Gordon and Joannie bring back their top takeaways from the event.


Joannie McLellan. Gordon Carslaw.

Our SEO marketers have returned from their BrightonSEO travels! Read the first of their top eight takeaways from the UK's biggest search marketing training and conference event.

It’s been two weeks since we were at Brighton SEO and we’ve just about managed to digest all our new learnings! For those of you who couldn’t make it we wanted to share our top 8 talks from the big day. Links through to the slide decks are included for you to learn more for any talks that take your fancy.

Brighton SEO is a free search marketing conference that occurs twice a year in sunny Brighton. Talks cover everything from influencer marketing and social media to more technical subjects like such as JavaScript and Robots.txt.


Number 1: Using Advanced Social Listening to Drive SEO

The morning kicked off with the Future of Search and up first was Daniel Rowles from Target Internet who was keen to emphasise the limitation of keyword research tools.

  • He put social listening into perspective and how social signals can allow you to be agile, responsive and in times protect your brand.
  • What are we talking about? Well one of his examples of the limitations of keyword data is this, he asked us what this search term in Google Trends was:


  • The answer? ‘Jobs’ and what happened to cause the spike in this time period? The death of Steve Jobs and all of a sudden the data is skewed. From here Daniel highlighted further limitations of keyword tools:
    • No information on related topics
    • Doesn’t flag things you’ve not thought about
    • What phrases are being used and future trends
  • A tool he recommended to use to get more information is brandwatch, (other social listening tools available). As well as being able to identify anything off of your own URL, for SEO, Daniel and Target Internet use the tool to identify key themes of conversation and interest and then produce content to fill the demand. For example with the query ‘what is google preferred?’, they saw a spike in interest so they decided to write a blog about it. Quick blog of only 400 words and in 10 days were ranking number 1.
  • They now have 50 articles ranking like this on Google and some are also appearing as featured snippets in search results. In addition their blog is preferred to Amazing!  

For more on Daniel’s session you can find the slides from BrightonSEO online here.


Number 2: The Rise of Voice Search

Saleley Jnr Johnson from Mindshare spoke about the rise of voice search. This was a great session which highlighted research from SpeakEasy Insights who use science to monitor behaviours and attitudes over a period of time and have produced results on voice. Here are the highlights:

  • USA and the UK have been slower to take up Voice Search compared to the likes of Japan.
  • Primary use for voice is online searches, second questions and 5th is about brands and finding out information on Brands.
  • Why are people using it? Well there’s a greater cognitive load when you are using text “Voice is more natural and search is easier with voice, there is less strain on the brain”.
  • 69% of people want to have a conversation with their assistant, they want that human connection”. So much so that 29% of people said they’ve had a sexual fantasy about their voice assistant. We don’t want a mechanical experience and don’t want to search just one keyword.
  • There’s a greater emotional response with voice search than text. This is why we, as brands, have to consider what our brand sounds like on voice, what’s the personality of the voice and brand, what language should we use? We need to be warm, more human and our strategy has to include this.
  • Skills on Voice devices, there’s over 7,000 skills and 69% of them aren’t being used. We need to start using the likes of schema to optimise for mobile and use conversational content to try and break through the gatekeepers to voice.
  • Automotive would be a good example of where voice can have a great impact. For example if we consider the moments we could target in a school run. A stressful moment when you’re driving the car so we could have pre-installed skills to answer queries in those moments.
  • It’s not about the query, but what prompted the query?” We have to forget about just the keyword, what’s important is the context. That’s what really matters.
  • FORGET KEYWORDS! “It’s about moments and how a brand can connect the moment with its customer”. Voice can drive emotional and positive connections between you and your consumers.

For more on Saeley’s session you can find the slides from BrightonSEO online here.


