The Key Takeaways from MKGO#6

4 years ago

We were very pleased to welcome four more excellent speakers to the sixth edition of MKGO, Aira’s biannual digital marketing event. 

It was a night of insightful talks on local SEO, link building, machine learning and the future of Google Ads. It was also an opportunity for us to announce MKGO 2020, which will be bigger and better than anything we’ve done so far.

Read on for a summary of the event:

The Importance of Optimising for Local SEO

Speaker: Dan Brooks

Dan Brooks MKGO 6

Dan, one of Aira’s SEO team, opened his talk by discussing his recent experiences using local solicitors when buying a house. Dan used Google to research local solicitors and shortlisted a list of 20 local businesses to contact regarding the services they offer, purely based on what he found on Google. 

Why is this important? Well, if these businesses hadn’t optimised for their local SEO through their Google My Business listings then the likelihood is Dan wouldn’t have found them.

To give some more context, Dan delved into the Nicosia Model, which is the four-step decision making process we go through as a consumer:

  1. Attitudes - a consumer's attitude towards a business is key to them making a purchase 
  2. Information - is information readily available to us as a consumer and is this information about the product or service able to provide us with a solution to our problem? 
  3. Acting - this is the decision stage, we’re now ready to make a purchase
  4. Feedback - this is really important to consumers so how do you gather it as a business?

As a business owner you want to make sure you’re fulfilling these elements, so how can you do this?

Optimising for local SEO is fundamental to a business. You want to be in the right place at the right time for the right type of queries.

Two key factors to remember:

  1. 97% of people learn about people online before they commit
  2. 92% will look at the first page of SERPs alone

Twitter survey

Dan’s top tips for optimising for local SEO (that will help you increase and monitor your local visibility)

1. Reviews

86% of consumers read reviews online


  • Use a free tool called GatherUp (free chrome extension) - you’ll need a Google account to leave reviews. Something that’s well worth mentioning to customers when you contact them
  • Search for your business, make sure your correct Google My Business listing is triggered and your details are correct
  • Create a review link to forward onto happy customers. Important - make sure that you have permission to contact them
  • Send them a follow-up email following their purchase of your product or service - try to make it as personal as possible. If you know they have a holiday coming up, ask them about it!


  • Leave reviews on your own business (your review and even your GMB listing can be removed)

2. Add the right categories

  • Make sure your primary category is right e.g. ‘Financial Lawyer’ rather than ‘Lawyer’
  • Look at your competitors
  • Be specific!

Google Posts

  • Take advantage of this - free to use as part of your GMB profile
  • Get content higher up in the SERP results by using Google Posts
  • Get additional traffic to your site

3. NAP

Stands for:

Name, Address, Phone number

  • Make sure these are consistent across your whole site, your GMB listing and any directories
  • Additional contact numbers will reduce spam calls but remember to add them as additional contact numbers across your GMB profile

4. UTM parameters

  • You can create your own URL via Google Analytics’ free URL builder tool
  • Create as many as you like to track your local traffic more specifically, e.g. add a tracked URL to your GMB listing to track who is coming through to your website via GMB and even through any Google posts

5. Images

  • Add images to your GMB. Add at least 10 high-quality images and keep uploading more over time
  • Make your business look as good as it can 
  • Don’t use stock images. If you’re predominantly web-based, consider adding screenshots of your work or a specific piece of code
  • You don’t need to spend loads of money on this. Smartphones will be more than good enough for the images you need
  • Test the use of video - it works! Some ideas could be a basic introduction to your business, video tutorials or even product reviews

6. Don’t SPAM!

  • Google doesn’t like this and your listings can be removed
  • It also does your business no favours
  • Keep your business name as accurate as possible

Media Relations for Link Building 101

Speaker: Jasmine Granton

jasmine granton mkgo6

Having made the leap from traditional PR to a digital PR agency just over a year ago, Jasmine shared some insights that many of us in digital PR can often overlook, as well as tips those in traditional PR can take if they’re looking to make the jump (as many now are) into the world of digital. 

