It may have taken place on Friday 13th but last week's Brighton SEO Conference passed by without any major catastrophes, despite Dixon's best attempts on a crowded M25. We even managed to take notes.
If you were or weren't able to attend Brighton SEO this past Friday at the Brighton Dome, here is a list of tips we picked up during the sessions:
Here are a few of the questions that were asked during the first morning session:
Q. Is SEO doomed?
A. To quote Pierre “SEO will never die. It will evolve”. The general consensus was that SEO is not doomed and nor will it die. Instead, we continually need to evolve; something that has been a regular in the industry for the past several years.
Q. What is a bad link?
A. With the question specifically aimed at Google's Pierre, the response given was the obvious “Buying, exchanges and link schemes”. The rule of thumb when determining link quality is whether or not it is natural and helpful for users.
Q. How do we get re-included?
A. Pierre pointed out that if you receive a notification in Webmaster Tools after a manual review, to be reincluded you are required to clean up the mess you have built, tell Google what you did then your site will be considered for re-inclusion in the results. Google want to see a good faith efforts from webmasters to remove bad links.
Q. How do you optimise your content?
A. It's not just about content; but the inclusion of videos, reviews and apps play a part. Also think about how your content will be shared. However, Pierre insisted there is no SEO checklist but if you create good content you will naturally tick the boxes.
Q. What are good and bad social signals?
A. Bing Dave said a good social signal was the speed and fluidity of your content being shared more than the quantity. Bing uses Twitter and Facebook for their social signs.
Q. Why are you hiding your Analytics search queries?
A. Pierre insisted that encrypted search is “protecting the users” (queue laughter from the audience).
Philip's session was spent discussing future vistas; getting us to think about what we do. Understanding the web itself, the use of data, information and exchange. Philip also questioned if we were now in Web 3.0 and that Web 3.0 is Semantic Web.
Semantic web is based on three triples: subject, predicate and object. By understanding these will help us to understand how we can discover the full potential of the semantic web.
The third presentation started with the simple question “What is a brand?”. A brand isn't what we believe it is, but brands are what people perceive it to be. Sam's quote was something along those lines.
Sam, the digital marketing director at Koozai, who were known as Impact Media 12 months ago gave us reasons for a company to re-brand, including Overcrowding, Merger, new product and Reinvention.
Examples of brands in Sam's presentation included Virgin, Nestle and Coca Cola. The latter was interesting, pointing out that Coca Cola own Vitamin Water but don't have their branded on the water as it would be off-putting for potential buyers who associate cola with high sugar levels. A different market.
When Koozai went through their re-branding, they started with Competitor Research. What did they like about the competition? What were they doing well? What they didn't like and what they could do better. They then brainstormed ten to a dozen potential names.
Sam stressed the importance of trademarking your name to prevent any problems down the line. As well registering your name on the 100s of social media sites out there (using Knowem.com).
The presentation was finished with dominating the SERPs with your brand name to make sure that if anyone searches for you that you can be found. Like being number 1 for your own name in Google really...
Adam, whose DVD rack I stole at the end of the day gave us a session on market research tactics for those of us with a small budget, separated into three examples.
1st example: A small company which do not have the resources to compete for the big, generic terms. Adam's suggestion was to create personas to find out what people are talking about. Use these personas to find the influencers.
2nd example: A large, successful company who is looking to launch new software. Use social media sites to monitor what people are saying about your brand. Engage with your client base to see what they think about your brand and build a community that you can use again.
3rd example: A company looking to find the next big thing. Ask questions related to products already in use that allows you to see why and how people are using these. If you review habits you can start to look at things in a different way. This helps you to understand the audience.
Glenn focused on Microformats and how important they are set to become on Google, providing a richer SERP.
The presentation showed us through example SERP results containing markups.
Preferable in the majority of cases to use micro formats rather than micro data (html5) and RDFa.
The example shown to us was a Yorkshire Pudding Recipe and how you can mark it up to show the information in the search engine.
