Back To Brighton: An Interview With Gareth Simpson

08 September 2021

Posted in: BSEO

TL;DR: I’ve missed you BrightonSEO and I’m excited to be back in person! Would like to chat and catch up with people. Drop me a line on Linkedin and let’s meet up!

It’s been 20 months since we all last attended a BrightonSEO in real life, so this one feels pretty iconic. I suspect we all remember the first time post-lockdown(s) that we left our local area again, saw our loved ones, ate in a restaurant, and this will be the first time we attended BrightonSEO again.

This is an event that’s very close to my heart — I haven’t missed a single BrightonSEO since I started going in 2015! With the first IRL conference post-COVID finally here, I thought I’d share some thoughts on my relationship with Europe’s biggest search conference — a love letter to BrightonSEO.

What are you most looking forward to about BSEO returning in-person?

Meeting people! I’m not a social media person, to be honest — it just doesn’t come naturally to me. As a result, the past 18 months have been quite isolating. The virtual events have been great, and I’ve loved tuning in to the amazing online conferences, but I’ve really missed the buzz of the live event.

I’m much more comfortable talking to people in-person, so I’m really looking forward to the simplicity of normal conversation and spontaneity. I’m looking forward to seeing old friends and acquaintances again and having dinner in one of Brighton’s excellent eateries.

Of course, unfortunately, we won’t be seeing many of our international friends in person, but at least people can tune in virtually and with the world slowly returning to something resembling normality, I’m sure we’ll be able to reunite at a future conference soon.

How has BrightonSEO (and the SEO industry) changed since you first attended it?

BrightonSEO has always been pioneering in what it does. It’s at the forefront of change in the industry. This is particularly evident with its work in diversity and inclusion, with a diverse roster of experienced and up and coming speakers every year, which I really like.

Alongside this, its talks have also gone beyond SEO too, branching out into more overlapping topics and soft skills like leadership, as well as important issues like mental health, and burnout. This gives BrightonSEO a richness that you don’t often find at other conferences.

That’s not to mention the fringe events such as the Online PR Show  — which I was lucky enough to speak at — that BrightonSEO has diversified into as well.

With the official event turning into a two-day occasion, there are even more opportunities for speakers to get involved, with recorded talks offering great value even further.

I remember seeing it in the old venue which was jam-packed, now they’re at the biggest venue in Brighton and its influence on the industry has gone from strength to strength.

But while BrightonSEO has changed, so too has my relationship with it. At my first few events, I was an attendee, taking in all the talks and getting to know people in the industry.

Fast-forward six years, I’ve spoken here numerous times, as well as the Online PR Show and the Advanced Technical SEO Summit. This was on my bucket list for a long time, and it was an amazing experience.

I also run the Advanced Link Building and Outreach Training Course which booked nearly 40 people on its debut, along with our Head of Outreach, Laura. We’ve come a long way!

What are your most memorable moments from BrightonSEO that have impacted your journey?

One of my most memorable moments from BrightonSEO has to be the first time we took the whole team and stayed in an Airbnb for their first BrightonsEO.

In fact, we took the whole company along to BrightonSEO for many years, staying in hotels, having meals out, and generally bonding. Seeing everyone learn and enjoy themselves was very special for me.

Of course, having a stand at the last IRL conference was also a big moment, not to mention speaking on stage for the very first time. That was a nerve-wracking time but a real turning point for me as an agency director!

But beyond these memories, I also loved the opportunity to meet people who I admire and have learned from — Stephan Spencer, Christoph Cemper, and the whole Pitchbox team, to name but a few!

What do you hope to get out of this year’s BrightonSEO, both for yourself and the team?

Of course, I’m really looking forward to seeing all the link building talks!

I’m also keen to deliver my training course in person. There’s nothing quite like the dynamic of a real-life teaching environment, and I feel everyone involved — trainers and attendees alike — get more out of it as a result.

I’m mostly looking forward to networking and meeting some new people. If you’re interested in getting together over the next few days, drop me a line on LinkedIn! It’d be great to connect with you.

As the first IRL event in months, I’m also just looking forward to catching up with old friends over a few drinks — getting back to how it used to be way back when.

Any tips for newcomers?

There’s nothing quite like your first BrightonSEO!

For first-timers, I recommend taking a (fully-charged) battery pack, a bottle of ice-cold water (it can get hot in there), and a notepad and pen. I’d also advise planning which talks you want to attend ahead of time — as well as the talks themselves, think about who you want to connect with too.

If you’re going with your colleagues, have a designated meeting spot too! It saves so much time trying to find each other in the crowd.

Finally, remember to congratulate and compliment the speakers that you enjoyed, either in person or on Twitter. It means the world to them, and it’s a great way to connect with people in the industry.

What is the hottest topic in the search industry right now?

I don’t know if this is my personal bias, but I do feel links have seen a resurgence in interest of late. There’s been a lot of development in the link building space, with lots more competition. But when everyone is backing links, it makes stating the case a whole lot easier!

How has search changed over the last year?

Paid channels have become prohibitively more expensive for brands over the past few years, only offering value as long as money keeps on being poured into it — and they’re only getting more expensive.

But organic SEO is the great leveller. It requires comparatively less investment, but delivers lasting, sustainable value that helps brands get seen.

Naturally, this has had quite an impact. We’ve seen more and more brands transfer budgets to their digital strategy, with more focus on D2C as brands seek to take more control of their retail channels.

We’ve also seen the ROI of SEO increase over the past year or so too. With search demands skyrocketing during the lockdowns due to the increase in online shopping, the focus on SEO has soared too.

Of course, this does mean the industry has to level up the quality of its SEO work. With SEO taken more seriously by key stakeholders in the boardroom, competition is high, but so too are the rewards.

We can’t wait to get back to Brighton again — if you’re there, come say hello! It’s been a while, and we’d love to see some new faces (and old!) again.

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