Jasmine focussed on sharing her and Aira’s process for taking a digital PR approach to link-building for SEO and - most importantly - highlighted proven ways that will help you (yes you) build links to yours or your client’s site

Read on for Jasmine’s top tips for securing those ever tricky links:

Tip 1: Get your media lists super organised 

Before launching willy-nilly into outreaching a campaign, Jasmine advised taking a solid amount of time to get your media list right. Not only will this mean you’re pitching into journalists that will actually be likely to cover your content, but it will also mean you don’t run the risk of spamming any contacts - not good for relationship building. 

A process-driven media list is the best approach you can take.

Jasmine even created a skeleton prospecting list template, similar to the ones we create at Aira, to help build the foundation for great outreach - you can find it for yourself here

Tip 2: Be specific & tailored with the sites & journalists you’re pitching to 

Jasmine shared some amusing but insightful tweets from an editor at The Sun who is on the receiving end of a whole load of irrelevant pitches for the type of content she writes about. Yes, this means you run the risk of getting named and shamed on Twitter, but it’s also just a waste of your time - spend enough time researching the journalists, writers and editors on your media list to make sure they’re the best fit for your campaign. 

Jasmine also explained how reactive stories - jumping on the back of news stories that relate to your brand - is a technique both traditional and digital PR people can use effectively. She also discussed the importance of ensuring the majority of your content is evergreen - essentially, your campaign won’t ‘run out of time’ to be relevant. 

Tip 3: Find your contact’s details using the right tools

So you know who you want to pitch to… but how do you find their contact details to get in touch? 

Apparently stalking their address isn’t the best way to get a campaign in front of them, but using a media database tool or Twitter can do a world of good. In fact, the team at Aira has seen success from pitching directly on Twitter. 

However, Jasmine explained (with some supporting tweets from journalists) that it’s important to get a feel for how your ideal contacts like to be pitched - if you’ve seen a journalist tweet that ‘DM pitches are the bane of my life’ then - guess what - don’t DM them. But follow them on Twitter so you can get these useful insights!

Tip 4: Perfect your subject line so you get noticed (and don’t rely on gut instinct - do your research!)

A subject line might seem like a very insignificant element of the outreach process, but considering journalists get hundreds of email pitches a day, the only way they’re going to feel inclined to open yours will be if the subject line grabs their attention. 

Jasmine explained how, at Aira, we used to get a good open rate from our pitches - but that was before we did some proper research into the type of subjects journalists are more inclined to open. After implementing findings from A/B testing, the team’s open rates went from 30% to 52%! Don’t just rely on gut instinct and test, test, test, Jasmine recommended. 

Tip 5: Cut the waffle from your pitch emails

Basically, get to the point. 

From speaking with journalists and keeping a beady eye out on journalists’ twitter feeds, writers on the receiving end of PR pitches want to know what the pitch email is about in the first two sentences. Jasmine has also had success from:

  • The use of colour, bold, italics and straight-talking language to ensure the journalist can see the main story as soon as they open your email
  • Share data from the campaign in a clear, simple and digestible format
  • Make their job as easy as possible by sharing a snippet of the campaign visual, a press release and embed code within the pitch

(And also check your spelling!)

Tip 6: Don’t pitch and forget 

One follow-up email can be really helpful in order to secure a response from a journalist. But don’t, in Jasmine’s words, be ‘needy or annoying’ - get the balance between that, and them forgetting your pitch. Basically the same as dating, right?

Avoid calling a journalist out of the blue, and don’t get spammy with your follow ups. If they don’t reply, just gotta take the hint - they don’t want your campaign at the moment. 

Machine Learning and Python for Marketing Automation 

Speaker: Ruth Everett

ruth everett mkgo 6

Ruth is a technical SEO and content executive at Deepcrawl. She opened her talk by putting a problem to the audience: marketers are busy people! 

Ruth’s suggested solution to this problem is machine learning and automation.

So what is machine learning?

