So once again we’re at BrightonSEO and this time we’ve gone in force (being a free conference, you’ve got to do it, haven’t you?).
I’ve always liked BrightonSEO, mainly because it brings in fresh speakers who will give a different or unusual perspective. Being in Brighton as opposed to London also seems to bring a different and more specialist sort of crowd out of the woodwork.
So, without delay, here are my thoughts on the days sessions:
Is SEO Doomed? Panel Debate
A brave choice from Kelvin to start with this. Although the question was whether SEO was doomed, the discussed centred more on the morality of SEO.
Andy Budd set the tone of the conversation stating that SEO was ‘morally corrupt’, comparing the practise to the Banking sector. I enjoyed hearing a debate on this, but I didn’t really feel a good defence of SEO was put forward. Most criticism of SEO tends to focus on the ‘Blackhat’ methods, but the reality is few people are using this on real clients.
The debate brought in members of the audience; a fresh approach since most panel debates would only open up to the audience after the ‘main’ debate.
Just because people have used unethical methods to promote their websites in the past, doesn’t mean there’s a legitimate mainstream need for companies to make their products & services more findable to their customers.
Communicating the value of SEO – Doug Platts (icrossing)
It’s hard to follow on from such a lively debate with a single person slot, so I didn’t envy Doug for this. Doug’s presentation took a top down approach to SEO, explaining, amongst other things, Good and Bad KPI’s.
While I didn’t take a great deal personally from this chat, as I’ve been in SEO many years, I think the topic gave a useful insight for those newer to the industry and those dealing with clients for the first time.
Everything is a Social Network – Paul Challinor (Fresh Egg)
This was one of my favourite chats of the morning; Paul gave us a detailed insight into some tests his agency had run on Twitter. The Key takeaways were that Tweets help both ranking and indexation.
A lot of us have suspected for some time before Google’s announcement (in 2010) that Tweets were part of the algorithm, and I only see testing in this area becoming increasingly more common.
Hats off to Fresh Egg for sharing their data publically.
A word from Linkdex (Sponsor)
Linkdex gave us a ‘demo’ of their new service, which works around helping SEO’s be more efficient and informed with their link building campaigns. I assure you I’ve not been paid to say this, but the software does actually look quite good! The most interesting feature was its ability to divide the links into types (e.g Blogs, Directories etc), something I’ve experimented with myself before.
The Evolution of Linkbuilding – Lucy Freebourne (Leapfrogg)
I didn’t really enjoy this session as much as the others, as the content wasn’t really anything new for me. Nevertheless, the session did play into the theme of the day, which is to become a rounded marketing professional and not just an SEO.
The Importance of Authenticity – Stefan Hull (Propellernet)
Stefan’s interesting speech focused on, as the title says, the concept of ‘authenticity’. Stefan pointed out some interesting points, such as the importance of publishing the real authors name with articles. Stefan also pointed out that people shouldn’t take shortcuts with content production by simply copying others.
Dark Patterns: black hat interfaces designed to trick people – Harry Brignull (Clearleft)
This was probably my favourite session of the day. Harry presented us some real life cases of well known companies using what he calls ‘dark patterns’ to trick users into taking an action they didn’t intend, for commercial benefit.
While many of us help our clients maximise customer value, it’s very apparent that some people are using their knowledge to the detriment of their customers.
Harry showed us some real life instances of companies automatically adding items to baskets, changing default consents and confusing customers into taking out insurance. Harry then mentioned his campaign website, darkpatterns.org, which is aiming to call out such practises. I really hope this movement gets some traction and maybe encourages Google to take action (perhaps though Quality Score as a starting point?) against this.
Staying on the right side of the ASA – Jo Morley & Greame Benstead-Hume (Site Visibility)
A topic that has no doubt caught many people’s attention recently , is the ASA’s decision to regulate online advertising. Jo and Greeme’s session focused on the social media impact of the changes, and also how it will work in general.
Perhaps the most confusing part for most of us was the lack of a real consensus on the best approach to managing the regulation. Jo pointed out, for instance, that not only will the policies be actively policed, but the resources dedicated to handling complaints are extremely limited.
While most of us agree that this regulation could well be a positive step for the industry, the sucess implementation remains to be seen.
Buying Websites for SEO Benefit – Richard Kershaw (Quality Nonsense)
Another really good session on an often overlooked concept. Buying a website can offer many benefits (the main one being instant traffic) over starting a new one.
Richard’s chat focused largely on the implementation of the buying process and how to negotiate with sellers. Richard talked a lot of sense around how to keep the dialog open and close deals.
Search Marketing Recruitment Trends – Jake Langwith (Salt)
A fascinating chat from Jake, a head-hunter, who give us an overview of salary trends across search and social disciplines, as well as general advice on how to best work this marketplace.
Although I enjoyed this session, and am pleased Jake was willing to share his data with us, the focus of his stats were quite narrow, limited to specific disciplines (SEO, PPC, Social and Analytics) within London. I’d be happy to see Jake present again, and broaden his dataset to cover things such as regional disparities and differences between client & agency side benefits. I’d also find it fascinating to understand candidate migration trends too.
I was pleased to see this topic covered that is so important to all of us in Digital. I should also mention that we are recruiting in our search team at the moment too, so if you’re interested, please get in touch.
Top Google Analytics for SEO – Nicki Rae (Fresh Egg)
Nicki’s analytics chat was, as with all of her sessions, excellent. As a bit of an Analytics geek myself, I always love seeing and hearing new things about Analytics, especially things that are new to me.
Nicki’s main focus today was around to how to increase the recording of search traffic. I’ll let you view the presentation for yourself if you are interested, as the detail is quite technical in parts.
Day to day SEO for content producers: the story of Karen Gillan’s underwear – Malcolm Coles (Digital Sparkle)
Malcolm’s presentation definitely received the most laughs of the day, as it delved into the, not always pretty, traffic patterns of men searching for Karen Gillan’s underwear.
All jokes aside however, the talk also went into the traffic potential of trending topics, focusing on sites such as Google News and AOL Trends and how to turn around quick content to play to these trends and drive large volumes of traffic.
Is There Such a Thing as Ethical SEO? – Panel Debate
So just as the day started, the day also ended with a panel debate. The nature of the debate, once again, focused around the topic of ethics in SEO.
One of the key takeaways I took from this was the opinion of many (particularly those participating in the audience) that Black Hat/White Hat and ethics are two different questions.
Jeremy Spiller made a good point in pointing out that while he may not agree that while Google may not necessarily be the best organisation to decide industry ethics, the reality is that they are playing this role, and SEO’s wanting to rank well in the future would need to take heed.
My personal view is that nobody (SEO’s or otherwise) should undertake in activity that harms other web users. Outside of this, the judgement over the risk and longevity of tactics used is an issue for client and agency to work out.
After the Conference
Kelvin managed to book out the upstairs area of The King & Queen, just across from the conference for the post event drinks. As a venue it was perfect and just the right size for the amount of people. There was plenty of pool & table football played.
Several free drinks provided courtesy of BrightonSEO. A couple of savvy people noted that the drinks tickets could be used for double vodka’s, meaning that some people had some very interesting to say later on. As far as post event drinks go, these were probably my favourite since the last BrightonSEO.
I’m really pleased that BrightonSEO has become a full day event. This instalment was probably the most enjoyable to date. I didn’t feel that the content of the sessions was quite as strong as last year’s event, but it was still above average, sparking some excellent debate in and out of sessions.
By the end of the day, I found myself finding it hard to believe that this was a Free conference, paid for entirely by sponsorship. A terrific effort.