In what surely has to be one of the best value SEO conferences in the country (mostly because it costs absolutely nothing!), BrightonSEO, organised by Kelvin Newman from Sitevisibility, kicked off its 3rd meet up, and second conference on the 23rd July 2010 with a packed crowd – there were seats for 95, and there must have been at least 20 or 30 more folks sat on the floor or gathered around the door.
Whilst I have not been to any of the “big” SEO conferences like SMX, the general consensus from those that had, was that there was a lot more value in the presentations that were given here than at many conferences that can cost big money.
The day was split into sections:
Social Media Shenanigans
The New Age of Statistical and Data Driven SEO
Giving Link Building the Creativity it Deserves
One of the standout ones here that I hadn’t used before were Blackbird Pie, a plugin that allows you to get the embed HTML from a tweet, retaining the styling of a tweet.
Broken Link Checker is one that I have started to use quite a bit recently, as it can help identify and tidy up those pesky broken links that happen from time to time on a blog.
Another standout interesting one here was the A/B Theme Testing plugin, which allows you to show different themes to users to test which one works best for you – I can certainly see some uses for that!
Next up was Cedric Wooding from Jollywise, with A Practical Guide to Managing a Facebook Advertising Campaign.
This started with a lot of the basics of how the system works, and the different types of advert available. It was interesting to learn some of the factors that affect the price – geolocation targeting, age demographics, languages and likes and interests, with these also giving estimates of the number of people that will be reached by this.
There was a case study of work that they had done in the tennis arena with the WTA, where they increased the number of likes from 7k to 225k in 6 weeks.
The most important take away here was that if you spend decent money with Facebook, they get much more interested in your activities on the site and much more helpful – by all accounts its important to get to know them well.
Next up was Annabel Hodges (better known to many as searchpanda) with When is an SEO Campaign not an SEO Campaign.
Annabel explained that she has 2 passions (other than Pandas), creating integrated strategies and multi-lingual campaigns, and has been doing her SEO work for a multi-faceted agency, where search isn’t always the priority, and they have been brought in too late, and the age old problem of butting heads with designers.
We then looked at a couple of case studies for C4 Education and New Look.
The education one was a very interesting approach – they looked to rank for generic teacher resources on content that had been created for teenagers, but teachers generally search more subject specifically than that. So the content was distributed to other sites, and many of the successes with the campaign was on increasing the visibility of that content on those websites rather than the main one itself.
All the sites in that project had big increases in visibility, large increased referral traffic for the main resource, lots more brand traffic and lots of feedback from users of the site that already knew about it, but hadn’t realised that they could use it as a teaching resource.
The next was a campaign for New Look TV – a site that they ran completely from YouTube. The main New Look site was geared up for the sale, and they wanted a microsite to be visible where the retail site couldn’t be, for celebrity launches and other similar types of searches. Rankings here focused on video friendly terms, and the videos themselves were presented by competition winners (and we were treated to some of the best of the worst of those auditions).
The result was that the terms that this was coming up for were ranking up against the media rather than ecommerce type sites, and helped them to increase visibility in areas that they previously had none.
Annabel impressed upon us the need to think beyond keywords and links and to come up with integrated approaches.
Next up was the Stats and Data session, starting with Mark Cook from Further, looking at Making Accurate Traffic Predictions.
We started with a problem – the Google Adwords Traffic estimation tool is “rubbish”, but Insights for Search is better, and much more accurate – although doesn’t give numbers, just indications of volume.
Mark went on to explain in greater detail how they can use all sorts of data to turn in to fairly accurate estimations of how much traffic a particular phrase can likely generate in specific positions on the SERP, and make estimations based on that for traffic predictions – with the long tail in many respects acting as the “buffer” to prevent any issues with over-estimating these (especially as we all know that no guarantees can be made regarding where those rankings will get to)
This was one of the standout presentations of the day – the only reason I don’t want to go into too much detail of this is because of the nature of some of this data – but rest assured, these were some cracking ideas.
Next up was Rob Green from iCrossing, talking about Data Analysis for SEO.
This involved using the Google Keyword Tool and Competitor Analysis data and pivoting it around to identify faster win targets.
Rob also suggested looking at terms that have universal search results on them and impressed upon the audience the need to collect more data to make more informed decisions.
A very interesting point for me was about how SEO can help grow the brand itself, and as a result of increased visibility on non brand terms, this can drive an increase in brand and direct visitors to the website.
Rob also felt that first click attribution could well give SEO an even higher ROI, as many initial searches start in the research phase, with the purchase being made much further down the line.
Nikki Rae from Fresh Egg was presenting next with Custom Variables in Google Analytics. This is a way of using some extra functionality within Google Analytics, and allows to help manipulate and segment all the data being collected about a website into much more meaningful groupings.
