We were lucky to get four tickets to this autumn’s Brighton SEO conference on Friday 18th September to learn how other content marketing experts tackle and overcome some of the main industry challenges. With so many talks and different tracks available, it’s a great place to pick up useful tips about the latest technologies, practices and techniques, especially as we’re always looking to get the best results for clients and their content. Tickets were snapped up in under four minutes for this hugely popular event, and one that we always try to attend over the years.
We’ve put together our top ten takeaways from the event, covering everything from creativity to SEO to how to ensure your content is ready for social. We hope you find it useful! And as you can see, we also had time to stop at the pier during a quick lunchbreak.
Tiffany Stubbs, strategy account director
1. Stop the big group brainstorms!
We’re all guilty of getting a large group of people together in the same room and expecting them to brainstorm there and then, on the spot. And we expect to walk out of that room with loads of fantastic ideas, but it’s not always the case.
Chelsea Blacker’s observation was that it’s often the same people who speak up again and again, and who essentially run these brainstorm sessions, while others sit a little more quietly and don’t speak up.
To make more of these sessions, her idea was to pair people up, brief them ahead of the main brainstorm meeting and give them a few days to bounce ideas off each other first. People will then have a partner to work with which may not only help with the idea generation process, but may give them more confidence to share their ideas in the larger group.
A second idea was to give people the freedom to venture out of the meeting rooms to get the inspiration they need, if they’d like to.
We’re all looking for new ideas – especially when it comes to content, whether you’re an agency or the client – so this is something we’ll definitely try out.
2. Ensure your content is ready for social
After lunch I attended the ‘Future of SEO’ talks. This group of presentations covered a number of SEO-specific ideas as well as upcoming technology, think 5G, and how this might impact our future SEO work.
One prediction which really stood out was Britt Soeder’s idea of a tighter link between links and social citations. She went as far to say links that don’t correlate clearly to social citations may in fact be devalued. This feels like the natural next step and another way for Google to gauge the usefulness of the content.
If this prediction materialises, it will call for even closer working between SEO and social specialists. We’re already set up to do this here at equimedia, so we’re in a good position to take advantage of the change.
Britt Soeder, The Google Mandate: How to deal with SEO in 2020
3. Think carefully when using data capture forms alongside content
Changing tack a little, I attended the talk on marketing automation software. We have a number of clients, particularly in the B2B space, that use marketing automation platforms - mainly Marketo and Eloqua - so I was interested to hear what Ann Stanley had to say.
Ann talked about the balance between sales and marketing teams: how sales want to capture as much data as possible for the lead nurturing process and how the marketing team want people to flow through the user journey easily.
While there is the understanding about the need for data capture and lead nurturing, teams should think carefully about how and where this data is captured, especially when it comes to content. Often we see data capture forms for content pieces whether it’s appropriate or not. For example, is a form needed to read a single blog post? Probably not. On the other hand, an in-depth and well-researched white paper justifies the exchange of data. Ann’s top tip was simply to think carefully about when and where to insist on data capture when it comes to content.
Jonathan Moore, seo group head
4. PPC for content promotion is massively underrated
My first tip comes from an excellent session by Stacey MacNaught on content promotion. She said that while you need to be doing more than just outreach to help get your content noticed, one thing which is underrated is paid search to promote content assets, especially if they target research/whitepapers etc. The traffic can often be a lot more qualified than paid social media and CPCs can be very low. The tactical nature of paid search also allows you to bid on specific keywords, ensuring traffic is targeted and relevant to the user’s query.
5. Don’t underestimate further reading – creativity takes commitment
Throughout the day a number of speakers including Shelly Walsh and keynote speaker Dave Trott cited the Maltese physician and physiologist Edward de Bono’s work. If you’re looking for frameworks to improve creativity, be sure to check out his books Six Thinking Hats and Lateral Thinking.
6. Align your SEO goals from the outset
Finally, I really enjoyed Vincent Coyle’s presentation on building a business case and forecasting. This tip is old but still valid: align SEO optimisations with corporate objectives and strategic themes to ensure buy in and to align SEO with customer experience. This will ensure that when you pitch SEO projects to senior stakeholders they fully understand the benefits of the project.
Vincent Coyle, Working in an enterprise level environment: Building a business case and getting buy in for large scale SEO projects.
Jack Williams, senior seo executive
7. How important is the move to HTTPS?
Mark Thomas focused on the challenges people face when migrating to HTTPS and why/when you should be planning your migration. This session was interesting as Google announced in August 2014 that HTTPS will be considered a ranking signal; the reason being security is considered a top priority and they are focused on making the internet a safer place.
Despite Google’s announcement, the session highlighted less than 10% of websites were HTTPS and some of those that had moved had experienced some difficulties. He highlighted some of the main causes of the difficulties:
- All resources (JS, CSS, and images) need to be on HTTPS.
- 302 redirects are not a clear enough signal that the site has moved to HTTPS. Google specifically states 301 redirects should be used.
- You should avoid redirect chains.
- Internal links, sitemaps, canonical tags, robots.txt file and analytics tracking codes need to be updated to refer to HTTPS version.
- HTTPS sites need to be verified in search console and the disavow file carried across.
The move to HTTPS could become more important after the final version of HTTP/2 was approved with browsers and servers supporting it by default in coming months. Could now be the time to move to HTTPS?
8. Local SEO is becoming more and more critical
Any business with a physical location or that serves customers in a specific area absolutely needs local SEO
Gregg Gifford delivered a quite brilliant talk on the importance of local SEO. Managing to get through all 128 slides in record time, Gregg delivered numerous tips on optimising your site for local SEO, how you can stand out and be a success. Gregg also gave a ‘worldwide exclusive’ of the 2015 local search rankings factors with on page signals slightly out weighting link signals.
Julie Venis, senior content, pr and social media executive
9. Dark Social – raising awareness
Michael Stricker discussed reporting on content you publish online and the importance of being aware of what is referred to as ‘dark social’ (when users copy and paste the URL instead of clicking on the social sharing buttons, meaning engagement is difficult to track).
Michael went into depth on this topic and the fact that we could be under reporting on the success of our content, as an average 70% of social linking activity actually obscures referral source. Not to mention the fact that 89% of mobile user time is spent in apps, meaning we can't learn what we once did. But there are ways around this by improving data collection and analysis.
Michael Stricker, Dark Social, Dark Web, Dark Hat, Dark Times – Brighton Up
10, Be more creative!
The closing keynote speaker was David Trott, who gave another insightful and thought-provoking talk. He spoke about the problems with modern-day creativity, the difference between style and creativity, and not allowing technology to define us.
Clients can often be scared to stand out and do something creative but by doing so, they are at risk of fading into the background. As the late American advertising creative director Bill Bernbach said, "If no-one notices your advertising, everything else is academic". To illustrate this point he asked the audience what advert they remembered from the previous day. After a long pause, only five people put their hand up.
David explained that over the years, there have been different types of media that has been coined the next big thing, but the one thing that hasn’t changed is people – they are the ones that make things go viral.
Another very good point he made is that people spend so much time on persuasion, but never get to the important bit – impact. Something needs to have impact in order to get the audience’s attention. It then needs to communicate so the audience understand the purpose and messaging and then it needs to persuade. He said: “Creativity is the last legal unfair advantage over the competition” and don’t be afraid of it.
So, that’s a quick round-up of what really stood out for us at this year’s event. Were you lucky enough to attend? We’d love to hear what stood out for you, please comment below.