Mammoth List of 129 Takeaways from BrightonSEO | Part 1

This is a guest post from Ned Poulter. Ned currently works as an SEO Manager at Quirk London, a marketing agency for a digitally enabled world.


Friday the 14th September 2012 was the start of BrightonSEO 7 the second BrightonSEO event that I’ve been to and I was very much looking forward to it. BrightonSEO is run by SiteVisibility’s very own Kelvin Newman and originally started some 3.5 years ago as a pub meet up, that in the words of Kelvin became "a pub meet up which if I’m honest got a bit out of hand". Onwards it climbed on the SEO calendar and developed into the event it is today, the UK’s largest SEO conference, with some 1,700 attendees from all over the UK and further afield. Attendees come in all shapes and sizes, including: 

  • SEO gurus
  • UX/usability experts
  • Affiliate marketers
  • Web developers
  • Designers
  • and business owners

BrightonSEO is oddly the first SEO conference that I had attended that wasn’t in the North of England – obvious candidates such as ThinkVisibility and SAScon stand out up there, while most SEO conferences associated with the South are only the ‘mega conferences’ SMXAdvanced and SES London. While the ticket costs are very high for those SEO conferences in the South, BrightonSEO is free – that’s right completely free and shows it’s popularity well, last time tickets sold out in a mere 13 minutes.

#BrightonSEO had a very exciting line up of speakers from agencies, such as: SEOGadget, Koozai, Distilled, Forward3D, MGOMD, RocketMill, Brilliant Noise, Emblem and in-house with the likes of Auto Trader, Top Cashback and even the University of Sussex!

Below is a thorough run down of all of the industry best practice, useful tips, pointers and breakthroughs that I picked up during the day:

Predatory ThinkingDave Trott  (Executive Creative Director, CSTTG)

Dave introduced the talk saying that he’s not going to teach you how to make the best creative ads; he’s going to teach you how to kill your competitors. Nice start from what turned out to be an inspirational talk, below are some of his pertinent points:

Pure creativity = the theory
Applied creativity = the practical

1. “You start with what you’re doing and you look at what you’ve done and judge whether it meets its purpose. Form follows function.” (Bauhaus)

2. £18.3 Billion was spent last year in the UK on ads; 90% of which weren’t remembered

3. We see as many as 1000 advertisements a day. Understanding this shows the scale of what you’re up against

4. Practical creativity = is what you (as the consumer) will remember is mine (the advertisers) not theirs (the competitors). You have to be predatory

5. Dave tells his students, “You’ve got 2 main problems – 1 you’re English and 2 you’re middle class” – putting yourself in the shoes of the punter is innately difficult

6. Every conversation has 3 elements: impact, conversation and persuasion – it needs all of these

7. “If you can’t explain it to an eleven year old you don’t understand it.” (Albert Einstein)

8. Dave gave an example of when he was pitching for a supermarket brand and a colleague said in the meeting “To increase stock turn you need to optimise your on shelf margin”, it turns out he had simply used complex language to sell the idea in and they won the pitch

9. “Complexity means distracted effort, simplicity means focused effort” (Edward de Bono) – this is what we’re after

10. You need to get on people’s radar because most advertising (90%) dies at impact

11. The mind works on a binary system. Babies are nothing but pure awareness, we should learn from this, they move from this to ego (Freud)

12. Opinion formers vs. opinion followers, the former is a far smaller group but they’re the ones that you want to convince with your advertising

13. Predatory thinking is simply applied creativity. You need to get out of the knee jerk, no thinking attitude

I’d highly recommend checking out Dave’s very own book entitled ‘Creative Mischief’.

Do you speak brand?Antony Mayfield  (Founding Partner, Brilliant Noise)

14. Unfortunately SEO still often resides in the IT department, because that’s where they control the website – not the communications/marketing department

15. Ask yourself: how do we support the clients’ problems, how do we sort the clients’ issues?

16. SEO is weakened when undersold, it should be considered with a far broader range of services, such as: UX, content strategy, web design, web analytics, conversion rate optimisation, to name just a few! 