 Number 3: Tactical, Practical keyword research for today's SEO Campaigns

 Stacey MacNaught from Propellernet takes on keyword research was fantastic. She gave a no nonsense approach to SEO. Some stereotypes were thrown out the window and she gave us a true approach to how we should be conducting Keyword Research. Some key insights included:

  • 55% product searches in US start on Amazon not Google
  • 50% of Search to be voice in 2020
  • Hummingbird was the real game changer. Google now able to interpret natural language and is understand it a lot better.  
  • So much so that Google is able to present us information without us having to visit the website? Is that always the case though? Sometimes position 0, structured snippets, aren’t always what they seem.
  • Keyword research is much more complex than before, it has moved from from a spreadsheet of keywords to a 20/30 page document. It’s now time consuming and research is much more in depth than ever.
  • It’s time to step away from the tools. Tools are only as good as what we put into them. Use search, ‘people also ask’ and Google Search Console to find out more.
  • Organic channel should be a revenue generator” and we have to consider 3 audiences, those before, during and after the buying journey. What are the triggers for wanting a product or service? Why did you buy the product? Majority of these instances are because there is a problem with was already available.
  • Why did you buy a washing machine? Broken? Had a baby? New House? These reasons were the same for buying life insurance.
  • "'Cause they visit your website doesn't mean they are going to come back, there are millions of websites” Find out what people like about the competition.
  • Use Market leader’s reviews for services and filter them by 5 star, copy and paste it and remove common reviews and pop the rest of them into word cloud to find common objectives that make people want to review and tell people about.
  • In some cases PPC can cost £30 a click and that makes the organic traffic valuable.

For more on Stacey’s session you can find the slides from BrightonSEO online here.

Also in this session was Sophie Coley on ‘Answering the Public: How to take Audience Insight from Search Data and Kelvin Newman, founder of BrightonSEO, on Scary Serps (and keyword creep)


Number 4: Is your SEO getting enough credit?

Founder of Conductor, Seth Besmertnik gave us a fascinating insight to his views of SEO with real emphasis on a customer first approach to satisfy customer needs with great content and how that can help you to be found by your audience. Key insights:

  • L’Oreal spent $1.92bn on advertising in 2016 with 30% of that spent on Digital, however, despite that spend they didn’t appear in a lot of search results. For example ‘how to dye hair?’ This wasn’t just in Google but also in Pinterest or YouTube. Why are they not appearing for these type of questions though?
  • Another example - Tide, Laundry Detergent and Fabric Care Products, had a SuperBowl Advertising fiasco. They spent $20million on a 30 second commercial during the Superbowl but if you searched ‘how to get stains out my clothes’ they don’t appear. This is a brand that has 40% share of the market! Why aren’t they ranking?
  • Another example - Casper, mattress company, spent $80million dollars on outdoor media however when I search ‘how to sleep better’ there are no results for Casper!
  • Lots of money being spent but they’re not showing up where it matters
  • What we have to start thinking about is not about “do consumers care about organic or paid results? Consumers don’t care about paid v organic, they care about value”.
  • A lot is made about Display ads, high bounce rate, no conversions, it doesn’t matter. Banner ads are historically useless, even more so if they don’t offer value.
  • Why did someone start a business? In most cases because there was a problem. Brands need to offer value by educating, helping people decide and then give support.
  •  "There's only one algorithm that matters and it's the heart the mind and the soul of the customer
  •  How do we get buy in from Leaders and Decision makers for SEO? We need to communicate differently and instead of spreadsheets use pie charts or charts. No more Spreadsheets! Show the potential volume for keywords and show what you are currently achieving against what you could be achieving. Great!
  • Ever been asked ‘I have searched x phrase and we don’t appear, we should be ranking for this term, why aren’t we?’ Talk about these things with your bosses and get them to buy into SEO.

For more on Seths’s session you can find the slides from BrightonSEO online here.


