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Brighton SEO 2022 – Summary & Highlights

by Sean Greally | 26.04.2022

There aren’t many ever-evolving fields like SEO. From constant Google algorithm changes to new tools and technological advancements, it feels like there’s an essential new SEO-related update every year – if not sooner. Insights into such a fast-paced industry are valuable, and that’s what makes the bi-annual Brighton SEO conference so unique. Entailing highly useful talks, networking sessions and discussions with fellow SEO experts, the overall experience of the conference is a rewarding one. All of that, plus the freebies. 

There was something special about this year’s return to the South coast, post pandemic. Not least because our very own SEO Account Director, Eilish Hughes, was to take the stage, discussing one of the world’s most essential topics – sustainability. It’s good to be back.

Off the back of the gorgeous weather and refreshing seaside atmosphere, we’ve rounded up our top takeaways from April’s conference.

SEO in a Sustainable Future

Eilish Hughes – SEO Account Director

Why save the best till last? Eilish Hughes appeared on stage mid-morning, and from the very start, her talk had the audience gripped. As recorded in one set of notes – ‘I can’t see the stage because everyone’s taking pictures of the slides.’ Sustainability truly is one of the world’s most important matters, regardless of the industry, and it’s already starting to play a fundamental role in search activity. No wonder the auditorium was hanging off Eilish’s every word on the subject.

Consumers are increasingly aware of sustainability in brands, and our Tug Retail Survey supports this. A massive 67% of Brits pay attention to the environmental and sustainability efforts of retail brands. What’s more, consumers are increasingly aware of ‘greenwashing’. This means that brands need to be able to back up their bold green or sustainable claims. You can’t say “I’m good for the planet” while bulldozing through the Amazon – consumers will know and they won’t thank you for it.    

Search engines are starting to factor sustainability into search. Heard of Ecosia? This nifty search engine was founded in 2009 with one main purpose – to give back to the planet. The increasingly popular search engine – 15,000,000 users and counting – donates 80% of its profits to reforestation. Consider this, Ecosia isn’t like Google. These figures illustrate how people are going out of their way to use a search engine that’s better for the planet. Ecosia even incorporates sustainability efforts into their algorithm. With Ecosia, truly environmentally friendly brands will rank higher. Brands even receive a leaf icon on the SERP, indicating to consumers that ‘this is an environmentally friendly brand.’ What if your brand is bad for the environment? Ecosia will slap a nasty coal plant right next to your page on the SERP – not a good look…

Everything we do has an impact on the environment. Changes won’t just be felt in consumer search and spending habits. Google has previously discussed how sustainability could play a big role in future algorithm changes.

Tug Take on SEO in a Sustainable Future:

Eilish encapsulated the mood of all of us here at Tug; we need to pay attention to sustainability now instead of later. We can all take personal responsibility in our day to day lives and encourage others to do the same. For businesses, however, the spotlight will only continue to illuminate those who are not making genuine efforts for our future. It’s time to act and make meaningful change.

How PPC Ad Fraud is Harming Your SEO

Stewart Boutcher – Chief Technology Officer

SEO and PPC are intrinsically linked. It’s an important point to consider, especially in the case of ad fraud – the focus of Stewart Boutcher’s intuitive talk. Did you know that 33% of paid visits from ads are bots? That means ⅓ of clicks aren’t real! 

These bots come from botnets and, while they’re not quite as concerning as Skynet, they do pose a problem. Whether it’s the work of a criminal organisation or individual malicious activity, these bots are designed to drive up the price and value of worthless spaces. As a consequence, premium brands will flock to place adverts on fake websites with fake traffic. Try not to scream, but some of these sites can make up to £2-3 million a day.

We hear you – this sounds like a Paid Media problem, but consider the bigger picture for a moment and you’ll find that SEO is affected far more than you might expect. Let’s picture the scene…

You, your PPC team and your client have recently found a great piece of digital real estate – a site with excellent activity. On this particular day you make it into the office, start sipping on your morning brew and, all of a sudden, this seemingly great site’s activity has dropped. That’s because there are fewer bots visiting the site in question. As a result, the bounce rate has gone up and your client is worried. These pesky bots had been masking the genuine bounce rate of human traffic all along. As a matter of fact, the bounce rate had really been much higher. If you found that example hard to follow, simply put, bots will harm your data; masking a poor visitor level and encouraging you to make a wrong decision.

Stewart’s suggestion to stop this, and rightly so, was to check in with your PPC team and see what they’re doing about ad fraud. Ask yourself this key question: are they preventing it from impacting your data?

Tug Take on How PPC Ad Fraud is Harming Your SEO:

Harmony is difficult to achieve in digital because there’s so much going on. Catching up with your colleagues and effectively communicating can go a long way in preventing problems, such as ad fraud influenced mistakes. As Stewart Boutcher suggests, speak to your PPC team and see what they’re doing about ad fraud.

Managing Expectations with Impossible Keywords

Jessica Maloney – SEO Partner

Performance is the name of the game when it comes to SEO. We all want to achieve the best results possible, utilising the newest technologies, trends, ideas and topics to raise the position of our content. Yet sometimes we need to take a step back and manage our expectations – a point Jessica Maloney was keen to convey. The same is true for your clients, who may well have unrealistic expectations of their content.

Whether it’s mismatched search intent, a low authority site, high competition or just a lack of relevant content, we’re willing to bet you know why the content isn’t performing as the client wants. Knowledge like that is fundamental and you have to remember that your client won’t know the same things you do. So what can you do to manage expectations?

Educating the client with data is a great option. Show them the SERP, keyword difficulty, approximate link data – available in Ahrefs – and competition. Put together a comprehensive analysis to show that you have pushed the content and then, when all is said and done, provide alternatives. 

What can you do? Add modifiers to keywords like alternatives such as “to… vs… or…” Try analysing competitors of a similar level. For example, what are they doing to rank for a competitive keyword? Consider too, in a situation where your URLs can’t get past page three, you can beat a big competitor on something they’re not focusing on. Other practices include: looking for missing content types, seeing where there’s a heavy PPC focus and removing stale content that’ll just weigh you down. With a thorough strategy and clear approach, you can manage clients’ expectations and possibly find a different way to improve their contents’ performance.

Tug Take on Managing Expectations with Impossible Keywords:

Managing expectations is crucial in client work. Jessica Maloney makes some very good points about how effective communication through data and providing realistic solutions can go a long way. Ultimately, after exhausting every option possible, there might not be a genuine avenue for increased performance. But only you will know, as the SEO expert, when that is the case.

What a comeback

It was great to be back in Brighton this year. There’s nothing like being on the south coast for this lively event. We look forward to the second outing later in the year, and are already wondering what the talks and the future of SEO will look like. Something tells us that sustainability is a subject worth keeping an eye on.