brightonSEO: Live Blog & Ultimate List of Takeaways |

brightonSEO: Live Blog & Ultimate List of Takeaways

By Shaad Hamid / September 14, 2012

We are live from Brighton, and we’re really looking forward to hearing the insights and thoughts of all the speakers (all 19 of them!) Doors opened at 9:00am and the first speaker is scheduled to speak at 10:00 am. Stay tuned.

We don’t have fancy auto-refreshes so you’ll need to refresh your browser to see the updates 🙂

10:01 am: The first speaker is on stage, Dave Trott – Executive Creative Director at CSTTG will be talking about “Predatory Thinking”. Sounds intriguing. Must be similar to “Guerilla Marketing”. Dave’s using an analogy of pure maths and applied math with pure creativity and applied creativity.

Pure = theory, like the art you see in galleries, or poetry. Applied = practical, like advertising

Dave suggests that, when it comes to creativity, we follow the essential Bauhaus principle – form follows function.

In other words, everything we do needs to have a reason and try to solve a problem.

Practical creativity is to ensure what we do is remembered. Everything we do sits, naturally, within the context of our industry. What you need to do is distinguish yourself and what you’re doing. Don’t blend into the background; you need to stand out.

Predatory thinking is about getting ahead.

Dave talked about three stages of advertising:

  • Impact
  • Communication and
  • Persuasion.

Most marketers focus far more on Persuasion than on anything else. However, it would be far more useful for them to focus on Impact. This is because most advertising, 90% in fact, isn’t remembered at all. It fails at the Impact stage.

The key point here is that it doesn’t matter how persuasive you are if no-one remembers what you do.

The problem is that people are over-exposed to advertising. This means that the have very selective perception when it comes to what they see.

In fact, we are very binary. Ideas either stand out to us or they don’t. And if they don’t stand out then we simply forget about them.

So, in order to have Impact, you have to stand out. You have to be different in order to be remembered and so have any chance of success.

People are either opinion formers or opinion followers. There are, of course, far more opinion followers than opinion formers. You want to really engage with the opinion formers rather than opinion followers (particularly if you can’t throw lots of money at your advertising and simply buy numbers) because they will disseminate the information and it will travel downwards to everyone else. This doesn’t happen if you’re only attracting opinion followers.

To get opinion formers interested you have to stand out and be different. That’s what they’re looking for.

Dave’s now talking about how to solve problems you can’t solve.

He’s used several examples to show how to go about it. Here’s one:

People used to have a lot of chip pan fires. No matter how much information people saw about the dangers of leaving chip pans unattended and how bad chip pan fires were, it didn’t change their behaviour.

They looked at the effect this was having, and it was causing a huge number of fire brigade call-outs. So they changed the problem. They decided to try to minimise the number of fire brigade call-outs.

So they started a campaign to teach people how to put out chip pan fires. This resulted in a drop in chip pan fires of 40%.

What predatory thinking is about it changing problems you can’t solve into ones you can.

You’ve got to go upstream and work on a problem higher up.

It’s all about getting ahead!

Another great example is the iPod. When Steve Jobs created it, he’d invented what was, at the time, the best way to listen to music on the go. And, it was picked up by the coolest people.

However, the problem was that everyone who had one walked round with it in their pocket, so no-one knew they had it.

So Steve thought outside the box. He went upstream and thought “How can we make everyone who has an iPod noticeable?”

And what did he think up? Headphones. Everyone has to wear headphones and at the time everyone had identical, black ones.

So he made iPod headphones white.

Immediately, everyone who had an iPod became a walking advert for the product. Genius!

Do You Speak Brand? by Antony Mayfield

SEOs like to be diva’s where there’s always talk about when search is going to be dead.

There are adversarial dialogues between the different disciplines such as social vs SEO or Paid search vs. SEO etc. But people miss the opportunity of bringing all these elements together in order to create real value and real impact.

The most powerful thing about search is that it’s a database of insight in to consumer’s intent.

