BrightonSEO 2019: Top Takeaways from the South's premier Search event

By Evolved • 20 September 2019 • minutes reading time

We recently sent three of our SEO team down to BrightonSEO 2019, the biannual Search conference on the sunny South Coast. BrightonSEO provides a chance for those working in the Search industry to “meet, learn and do their job a little better” and it’s a popular one – tickets usually sell out in around 10 minutes! Since we had three lucky people there for the September event, we wanted to share our Top Takeaways (no, not that kind) from the event.

So, without further ado, here’s Danielle Jones (SEO Account Manager), Sam Taylor (Technical SEO Consultant) and Lucy Dodds (Content Marketing Executive) with the scoop on BrightonSEO 2019:

Our gals at the Women in Tech SEO meet-up at BrightonSEO 2019 (hiding at the back)

Lucy Dodds

Takeaway 1

One of the first talks I saw was delivered by MacNaught Digital’s Director, Stacey MacNaught, who shared her knowledge on ‘Content Marketing for Links: Stretching Smaller Budgets’.

After being blown away by Stacey featuring content from Evolved Search for our client, ABC Finance, I had to hold myself back from shouting, ‘We made that!’ But it’s a good job I didn’t, because I learned some valuable things about content creation instead.

With more competition than ever before, it’s the ideas that will make you stand out, not the format. Never cut down on ideation time, because fantastic content begins with a fantastic idea.

Our content for ABC Finance front and centre!

Content can look amazing if you have the budget for it. But if you don’t, it’s worth remembering that major news sites are looking for a story to print. Media assets can help, but it’s the story that journalists want first and foremost.

I’ll be sure to remember this when planning content for clients with budgets of all sizes, because even if you can spend thousands on a well-designed asset, it’s nothing without the story.

For the original images we do create, I won’t be forgetting this genius advice from Stacey either: ‘put images on Creative Commons so they can be linked to again’. I hadn’t thought of doing this before, but of course, it makes complete sense!

Takeaway 2

I also went to talks which focused on outreach and PR, which were incredibly helpful. While I might not be sending emails or seeking the perfect publications for my story, knowing what a journalist wants will hugely improve my own content ideation and creation. With a combined thanks to two Brighton SEO speakers, I discovered exactly that.

Credit goes to Carrie Rose from Rise at Seven and her strikingly-titled ‘How to Create a Sexy AF PR Pitch to Land Sexy AF Links’ talk, plus Zazzle Media’s Alex Jones and his session on ‘Supporting Content: The Secret Weapon for Hero Campaign Success’.

So, here’s what I learned – what journalists want, in a nutshell: A justified, unique and original story with a shock factor. Serve this story on a plate by making it accessible with headlines, sources and media provided. Supporting content like case studies and interviews shouldn’t be forgotten, either. Our Senior PR & Outreach Manager, Ruth Walker, provided similar insight in her recent blog post, so check that out while you’re at it!

Knowing all these factors in advance of the creation process will help me craft better content. I’ll be asking myself, would this piece give a journalist exactly what they want? And if I can’t answer that and satisfy every one of the considerations above, then it’s back to the drawing board.

Takeaway 3

The last top takeaway I have from BrightonSEO is how important it is to stand out from the crowd. We already know how much competition there is out there, so how can we get noticed without breaking the bank? Two different conference speakers showed me how.

First up was ‘The Cash Strapped Marketer’s Guide to SEO’ from Avenue Digital’s Helen Pollitt. Helen explained how you can’t always be the number one brand due to factors beyond your control, like not having enough budget. But what we can do is consider what our competitors aren’t doing.

Helen says we need to ‘think outside the box’ with the competition and be different, using assets we already have. Look for niches, like video assets or long-tail keywords that aren’t covered elsewhere – and then take advantage.

In fact, there are lots of niches out there which not every website covers well. For example, Steph Whatley, SEO Manager at Blue Array, discussed one of these uncovered areas in her talk, ‘How to ‘SEO’ Forums, Communities and User-Generated Content’.

Steph explained that forums are ideal for increasing your visibility through SERPs if you can optimise user-generated content well. Steph also called forums a ‘huge unmined area for content creation’, so if your competitors don’t have them, it could be time for you to get involved.

Whenever I audit onsite content, I’ll be sure to delve into how our clients can benefit from doing what their competitors aren’t. Plus, there’s one final tip from Helen that we can all make use of: use custom search engines to look at competitors only and see if you should outrank them because your content is better. Because let’s face it, you want your content to be the very best!

