As BrightonSEO will tell you themselves, this marketing conference was built on the desire to talk at length about interesting stuff that people outside our industry find enormously boring. For a digi-agency like Brew, it’s an annual event that everyone in the office is desperate to attend.
But seriously, over the years Brighton SEO is a conference on the digital marketing calendar that has consistently delivered. No other festival quite makes us Brew people feel at home like this one.
Perhaps it’s that mixture of geek, creativity and cool. Or maybe it’s the thought of spending a couple of days by the sea – after all, we do live a stone’s throw from the actual monument which marks the geographical centre of England!
Or maybe it’s the food. Yes, that’s it. It’s the food!
Whatever the case here we decided to spend the full three days at BrightonSEO 2023 and were ridiculously excited about what was to come.
I had a ticket for Thursday and Friday having never ‘done’ a Thursday before. I was immediately rewarded for taking a punt on the extra day with a range of talks that really delivered, touching on a few ongoing themes prevalent through the conferences I’d attend over the next couple of days.
A side note: I tried hard not to include ChatGPT in these themes, but safe to say it was a topic that ran through everything – just when you thought it wasn’t going to be mentioned in a talk, there it was on the final slide or in the final point. Always referenced and ever-present.
My take-away themes therefore are:
- How to recycle and make your content scalable
- Don’t chase the Google Algorithm
- Think about customer intent
1. How to recycle and make your content scalable
Dale Bertrand instructed us to ‘stop writing SEO articles’ in his ‘Templated content that ranks’ talk. It wasn’t what I was expecting (in a good way) in that it armed me with a ton of ideas for content creation:
- Collection pages
- Niche buying guides
- Targeted service pages
- Comparison content
- Niche calculators
His method being – harvest data, build a page template, write copy (and/or use ChatGPT of course) and generate pages.
On Friday Phil Nottingham showed us ‘How to turn an unloved YouTube into a generation machine.’ His acronym TEA TEA drew me straight in (of course). In fact, unsurprisingly, I actually had a tea in my hand when he was talking through them.
His six simple steps are:
- Define channel value proposition
- Keyword and market research
- Cut, reframe and edit existing videos
- Design new thumbnails
- Include CTAs and external links
- Rank videos in organic search
It really hit home this one and battered me with practical information. As soon as I got back to my desk I started examining existing YouTube content with fresh eyes and renewed plans.
2. Don’t chase the Google algorithm
The quite brilliant Areej Abuali explained in her keynote on Thursday evening (just before quite possibly the best pizza I’ve ever had), whilst some updates were good for Google, there’s only so much we can control.
There’s our website, our competitors’ websites and Google. Out of all these we can only impact our website. Our priorities should lie with our audience and not Google. We’re not just optimising for Google we’re optimising for user discovery. Wise words from Areej.
SEO superhero Carrie Rose blew us all away with her talk on owning TikTok, Interest and YouTube SERPs.
‘Things are changing’ she explained. Google is telling us that demand is declining across a range sectors. But that’s not necessarily the case at all. People are using new channels for search. Festival gear is up 3% on Google and 200% up in Pinterest. Garden furniture is 40% down on Google but users are hitting Pinterest and TikTok for this information.
Her take on this:
- Most SEOs are chasing Google
- But actually, Google is chasing users
- We’re moving faster than Google
3. Think about customer intent
Giulia Panozzo agreed with Areej and Carrie in her talk on The Neuroscience of Search, in that we need to put the user back in focus rather than Google. ‘The brain is socially wired’ she explained. ‘We have the same activation pattern’ (and this is why we follow a trend).
‘People make decisions emotionally and then judge them rationally. This is why people go with brands they know and love.’
I wrote down a ton of inspirational quotes when listening to Dr Kiran Webster who presented my final talk of the conference by discussing how empathy should be a key player in your marketing strategy.
She used Homer from The Simpsons and Doctor Spock from Star Trek as examples of System 1 and System 2 – somebody who thinks and acts emotionally and somebody who thinks and acts rationally.
As much as we might not think it (or want to think it), we are more Homer than Spock. ‘We are not thinking machines that feel. We’re feeling machines that think,’ she says.
‘Digital is everywhere,’ she explained. ‘We need to stop pushing (our sales messages). Start empathising and make our audiences lives easier.’
‘By inspiring and educating, sales will increase.’
Full to the brim with ideas, knowledge and inspiration I boarded the Gatwick Express grateful for the opportunity to experience two days at Brighton SEO. I’d highly recommend you do the same when this sensational conference returns in October.
I started off my first day with a SERPs talk and it was a great reminder of the value of the featured snippet. Nikki Mosier talked of the benefit of the featured snippet for increasing brand authority and awareness as well as pushing website visits by improving click through rates. She noted that 70% of featured snippets start with a ‘why’ query which is well worth remembering when creating content.
Carrie Rose closed the SERPs section with her talk on owning TikTok, Pinterest and YouTube SERPs. I was particularly interested in her insight into the shift in user searches to these platforms instead of Google as Matt also noted above. Users are increasingly using these platforms over Google to fulfil their search queries.
She mentioned the Glimpse as a place to find and analyse trends data and seek out the most popular platforms for specific search terms; it’s a fantastic site packed full of useful data and I’m looking forward to using this more.
Carrie continued to discuss the importance of video content and how static ads are sticking out more than ever in an increasingly video-centric feed; with static ads much more likely to be ignored by audiences as a result.
After the break, I headed into a series of talks on content scalability, including Greta Munari’s talk on how she and her team at Trainline scaled unique content to 4 million+ pages without using AI (AI was a very common theme and I don’t think I saw one talk where it wasn’t at least mentioned). An impressive feat involving mixing and matching versions of content sections; after looking at the matrix created, it was definitely time to grab a coffee!
Next up it was Ashley Leddill taking to the stage to discuss where he thinks AI should and shouldn’t play a role in SEO strategy. I felt strongly in agreement with his take on this; AI emulates experience and expertise and as such, AI generated content lacks the authenticity we all want from brands. He argued AI for top level ideation was the right way to include it in your strategy.
After a break it was time for Dr Kiran Webster to tell us all about why empathy should be a key player in your marketing strategy. She told us the true story of a person who had life-saving brain surgery that took away his ability to feel emotions. As such, he found it impossible to make decisions on basic things such as what colour pen to choose.
She continued that we must try to really understand the problems of our audience first and then build out our audience personas from this point. To find these problems, she noted that social listening and talking to customer-facing teams was where we should begin.