Authorship was a key mention during this speech; providing social proof; helping you to gain trust in your content by all being recognised under one author.
Roland showed us research into what Searchbots actually see when they call our sites. This data isn't looked at by Google Analytics, and Google Webmaster Tools only tells us some of this information. Web log files are tricky to read, and time-consuming, but tell us when search engines last visited your site. Roland seemingly had a lot of time to look at them. His research found that only 40% of the time on a popular site (200k+ monthly visits) only two URLs were being crawled.
Roland asked if the Googlebot was spending its time cost effectively, with the answer being no, not a lot of the time. The bot gets distracted and even lost sometimes!
The lunch break included a performance from the People's Magician. Magic Sam made Dynamo look lame by making a banana... I mean bandana disappear.
Charlie mentioned towards the start of his presentation that he was peeved by an SEO strategy he was presented with by a white-hat SEO company after they spent a significant amount of time on social sharing buttons and barely touched upon great content.
Content is not just words – but also pictures, video, audio, tools, data etc. And it's not just blogs; but PR, customer service, products, SEO etc. In the modern day, content is expensive,because a lot of the time, more than one person is generating it. Although Charlie never used the phrase himself, this was a 'content is king' speech.
A strong candidate for speech of the day. Certainly my favourite. Lexi taught us that you don't need to have a relationship with people to get links. Or you don't need to have relationships with journalists to get links from big media sites.
Doing your research from the start was a key point. Knowing which sites link policy do and do not give out links, NoFollow links etc. As well using the likes of Twitter and LinkedIn to find out the right contact.
How to ask for links? Be open up front and tell the recipient that you want a followed link! Simple. Well, not quite. You need to provide them with:
Right story --> Right person --> Right time --> Build Trust.
Lexi claimed that any response, positive or negative was potential for a link. And if you get a story published with no link the first time, there's potential in the future to get a story published with a link. Branded and profile links have a higher success rate.
In the tougher niches, PR Newswire and Business Wire are fine to use. Use the notes to editors section for additional links.
Using the phone when approaching journalists and editors is the best way to communicate. Speaking with clients about potential stories they might have, or any newsworthy content in general is a good place to start. After all, the client knows their product and industry better than you. I assume.
I took my afternoon nap during this session.
Stephen taught us the importance of using Google's search operators as a way to find potential link candidates (negative keywords, inpostauthor:, related: etc). Time-based query strings and keyword rich domains also, as well as combining more than one operator at a time.
Using alternative engines to Google was another idea presented to us; DuckDuckGo, TinEye and Blekko were the three examples Stephen used.
Gary questioned why some SEOs are surprised by changes Google make to their algorithim. And then presented to us that Google wants to deliver the user with the best possible search results and that the search engine giant has 91% of the market share.
As Google want to deliver the best possible search results, Gary informed us not to build dodgy links as they could come back to haunt you in the future, should Google please further down the road.
Images of Pandas, Black Swans and Turkey farms were all used liberally during the slideshare presentation.
Twelfth session – 20/20
In the final session of the day, 6 speakers were given 6 minutes 40 seconds and 20 slides to conduct their speeches. Dom broke the rules, but here's a few points I picked up from each of them:
- People like to hear their own name
- Offer something tangible when looking for a budget increase
- Phrase your questions in a way directors can give you an honest answer (“did I make myself clear?” Not “did you understand?”)
- Define objectives
- Know your keywords (PPC is a good way to gain real details)
- Keep an eye on the competition (opportunities)
- Traditional link building is far from dead
- Panda update will be great for journalism and authors, with rel="author" providing opportunites for writers to build authority around a subject that may have a positive impact on article rankings.
- Author rel tag may be a big part of the future
- Friends and friends of friends now backup the results
- History, location + permission = the more personalised search becomes
- The more data search engines have about you and your past behaviour, the more intelligent the search engines may become
- Make sure you put a shopping basket on your ecommerce site
- Sweet shops are expensive to run
- Fried egg sweets are very popular