On a beautifully sunny Friday morning, the SEO team woke up earlier than usual and trekked down to Brighton. With the sun shining and the weekend within reach, the city was teeming with visitors – and surprisingly, most of them weren’t headed towards the beach. They – like us – were in town for BrightonSEO 2015, the free search marketing conference that happens twice a year. It’s a full day of talks on the latest industry insights, with hundreds of agencies, companies and marketers represented.

After a hectic but rewarding day of presentations, here’s what we learned.

Eve’s Top 3 (Content) Takeaways:

1. People share ideas, not formats.

When it comes to SEO content, we have a tendency to get wrapped up in formats – Infographics! Guides! Maps! – because we’re desperate for links and those mediums usually get good results. But we get so caught up in the format that the actual ideas behind them become almost an afterthought. We have to really think about the story behind our ‘format’ and why people will share it (i.e. to make them look smarter/more cultured/more interesting). Hannah Smith from Distilled gave a great talk all about this (click here to see her presentation deck).

2. Find the story in the data; don’t try to make the data fit your story.

Krystian Szastok from RocketMill gave a great talk about using DIY data visualisation to fuel a content marketing strategy. He touched on something that I’m sure many agencies struggle with: if you have what’s a stereotypically ‘boring industry’ client (I believe he gave an example of a waste management company, or similar) you think it’s difficult to come up with relevant, shareable content. But in any given industry there’s troves of data to tap into and find potent stories. It’s about angling the data and pairing it against other data to craft a newsworthy piece.

3. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel every time.

I think a lot of people’s gut instinct is that they need to create something completely new in order to get online success. But relying on recognisable themes/symbols can actually help you relate to the user. In Rebecca Lee’s presentation on PR and SEO, she talks about the difference between ‘storytelling’ and ‘storymaking.’ For example, an article in the Telegraph about mining sewage for metals like brass, platinum and gold is a modern ‘rags to riches’ Cinderella-esque story that people can easily identify. It can be beneficial to rely on established story lines so you can immediately connect with your audience.

Verena’s Top 3 (SERP and Technical) Takeaways:

1. Content cannibalisation is on the increase.

Pi Datametric’s Jon Earnshaw gave an interesting talk about how the approach “create more content” helped create a major content cannibalisation problem in SERPs and offered advice on how SEOs can identify & handle it. Jon firstly explained that keyword cannibalisation occurs when two or more pages within a website are competing for the same search term and Google cannot establish which page should appear for the given search term.

He then went on into explaining the four different types of keyword cannibalisation: 1) Internal keyword cannibalisation, 2) Sub Domain Cannibalisation, 3) International Cannibalisation and 4) Semantic flux and family cannibalisation.

Jon concluded his presentation by giving a few tips that help SEOs deal with cannibalisation. Alongside having clearly defined unique content, it is important to tell Google which site should appear in the search results for a certain search term by applying canonical tags across the site and investigating immediately when a suspicious drop in keyword positions can be observed (always check internal cannibalisation first!).

2. The way how users search will significantly change in the future – and machine learning will play a big role in that.

Tom Anthony from Distilled named his presentation “How to Spot a Bear – An Intro to Machine Learning for SEO”. As the name suggests, Tom went into explaining what rules humans use to spot a bear and how these rules can be applied to machine learning. Turns out it’s not that easy as humans also apply deep learning to recognising different objects. Nevertheless, over time Google has come up with algorithms that are becoming more and more sophisticated and that use a set of attributes to determine whether a site is relevant to a given search term.

Tom predicts that Google will be rolling out more and more machine learning based algorithm updates in the future which will be focussing on image & video labelling as well as machine learning generated image descriptions, some of which can be seen already for some Google searches. He predicts that these developments, with the idea of natural language faceted search in mind, will change the way users search in the future, and that factual accuracy will be more and more important for websites when it comes to rankings and establishing trustworthiness.

Will there even be an entirely machine learning generated algorithm at some point?

3. Analyse your competitor’s SERPs to gain advanced competitive advantage.

getSTAT CEO Rob Bucci delivered a comprehensive and engaging talk about competitor search strategy and performance which he perfectly showcased in a full SERP analysis experiment. Rob drew on a comparison of ecommerce giants Argos, Amazon and Ebay by looking at their SERPs and posed the following questions:

  1. What types of queries are most valuable to them? Brand queries? Screen size? Other?
  2. What user experiences are they optimising for? Product pages, search pages or other?
  3. Are they optimising for mobile devices?

After presenting the strategy he used and a great amount of statistics based on the three competitors SERPs which you can find out more about here, Rob concluded his talk by giving the following tips:

  1. Pick accessible keywords – Argos is beating Amazon by focusing on the 2nd most valuable keyword segment.
  2. Always rank your best UX – User experience should inform your ranking strategy.
  3. Watch out for mobile – And, hire a PR specialist.

Alice’s Top 3 (Linkbuilding) Takeaways:

1. Links are an extension of good marketing

In SEO we often focus on getting the link, however at Brighton SEO Samuel Scott gave a great talk called “Stop Thinking About Links. Start Thinking About Publicity!” He explained that links come as a by-product of good publicity, so instead of thinking of how to get more links, we should focus on creating solid marketing campaigns. This is definitely something worth thinking about as attention-grabbing marketing will result in more shares and more publicity!

2. New ways to build links

Another talk worth attending was Matthew Barby’s “10 Ways To Build A Link In 10 Minutes Flat”. Some of his ideas we already use regularly, for example guest posting, however he gave other ideas such as using Reddit, Wikipedia, and external content creators who are likely to share their articles via their social media channels.

3. Think about colour when creating images

In her presentation “Show Your Flare and Pivot for Social Image Sharing”, Erica McGillivray touched on the importance of colour when creating images to promote via social media. We all know that the most eye-catching images will get the most shares, and she said you can do this by using clear, crisp images with contrasting colours. She even mentioned to consider the background colour of the social media platform the image will be shared on!


Fireside Chat with Mark Wright

BrightonSEO 2015 concluded with a fireside chat with this year’s The Apprentice winner Mark Wright, who with the help of Lord Sugar set up his own SEO, PPC and social media marketing agency ClimbOnline. Mark was interviewed by Kelvin Newman and gave some interesting insights into the show and what he learned on the way. Apparently Mark and Lord Sugar are Whatsapp buddies and the ‘monkey face emoji’ is a favourite!


What did you learn at BrightonSEO this year?