Brighton

Along with around 1000 discerning UK SEOs (and a few from overseas) two members of the Boom team (myself and Robert) descended upon sunny seaside town Brighton on Friday the 13th of April.

Read on for my (slightly delayed) round-up of the day’s events:

The Morning

The day kicked off with a bang and arguably the highlight of the conference, ‘Ask the Engines‘: a heated discussion between Brighton SEO attendees and a number of influential figures in the search world including Google’s Pierre Far and Bing’s Dave Coplin.

Hot topics included the future of the SEO industry, the recovery process for link penalties and perhaps the most controversial subject of the day: the true reasoning behind Google’s decision to hide search queries.

To the surprise of no-one, Pierre was anything but straight and forthcoming with his answers, and as suspected, there were no big ranking factor reveals.

The general consensus put forward by Pierre was that we should be focusing on creating great content rather than worrying about ranking factors. According to Pierre, great content will naturally lead to great rankings.

Bing’s Dave Coplin did however go against the grain by revealing that Facebook and Twitter are most definitely ranking factors for Microsoft; something that has led to the Boom team giving a push to the social element of their monthly strategies.

The morning moved swiftly on to a lively presentation from Philip Sheldrake in which he discussed how the next web (3.0) will bring about some major changes for the SEO industry.

The resounding point of which was that rather than ‘improving the visibility of a website in search engines’ our role will be ‘improving the presentation, discoverability and usefulness of data, information and knowledge for all stakeholders’.

This was followed by a presentation of a slightly different nature from Sam Noble, Digital Marketing Director at London and Southampton based Koozai.

Sam spoke about the process involved in rebranding her company, and offered advice to anyone looking to launch or re-brand in the near future.

Sam’s key points:

  • Research
  • Employ a specialist
  • Choose a unique and memorable name
  • Secure your trademarks
  • Register domain names and social profiles – whether or not you plan to use them

Next up was Adam Lee from Brighton social media agency, No Pork Pies. Adam’s presentation ‘Killer Market Research for Peanuts’ demonstrated how to execute great market research on the cheap.

Some of Adam’s key tips were:

  • Use social media monitoring tools to find out what your target audience are saying and doing.
  • Execute demos, observations, polls, user testing and focus groups to better understand your existing customers and how you can evolve your brand in line with their wants and needs.

After a brief word from two of the event’s sponsors, searchmetrics and Linkdex, Glenn Jones, founder of Madgex, took to the stage.

Titled ‘Microformats and SEO’, Glenn’s presentation focused on how we should start getting to grips with schema markup. Marking up websites helps search engines capture structured data; data they use to improve the quality of their search results. Google also uses structured data to create rich snippets, which show valuable information like review ratings and author pictures.

You can markup structured data using either:

  • Microformats
  • RDFa
  • Microdata

Next we were greeted by Roland Dunn of Cloud Shapes whose presentation ‘Searchbots: Lost Children or Hungry Psychopaths?‘ looked at the journey taken by searchbots when they crawl websites.

Despite being the final on-topic portion of the morning session, lunch was held off briefly for an interlude from magician Magic Sam (Sam Hurst) who got the whole audience involved in a trick that revealed the reason behind the mystery serviettes – though I’m sure we weren’t the only ones who were sad to find out the mystery reason wasn’t cake…

Lunchtime

While my lunch break was undoubtedly great, (I ate an excellent sandwich and took a stroll in the sun to the seaside), it was probably Robert who used this time most wisely.

Not only did Robert manage to secure a few brief minutes to chat with Pierre, but he also managed to talk Sam Noble into agreeing to let us interview her for a Boom blog post with a difference – watch this space!

The Afternoon

Brighton SEO’s afternoon session began with a lively presentation from Charlie Peverett – a content writer turned SEO. In ‘It’s Only Words? Working with Content Strategy’ Charlie talked about how as a content writer he worked, blissfully unaware that SEO even existed. Now fully emerged in the SEO industry, Charlie shared his take on the importance of a top quality content strategy.

Next up was Lexi Mills, PR consultant at Distilled.

Lexi’s presentation was of particular interest to myself and Robert since PR is something we’ve always engaged in, but have never pushed to its limits.

Easily the most significant takeaway from Lexi’s time on the stage was to ‘get on the phone’; something, admittedly, a lot of us SEOs aren’t great at doing. However, the truth is that big-name journalists can receive hundreds of emails a day – if you want to get their attention, you need to pick up the phone.

Lexi was followed closely by James Owen, an in-house SEO for hotels.com, who works alongside a number of other SEO agencies across the world.

James spoke about his experience of maximising your return on investment when working with multiple SEO agencies.

The final full-length presentation of the day was led by Stefan Hull of Propellernet, whose presentation ‘From Panda to Black Swan’ discussed how SEOs should anticipate and prepare for algorithm updates.

For those who don’t know, a ‘black swan’ is, in the words of Stefan, an event that ‘is a surprise to the observer, has a major impact and is later rationalised by hindsight, as if it could have been expected’.

The overall consensus from Stefan’s speech tied in nicely with that of the morning panel discussion: that we need to stop thinking about what Google wants, and start thinking about what users want – because that is what Google wants.

20×20 Presentations

The day rounded off with a series of 20×20 presentations, the idea being that each presentation would be made up of twenty slides lasting twenty seconds each; six minutes in total.

While there were many great points put forward by the 20×20 speakers, it felt to me as if the short length of the presentations meant the speakers naturally spoke very quickly in order to cram as much in as possible.

However this didn’t discount the fact that there was an abundance of valuable hints and tips put forward; follow the links below for a more detailed insight into the 20×20 presentations’ content:

Chelsea BlackerSell the Sizzle, Not the Search

Tony KingEnterprise SEO Titties (Tools, Tips and Techniques)

Tim Ireland SEO & PPC Working Together in Harmony

Nichola Stott Mobile Serendipity

The stand-out 20×20 for me came from James Carson, who executed a clear and well-paced presentation that was by no means devoid of information. In ‘Why I Believe Authors are the Future’ James articulated the importance of putting your stamp on your work with the rel=author tag, and how Google is looking to favour ‘owned’ content over that with no definable author.

If you haven’t set up your authorship yet, I suggest you do it now.

Sadly we left shortly before the big finale and I missed the reveal of the ‘better than an Xbox prize’; I’m still trying to find out what it was – answers on a postcard please! (or perhaps just leave a comment below…)