BrightonSEO: View from a Newbie SEO

I was lucky enough to visit the BrightonSEO conference on Friday, the aptly named SEO conference held in Brighton. There were many talks throughout the day covering a variety of topics; including advertising and branding as well as SEO.

I went down there to further my understanding of SEO and to learn more about internet marketing, and I left feeling like I’d done just that! It was great being in a room filled with people obviously passionate about their jobs in this industry too.

view of the stage at BrightonSEO

I ended up finding the whole day enjoyable and took away something from every talk. Here’s a rundown of the day as it went:

Predatory Thinking

The first talk of the day started off the conference fantastically. Dave Trott gave a talk on predatory thinking, and while it wasn’t all directly related to SEO there were parts that could easily make sense in internet marketing.

Dave spoke about advertisements not being noticed in the modern world, and explained that the key to a successful ad is separating it from the rest. He spoke about ads being part of a conversation and a conversation having different parts – impact, communication and persuasion which should be followed in that order. Dave drew a diagram and explained that most adverts skip straight to persuasion and completely miss impact which is the reason people ignore them.

The idea behind the predatory thinking title of the talk is that you’d kill off the competition by standing out from the rest. For an ad to be a successful, impact needs to come first.

Do You Speak Brand?

The next talk was done by Antony Mayfield and covered the link between brand marketing and SEO.

He talked about how applying both SEO and brand together is the way forward, creating “earned media” which includes aspects like social media, content and the user experience.

Speaking Your Users Language

The third talk of the day featured on the user experience. Stephanie Troeth delivered the talk and discussed how it’s not just about how a website looks.

Stephanie showed how the language on a site has as much effect as the style. She mentioned using emotional words; words to invoke feelings, and rational words; there to create more thought.

Stephanie also put forward designing a mobile version of a site before a standard computer version, as the mobile version will force you to cut down on all the unnecessary bits so it fits the smaller screen. You’ll see which content is the most important this way.

How To Win Friends. And Influence Robots.

This talk was really interesting. Martin Belam spoke about the user experience and SEO and how they must go together for the best results.

After introducing himself and mentioning some of his clients, Martin spoke about headlines and how they grab the user’s attention. Most pages on a site, whether it’s for news or a product, will have a headline – therefore these should be relevant and stand out so that they encourage people to click but also should be SEO optimised.

Martin spoke about it being similar for navigation. Search engines should be able to find their way around your site, but it’s also got to make sense for a user. Martin says that if you have to do clever things to “make sure that spiders can find their way around your site, you’ve probably broken it for humans too.”

It came across to me that the gist of the talk was: if a site works well for people it should work well for search engines too. It’s not all about the SEO.

Martin also mentioned something called “Loosemore’s Law” – the idea that the faster the internet and computers get, the less patience we have for waiting and the more frustrated we get when it runs a little slower than usual. He mentioned this in reference to making sure your page loads quickly and you have good server performance, but I found this quite interesting on its own!

Chasing The Algorithm: Smart SEO or Hopeless Effort?

Rebecca Weeks gave a case study next regarding a client that they tried to increase rankings for using only link building with no on-page optimisation. They had 7 weeks to raise 52 keywords.

The panda and penguin updates caused them issues, but they began focusing on local optimisation by gaining links from local based websites. This worked really well for them and they reached around 50% of their targets.

Rebecca ended by saying that they found local links worked well for local optimisation, but good content on the site is needed too. She finished the talk saying that chasing the algorithm isn’t going to work, and it’s much better to just do proper SEO.


Will Critchlow, founder of Distilled, presented a talk on APIs (application programming interfaces) next on behalf of Tom Anthony who was unable to attend. In simple terms, APIs are computers talking to computers.

This talk was another that really intrigued me, as Will used the evolution of computers and the web to put forth some ideas about where we’ll be in the future as web users.

He presented how the use of the computer and internet has gone from a conscience effort to something completely intertwined into our modern lives. Web pages used to just be black text on a white background presenting specific information and it was all catalogued in directories. Now there are pages for everything and searches are going from generic to more specific, but where will it go from here?

API’s are already starting to pop up in Google searches. If you’re searching for weather information, for example, you don’t need to visit a web page. Google presents the results right at the top.

This raises the question, could this be the start of the end for web pages as we know it? Why visit another web page when the information is already there on the results page. This is already seen in Apples Siri and what we know of other new products like Google Glass, which only delivers the information and not actual web pages.

