BrightonSEO has come and gone once more with one of its best sets of talks yet. It was the second online-only conference due to the COVID-19 pandemic and a group of the Impression team attended a variety of talks. We discussed the ones we watched and what we learnt from them.
BrightonSEO is a bi-annual digital marketing conference with training courses and talks covering every facet of our industry. It usually takes place in April and September each year but this year’s Spring edition was at the end of March with a summer edition scheduled for 8th–9th July.
Link Building in 2021 (When You’re a Bit Crap at PR) by Stacey MacNaught
Stacey began the talk by clarifying that she is an SEO who builds links as part of her job – definitely not a PR pro. Digital PR, she argues, is about so much more than just building links: PRs look into social, brand awareness, TV, and even crisis management.
The approach Stacey puts forward is about building links in passive ways. This involves a mindset shift: rather than being the story as is usually the case in digital PR, it’s possible to be a part of someone else’s story.
- Reactive PR or “inbound PR”: Stacey’s top tips are to respond fast and selectively things like #journorequest on Twitter and prepare a bio with headshots ready, and check platforms constantly.
- Link bait: This approach definitely works for keyword areas like “statistics”, “trends”, and “downloads”, and builds links gradually over time.
- “Stealable assets”: Create banks of assets like images and publish under Creative Commons. Stacey uses Flickr for distribution, setting the images as available for reuse under Creative Commons.
Social links: @staceycav on Twitter
Automating content optimisation and how to test the impact on CTR and ranks by Michael Costanzo
Michael is currently a Senior SEO Manager at Trainline. The aim of automating content optimisation is to identify quick-wins that can be applied to lots of pages at scale to achieve growth. However this only works for already semi-automated sites with lots of Google Search Console (GSC) data and a developer or CMS that allows you to roll out page changes in bulk.
- For larger sites, it’s impossible to optimise pages one at a time so everything has to be done at scale.
- Identify quick-wins that are applicable to many pages at scale to achieve growth.
- Michael’s approaches won’t work for sites that upload content one page at a time.
Social links: Michael Costanzo on LinkedIn
What we’ve discovered about Discover by Alice Foster
Alice Foster gave us a fascinating glimpse into both the world of Google Discover and the life of an SEO in the journalism world with her talk. She started with surprising stats about the reach of Google Discover, including that it provides more traffic for her paper, The Times, than Google Search does.
She then provided insights into what does and doesn’t work for the platform, emphasising the need for catching a user’s eye and engaging them in the feed over the usual SEO approach of keyword targeting, which doesn’t apply here.
Alice finished by summing up her recommendations into 6 points: think in topics, write compelling headlines, use scroll-stopping pictures, demonstrate E-A-T, provide a great mobile experience, and experiment with web stories.
Social links: @Alice__Foster on Twitter
How Content Marketing Can Skyrocket Your Brand Authority by Amanda Milligan
“Amazing content can’t make up for a bad product or service.”
Authoritative content is determined by how rank worthy and link worthy it is.
Rank worthy content shows authority through consumers seeing you as the people who ‘know best’. In order to rank, you need to meet the user’s intent, and think about whether you’re answering what people want to know. The intent and format should inform the content that you create.
Link worthy content follows a ‘promotional trifecta’ involving widely appealing content, original data and a surprise factor.
- Search intent is the most important thing for building authority – answer the questions.
- User intent informs article length, included topics, graphic types, content format, promotional plan
- Just because something is ranking high now doesn’t mean it’s the best answer to the keyword inquiry, it might just mean nothing better exists yet
- Use the promotional trifecta when creating link worthy content to help build authority
Social links: @millanda on Twitter
Ned outlined that “just because someone is spending money, it doesn’t mean that they are the one who is consciously deciding how that money is being spent” – deciding who to reach is important when it comes to SEO.
Examples of this in action is the parents vs kids/teens. Kids/teens are the audience but it’s the parents that pay for it, e.g. for video games, cereals etc.
Ned had a great analogy about survivorship bias and targeting your audiences from a book called how not to be wrong by Jordan Ellenberg, which makes an analogy with planes and bullet holes. The analogy can be read here and relates back to the talk in the sense that you should not put armour where the bullet holes are, you should put armour where the bullet holes aren’t.
- Target those who drive action – not necessarily those who do the ‘paying’ – junior professionals are often the ones who drive change.
- Use your site analytics to your advantage.
- What are the standout trends that unite the analytics of the visitors for your site?
- What passions unite your customers? You need to put things that resonate with them, in front of them, what can you do to make sure people know you are speaking to them and just to them?
