It was a sunny Thursday afternoon when the Seeker team set off for Brighton, all bright-eyed and bushy-tailed.
We grabbed pasties in the station and piled onto an antiquated GWR train, cramming ourselves into adjacent seats so that we could natter on our four-hour journey. (Side note, why is there so little leg space on these trains — were people that much shorter in the ole days?)
The excitement was palpable, and I couldn’t help but get rushed up in the Brighton buzz as we trundled our way slowly but surely through the countryside towards our deSEOtination (sorry).
Having only joined the Seeker family a mere few months ago, I was looking forward to experiencing my first conference, meeting some interesting new people, and learning more about this awesome industry that I’m a part of.
I’ll be completely honest and admit that there was definitely a hint of anxiousness though as Kayleigh and Gareth briefed us in a team meeting on our game plan.
What if I don’t have a clue what’s going on? What are all these confusing three-letter acronyms like PWA, AMP and API — WTF?! And what if I get cornered on a stand by some head of search asking me what I think about hREFlang tags, and all I can blurt out is ‘I ONLY DO WORDS’ before running off, red-faced and crying? (Disclaimer: this did not happen.)
In the end, I had an amazing time, and I cannot wait to do it all over again in April 2019.
I just wish that Future Beth could tell Past Beth not to worry, and maybe even give her some advice on how to make the most out of the day.
This is a beginner’s guide to BrightonSEO for all of the people like me who are crazy-excited to go along, but maybe a little bit daunted by the prospect.
Read on to find out all about BrightonSEO, top tips for the day, and my experience of it too.
What exactly is BrightonSEO?
BrightonSEO is a bi-annual event that is always marked on the Seeker Digital calendar. MDs Gareth and Kayleigh are firm believers in the power of the conference, and BrightonSEO is the biggest and the best in SEO conferences.
Even keynote speaker Rand Fishkin sang its praises in comparison to other events that he’d spoken at the week before (sorry if you’re from one of those and reading this…).
It all began — as so many things do — with a few pints in the pub and a bright idea.
Kelvin Newman and some fellow SEOs were talking about how great it would be to gather people who work in the industry together; to share ideas and methods, learn from each other, and come away inspired.
In the eight years since then, BrightonSEO has grown exponentially. This September the conference centre was packed with around 4,000 excitable marketers; tickets for April’s event sold out in 13 minutes.
Image credit: BrightonSEO
Top tips for the day (and before, and after…)
If you’re going to make the most of BrightonSEO, there are a few things that you should try to do. Below I’ve compiled a list of advice that I was given, as well as gems that I’ve come up with all by myself.
Before the big day
- Don’t get too drunk the night before: It may seem obvious, but if this is your first time at Brighton, don’t stay in your hotel bar sinking pints until silly o’clock in the morning. If you’re a newbie to the SEO world, you’re going to want to keep your wits about you. You’ll be meeting a lot of people, doing a lot of talking, and learning a lot of things, so you need to be fresh as a daisy. Have a few pints and a chat in the pub by all means, but you don’t want to end up struggling through the day with Hangover Brain.
- Get plenty of sleep: On a similar note, make sure you get a solid night’s sleep the night before. Your brain needs to be well-rested and ready to soak up all of that SEO knowledge!
- Bring a powerpack: Anyone who is a seasoned BrightonSEO attendee will tell you that a powerpack is essential. Your phone battery is going to go down pretty rapidly when you’re using it throughout the day to live-tweet, check the BrightonSEO app for talk times, or trying figure out where in town is good for lunch.
- Pack mints and deodorant: You’re going to be networking and talking to so many new people, so you need to make a good impression. I’ll leave the actual talking up to you, but give yourself a headstart with minty-fresh breath. You don’t want to scare off potential future business partners with smelly breath. The conference centre is also weirdly hot (yes, I know it’s all the bodies), so bring deodorant or perfume to keep yourself smelling nice throughout the day.
- Plan your day: The BrightonSEO schedule can be found on its website, so you can check out who’s talking about what before the big day. Each listing links to a brief description of what the session will entail, and who the speaker is (as well as their Twitter handle, so you can do a little bit of social stalking to get a feel for them if you want to). I recommend having a rough idea of which sessions you want to attend; if you’re feeling too spoilt for choice, then ask advice from any BrightonSEO veterans in your office.
- Level up with your organisation: For extra levels of organisation, you can download the BrightonSEO app for the agenda, maps, and more. And my favourite hack of the day (courtesy of Laura) — make a list of speakers, talk titles, their Twitter handles and URLs so that you can easily live tweet throughout the day without having to spend ages searching for information.
