Having spent five years working in the recruitment industry and attending more (exceedingly dry) conferences than I care to remember, I went into BrightonSEO with a mixed bag of emotions – excitement, apprehension, nervousness, it didn’t matter, the adrenaline was pumping.
Here’s my account of BrightonSEO, a novice’s view – a somewhat different take on an industry-renowned conference as I had only officially entered the sector just a week before. Feast your eyes.
I joined the good folk at Seeker Digital a week before BrightonSEO, and the office was buzzing as we prepped itineraries and agendas, and discussed which pub was closest to the hotel (a very important part of the trip, for all SEOs).
As I sat getting to grips with my day-to-day tasks, I overheard interesting nuggets of info about the conference:
- It was originally starting in a pub many years ago
- A Christmas stocking’s worth of freebies would be up for grabs
- Rand Fishkin, the Lionel Messi of the SEO world, would be there. (Of course, as an SEO and industry novice, I wasn’t 100% sure who he was, but by the end of the conference I certainly did. Spoiler alert: we took a selfie.)
We arrived in Brighton following a four and a half hour journey from Bristol. After checking into the Jurys’ Inn, it was straight out into the city for some food and a couple of drinks.
Taking in the sights, the smells and a particularly strong live music scene, I could feel the excitement building, this was going to be different from the other conferences, I just knew it.
The team rose early with the plan to meet at 8am in the foyer for some breakfast. In typical fashion, I managed to oversleep. Having missed breakfast I did make the departure time, off to BrightonSEO we went.
We got there early to beat the masses. This gave us ample time to meander around various stands, network with fellow industry professionals, take photos with prominent industry figures (hello selfie with Rand!), and stash our bags full of branded merchandise.
As a newbie to the industry, I had selected seminars to do with the fundamentals of SEO, link building, SEO tools, and ranking factors. A full-on day! As the day drew on though, I found myself still engaged, wired in, wanting to learn more and more, never tiring.
While I listened to Grant Simmons’ Batman-themed SEO tools lecture it struck me that this industry was not filled with experts who go to work just to pay the bills, no. This was a collective of passionate, highly creative artists who poured their heart and souls into what they do. This isn’t a job for them, it’s not even a career, it’s life. And I couldn’t feel more at home.
It’s safe to say Grant Simmon’s talk inspired me the most. In case you don’t know, he is the VP of Homes.com with a career spanning more than 15 years in digital. He has held a number of senior positions at a number of reputable brands and is seen as a thought leader in the industry.
His seminar The Batman SEO toolbelt to vanquish Google’s SERP certainly lived up to expectation. Gliding side to side on the stage and bursting with energy, he discussed the various tools that would make life easier. Be it web scraping tools through to various CRM tools, it was all very helpful!
Following the talk, fellow Seeker, Matt Hunt, and I found ourselves in the Deepcrawl beer garden over lunch (funny that). Having grabbed a complimentary drink, we perched ourselves along the bar only to realise that we were standing next to Batman himself, Grant.
I thought it best to ask an engaging question, anything that would warrant a conversation, something along the lines of, what advice would you give to an industry novice looking to make it in the SEO world? That sounds good, right?
However, in my nervous state, I managed to blurt out, “Who do you reckon would win in a fight between Iron Man and Batman?”. The good sport that he is he laughed and replied, “Iron Man, begrudgingly”.
Thankfully, he was interested as to who we were, what Seeker does and whether or not he could answer any further questions, industry or comic-related.
Rand Fishkin would give the much-anticipated keynote, titled The Infuriating Reality of Search’s Future. And as we approached 6pm, you could feel the energy building.
We sat in the dark of Auditorium 1, a room big enough to host a rock concert, and patiently waited for Rand’s arrival on stage.
Despite a series of technical errors in the first five minutes of the keynote, Rand powered through like a true performer, discussing the state of the industry, Google’s role in the evolution of SEO, and what the SEO landscape will look like moving forward.
For someone new to the industry, the keynote was both exciting and concerning.
It seems Google is prioritising its own aggregated content at the top of a searcher’s results (and paid content, of course), over organic content. And Rand predicts this (r)evolution is only just beginning.
The key message I took away from this is that those in the industry need to step up their game and come up with creative solutions to get to the top of the SERPs, or risk being left behind.
As he signed off that was that – an end to what can only be described as a highly enjoyable, insightful, and entertaining conference.
After a team photo, we headed for home. As I jumped on the train, I couldn’t help but feel right at home – the level of conversation, the quirky characters, and the continual offer of assistance from people who had only just met you. An industry hellbent on not only optimising search engines, but on the continual improvement of all those that work in it.
Below, I have compiled a list of my top tips for anyone new to the industry who might be heading off to BrightonSEO for the first time:
- Make sure you know what seminars you wish to attend prior to getting to the conference. This ensures that you can read up on relevant content to give yourself the best opportunity possible to understand what on earth the speakers are talking about.
- Network, network, network. Talk to as many people as possible. Don’t be scared to let them know that you are a novice. People want to help!
- Snap some pictures with the speakers themselves and splash it across social media. They will be keen for you to tag them (helps their brand) and you might just get a couple of followers yourself (helps your brand). Win-win.
- Live tweet your talks. Further to point number 3, it doesn’t just need to be photos you are broadcasting, if you hear something, tweet it and tag the speaker who said it.
- Have fun. Yes, it’s about learning but it’s also about the experience. Lose yourself in the atmosphere, enjoy yourself and don’t forget to fill your boots with all of the freebies on offer.
What a day and what an experience. For anyone new to the industry and for anyone firmly entrenched in the industry, if you have never been to BrightonSEO, make sure you do go, you won’t regret it!
For a different perspective on the conference, check out Bethan’s post on A Beginner’s Guide To BrightonSEO (According To Our Newest Digital Copywriter).