Lucky seven. Anthony explained how a woman used to be really fed up of searching for things like holidays or furniture and always getting the same, bland shops and results. So what she started doing was, when she’d done a search, go to page seven of the results and start looking there. She’d bypass all the optimised results and start with more random offbeat ones.

Apologies for the infrequent updates folks. The wifi at the dome is pretty horrendous. I’m actually stood outside updating this post via 3G at the minute. It’s the first coffee break. So we’ll probably freshen up a bit and come back for more updates.

Speaking Your User’s Language by Stephanie Troeth

12:00pm: A change in the line-up. Stephanie Troeth is up next who will be talking about “speaking your user’s language”.

There’s a myth that UX is only to do with good user experience.

It’s not – it’s about the whole package. You need to encompass a wide range of elements to create great UX.

For example, Stephanie describes a website she uses to book badminton courts. the page looks great. It has good headings, a bold but simple layout and great images. However, it took her 3 months to figure out how to book a court.

That’s because the only way to do it was to click on a small button marked “Book activities online”. This isn’t useful for the user. It isn’t a term she would have used to search for this function.

So, although the ste looked great, it didn’t use functional language. Therefore, it didn’t provide a good user experience.

Think or feel?

When you look at a website do you “feel” or do you begin to “think”?

Stephanie suggests we feel first. And this means that when you’re building a website you need to appeal to your audience’s feelings.

She shows us 2 examples Nest and Pebble.

Nest has minimal amounts of text but has big, warm images which inspire feelings of familiarity and happiness in users. The Pebble website, however, has been laid out with lots of little bullet points but provides different messages to different audiences.

These sites are appealing to different sides of the user: Next appeals to the emotional side, and Pebble to the rational side.

You need to think about your brand and its image, and pick a tactic which fits into your brand in order to entice your users.

Another example she discussed was Akoha.

Akoha was an interesting project but they were getting low conversions. The activity on the site was a feel good activity, but because of the wording it used, it made people use logic to “think” instead of trying to get people to “inspire” or reach out to users emotions.

In other words, they had failed to match their on-site language to their site content and aim.

To rectify this, they focused on the emotional side of the approach. For example, they changed words such as “sign up now” to “join us”. This seems simple, but the results were profound.

Speaker recommends Aaron Walter’s book titled “Design Personas”.

Story telling is suggested as another technique you could use in order to incorporate compelling messaging.

The main message from Stephanie’s talk is to make sure you streamline every part of your site. To have great UX, you have to make sure that every element of your site works together and consistently promotes the same ideas and feelings in order to create a unified and positive user experience.

How to make friends. And influence robots by Martin Belam

Martin begins by talking about his previous roles at the BBC and his experiences with search engines such as AltaVista. He explains that SEO has a great misconception in the news industry. They don’t think it matters.

Of course, SEO really matters. However, you have to get it to work with UX in mind. You have to consider both the human need for information and click ability.

Site architecture is vitally important for two things, user experience and the robot flow on the website. He explained how some companies structure their web information based on the floor they operate.

Some news sites build authority by creating certain sections of the site based on what’s hot. But when they do this, it’s vital that they stay in line with the overall website tone. For example, The Guardian website has a tab labelled ‘Culture’ whereas The Star has ones labelled ‘Celebrity’ and ‘Babes’. Obviously, the sites are aimed at very different audiences, and both are working to provide them with the experience they’re looking for.

Optimising the user experience here should also help the site when it gets crawled. Having these clear labels, which show clearly what the site’s content is about, is great for robots.

You also have to think about speed. Users enjoy speed and so do Robots. So it’s crucial that you have a site that loads quickly, as it benefits you from every angle.

Some SEOs try to sculp linkjuice within a site using nofollow tags. But this is counter-productive because search engines can determine that the website has been “SEOed”. Also if you are nofollowing links to sections of your site, why are you even publishing them? You don’t want users to see them and you don’t want robots to see them, so don’t bother with them!

Finally, when you’re making changes to try and up your rankings, either by making the site more crawlable, or incorporating extra SEO techniques, you have to look out for unintended consequences.