While you’re there
- Stick to a session: Once you’ve picked a particular track, then stay there for the whole session, i.e. all three speakers. The conference centre is pretty massive and you’ll waste time running between talks and turn up late — potentially without a guaranteed seat at the other end. I also think it’s pretty rude to the speaker you’re running out on.
- Make notes: Lots of speakers will upload their slides or audio files so you’ll be able to access them online. But it’s worth taking your own notes — either on a laptop or using good old fashioned pen and paper — or even recording the talk on your phone to listen back to. I found that there was so much information packed into each talk that I wanted longer to dissect the meaning.
- Tweet your appreciation: If you’re enjoying a talk, or the speaker said something that particularly resonated with you, then why not give them a shoutout on Twitter? Don’t forget to tag their handle, and include the hashtag #BrightonSEO. If you found their talk fascinating, you can also follow them to learn more.Luckily you’ve brought that powerpack, like I told you to, so your battery will stay at a healthy level throughout the day.
- Make some friends: BrightonSEO is a great place to meet like-minded marketers. You can find out more about what other agencies do, learn something from educational conversations, and even meet newbies like yourself! Don’t miss out — you have the perfect opportunity at stands, where people want to strike up conversations. (And don’t forget to take advantage of the free merch too. #swagbag)
Brighton is a great place to make friends — like Steve here, who one of the team met outside his hotel room
- Don’t be afraid to ask questions: It’s so much better to ask questions than to sit and suffer in silence. It’s okay, you’re new — remember? And asking questions is how you learn answers. Ask your colleagues, ask your boss, ask the person next to you, ask the speakers! Now is the time for learning things.
- Absorb everything: Take the time after to absorb all of the information that you were exposed to. Read your notes, watch your videos — you don’t want everything you’ve learnt to fall out of your head. Chat with your colleagues and share what you learnt — I always find that talking through my points helps to solidify my knowledge.
- Do your own follow-up research: If there was something you didn’t understand, write it down and Google it after! And if there were talks that really excited you, then start following the speaker on Twitter and LinkedIn. Find out what else they have to say on the subject, and see what you can learn from them. My fellow writer, Damien, loved John Brasington’s talk on contextual optimisation and technical SEO — so much so that he interviewed John to do some more digging on the subject.
Trying to look nonchalant as I mingle with marketers
My favourite talks
As someone relatively new to the scene, I really enjoyed the first session in Auditorium 1 — Content Marketing.
Ross Tavendale did a great talk on data journalism and winning big links, sharing valuable insights and highlighting the importance of research in campaigns. Bobbi Brant gave some great advice on using live video in content marketing, as well as some impressive stats to back it.
I found Sarah Bradley’s talk, Getting Millennial’s Attention on Social Media, really interesting — particularly the comparison between the identity profiles of millennials and Gen Z. Who knew that we were so different in our lifestyle choices, mindsets and relationships to marketing?!
I also thought that the three women — Laura Hogan, Stacey MacNaught and Elli Bishop — speaking in the Link Building session in auditorium 2 were incredible.
All three gave fascinating talks on subjects that I frankly don’t know much about, but they spoke so eloquently and had cracking accompanying slides, that I felt like I learnt so much about that side of digital marketing. I mean, who doesn’t love hilarious Bake-Off GIFs to illustrate a point?
And then there was Rand Fishkin — our keynote speaker. First of all, what a nice guy. The poor man had to handle the entire Seeker team accosting him for a selfie for our BrightonSEO bingo and was nothing but lovely about our starstruck burbling.
The entire auditorium was buzzing with excitement as we gathered to hear him speak.
(Please see grainy photo below of me and Elliot HYPED to see Rand.)
Rand was really honest about the direction that SEO is going in — and the role that Google algorithms have to play in this. The rules of search are changing, and that’s something that we need to adapt to moving forward (basically, Google is choosing to prioritise the searcher, and as a result, content creators will suffer). Rand’s talk addressed these issues with pragmatic advice, and far from being despondent, was captivating and motivational.
I learnt such a range in the various talks that I went to — and some I found so fascinating that I’ve started doing my own research into the topic to learn more.
But I think one of the main things that I took away from Brighton this year was the sense of community. This was a group of people who really wanted to learn and share knowledge, and were genuinely interesting to meet others in their industry. (This was echoed within the Seeker team as well, as we all bonded over pints and excitement for SEO.)
Image credit: Twitter
And a huge shout-out to the speakers as well. Not only did they go up on stage and give interesting and engaging talks, but they also gave out practical advice and shared their own successful methods with us. Pretty humbling.
So basically, thanks BrightonSEO for an amazing time. I was inspired, and right now I’m pretty proud to be a part of this.