112 Takeaways from BrightonSEO

112 Takeaways from BrightonSEO

by Justin Deaville
Managing Director

13 September 2021

BrightonSEO made a welcome return to the real world last week – and the Receptional team were beside the seaside taking notes. Here are our takeaways from 24 talks across three days, with tips, tricks, facts and figures covering:


Culture and management

Burnout – how to avoid it working in the new ‘normal’
Sean Butcher

  • Find your “off” switch – pre-pandemic, 6 out of 10 employees used their mobile phone to send emails out of office hours. Today, the boundaries are even more blurred.
  • Implement a shutdown ritual, to transition from work to home – e.g. write a to-do list for the next day.
  • Use your annual leave – downtime helps us recharge and think creatively, and booking time off gives us a structure.
  • If you’re a manager, don’t check emails during your holiday – it sets an expectation for employees to do the same.
  • The upper limit for ‘deep work’ is four hours per day, so build time into your day for hyper focus (one task) and scattered focus (allowing your mind to wander).
  • Manage your to-do list and be realistic – the Eisenhower Matrix can help prioritise.
  • Manage your Zoom time – video calls consume more energy than real-life interactions, because we don’t have body language clues. 
  • Find what personality type you are – introvert and extroverts have been affected differently by home working.
  • Understand what your natural sleep pattern or chronotype is – schedule tasks around the times you’re most productive.

From freelancer to MD, how to build a digital marketing agency – an honest journey
Aaron Rudman-Hawkins

  • When building a business, you’re always going to fail at some point.
  • Creating a clear vision for 5 years’ time – and writing it down – can help you anticipate pitfalls.
  • When you get to 8-10 people, your business will start to creak. Be prepared to build your business up, then knock it down and rebuild, with the right processes and systems in place.
  • Success breeds ambition: the more you grow, the more you’ll want to grow further.

How to develop a winning SEO team: what search marketing can learn from Formula 1
Tom Vaughton

  • Make sure your SEO team really is a team.
  • Hire good people who will push and inspire you.
  • Employ for attitude – you can train someone to have skills.
  • Difference is good – you need a variety of people for the variety of roles on an SEO team.

How to engage and grow talent in high-performing digital teams
Alex Jones

  • People’s careers are like waterfalls – don’t accidentally catch people as they fall down, but be the destination employer where they want to end up.
  • To be a successful manager, you need to have low ego, high empathy and honesty.
  • Processes shouldn’t just focus on what and how, but who – who’s responsible, accountable, consulted and informed (the RACI model).
  • Feedback should reinforce or improve behaviours and be delivered 24 hours after an event (once you’ve reflected on it), but no later than a week after.
  • BlessingWhite’s X model is an under-utilised but useful tool for understanding employee engagement.

The 3 things your client wish you knew
Elisha Dignam

  • Don’t assume you know best – clients are also marketers unless they say otherwise.
  • Remember clients want to be involved – use their expertise to achieve results.
  • Be positive about last minute changes – your client will also be annoyed if the decision has come from above.

Unlocking potential and growing junior staff sustainably
Bethan Vincent

  • 13.1% of 16-24 year olds are unemployed. Yet, at the same time, there are skills shortages in digital marketing. We need to do more to hire and develop them.
  • Treat people as individuals – learning and development plans are not one-size-fits-all.
  • Give regular feedback – stop waiting for formal appraisals.
  • Find (and mentor) mentors – 97% of people with a mentor say it is valuable. Yet 85% of people don’t have one.
  • Provide real progression – skills, responsibilities and salaries. 82% of people have quit their jobs because they didn’t feel there was a chance for progression.
  • Create dual-track progression, so that people who aren’t suited to becoming managers can pursue technical excellence.
  • Make sure the whole team is involved in training new recruits.
  • “Soft skills” are usually extrovert traits. Be inclusive towards introverts, and how they prefer to work and communicate.


