Friday 27th April 2018 saw the Seeker team head to sunny(ish) Brighton, not for a day on the pier with candyfloss and kiss-me-quick hats though. Instead, we hustled ourselves down to BrightonSEO, to hear some intriguing ideas and cutting-edge thought leadership from some of the finest minds the industry has to offer.
It was a whirlwind of a day, rushing from room to room to hear talks on niche content optimisation, search intent, digital PR, ecommerce keyword research, and so much more. Between talks we rubbed shoulders with slick, besuited entrepreneurs and their gaggles of eager fans, iPhone-clutching PR types playing the retro arcade games (ironically of course), and the inevitable SEO ninjas in slogan tees – “I got 99 problems but a crawl ain’t one” – queuing at the free bar.
It’s a conference Jim, but not as we know it.
For a BrightonSEO ingénue like myself, there was a lot to take in. Here’s a quick rundown of what I took away from the most exciting – and bizarre – conference you’ll ever see.
Scorched earth optimisation
One of the hardest things a writer has to do is edit their own content, cutting out vast swathes of the words they painstakingly poured onto the page, all for the greater good. So imagine our consternation when Marcus Tober, founder and CTO of Searchmetrics, told us that removing dead or poorly-performing content is one of the best ways to improve your SEO. And it wasn’t just Marcus either. Botify’s Mark Thomas extolled the praises of chucking or no-indexing the deadbeat content on your site to optimise mobile UX too.
Yes, apparently the benefits of removing your clothes and jewellery when you weigh yourself can also be applied to your SEO. Google’s Panda update brought with it many changes, including an emphasis on longer, more comprehensive articles. That means your 500-word blog post hammered out last thing on a Friday night just doesn’t make the cut anymore. Jettisoning the underachievers ensures your site is crawled faster, and gets rid of the outliers dragging down your average.
While it might prove painful for your writers team, when it comes to content or your SEO, it’s no contest. Only the most self-flagellating of writers would sacrifice their ranking for their art.
Although it’s not all doom and gloom. Updating your content to make it longer and with a more coherent structure can turn those outliers into MVPs for your site’s content. This includes using the right niche ranking factors for the right content. An article about divorce might not rank highly for images, but would for factors such as lists. On the other side of the coin, a furniture store would rank for images, but perhaps not for other factors.
Check out Mark’s slide deck for more information.
Under the influence
For me, influencers are the savvy brand’s marketing Holy Grail. In a social and digital age, it’s a channel that can offer brands a veritable Aladdin’s cave of engagement and awareness. Forget your paid ads – influencer marketing is where it’s at.
But the dynamic and eloquent Hannah Butcher was there to remind us that the process of conducting an influencer marketing campaign was far from easy. In fact, it’s a delicate process, a taut tightrope that each party must navigate with care and diplomacy.
For at its crux, influencer marketing is about people. And let’s face it, people tend to suck. They can be petty and petulant, and Hannah showed us plenty of examples of brands marring their reputation by generally being short-sighted and insensitive. The onus is on the brand to exercise care and diligence in their approach.
How? Well first and foremost, check your attitude. That’s an obvious one. But you also need to be concise in your pitch to them, and get straight to the point. Tell them who you are (right down to your team and job title), and outline from the off what you’d expect from a potential campaign. In Hannah’s words: “influencers are savvy”, and you should be too!
Have a look Hannah’s slide deck to get the rest of her talk.
Search intent and destroy
As the day drew to a close and the queue for the bar got longer, one of last sessions we attended before the keynote was from Base Creative’s Anna Corbett. This one particularly resonated with me, and not just because it was cat-heavy (and it really did feature a lot of cats). Anna explored the semantics of search language, illustrating beautifully and clearly the nuance of sentence structure and user intent.
She advocates a granular approach to how we view searches. When we identify the meaning of specific nouns, or consider what the verbs used imply, or even just isolate significant prefixes and suffixes, it can change the entire meaning of the searcher’s intent. “We have the edge over search engines”, says Anna. We can use our human intellect to determine where the searcher wants to go, and give us a better understanding of the SERP landscape.
One particularly useful takeaway of this was knowing the value of intent modifiers. Before sitting down, we knew that there are four types of search query: informational, commercial, transactional, and local. But Anna highlighted the value of modifiers, words such as “best,” “compare,” “cost of,” “near me.” These words and phrases can alter the keywords you use and the content you provide, and you can use your brand’s own data to create better, more specific long-tail keywords. It was advanced keyword research, purr-fectly delivered.
Want to know more about search? Anna’s slide deck has everything you’ll need.
As we boarded our antiquated Thatcher-era train and watched the south coast fall away behind us, we ruminated on what we’d learned that day. More than just food for thought, it was a veritable feast. And so we bade farewell to Brighton and its thriving SEO scene. Not forever of course, but certainly for now…