It is vital that every change you make, even if it helps to boost your rankings, doesn’t negatively impact on either UX or conversion rates. There is no point ranking higher if you suddenly find you have fewer users and lower conversion rates.

So make sure that when you’re editing your website you keep a balanced approach and consider every change you make both in terms of what’s good for page rankings but also what’s good for your users – don’t forget that they are what really drive your business.

Chasing the Algorithm: Smart SEO or Hopeless Effort? by Rebecca Weeks

Rebecca provides us with a case study in order to approach this topic.

They had a client who wanted justification for an SEO budget. So they were faced with a challenge to improve rankings in just 7 day, using only link building without any on page optimisation.

They initially focused on quantity over quality which meant creating footer links, placing content on PR 2-4 websites etc. But Google decided roll out alto updates, causing all their hard work to vanish, and their rankings to drop.

The first was the Venice update, which meant they had to focus on a “local” strategy. So they targeted obtaining links from exact match “local” domains.

But then Panda 3.5 was rolled out. This focused on websites with thin content, which again had huge, negative effects.

So they then decided to start doing quality link building, and started placing links on pR6 or above websites.

Then penguin came along, which meant they had to target different anchor text links, whilst continuing to focus on quality sites.

Of the 52 keywords 23 hit their targets, 7 keywords over achieved, 13 maintained position, and 8 completely dropped off.

The client was really pleased. He knew the challenges of the alto updates and no on-page optimisation.

But the company were never able to compete with competitors until they decided to start doing SEO right from the beginning.
Good SEO techniques, rather than black hat strategies, make everything easier.

Chasing algorithms isn’t useful. It is better to stick to using good SEO practises, and focus on learning and adapting to changes steadily.

API? WTF? by Tom Anthony

We’ve actually got Will on stage – he’s covering for Tom Anthony.

API stands for Application Programming Interface. APIs are basically computers talking to computers.

Originally, the web was text only. Then we got pictures, video, video chat, real time, and more.

So how did we get here?

The average user 10 years ago used the web for 40 mins a day. Today, the average user spends 4 hours online a day.

How did people used to search?

People used to look at directories. Directories were the place for people to discover new things online.

But today search engines tries to figure out the context of a search. For example, they can give you weather updates based on your geo-location.

Overall, search today has gone from wide-sweeping general searches to much more specific searches.

This leads to gadgets, such as the new Google Glasses, which use APIs to serve information users. Siri is another example, although it is interesting in that it helps you ask subjective questions.

All of this means that, when you open up your databases, you need to make sure they are machine readable and that it is easy for APIs to make sense of the data in them. This will mean that when people do online searches that your information will come up and be accessed by people.

How to be a better SEO by Richard Baxter

SEO is one of the fastest evolving and most exciting industries on the planet.

All search marketers are motivated, enthusiastic and passionate. They love the art of SEO. But SEO takes a long time to master. And, because things are constantly changing, you have to keep your knowledge fresh.

To be a good SEO you need to learn how to use a lot of tools and develop a range of techniques. To be better, you need other key attributes:

  • You have to decide what your goals are. If you don’t know what they are, then your first goal is to figure this out!
  • Get a mentor. Or find someone you admire and copy them. Or both.
  • Don’t be happy with just OK. If you don’t love what you’ve done then you haven’t finished it.
  • Be entrepreneurial. Learn to pitch your ideas and how to pitch yourself. Look for new opportunities, new processes, and new methods.
  • Find the simplest and most elegant way to express yourself and your ideas.
  • Think about the perception people have of you and make sure it’s the perception you want.
  • Be curious – don’t be scared to ask why.
  • Learn something new once a week – its how you stay new, challenged, and develop your skills
  • Keep positive feedback – it makes you feel good about doing the right thing. But also use it to think about what you could do to make future feedback even more positive
  • Don’t assume what youre doing is the norm. Always question how you can make something better. Feel free to improve things and try to invent something new.
  • Rehearse everything from sales pitches to client calls. Make sure you’re presenting yourself in the very best way you can.
  • Take yourself out of your comfort zone every once in a while. It’s great for self-development.
  • Make yourself indispensable. Specialise in an area and be the best at it. Then you’ll always be in demand.
  • Build your own website. There is not a single real SEO who doesn’t have their own website.
  • Apply for the jobs you want. Take the feedback you get and work on what you need to do to get to where you really want to go.
  • Learn to sell anything and everything.
  • Learn how to show people how much you care about what you do. Then they’ll care too.
  • Always follow up on things.
  • Know your figures – all of them.
  • Share stuff – communicate your successes regularly. Your clients want to know and so do your staff.
  • Learn how to be a leader. To do this, learn certainty