Digital PR and content creation

How to create an opportunity-first approach to digital PR
Jane Hunt

  • Newsjacking is when your pitch adds value to an existing story. Proactive PR involves suggesting a new story.
  • Set up a newsroom dedicated to newsjacking – consume all the news and set up alerts for campaigns, brands and competitors, so you know what’s breaking.
  • Ask: What’s the story? What can you add to it? Has anyone beaten you to it? How do people feel about the story? How can you get your story out quickly?
  • Ask journalists what topics they want to hear about.
  • Research which stories get the most comments and shares.
  • Repurpose existing content in a dry spell – revisit hero campaigns by tapping into future events in your calendar.

Inbound PR: more links, less COLD outreach please
Stacey MacNaught

  • 31% of linkbuilders have launched a campaign that’s generated ZERO links.
  • Journalists receive 30 pitches for every story they publish.
  • Try to pitch journalists when they’re actively looking – use HARO, ResponseSource, Press Plugs, Help a B2B Writer, DotStarMedia or Press Loft.
  • Prepare your comments, biogs and responses to anticipated queries, so you’re ready to react to journalists’ future requests.
  • Review old requests, so you know which stories come up time and again. Prepare responses in advance, so you can move quickly.
  • Research and create a list of journalists that regularly look for experts in your sector and get in touch – introduce your expert, even when there’s no story.
  • If you have seasonal products, find everyone who did last year’s round-ups and contact them in advance.

Why you need to shift to a customer first content/SEO strategy
Kelly Johnstone

  • Customer-first strategy is about giving value to customers, not leading with your business priorities.
  • Swap the funnel (which is about volume not value of customers) for a flyweel (which is about retaining customers, not acquiring them).
  • Be less Darth Vader (self-centred) more Mandalorian (selfless).
  • Don’t: write “we” content, produce content solely for SEO, write landing page titles like Yoda, measure site-wide conversion rates or forget about the mobile view.
  • Do: aim to create long-lasting customer relationships, consider personas and problems, educate, entertain and engage, and measure engagement not traffic rates.

Why you/your business should be podcasting
Azeem Ahmad

  • 74% of people listen to podcasts to learn something.
  • 70% of people consider new products or services based on podcast ads.
  • Podcasts are big and it’s not a hard space to break into.


Lead generation

Sales optimisation: Getting one step ahead of the competition
Riaz Kanani

  • Digital has shifted power away from the supplier to the buyer – so much research takes place upfront that only 17% of the buying journey now involves the supplier.
  • Buyers now download white papers 4-6 weeks later in the journey than they used to.
  • To make cold outreach more effective, use firmographic and technographic data to know where to invest time, and brand advertising to have warmer conversations.
  • Knowing the right angle to take with a prospect can lead to a 2-3x uplift in reply rates.
  • 76% of content marketing teams forget sales enablement – ensure sales and marketing collaborate, to create a menu of content.

Send better emails: Making the most of your email marketing
Jon May

  • Most people think more emails = more sales. In fact, better emails = more sales.
  • Work on your “envelope content” – your send name, subject line and preview text – to improve open rates.
  • Be clear about what you want your recipient to do, with clear steps and action-oriented button text, particularly during onboarding.
  • People scroll up, not down – they’re not likely to “go back” to things – so have a call to action at the start and end of your email.
  • A/B testing leads to better data-led decision making, but needs a bigger audience and double the amount of creative work. 
  • Beware the HiPPO – the Highest Paid Person’s Opinion. Ultimately, click, open and conversion data should influence decisions.

Three technologies ready to transform B2B outreach
Ryan Welmans

  • Be an informed sales person – know everything there is to know about your prospect – so you can “bold call not cold call”. 
  • Personalised web page can deliver a 61% higher conversion rate.



Entity SEO
Dixon Jones

  • Topics are beginning to replace keywords.
  • Words differ across languages, whereas topics don’t – they provide a more universal level of understanding.
  • Entities help Google to go deeper, with less repetition and increased understanding of what a topic is about through association.
  • Linking ideas is better than linking words.
  • Build your site as if it’s a miniature knowledge graph, then build content around this graph, with topical landing pages and interlinked content.