This allows for much more granular data review, allowing for page level data reviews or visit/session level data.
I’ve done some work with this in the past, but clearly this can be used very much more creatively when you want to gain different insights into the data you are collecting.
Nikki is an entertaining presenter, she got a number of members of the audience participating in an amusing demonstration of what she was showing us here.
Essentially, these custom variables seem to be very effective at tracking micro goals very effectively, and are certainly something that I am going to be investigating further.
Sam Crocker from Distilled was the next presenter, with Using Competitions in SEO, starting off the link building segment.
Sam was very keen on bringing creativity into link building efforts, and that even for the most “boring” of sites, there was something that could be done to promote some interest.
I know that I have tried to run competitions before, and at times “selling” it to your client is not always the easiest thing. Sam had some ideas on how to sell this effectively to clients, with benefits from increasing brand awareness and increasing audience – but clearly one of the main reasons this was being discussed was for the links – and links from sources that would otherwise be much harder to get.
Sam then gave us some examples of a photo competition that they ran that got links from a number of highly authoritative photo blogs and magazines.
It is important to have a seedlist to get the ball rolling with this type of competition, and Sam had a list of competition directories that were always a good place to get this started with.
This was a really good presentation, but in the closing arguments, there was 1 very important detail, re-iterated twice – people cheat, and you need to be prepared for the possibility (and if it gets big, the likelihood) that there will be a lot if it going on.
Simon Dance from cheapflights.co.uk was up next with Linkbuilding & CRM.
With this talk Simon took us on a whirlwhind tour of a fantastic assortment of programs and tools that he uses to manage various elements of link building work.
Simon made some really good points about how linkbuilding needs to streamline the admin efforts to track it, and break out more into forming longer term relationships with larger numbers of people, and impressed upon the audience that picking up the phone to these contacts plays an important part of that.
The more you form those relationships, the harder it becomes for your competitors to mimic that influence, as it is something that goes beyond that link – if you have close relationships with some of the people giving you the best links this then reduces the chances that they will also be prepared to link to one of your competitors.
Some of the tools that were used that were most interesting here included Buzzstream, Highrise and Backpack, a sister package to Basecamp, something that I have been using a lot over the last year.
Finally we were on to the eye opener topics, starting with Rishi Lakhani and Actually Making SEO Happen. Rishi was a thoroughly entertaining presenter, with some important messages to get across about getting SEO work done when working with big brands. Considering his early claims of “hating doing presentations” and “not being a very good SEO”, I think that the information he got across and in the manner he did probably proves otherwise on both points.
Rishi talked about SEO coming in different sizes, and how the people that look to employ SEO agencies are never going to have (or in fact need) the knowledge about SEO that we do. SEO suppliers need to be able to talk to their clients in a language that they understand – and that is the impact that it will have on the bottom line, rather than a report that an SEO has spent a long time making pretty.
One quote here really stood out for me “SEO isn’t just SEO anymore, you need to be a politician, marketer, public speaker and a lobbyist too”, and this is something I have been finding more and more the longer that I work in the industry.
And the final point in Rishi’s talk here was to always have a back up plan in case the initial tactic and strategy doesn’t work – something that I thoroughly agree with!
Zachary Colbert from White Hat Media looking at Lev Manovich’s theory of Linking & Association.
This was a big departure from the rest of the presentations, and centred on a less search oriented slant – instead this was looking at “are hyperlinks making us stupid?”
The essential thrust of this, as I understood it, is that does supplying a link to more information, mean that we use our minds less – because the information is available via clicking through and then reading that, we limit our potential to have a “reaction” to it, without it being influenced by that content.
I can kind of see where this was coming from – due to the ability to access information on the internet freely, and with smartphone from just about everywhere, I have found myself searching for things that I know I used to be able to remember – bet then that could also be the aging process!
This was centred on a review of a fairly static, but monetised search term “Outdoor Clothing”. We were looking at the breakdown of brand versus keyword focused anchors, and looking at correlations in this data.
The interesting point with this study, is that sites with (home pages) that had lots of brand based links were ranking highly in this SERP, whilst the site that had the most keyword oriented links was languishing much further down the page.
This sparked some debate around the room, with discussion looking at whether or not keyword anchors perhaps work more effectively with deeper pages, and that it is natural for a home page to have a high number of brand based links in general, particularly if it is a well known brand.
It was also posed that it is likely that different types of search term have differing levels of sensitivity to this over-engineering of the link graph, and that more studies needed to be performed to test further.
Once the presentations were all done, there was time for a big thanks to Kelvin for all of his work getting the event organised. It was then time to go and put faces to Twitter avatars and meet some familiar faces from previous events, back at the spiritual home of Brightonseo, a local pub, the Quadrant.