All of this helps to turn great into amazing, and amazing into exceptional.

SEO Deliverance by Tony King

What is SEO deliverance? It is rescue from bondage.
SEO can be pigeon-holed in a big business. To escape this you need influence in the business. To gain influence you have to deliver great-quality SEO.

There are three key phases to this:

Research phase
Here you need to get all the information for you to know and understand: your market; your competition; and your own website.

Development phase
In this phase you need to figure out your objectives, your strategy, and your limits

Implementation phase
Here you need to: know your audience; know your plan; and know your shit!

So let’s look at this is in a bit more detail.

Research phase
Get to know your market through keyword research. Deep Semantic is a tool that can be used for keyword analysis. You can also assess the SERPs by looking at image and video results as well.

You also need to look at the SERPs again for your competition. Who are your competitors and what are they doing? You’ve got to understand this in order to go forward.

Finally, you have to know your website like the back of your hand. Understand its assets, the technology behind it etc.

To do this you should:

  • Do a SWOT analysis for your site (that’s Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats).
  • Do an SEO audit
  • Run a comprehensive site audit
  • Schedule regular webcrawls
  • Inspect the uninspected
  • Check your robots.txt
  • Audit your xml site maps
  • Do domain management like redirection status, canonical setup, and domain renewal dates
  • Sort out your URL management for example: prevent upper/lowercase variations; organise parameter ordering; remove trailing slashes
  • Check your site performance. Look at issues such as site speed and 404 error handling

Development phase
Know your objectives. You’ve got to know what the company mission is, and what the website goals are. You’ve also got to make sure they are being tracked correctly. Finally, you must know what the value of each goal is.

Know your strategy. Understand the project scope, and remember this key equation:

(scope+costs)-return=pitch difficulty

So what are the costs? SEO is not free and central costs include the technology and tools you’ll be using. You can use this information to define the project budget. However, you must remember to allow for seasonal trends. You don’t want to suddenly find yourself going hugely over-budget because of an unexpected seasonal hike for certain PPC queries.

Know your limits. Build the best search team you can, and make sure it stays the best by reading, debating, and innovating. Know people’s strengths and weaknesses and define and assign responsibilities accordingly.

Implementation phase
Know your audience. You have to understand who you’re pitching to and what their objectives are.
You also need to consider your delivery method and preempt any and all potential responses.

Know your plan. Start with a business case which provides an unbiased assessment of costs versus benefits. The bottom-line really is ROI. If you’re not getting enough back to cover the effort of you’ve put in, then it’s simply not worth doing. If this is the case then you need to go back and start again.

Know your shit. Remember, delivery is only the beginning. You need to constantly monitor how things are going and be able to quantify the benefits of the changes you make.

If you can do all this, then you should be well on your way to delivering top-quality SEO.

Separated by a Common Language by Lynne Murphy

When it comes to English, there is a certain snobbery that Brits tend to have in regards to the American version. We bemoan everything from their pronunciation of the word “herbs” (which comes out ‘erbs) to their removal of the letter “u” from words such as “colour” and “honour”.

However, before we denounce their version of English completely, there are a few points we should take into account:

Lesson 1. Just because you dislike something it doesn’t mean it’s Americanism

The BBC published a piece last July ( about people’s pet hates when it comes to ‘Americanisms’. But some of the phrases which appeared, aren’t actually American phrases at all.