“Machine learning is an application of artificial intelligence (AI) that provides systems the ability to automatically learn and improve from experience without being explicitly programmed.” - Source

Ruth clearly explained the four steps of machine learning:

  1. Run a script to train the data using a dataset
  2. Summarise and visualise the dataset
  3. Evaluate algorithms
  4. Make predictions

So many companies are already using machine learning and we come across it in our lives without realising. For example, Twitter-curated timelines based on recent interactions and our Spotify and Netflix suggestions, based on what we’ve watched and listened to. 

Data is the fuel for all of the automation that we interact with on a day to day basis.

Automation possibilities

So why should we care about machine learning and what benefits will it have?

Ruth quoted MKGO 2020 speaker Britney Muller who explains this really well:

“Machine learning is becoming more accessible and will free us up to work on higher level strategy. Allowing us to spend time finding the solution not the problem.”

This links back to our original problem: marketers are really busy people with not much time!

If we spent less time and therefore money on important tasks we could achieve even more output. 

Ruth used a great example of how marketers spend their time:

If you spend 5 hours a week using Excel, thats 20 hours a month, which is over 200 hours a year! If your average salary was around £12 per hour then that’s £2,400 worth of time on an exercise that could potentially be automated and this time could be used in a more efficient way.

So what are the possibilities of machine learning?

Machine learning can make our day-to-day lives easier in so many ways. It can help us with personalised marketing, content creation, social media automation, predictive analysis, social listening and we can engage with customers more.

SEOs can also use machine learning to automate meta descriptions and title tags, evaluate quality content, optimise images, evaluate content quality, analyse internal links and much more! 

Powering machine learning with Python

Python is an open-source interactive programming language and it’s fairly easy to learn!

Both Google and YouTube use Python as it allows them to develop and produce maintainable features as well as using fewer people.

This can help us by automating repetitive tasks. and solving complex problems that may otherwise take hours. 

Ruth made an important statement that it’s not replacing our jobs, but future-proofing them, as it’s allowing us to understand data better and therefore make data-driven decisions. This in turn allows us to have confidence in our recommendations as there’s evidence to back up what we’re saying and gives us time to focus on other optimisation efforts.

In summary, Ruth’s insight into machine learning and automation showed us that:

  • Machine learning will help us understand and solve problems faster - freeing up our time for more valuable work
  • Automation with machine learning will allow us to optimise marketing campaigns and improve customer experiences
  • We can also use machine learning to understand data better provide evidence to back up our decisions.

The Trends Driving the Future of Google Ads

Speaker: Finn McDuffie

finn mcduffie mkgo 6

Our final speaker for the evening was Finn McDuffie, a Googler who had flown in from Google’s HQ in Dublin to speak about the trends driving the future of Google Ads.

Finn kicked off by doing a bio on himself that was entirely automated by Google. This was done via Google Ads personalisation, which had ‘learnt’ who Finn was as an individual based on his behaviour online, via Google searches.

This tied in nicely to Finn’s next point about how the future of ads is machine learning.

He explained how as consumers we have never been so connected - we are more curious, demanding and impatient, and all of these traits represent an opportunity for businesses to harness this and deliver exceptional service to customers.

And what is the best way to do this? Via machine learning.

To prove his point, Finn gave us examples of how we are using machine learning every day, perhaps without even realising. When you search through your phone pictures for ‘dog’, your phone will bring those images up, which is done via machine learning. The smart reply tool in Gmail, which predicts how you’re going to finish your sentence - also machine learning.

So, how does this work with Google ads? 

Smart creatives

Finn explained how over 75% of advertising impact is determined by creative quality, and went on to show us an example of three different users searching for the same term on Google, ‘best hotel in London’, but each consumer having very different needs and ideas on what these hotels would be for them.

Using smart creatives can help deliver the right messages to the right user in this example, by using rich user intent signals to understand customers’ needs - machine learning customises the ads based on these customers’ needs.

Finn summarised by explaining that humans simply cannot create thousands of different versions of ad copy to suit each individual’s needs. But with consumers being so much more demanding and expecting the right results to show and be tailored to them, this is needed, and this is where machine learning comes in.

So, the future of Google Ads? It’s automated.

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