5 Lessons I Learned at Brighton SEO

My highlight this April was attending my very first Brighton SEO conference. Growing from a dozen SEO nerds in a pub five years ago, 1,700 SEOs poured into the beautiful Brighton Dome venue for a series of talks on everything from mobile design to social media.

Alongside tweeting, frenetically updating my Evernote and chatting to my co-workers on Slack about the event, I also occasionally looked up from my mac and learned some powerful lessons…


Mobile Design is a Bit Like Frozen

I am not a designer and I only learned code to make my posts on Livejournal have sparkly text when I was 13 (priorities). I thought I might be the wrong audience for Vicke Cheung’s talk on mobile design, but it was a huge eye opener as both a content marketer and a web user.

The conference was awash with talk of the Google Mobile update on April 21st, which will herald the start of smaller companies adapting the “mobile first” design approach that has been taking over for the past couple of years.

The most enlightening part of the talk for me was the frustrations of mobile from a designers’ point of view, where “orphans” (lines with one word) just have to be accepted as something that happens when you design for mobile. Designers will simply have to “let it go”.

With the Apple Watch being the next big device, screens are only going to get smaller and designers will have to let more go.

I ended up having more notes on my trusty Evernote document from this talk than any others – and I thought I would be sitting this one out!

You can find the Slideshare here. 


Ideas, Not Formats

Hannah Smith’s talk about the power of the pitch and putting time into idea generation, named “jaws in space” after the greatest pitch of all time, was particularly brilliant. A line that stood out to me was “ideas, not formats”.

Marketers become a little attached for formats, particularly if they are new and sexy (looking forward to seeing what marketers do with Periscope), but ideas are at the heart of what we do. I quite often find myself saying “if the idea isn’t solid, then there’s no point in doing any of the work”. Hannah’s talk made this very clear through some painful examples.

One of the most entertaining part of the talks was Hannah revealing some ideas and pitches from four years ago, when there may have been less of a focus on research and perfecting a pitch – she is now pitching some of the most innovative and sharable content on the web right now!


Link Building is Still Vital, but Requires Imagination

Matthew Barby’s breakneck look at ten ways how to build a link in twenty minutes was a personal highlight of my day – bursting with creative ideas on how to build some all-important links at a minimal cost. A takeaway here was imagination and creativity is a very important element of link building, and most of the methods can be applied to any client.

Though I am essentially a content evangelist, sometimes links are needed speedily, and content will always take time. Long-term strategies will always win you more links, but if you want to build a good set of links when content and PR fails, sometimes you just need a bit of brain juice.


We Should All Be Spending More Time Looking at Backlinks Than We Want To

Natalie Wright’s look at the power of backlink discovery was another great talk at the event.

I am already a fan of pouring over backlinks on ahrefs for both clients and competitors (because I’m a bit weird), and it should definitely be the starting point of any SEO campaign. It helps you to prioritise where your campaign should start, which toxic backlinks need to be removed, and if there are any “easy wins” that can be achieved in the first few months of your campaign.

This can only mean one thing: more time spent perusing backlinks (horray!).


SEOs Want to Help Each Other

One of my favourite parts of Brighton SEO was a roundtable I attended about using offline resources to help online campaigns – a frank exchange of ideas amongst content strategists. It was also great to see such passion for content marketing for a range of sectors. I met people who worked for very well-known companies alongside those working for small charities and small retail brands, and even shared a pint with a link builder for one of the biggest brands in the world. It was comforting to know that we all faced the same challenges, and held the same level of enthusiasm for the power of SEO and online marketing.

I can’t wait to return to Brighton in September for the next event!

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