Matt Nicholls from Conscious Solutions discusses the Brighton SEO convention 2019

Last week me and my SEO compadres, Jamie, Chris and Ed attended the two-day Brighton SEO convention. It was my first time in Brighton, a crazy city on the south coast of the UK that has transformed itself from an old-school English pleasant pier to a trendy, coastal getaway from the bustling city of London.

The trip was broken up into two days: day 1 was focused on seminars, where you spend eight hours learning about a specific aspect of SEO from an industry expert.

Day 2 was the main conference, which was split into individual sessions, each with three speakers all given 20 minutes slots to give the audience mind-blowing SEO tips they’ve learnt from their time in the industry.

I’ll give you a quick rundown of each day, starting with my Local SEO training.

Day 1 – Local SEO

My trainer for the day was Greg Gifford, VP of Search at Wikimotive, and an expert on local search who specialises in improving the rankings of car dealerships in the USA.

A few things to note about Greg are that he doesn’t pull punches when it comes to what does and doesn’t work in Local SEO, and he loves old movies. His slideshow contained references from 153 comedy movies over the last 50 years and he has a tattoo sleeve made up of his favourite characters from those movies.

The room wasn’t particularly full, only 6 people were there in total, which made it a great environment to ask for clarification on the tips Greg was sharing with us.

Tip #1: Any business with a physical location should be using Local SEO (especially since Google is trying to answer everyone’s queries in their SERP and not on your website).

Tip #2: In local search Google ranks entities, not websites. Your entity’s ability to rank in local search is based on relevance, prominence and proximity. The first two will get you ranking in the map pack so that when a customer is close to your business (proximity) your business should appear in the search.

Tip #3: There are several local algorithms, all with their specific signals. For example, Map Pack has a different algorithm than organic search. This makes rank tracking pretty much irrelevant when it comes to local search.

Tip #4: Get your foundational factors sorted first – verified GMB listing, citation consistency, mobile-friendly site – before moving on to the competitive difference makers – links, content and reviews.

These are just a few of the tips Greg gave us before going into depth on link signals, content signals, citation signals, GMB signals, review signals and social signals. I honestly ended up with about 10 pages of A4 notes which were mostly elaborations on the points written in Greg’s 397 slides!

It’s safe to say my brain was bursting by the end of the day, and before I knew it, Greg threw in an extra slide show on Local SEO Agency Tips. At that point I made the executive decision to sit back, watch the show, and give the notes a break. It helps that Greg is a bombastic speaker who keeps your mind from wandering out of the window.

Day 2 – The convention

The queue outside the Brighton Centre was huge. Thankfully, me, Chris and Jamie had our passes from the training day, so we got to walk right in. If the training itself wasn’t value for money, that little perk definitely was!

We started the day with a talk from my old friend Greg on the ‘Future of Search’, which was a shorter, punchier version of the training I’d received the day before.

We were then treated to ‘Rethinking The Fundamentals of Keyword Research With The Insights From Big Data’ by Tim Soulo, CMO at Ahrefs, which covered two key areas. Traffic Potential focuses on ranking for a keyword that has 1000 long-tail variations over one that has only a few. Business Potential covered how important a product is to the consumer on a scale of 1 to 3, 3 being an irreplaceable solution to the problem and 1 being a product barely relevant to the problem.

The final speaker, Sal Mohammed of Adzooma, gave a talk about including AI in your team instead of replacing members with it. There are many tools that now feature artificial intelligence and make paid advertising faster and more effective, but do they? Sal discussed whether or not AI is an opportunity or a treat to us employees.

After these talks, we took the time to go around the stalls and get a picture of the various SEO tools on offer. These included Pitchbox, an outreach AI that pulls together a list of high DA sites in your industry complete with email addresses, DeepCrawl, a cloud-based website crawler, and the usual suspects: Screamingfrog, ahrefs and SEMRush amongst others.

With several breaks between talks throughout the day, we made sure to take advantage of the tie dye t-shirt making booth, the old-school video game bay (I had a little too much fun on House of the Dead 3) and the many coffee stations dotted throughout the convention hall to keep the audience alert and ready to absorb all the gems they could from the terrific speakers.

At the risk of explaining every talk from the day, I’ll list a few of my key favourites to give you an idea of what was on offer.

The ‘Making Captions Beautiful (and Searchable) to Improve Video Experience’ talk by Ahmed Khalifa was really eye-opening. It didn’t have too much to do with SEO per-se, but it did give me an insight into what it’s like to have terrible auto-captions on videos when you’re hard of hearing or deaf. Ahmed made sure to include screenshots of his favourite caption mishaps to keep the whole thing light-hearted and entertaining.

Catherine Goulbourne, of Oban International, gave a great speech on how to find content gaps and opportunities for brands in other countries. Catherine focused on intense, upfront research on the market you’re entering before handing off your content to Local In-Market Experts (LIMEs) to translate your content for you. Like Ahmed she gave an example of auto translation-gone-wrong where the US ‘Got milk?’ campaign rolled-out in Mexico as ‘Are you lactating?’ If they’d used LIMEs instead of Google translate, Catherine explained, they would’ve avoided widespread international embarrassment.

Unfortunately, I missed the closing keynote speech because it conflicted with my train back to Manchester. From what I’ve heard the speaker, Dave Trott, gave an inspirational talk on how SEOs need to stop getting bogged down in how much they know and keep their strategies simple.

His justification for this attitude was that SEO should mirror traditional marketing techniques using ‘stone-dead simple’ language that people’s brains can latch onto easily.

This speech definitely matched up with Greg’s training from the previous day as he told us that Google’s algorithm is coming full circle as it is beginning to reward traditional marketing techniques.

When it comes to local search, Google wants you to have local links. This means that old-school marketing techniques such as: holding charity events, sponsoring local sports teams, volunteering, and offering up your office for meetups will get you links from local entities and rank you better on Google.

The same goes for content, writing about local events and issues will give you a better chance of appearing for searches in your local area. Even if that content isn’t related to your business it identifies you as local, relevant and prominent to the people searching in your area.

Conclusion

My key takeaways from Brighton SEO are that most businesses should focus on local SEO, especially if they have a physical location, caption and translation technology is not yet up to scratch, keeping your strategies simple is the best way to catch a visitor’s attention, and reverting to old school marketing is going to play a huge role in the SEO of the future.

I had a great time at my first Brighton SEO and hopefully, I’ll get to go again to learn more about this remarkable industry.

If you need help with your SEO then please get in touch.

Matt Nicholls, SEO executive

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