Danielle Jones

Takeaway 1

Let’s be real: we all experience the same issues when it comes to migrations.

Being an SEO Account Manager, I’ve had to project manage my fair share of site migrations throughout my career and some are tricky to say the least, so “Don’t F*ck Up Your Site Migration” by Serena Pearson was a must-see for me at BrightonSEO and she didn’t disappoint.

A few key points from the talk that I’ve found myself coming back to are: 

  • PLAN, PLAN, PLAN – Create lists, be organised, save old crawls and be patient. 
  • DON’T underestimate the time the migration will take – Migrations are a huge task and you need to be realistic with timeframes and try not to rush everything all at once. The risk of rushing a migration to get the site live because the client says so, far outweighs the risk of properly planning out the migration with ample time. Remember, you’re the one with the knowledge and experience in the industry to educate the client that these things take time and can’t be rushed and the risks of doing so. 
  • BENCHMARK – Ensure you have data from before the migration and monitor daily after go live. Losing traffic during migration is inevitable, however, it’s getting the numbers back to where they were quickly afterwards that is most important. 
  • COMMUNICATE – Ensure you have a good communication system and everybody is aware of who is responsible for which part. You don’t want to be in a “he said/she said” situation. Regular updates with stakeholders are key. 
  • Migrations NEVER go to plan (I know, I mentioned ‘PLAN, PLAN, PLAN’ before, but the initial planning is to reduce how ‘not to plan’ the migration will go) – when Serena said this the room let out a chuckle, it was good to know that I wasn’t the only one that had experienced a migration that didn’t go smoothly. Migrations are an ever-changing beast, involving lots of teams and stakeholders, issues WILL crop up, so you need a plan for when things go amiss. 

Takeaway 2

Do things your competitors won’t, or can’t. – Sam Marsden, DeepCrawl

Don’t just do something because you feel like everyone else is doing it so it’s the right thing to do. Be unique, put your own spin on things and don’t be afraid to ask journalists their opinions too.  This “challenger” approach was echoed in several of the talks through the day.

This talk was also an important one for me as I’m responsible for client strategies. From Alex Jones’ talk on “The Secret to Campaign Success”, it was great to hear best practice is already our practice at Evolved, but what’s the secret?

Ask questions about the content you’re creating: 

  • Has this been done before? 
  • Does it strike a chord? Who with?
  • Does it have our unique spin on it? 
  • Is there any ambiguity with it? The main asset is great, is there supporting content to go along with it? This will provide multiple angles and a better chance at success.
  • Get journos feedback early – they have a good idea on whether the piece will work/ if anything additional is needed and can point you in the right direction.
  • Stand out from the competition in any way you can.

Sam Taylor

Ahh, BrightonSEO. It was my first time at the event and I was really looking forward to delving into all that lovely Technical SEO insight. Happily, the event didn’t disappoint. Here are my top 3 insights from the event:

Takeaway 1

Focus on making your website an entity – singular, unique and distinguishable – it is the most important concept in SEO. (Greg Gifford from Search Engine Land)

I think it’s incredibly important for websites to focus on what makes their users happy and what’s most useful for them, not just what their competitors are doing. Innovate, do something different, and make sure that you are thinking with your users in mind.

This is huge focus for Google and should be for you, too.

Takeaway 2

From an Ahrefs study of over 3 million queries, they found that the average page ranks for over 1,000 queries. For 48.7% of pages, the top keyword – or “Hollywood term” – only results in 30% of that page’s traffic.

Stop focusing on making sure your content contains keywords, but instead answer questions and match patterns – and don’t forget the long-tail potential (Tim Soulo)

Stop focusing on your keyword density, your keyword count – or even your word count for that matter. Google is smart and they can associate your content with thousands of keywords, as they read and understand your content. Answer questions and intent in your content and worry less about the outdated techniques I mentioned previously!

Takeaway 3

When it comes to structured data, use as many types as possible. (Charlie Norledge from Impression)

With things like voice search and zero-click searches getting bigger every year, it’s important to ensure that you’re utilising as many structured data types as relevant for your website.

It is a relatively simple thing to implement into your site but can have great effects. Not sure what schema to implement? Take a look at what your competitors are doing.

And that’s it from us! Did we miss anything? If you were at BrightonSEO and want to share your best bits, get in touch with us on Twitter!

See you next year, BrightonSEO, thanks for a great couple of days.

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