Number 5: Robots: X, Meta & TXT - The Snog, Marry and Avoid of the Web Crawling World

Chris Green from StrategiQ highlighted how X, Meta and Robots Txt can be useful in solving crawling and index problems. Here were the key highlights:

  • Is it a crawl problem? Google isn’t see enough of my website so what should I do? Well we fix crawl problems with Robots.txt for example: Disallow: /
  • Is it an index problem? Google isn’t indexing enough of my website? What should I do? We fix these with Meta Robots for example ‘index’, or ‘noindex’, ‘follow’.
  • We can find Index problems easily by looking on Search Console and identify HTML improvements. If there is a high number of duplicate content then this is an issue.
  • Does your website look too big in Google’s eyes? If you have a really big website, over 1,000 pages you may want to look into Spider traps and Crawl budget. If you want to calculate your Crawl Budget you can here with Yoast.
  • Look at Google Search Console stats and how many pages on average are being crawled per day in ‘Crawl Stats’ and compare it against how many pages in total are indexed on Google.
  • Pages/avg pages crawled a day = your crawl score (how many days is it taking Google to crawl your site. If it’s 10 or more then that's a problem)
  • When there is 10,000+ page that’s why things start to become fun, especially for Ecommerce sites. It’s important to eliminate the pages that we don't want Google to crawl and waste googles time. Therefore ensure ecommerce filters are in place.
  • Disallow (telling Google to stop crawling those pages) and disallow filter URLs.
  • Disallow any files that aren't HTML and then no index them
  • However there seems to be a bit of confusion around this topic. Should we use NoIndex or not? Here are some interesting takes on it.
  • However beware that some filtered pages can be worth indexing, check if they have any SEO value, are they driving traffic before blocking the page from being indexed.

For more on Chris’s session you can find the slides from BrightonSEO online here. You can also find out more on Crawl budget from Francois Goube session on How to Optimise your crawl budget here.


Number 6: Understanding the impact of Mobile-First Indexing

Cindy Krum from Mobile Moxie gives us an amazing insight into understanding the impact of Mobile-First Insight indexing in the long and short term for SEO. “Cloud-First Indexing is the new SEO”. Here are the main takeaways:

  • Mobile-First Indexing is launching in 2018 but it’s vital that you don’t categorise Mobile First Design as Mobile-First Indexing - they are totally different.
  • All it means is that Google will consider it first before moving onto anything else, therefore if you don’t have a mobile website you will still be indexed. It’s about ordering information to make it findable. Google: “I can find this information but how will I order and deliver it”.
  • What is considered mobile? It’s not just phones and tablets, anything that is portable or moveable content is part of the Internet of Things that Google can now index.
  • Voice-First Device footprint continuing to grow. In 2017 there are over 30+ million voice first devices being used.
  • Chatbots are growing faster than Apps too. In its early stages, Messenger bots are growing quicker than apps did. First 3 months (7,500 apps | 11,000 bots) First 6 Months (15,000 apps | 30,000 bots). 100% Growth for Apps, 170% growth for bots.
  • Chromecast becoming another important ranking factor. Chromecast gives us the ability to go from mobile to our television to Google Home to Google Cardboard. Google likes content that can interact with all your home devices. It gives it more information about you. Google “This is cool, I can connect to other devices, I’m going to reward you for it”.
  • Who is on First? Mobile, Offline, AI and Voice First. They are all the same thing because Google collects data from Web and Apps. If you get it on the cloud then Google is going to rank it. But Why?
  • It’s becoming ever complex for Google to crawl websites. There’s more data than ever to be crawled and 90% of world’s data was created in the past 2 years". Instead of crawling, Google will prefer other efficient ways to access content. Through Feeds <xml> files, JSON-LD (Linked Data), Plug Ins, Progressive Web Apps and API’s.
  • If you use the power of the cloud to host then Google no longer has to rely on URLs to index your content. It will take one language from the cloud and apply it to all platforms including voice devices. “Mobile-First Indexing is Cloud-First Indexing”.
  • Google is wanting us to be able to play content in a number of different devices. It gives them a better understanding and helps them develop their AI. So much so that they could tell how long it took us to get from A to B in our home.
  • All these things are getting linked up which allows us to do things in Google Cardboard with Semantics and URLs are no longer needed. We see it in search already.  Search on music and click on a song, the URL does not change or search a music artist and click on it and it will give me all the songs, the songs related to that song in a knowledge graph through AI.
  • Google Now another example of the URL not being required, Google now, shows, videos, music and Google set things up for you without URL or dynamic URL.
  • Google is now Indexing sounds, there is no URL for the term for example ‘Cow Noises’ for it to rank so how does it rank, it does it naturally through the cloud.
  • Feeds that rank well in Google, Movie Times, Shopping, Sport Scenes, Weather and Exchange Rates. It’s an easy way for Google to digest data. A crawler is too slow so these are a great way to rank. “It’s the new way to communicate with Google”.
  • Databases can be marked-up without needing a website. Google can now pick up the information without a crawl. In addition, Google hosted content ranks well in search results, for example AMP, Answers, Events, YouTube, Traffic and Utilities.
  • JSON Schema can be associated with HTML, App Association Files (JSON), PWA Service Workers and Data Sets. Find out more here.
  • PWA and Plug-ins may be critical to SEO through service worker.  Google is turning Google Now and Knowledge Graph content into PWAs which can be saved to your home screen on mobile. Again easier to crawl.
  • Google is turning everything into a knowledge graph and this information can be used in a number of PlugINs. You are even able to book a table now in knowledge graphs - Open Table. These actions have 2 presentation layers, for on screen and for voice and depending on the input method the API/AI platform will analyse the intent which goes into actionable data before the output is delivered.
  • API - Application Program Interface, is a set of routines, protocols, and tools for building software applications. An API specifies how software components should interact. Marking these up allows them to be public for Google to share it and it’s already doing this to enable rich content about you.
  • This is leading to a world where all devices have one assistant, wherever you go your information on the cloud will be accessible on watch, phone, desktop, voice and even in the car.
  • Because of this Mobile first indexing going to change things for SEO. “Cloud-First Indexing is the new SEO”.