17. The budgets are misaligned – they go on paid media (outdoor, TV) rather than earned media (SEO, content creation, social)

18. Google is a database of intentions. The most powerful thing about search is it’s how people are ‘getting things done’

19. Brilliant Noise ran a focus group of mothers to attempt to understand their searching habits. It turned out that many of them were frustrated with Google, some even used their own random ways of browsing search, like the ‘lucky seven’, which involved always clicking through to the seventh page in SERPs because “things were more random”, or even simply browsing via image search

20. Think about the customer decision journey, where do you fit in? Where can you make a difference?

21. Put yourself in the customers shoes, think and act like them

22. Building search into all of your other disciplines as a marketing agency ‘is not a coalition, it’s a full on merger.’ – this also gives us access to other budgets

Do you speak brand?: brightonSEO from Antony Mayfield

Speaking your user’s languageStephanie Troeth  (User experience strategist, Freelance)

23. Language is essential in communicating effectively, but it’s more than just words.

24. Don’t think what makes a good user experience, think what makes a great unique product

25. Ask yourself whether you want your users to ‘think’ or ‘feel’?

26. Don’t force people to think rationally when you can do it emotionally (inspire them)

27. Describe your brand using adjectives 

28. Read Aarron Walters ‘designing for emotion’ and look specifically at his ‘design personas’ to better understand your website users and their preferences

29. Seek clarity through storytelling, Stephanie gave MONA as an example of something that she’d helped work on, these changes can be seen below:

30. Check out Stephanie Hays’ message hierarchy model

31. Ways to listen – (common user listening methods)

32. Language is: voice, tone, placement and context

33. Decide if you want to evoke an emotional ration or a rational act.

34. To speak is to listen

How to win friends. And influence robots.Martin Belam (Principal Consultant, Emblem)

35. In search engines the users literally spell out for you what they want.

36. Newspapers are a great example of poor headings, you have got to consider context – Ricky Gervais ‘he just wants to be loved’ Ned just read “he just wants to be loved”

37. Consider flow around your site, not just landing pages

38. Think about spider ability

39. There’s a reason why The Guardian has ‘Culture’ in their top nav and the star has ‘celebs’ and ‘babes’

40. People were talking about ‘crafting link flow through a site using nofollow’

41. People get more frustrated with delay the faster their Internet connection is

42. Load times can give you credibility and trust

43. Usability is not just about one particular page it’s about the entire journey 

Click here to see Martin’s blog post summarising the ideas he communicated during his talk.

Chasing the Algorithm: Smart SEO or Hopeless Effort?Rebecca Weeks (SEO Associate Director, MGOMD)

44. If you hit a brick wall with a client regarding budgets then set yourself a challenge

45. Used an example of a client getting affected by algorithm updates

46. "Best practice SEO is not always possible – in this case just don’t do it"

47. Local links for local pages really work!!

48. Don’t chase the algorithm

API? WTF?Will Critchlow (Founder, Distilled)

49. This talk is about the future of SEO. APIs for this talk is ‘computers talking to computers’

50. History of the Internet: 10 years ago the web became mobile (accessible by other places than fixed lines)

51. 10 years ago we spent on average 40 minutes a day on the Internet, now we spend 4.5 hours a day

52. The search process over 10 years has gone from general to specific

53. Siri uses Wolfram|Alpha via API

54. We commonly search using ‘things’ and ‘attributes’ – when you’re searching for this your intention is transactional, you’re looking for an answer

55. Apple have understood this with Siri, they manipulate the results page based on the search query:

56. The future of search is not about voice search it’s about natural language processing

Tom has published a great follow up to the talk over on the SEOMoz blog.

To read my roundup of the great afternoon sessions then please click through to Ultimate List of 129 Takeaways from BrightonSEO | Part 2 (Afternoon).

I welcome any comments or input that anybody has from the day; I’ll ensure that I respond to them all.

Ned currently works as an SEO Manager at Quirk London.

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