Could direct information be the new web? And if it is, how do we market to it?

How To Be A Better SEO

After lunch, Richard Baxter gave a talk on how to be a better SEO. As someone still new to this, I made sure to take plenty of notes on this!

Some of the ideas I took from this talk were to set goals, chase opportunities, keep looking for new processors, specialise, to work towards making everything better each day and to take myself out of my comfort zone. All in all, lots of great thoughts on self-improvement.

SEO Deliverance

Tony King gave a talk on “SEO deliverance” after that, which was more focused on being part of an SEO team in a big company. He talked about how you should deliver something to get you noticed if you work in an in-house team.

Tony also spoke about understanding the company’s site, knowing the market and the competition inside it so you know who is competing for what keywords and how people are doing. He carried on to talk about how to develop a strategy and create a plan for improving the companies rankings.

Separated By A Common Language

Next up was a talk by Lynne Murphy on the differences between the English and American English languages. The basic premise she was trying to get across was that American English was closer to how English used to be, before changes in our language made it what it is today.

None of this was really related to SEO, but the talk was interesting regardless.

A Decade In Affiliate Marketing

James Little, an experienced affiliate, delivered a talk on how affiliate marketing has changed from its initiation into the industry it is today.

Again, this talk wasn’t related to SEO but it did provide an insight into how an industry close to internet marketing has progressed.

The Lightning Talks

After all the main talks were done, the lightning talks started. These were 7 minutes long each, but while short did give a lot of useful information:


The first was presented by Aleyda Solis on mobile SEO. I’d never thought of mobile SEO being much of a thing before, but, thinking about the increasing use of tablets and smart phones for people doing a quick search on the web, it makes sense that it’s important.

Aleyda went into quite a bit of detail during the 7 minutes to discuss how you should look at the way people are already using your mobile site and if your target audience are using mobile devices to look up your product, as well as the pros and cons of developing mobile sites in different ways. All in all, a very interesting look at mobile SEO.


Simon Penson followed with a talk on “Using Content Flow Variation and Visualisation To Win.” This was a really interesting talk on varying the content put out using peaks and troughs, troughs being the normal “top 5/10” lists or “quick tips” that are all over the internet and peaks being a bigger feature.


Following that talk, Yousaf Sekander came on stage to talk about “Social Media Reverse Engineering”. He started by throwing the common SEO phrase “content is king” on its head and saying it should instead be “content is kingmaker.”

However, Yousaf pointed out that great and shareable content isn’t easy or cheap to produce. He points out that finding your competitors’ best content is the key towards making your own content successful, because you’ll have a better idea of what already works.


The next lightning talk was by Berian Reed on “Future Proofing SEO on Large Websites.” Berian was from Auto Trader, and he was discussing some of their SEO strategy. He mainly spoke of a plugin called Tynt, which allows you to track when content is copy and pasted across the web, as well as tracking competition and finding out where they’ve gone wrong so you can avoid it.


Sion O’Connor came on to talk about “Client Checklist for SEOs” next. This was another interesting talk, because he discussed how SEO is seen from a client’s point of view. He offered a few examples of things you should ask a client before starting work with them, such as what their objectives are and even what their view of SEO is so that you’re on the same page when it comes to the work.


A great link prospecting idea came next from Danielle Fudge using Pinterest. Using a tool called Pinalytics, she was able to pull up the information from pins regarding certain topics which gave her a list of sites she could contact. The idea seems great, and looks like it’ll be a much faster way of finding sites to post content on.


Tom Lewis spoke about “Attributing Beyond The Last Click”, where he mentioned funding is too evenly spread out, spending money where it isn’t needed and could be better used elsewhere. He suggested that the approach to attribution should be redefined and not be limited by the cookie window, as customers can take longer to buy online. Clustering each stage into sections allows for a better spread of funding.


Jason Woodford got on stage to talk about “The Business of SEO and How It Can Make Our World A Better Place.” This was mostly talking about how SEO is a growing industry even during the economic downturn and how it’s a great industry to work in. I can’t help but agree.


Finally, the day ended with the final lightning talk by Anna Lewis from Koozai. She went over analytics and gave a couple of tips for people to make better use of it.


At the end of the day, I felt really enthused about all I’d learned. There were a lot of great ideas being expressed on that day, and I’m looking forward to seeing what we use here at Boom and what the future of internet marketing holds.

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