For example, using the phrase “face up” rather than “confront”. People blame Americans for this, but actually, if you check out the Oxford English Dictionary (OED), you’ll find it was first used in this context by the English writer Defoe back in the 1700s.

Lesson 2. American English is no less logical than British English

People also complain that American English doesn’t make any sense. Why have they taken out the letter “u” from so many words? Why do they constantly use “-ize” instead of “-ise”?

Well actually, what you find is that American spellings are actually just older versions of English words. Back in the 14th century, people were frequently educated in Latin. Words such as “colour” and “honour” come from Latin stems, and these stems are spelt without the “u” i.e. “color” and “honor”. So, when the first Brits sailed to America, they simply took these spellings with them. So it isn’t really that illogical.

The same is true for the “-ize” suffix. It is again from a Latin stem, whereas “-ise” is from French. English, of course, has strong influences from both the Latin and French languages, and both were used. In fact, until the 19th century, “-ize” was more commonly used in England than “-ise”. The latter only rose in popularity in England during this period due to French influences. The Americans, however, simply stuck with “-ize”.

Lesson 3. If you’re looking for logic in vocabulary you’re looking in the wrong place

Languages constantly change and flow, and there is rarely much rhyme or reason to it.

A great example of this is the word “aubergine”. The original word for this was “egg-plant” and this is still the term used for it in America. It changed to “aubergine” n England due to French influences in the 1800s. Is “aubergine” easier to pronounce? No. Is it easier to spell? No. Is there any logic to this change? No.

Enough said!

Lesson 4. Americans have saved English

People make assumptions that Americans have changed the English language but, frequently, they are actually using older versions of the words.

For example, people hate the way Americans drop the letter “h” from their pronunciation of the word “herbs”. However, when this word was originally used, that was the correct pronunciation. It wasn’t until the 19th century, when Brits became concerned with class distinction and its relation to language and speech, that this changed. Suddenly, dropping the letter “h” at the start of a word was considered common and lower-class. Pronouncing the “h” was indicative of belonging to the higher classes. As such, we shouldn’t be criticising the Americans, they’re actually preserving the English language!

Lesson 5. Back-lashes are ugly

Arguing over pronunciation and spelling, and criticising and deriding others for the way they use language doesn’t benefit anyone. All it does is create tensions between groups of people.
Take this example. Americans are generally thought to consider British people to be intelligent and charming; a British accent can often get you a long way in the States (if you catch our drift…). This point, when researched through a wide survey, was held to be true. But only to a certain extent.

Americans did consider a British accent to denote intelligence and politeness, but this was only true for Americans who had never traveled to Britain. In cases of Americans who had been to Britain, this opinion changed rapidly. Quite possibly this is because when they came over they suffered a lot of criticism from us for their perceived mauling of the English language. Hardly a great impression!

Take away lessons

Let’s acknowledge that English is a living language that thrives on borrowing and which is constantly changing.

Let’s do a little research before bemoaning ‘unnecessary American innovations’

Finally, if in doubt, blame the Australians!


Things you need to know about mobile SEO tips by Aleyda Solis

If you’re going to work with mobile sites then you need to answer these key questions:

  • What is your mobile audience behaviour in your site?
  • What is your audience behaviour in Google mobile search?
  • What is your site behaviour with Mobile devices? (You can fetch as Google- Mobile Bot on Google Webmaster Tools)
  • What is your content and product offer for a mobile audience?
  • What is your technical capacity to develop a mobile site?

Based on all this criteria you can decide on the type of mobile website you need.

Content Planning in a Post Panda and Penguin World by Simon Penson

Simon gave a great presentation and we felt we wouldn’t be doing it justice by simply summarising it here.

Instead, we are going to provide you with a link to his transcript so you can get all of the information in full for yourselves.

So, here it is:

Social Media Reverse Engineering by Yousaf Sekander

Content isn’t king
Content is KINGMAKER

Producing shareable/compelling content isn’t easy/cheap.
Two things to consider:

  • What is your competitors most shared content?
  • Who was this shared by?

