in internal linking, status code errors, duplicate content, etc.
  • New world: SEOs build an AI agent that regularly crawls the site and automatically suggests new internal links that are shipped after human approval, fixes broken canonical tags and excludes soft 404 errors in the robots.txt.

3/ Content Creation

  • Old world: SEOs do keyword research and write content briefs. Writers create the content.
  • New world: SEOs automate keyword research with AI and create hundreds of relevant articles as a foundation for writers to build on.

All of this is already possible today with AI workflow tools like AirOps or Apify, which chain agents and LLMs together to scrape, analyze, transform data or create content.

Moving forward, we’ll spend much more time building automated systems instead of wasting time on point analyses and catalogs of recommendations. The SEO work will be defining logic, setting rules, prompting and coding.

building automated systems Building workflows with AirOps (Image Credit: Kevin Indig)

You Can Learn (Almost) Anything With AI

I never made the time to really learn Python or R, but with the help of Chat GPT and Gemini in Colab, I can write any script with natural language prompts.

When the script doesn’t work, I can paste a screenshot into Chat GPT and describe the issue to get a solution. AI helps with Regex, Google Sheets/Excel, R, Python, etc. Nothing is off-limits.

Being able to write scripts can solve problems like data analysis, a/b testing and using APIs. As an SEO, I’m no longer dependent on engineers, data scientists or writers to perform certain tasks. I can act faster and on my own account.

I’m not the only one to figure this out. People are learning to code, write and many other skills with AI. We can learn to build AI workflows by asking AI to teach us.

Search demand for coding with AI is explodingImage Credit: Kevin Indig
Search demand for write with AI is explodingImage Credit: Kevin Indig
Search demand for learn with AI is explodingImage Credit: Kevin Indig

When you can learn almost anything, the only limit is time.

The Work Of Writers Changes

Against common belief, writers won’t be crossed out of this equation but will play the critical role of editing, directing and curating.

In any automated process, humans QA the output. Think of car assembling lines. Even though AI content leaps in quality, spot checks reduce the risk of errors. Caught issues, such as wrong facts, weird phrasing or off-brand wording, will be critical feedback to fine-tune models to improve their output.

Instead of leg work like writing drafts, writers will bring AI content from good to great. In the concept of information gain, writers will spend most of their time making a piece outstanding.

The rising quality work spans from blog content to programmatic content, where writers will add curated content when searches have a desire for human experience, such as in travel.

A mini guide to Los AngelesTripadvisor’s attraction pages feature human-curated sections. (Image Credit: Kevin Indig)

Unfair Advantage

As often with new technology, a few first-mover people and companies get exponential value until the rest catch up. My worry is that a few fast-moving companies will grab massive land with AI.

And yet, this jump in progress will allow newcomers to challenge incumbents and get a fair chance to compete on the field.

AI might be a bigger game changer for SEOs than for Google. The raw power of AI might help us overcome challenges from AI Overviews and machine learning-driven algorithm updates.

But the biggest win might be that SEOs can finally make something instead of delivering recommendations. The whole value contribution of SEOs changes because my output can drive results faster.

Survey: ChatGPT and AI Content – Can people tell the difference?

Artificial Intelligence Voice Scams on the Rise with 1 in 4 Adults Impacted


Featured Image: Paulo Bobita/Search Engine Journal

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