Well we did it, amigos. Camping in an online queue for elusive tickets, speedy fingers, card details and some annual leave wranglings…that 6 month-old scramble with fellow search marketing aficionados resulted in quite the prize: a ticket to BrightonSEO’s September 2016 conference. And my, was it worth it.

Most of you will know what BrightonSEO is all about by now, hopefully aided by my round up for the April 2016 BrightonSEO. This time, however, was its biggest ever gathering, with over 3,500 search marketers piled into the Brighton Centre.

As always, there was A LOT to take away from this conference. But here are five of my favourites:

The crowd don’t identify themselves as ‘SEOs’ anymore

This was an interesting moment. During Kirsty Hulse’s excellent talk in the Content Strategy session, she raised the question: “Who here considers themselves an SEO?” (or words to that effect). Barely anyone put their hand up—and even those few that did behind me (baring in mind I was probably about 10 rows from the front) had to be prompted by her asking again.

So wait…no SEOs in the room at a conference called BrightonSEO?! Most of the people I spoke to were involved in Content in some way or another. Whether this was due to the track title (“Content Strategy”) or not, it seems a significant insight into how the digital landscape has changed. Even if SEO is sometimes considered a dirty word outside the industry, surely that’s not become the case within the industry too…has it?

In reality, not really. But what it does suggest is that less people are drilling solely down into SEO as a skillset – it’s more likely that this is seen as ‘something we do’ as part of a digital marketer’s role. Arguably this is a good thing; SEO is becoming normalised.

Not all video is created equal

Sometimes the greatest realisations are ones that make you smack your forehead and exclaim “OF COURSE!”

In September’s conference, this tidbit came courtesy of Wistia’s Phil Nottingham.

For starters, Phil reminded us that regularly producing video content does not mean you have a wider video strategy. And even if the costs of creating video content are lower than ever, why not make sure your video efforts actually mean or do something for your business? Before you even begin, you have to think about where you should be hosting your video.

Because there’s a big difference between YouTube videos and Facebook videos

Phil raised particular attention to the massive difference there is between creating video for YouTube, and creating video for Facebook. Because there is a big difference between this content.

Critically, YouTube = AURAL + visual, with the emphasis very much on the aural (such as the audio), while Facebook = VISUAL + aural. And your approach to creating video assets needs to reflect that difference, because you will not get the same results.

So in conclusion, always think platform-first, and ingrain the following steps in your brain:

Q. Where should I host my video?

1. Work out where your target market are active.
2. Choose the platforms to focus on.
3. Create content for the platform.

Simple stuff, but keep this in mind when creating video content and it will save a lot of headaches and retrospective justification. And that can only be good.

Images as backlink tools

Content marketing ≠ link building. That was Stacey MacNaught’s first main point of the day. And as much as I love content marketing, I have to agree.

Instead, you have to think of content marketing as part of the process of linkbuilding, and vice versa. They’re symbiotic, but that doesn’t mean one doesn’t need lighting before the whole process starts cooking for you.

And Stacey has a great little idea to kick this off:

Creating images as part of your content that will become semi-passive link building machines.

Sounds fancy. But how…?

Easy! Simply use image distribution platforms to garner and encourage attribution links…back to your website.

You can do this by creating images, photos etc, and adding them, free of charge, to Flickr. Provided you’ve identified a topic people are seeking images for (i.e. sharks, Manchester city centre, or whatever), optimised the information on your images, and noted that you want attribution to ‘x’ website, you’re golden.

Sit back, relax, and wait as people seeking out the perfect image for their article stumble across your perfect image solution. All going well, they should then add an attribution to the image of yours they’re borrowing, and hey presto! Backlinks galore. You just have to check every now and again to chase up!

You can also find her slide deck below, which details an example or two of this. It also offers a great insight into her overall focus: the lessons white hat link builders can learn from ye olde churn ‘n’ burn spammers from back in 2009. Give it a read!

Personalisation may make a SEO’s job harder, but they need to be involved

The rise of angularjs (utilised for personalised, non-static content etc.) is a huge challenge for SEOs, as the URLs are not static, and the content is not fixed. SEOs have a reputation for telling people not to use dynamic URLs because it is not SEO-friendly per se, but there’s a problem with this:

75% of consumers like it when brands personalise their content
– Kirsty Hulse, Many Minds Digital


And this is exactly the point: personalisation is the future, because customers want it. So why are SEOs so iffy about using dynamic URLs?

Because Google said so…8 years ago

In 2008, Google told us static URLs were “advisable”, meaning that non-static URLs clearly cause problems…

…but Google CAN handle dynamic URLs! As Kirsty pointed out, just take a look at Argos.co.uk ranking despite the car crash of a URL structure they use.

As more content becomes dynamic, SEO needs to become part of the conversation! No more being cut out because SEOs historically just don’t want to deal with dynamic URLs. Content personalisation can help guide someone through a conversion funnel with timely, relevant messages.

And as much as non-marketing folk claim they feel creeped out thinking how much information Google etc have on them, everyone appreciates a comfortable level of familiarity. Make people feel welcome by recognising their needs (non-creepy-like) and they will stay. What this means is that content personalisation can help guide someone through a conversion funnel. And at the end of the day, isn’t that we want? To deliver a product to a customer who needs it, wants it, and tells all their friends about it?

“Ah. Right then…” said marketers everywhere, as those SEO-savvy and SEO-oblivious alike turned to have a little chat again. Quite right too.

SEO needs to be approached scientifically—don’t be a limey sailor…

…and assume your ‘optimisation’ works.

Will Critchlow of Distilled explains this excellently in his keynote session, which you can find at 8:27:57 on Authoritas’ recording of the mainstage. It involves lemons, limes, sailors, scurvy and polar bears—all to provide an analogy with SEO practices. What’s not to like?

Will’s main point is that you should never just make assumptions based on things you’ve been told work in the past. Don’t just obey SEO practices because they are considered ‘best practices’. Treat every SEO change like a science experiment: have a hypothesis, test it, and make the change accordingly. This is why A/B testing is so important.

Take the time to understand why this SEO tweak helps, and even if it does in your instance. Something that will work for one client, industry or topic will work better than it is “supposed” (huge airquotes here) to work, and other times it will fail miserably by comparison, and even negatively affect your rankings. So think first, don’t just do, and if possible split test. How you go about this is another conversation altogether, but it sounds like Distilled have a rather fancy ace up their sleeve coming soon…

And there’s plenty more search marketing goodness where that came from

For a full list of slides, The HOTH have very helpfully plonked all those tasty slide decks here. If watching is more your thing, then you can also find the full main stage talks on Authoritas’ YouTube channel. Check them out, and let me know:

What tip or tidbit did you glean from the conference? Is there anything huge I missed?

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