For more information on Cindy’s Session you can find her slides here.


Number 7: 7 Small Tweaks That Boost Your Rankings

Danny Richman discussed the necessity for SEOs to focus on user signals and CRO as there has been a shift from Search Engine Optimisation to Search User Optimisation.

  • Search user satisfaction should be the main goal and this should start from the result appearance in the SERP.
  • SEOs should ask themselves; does the Page Title and Meta Description address the searcher’s problem and give them the confidence that you will be able to answer their question better than others.
  • Danny believes that users ask themselves the following questions before clicking through to a landing page:
  1. Will this help me achieve my end goal?
  2. Do they appear to be credible?
  3. What makes them different/better than others?
  4. What will I see when I click?
  • He discussed how just tweaking his Title and Meta Description saw a massive rise in CTR:
    • By auditing your site with data from Search Console and updating those pages that receive a low CTR you could see an increase in organic traffic to low performing pages.
    • He also suggested using Google Adwords to test page titles and meta descriptions and understand what works better for your brand before making them live on your website.

Click here for Danny’s full slides which include a detailed step by step guide on how to audit your site.


Number 8: Content Strategy - Hygiene, Hub, Hero Content

Jade Tolley of Zazzle Media discussed the importance of hub, hygiene and hero content and why every brand should be applying these principles to their content strategy.

  • She believes that every brand should create content as if they were a publisher and by following a set content strategy which includes hub, hygiene and hero content you should see an a significant increase in the performance of content marketing efforts.
  • Hygiene content includes category content such as guides which targets search and converts sales; this is a brand’s evergreen content which won’t change often.
  • Hygiene content should capture primary search terms aimed to put your brand forward as the expert content source in your field.
  • Hub content includes blog content and on page portals which should be used to engage target audience and create a community. Hub content should be updated on a weekly basis and should answer those searching for long tail keywords including “how to articles”.
  • Another method for creating hub content should be reacting to industry news and events. Using seasonal search trends could also help when planning hub content.
  • Hero content includes one off highly shareable, interactive pieces such as video or infographics as campaigns mostly used for brand awareness.
  • All new content should come from keyword and target audience research and should include a full content distribution plan in line with those findings.

For Jade’s full slides click here.


It's quite a lot to take in, but there are some highlights from the top 8 talks we caught at BrightSEO conference. With such great insight, it's given us loads to think about, and was so inspiring for our SEO team. It was awesome and we'll see you back there next year, for sure!