Build socialcrawlatics. They will tell you which content is most shared and on which channel.

Backtweets will tell you which twitter accounts that shared a particular URL
Topsy is more in-depth than backtweets and also ranks all the sharers based on their influence

Datasift is the biggest data provider in the world

For info graphics you should use your own URL shortener

Future proofing SEO by Berian Reed

Content is King:

  • How do I make my content work harder?
  • What is the most common content sharing method?
  • The best method of sharing is copy and pasting.
  • Anytime someone copies and pastes things you get a link
  • Use GA referral traffic (this is generally quite overlooked.)
  • Use filters that enable you to get the full referral URLs. Use this information to build relationships with them.

Competitor analysis:

  • Best way to learn is to learn from your competitors mistakes.
  • Find out whether they have been hit by Panda or Penguin and find out why.
  • will tell you whether your competitor changes content. This will help you learn what your competitor’s SEO strategy is.

Client Checklist for SEOs by Sion O’Connor

Outsider’s view of SEO is that impact is measurable.

There are also issues.
It’s a practice based industry and not academic. Rarely is there a right or wrong answer.

Find out what your client’s personal and corporate objectives are.
What is your client responsible for (who are the company key-stakeholders)?

The consumer:

  • Who is the customer and target prospect?
  • What are they buying?
  • Why are they buying?
  • When? Seasonality
  • Where? Channels and locations

The competition:

  • Not just your direct competitors, also think about substitutes and intermediaries
  • Research and analyse at sub category level.
  • Reverse engineer their PPC and SEO
  • Seek innovations in other markets/categories


  • Find out commercial, marketing and SEO objectives
  • Articulate insights, best practice, and data points
  • Keep them updated on your hypotheses, strategies, and tactics
  • Be open about the risks and talk your client through issues


  • This is a great opportunity to showcase your success.

Pitching an idea thought process:

  • Find out who the decision maker is.
  • Don’t tell them how good an SEO you are, show them how good you are.

To view Sion’s full presentation just follow this link:

Links Using Pinterest by Danielle Fudge

Use Pinalytics. Helps you to search pins based on keywords. They also give you the URLs of the originating URLs and the DA and PA and social metrics of those links.

The tool is still in beta and is completely 100% free.

Caveat: please give it a bit of time for all the data to load first.

Danielle Fudge

Attributing Beyond the Last Click by Tom Lewis (from DC Storm)

Some marketers don’t value SEO.
Typical conversion models reward unfairly.

Branded PPC and SEO KWs will always get the credit.
Attribution is about sharing the credit to other channels as well.

DC Storm weight the initiator differently

Attribution shouldn’t be limited by cookie windows.
Create session clusters and look at the lag between those clusters.
Create booking clusters
Look at the individual cluster

The business of SEO and how it can make our world a better place by Jason Woodford

SEO is booming (this is boom time for customers as well). This is in stark contrast with the rest of the community.

BrightonSEO salary survey showed that overall SEO professionals earn quite well.

There’s very few industries where competitors would come together to share secrets and tips.

We help to sell stuff. But we’re an annoying industry (we get loads of emails with SEO service for $99)
Some people believe that SEO is dying or dead including SEOs.

  1. We certainly need to start acting like real businesses and focus on quality – do a great job and deliver the promise.
  2. Lead growth out of recession
  3. As an industry lets build a big idea to help a charity. Celebrating 10 years of SiteVisibility they are helping NSPCC. Suppoort your customers CSR
  4. Big idea: Solve the skills shortages. 2.56m unemployed. Including 1 million 16-24 year olds are unemployed. Lets help train these people.
  5. Sometimes you’ve just got to attract raw talent. Why not help injured veterans? Or students or recent graduates? Provide multiple paid placements and multiple agencies, structured SEP training programmes.

Quickfire Analytics – 7 Custom Reports in 7 Mins by Anna Lewis

Her presentation was probably one of the, if not THE most useful and actionable presentation of the day. She has been kind enough to share these tips in more detail in her blog post.

I’d strongly suggest you reading this post. Just follow this link:

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