Social links: @revisit on Twitter
User Experience and Accessibility by Niki Mosier
This talk was about web accessibility and the importance of good user experience, not just from a user perspective, but now increasingly for SEO. The Core Web Vitals update will put a lot more emphasis on usability for SEO and websites with good visibility across all devices for multiple users will be rewarded.
Around 17% of the American population suffers from some form of disability, whether it be visual or auditory, or mobility issues and cognitive impairments, and these factors should be taken into consideration when creating digital content to accommodate the various methods people use to access the web.
As well as users with disabilities, you should consider whether your content is easily accessible to the elderly or those with poor wifi speed. Failing to make your website accessible inadvertently narrows your target market, leading to lost revenue, negative effects on your brand reputation, and potential legal and ADA accessibility standards breaches.
- Making your content more accessible is not only vital for inclusivity, as of spring 2021, it should also help improve your website’s rankings.
- There are some useful tools to help you test your site’s usability including Google Lighthouse and WordPress Plugins.
Social links: @nikers85 on Twitter
International Linkbuilding – How To Scale Continental by Dennis Akkerman
This talk was all about how to approach international link building and how there is no “one size fits all approach” to growing a strong backlink profile in a new country and gaining authority.
Once businesses navigate their chosen path of international site structure, they must find a link building method that works for them. The talk covered several European countries and highlighted the differences in how people like to access content in those countries, as well as the amount of high quality and authoritative domains are based in that country.
There are also countries in which you should be wary of black-hat link building practices that you may unwittingly be sucked into without having a native speaker working on outreach.
- Be patient with international link building as it takes time, and utilise digital PR if possible to accelerate getting local branded backlinks.
Social links: @Dennis_Akkerman on Twitter
Stakeholder Salad: Communication Skills For SEO by Kayleigh Töyrä
This talk was about breaking through some of those stakeholder communication pain points that SEOs deal with regularly in order to be more productive and efficient in their SEO endeavours.
It covered common communication blockers when dealing with clients and developers, and techniques to overcome them such as education, scoping, and building better relationships.
Another interesting part of this talk broke down how people view SEO and how they overlook its importance to user experience, accessibility, and serving users better content.
- Scoping is a great way of communicating in SEO. Ask yourself, “what am I asking this person to do and what is the purpose behind it?”.
- Give clear directives, explaining the purpose of what you’re ordering, a time frame and what it will mean in the future context of the SEO strategy.
Social links: @KayleighToyra on Twitter
Control Your Indexability by Areej AbuAli
Areej’s talk delved into the world of indexability and suggested the best ways to reduce index bloat for larger sites like aggregators and classified ads sites.
Areej’s advice on how to communicate with product teams and stakeholders to explain necessary changes was my favourite part as that can be more challenging than the implementations at times.
- SEOs shouldn’t work in silos and must integrate with other parts of the business to get results
- We should also measure our wins in a language that stakeholders can understand and businesses care about
- It’s okay to feel overwhelmed sometimes (I needed to hear that!)
Social links: @areej_abuali on Twitter
How to build simple Web apps in Python to automate your SEO tasks! By Charly Wargnier
Charly gave a really insightful talk on how to build simple Python Web apps using the Streamlit framework. He demonstrated some use cases and also demystified the idea that Python or learning to code was difficult or essential for an SEO to be successful. It was probably my favourite talk as I’ve been learning Python over the last couple of years and it has already helped me take my education to the next level.
- Ditch Excel when using larger datasets as it can’t handle them
- Play with APIs to get an idea of how they work
- Find ways that Python can automate your workflow, freeing up time for tasks that need a human touch
Social links: @DataChaz on Twitter
Neural Matching and How Machines Construct Language by Jessica Peck
Jess’s talk discussed neural matching and how Google uses it to find connections in language. She looked at it from a search perspective and how digital marketing professionals can use natural language processing (NLP) to optimise content that helps it to rank higher on search engines and serve users the impactful copy at the same time.
- Look past keywords as the start and end of content
- Provide context for those “fuzzy edges” – the queries that aren’t specific but can still have specific answers
- Don’t be robotic, be robot-like – use APIs to inform content beyond the traditional sense of copywriting
Social links: @jessthebp on Twitter
For many, the Spring 2021 edition of brightonSEO was one of the best yet thanks to a variety of talks from some of the top names in the industry. So many different topics were covered and showcased the advancements in automation, link building, accessibility, and strategy that everyone can use.
Hopefully, we can also head down to Brighton for the Autumn edition and do it all again but for now, we can take action on some of those key takeaways.