The Gravytrain Team Visits BrightonSEO

The BrightonSEO conference is a huge event on the industry calendar. With a huge number of expert speakers, it is a great opportunity to look at the future of SEO, read on for our top takeaways!

Kira Hawker

Friday 27th April saw thousands of digital marketers descend on the seaside town of Brighton for the world-renowned BrightonSEO conference. Featuring over forty speakers and 3500 attendees from all over the world, the atmosphere was thick with anticipation of the techniques and ideas on display.

BrightonSEO started life in a room above a pub with a small group of likeminded individuals coming together to trade ideas and information on the world of SEO and digital marketing. Since those days, it has grown exponentially and is now a highly-respected conference that acts as a melting pot of creativity and knowledge.

Our digital team made their way down to the seaside and took part in a number of informative and engaging talks. Here, we’ll look at some of the key takeaways from a wide range of speakers and the areas we found most interesting.

Keeping Up with the Content

Content is of course a huge part of creating visibility on search engines as well as engaging the right users. Talks from Marcus Tober and Eleni Cashell looked at the need for alternative content techniques for niche offerings, and the danger of duplicated content respectively. Marcus talked at length about various vertical markets and the different expectations customers have insofar as the type of content they see. For example, followers of the fitness industry absorb video content at a high rate due to the need to see exercises and workout techniques, whereas those searching for something more serious like divorce are presented with list content. This knowledge then lends itself to ranking factors, which Marcus suggests should be entirely tailored to your niche.

Eleni Cashell delved into the world of duplicated content as well as strategies to deal with migrating, repurposing and even removing content that does not serve a purpose. She spoke about her own errors as a learning curve, presenting a down-to-earth yet extremely useful process for large-scale content migration.

A very interesting statistic from this session is that the vast majority of online content is shared on ‘dark social’, which basically means shared privately via platforms like WhatsApp and Messenger. This means encouraging a culture of sharing within your own business; if your staff don’t share you content, how can you expect your customers to do the same?

BrightonSEO VW Van

The Good, The Bots & The Data

The onsite SEO talk presented a wealth of more technical aspects of optimising your website. Alexis K. Sanders gave a fantastic look at structured data and the importance of for underpinning your content with technical mark-ups to make it more visible to search engines. Structured data is “information with a high degree of organisation”, which gives your content a better chance of becoming a featured snippet with rich results.

Alexis also demonstrated data that showed ecommerce sites with rich results had a higher CTR (click-through rate), proving it to be a highly-effective way of upping your SERP chances without a huge amount of extra effort.

Fili Wiese’s talk Optimising for Search Bots, took a deep dive look at the ups and downs of getting your website crawled accurately. He mentioned the issues with Javascript not rendering through Google, as well as server errors and their effect on crawl speed of Google’s bots. Interestingly, he mentioned that if have not migrated to HTTPS yet, wait until you have improved your SEO signals, so you can start fresh with maximum potential.

Time for a Snip?

Speaker Rob Bucci discussed the evolution of featured snippets and how to rank for them. You do not need to be position one the SERP (search engine results page) to be the featured snippet, however ranking on the first page will help. In fact, 99% of snippets are sourced from positions 2 to 10.

SERP features are changing as well, with video results being presented as a carousel for a lot of queries. Videos are an effective way of answering queries and search results are now competing with more and more real estate of a visual kind, therefore bringing in a need to optimise thumbnails too.

Voice search was another big area of discussion at BrightonSEO, and how optimising content for voice search means doing so for longtail queries rather than short tail, as this is the way humans request information, with sentences starting with hows, whys and what’s.

Jason Barnard gave a very interesting talk about answer engine optimisation and the future of machine learning for delivering the best and most relevant answer to search queries. Machine learning means discerning not just the right answer, but the user intent of the question as well. He also discussed a strategy for optimising your content for this purpose, starting with communicating to Google who you are and what you do, followed by convincing Google that your solution is indeed the most credible – all through technical optimisation techniques.

Technical SEO & The Need for Speed

For technical SEO, the breadth of knowledge on display was endless. Tom Pool, Tom Anthony and Emily Mace all gave fantastic talks regarding command line hacks, HTTP/2 and onpage and sitemap issues with hreflang tags. If this all sounds like another language, it’s because it is to a degree!

Without diving too far into the ins and outs of these highly-technical aspects of SEO, the main points of Emily Mace’s talk pertained to checking the effectiveness of language tags so that Google knows which language you are using in order to give results to users searching in that specific language.

Tom Anthony looked at HTTP/2 and the improvements is can have for the performance of your site. As websites have become bigger, utilising more assets per page, response times are slowed. Therefore, upgrading to HTTP/2 is the best way to ensure your site is delivered to users in a timely manner and without reduced functionality.

Shot of stage at BrightonSEO

What We’ll See with PPC

Although BrightonSEO is more SEO-focused (the clue is in the name!), there was plenty for our PPC team to get stuck into by way of talks regarding shopping campaigns and new techniques for creating engagement with paid ads.

The Supercharging Google Shopping talk by Chris Rowett discussed the benefits of mimicking keyword bidding in Google Shopping campaigns with comprehensive negative keyword structures, allowing businesses to prioritise keywords. It also covered unique ways of optimising the product shopping feed, for example by using search campaign data to match product titles to customer search terms.

For PPC, one of the main takeaways was the opportunity to drive down CPC (cost per click) by restructuring campaigns account-wide. This is done by focusing on optimising for impression share and average position, as well as aligning keywords to search intent and maximising use of extensions. The speakers also stressed the importance of combining this with a comprehensive competitor campaign (e.g. dedicated landing pages and multiple keyword structures) in delivering increased brand awareness and performance results.

BrightonSEO was a fantastic experience for all involved, showcasing some of the most exciting trends and techniques that are likely to make huge waves in the SEO industry. With a engaging atmosphere, and a lot of effort, it is no wonder it has become the must-go event of the digital marketing world. We look forward to next year!