How to optimize SEO landing pages for search intent
Clarissa Filius

  • As an industry, we tend to optimise landing pages for rankings, not conversions.
  • Instead use an SIO (search intent optimisation) process, not an SEO one.
  • Put keywords into 5 stages: informational, actional, navigation, investigational and transactional.
  • Then create landing page templates that suit the content and conversion points for each.
  • Automate this process using Google Sheets and Data Studio, to roll out and measure landing pages at scale.

The underrated powers of internal linking
Natalie Arney

  • Internal links provide organisation, aid navigation, create hierarchy, pass equity around the site and help the discovery of new content and updated content.
  • Measure the impact of internal links – it can make a massive difference to end results.
  • Use the metrics that matter – those that have the biggest impact on your bottom line.

Voice search: some insights and trends from Google Trends / Keyword Planner
Chris Byrne

  • 20% of searches are now voice searches.
  • Voice search is more likely to involve entertainment-based queries.

Why your organic click-through-rate is low
Hannah Fox

  • Target informational keywords as well as transactional for the best results.
  • Too broad keywords will generate a lot of unqualified randomers.
  • Optimise your meta data: include keywords naturally, use it as an elevator pitch and include a call-to-action.

Wine, kittens and other dangerous fruits – using search intent to understand your customers demand
Ulrika Viberg

  • Prioritise terms with high intent not high volume.
  • Organise keywords around the “search customer journey”.
  • Use informational, commercial and transactional keywords at the awareness, consideration and conversion stages of the funnel.



Advanced YouTube SEO tricks
Itamar Blauer

  • Add competitors’ names to your tags, to stand a better chance of ranking in their suggested videos.
  • Optimise your video’s file name and thumbnail – add relevant keywords to both.
  • Comment on your competitors’ videos – the audience is likely to click through to your channel.
  • Add teaser text and links to related videos to your cards – and use audible calls to action to prompt watchers to click them.
  • Find the videos that have the highest audience retention rate in your Analytics. These are the videos that YouTube likes, so spend time promoting them.
  • Go live on YouTube – live videos stand out, live chat encourages engagement, and YouTube loves engagement.
  • Views of live and recorded videos are combined. Both count towards the total views. And YouTube’s algorithm prioritises videos that get lots of views.
  • If you have 1,000 subscribers, you’ll have a Community tab. Polls that get engagement will appear to new users – a great way to increase your reach.

Cookies are dead: how to boss your social media ads post iOS 14
Daniel Jenkins

  • Don’t focus on the first and last touchpoints and rely on cookies in the middle.
  • Work across teams to use the funnel across channels.
  • Do more to engage customers mid-funnel and gather first-party data.

Instagram SEO tactics to be seen
Freya Jones

  • Instagram SEO: you no longer need hashtags to search for people, so use your username and bio to tell Instagram what you’re all about.
  • Posts are delivered in chronological order. Your chances of being shown a post are based on the post’s performance, previous interactions, previous engagement (searching) and your network (has your friend engaged?).
  • The algorithm can’t understand ‘fancy’ fonts, so don’t include them in your captions.
  • Hashtags have to be included in your caption – those in the first comment are ignored by the algorithm.
  • You should add hashtags to the ‘alt tags’ associated with each image.

How to leverage user intent to create high performing ads on TikTok
Rebecca Holloway

  • Be careful with frequency – TikTok content fatigues very quickly.
  • Show your product or brand in the first 3 seconds.

Lead generation on LinkedIn
Kineta Kelsall

  • The key to success on LinkedIn is value exchange – you need to give something to get something back.
  • 60% of your activity should focus on brand, 40% on sales activation.
  • Our brains don’t like hard sell – we’re more likely to engage once we’re familiar with the brand.
  • Before you launch a campaign on LinkedIn, ask: who’s the target audience AND what’s the mindset of the audience? 
  • Ask yourself: What value are you offering? How long is your sales cycle? How are leads nurtured?
  • Make it easy to fill out your forms – use pre-defined questions and make the message match the call to action.


This post was compiled on-the-fly, so if we’ve got anything wrong, let us know. And if you want to learn more about any of the talks above, the whole event will take place again online on 23rd and 24th September – book your place here.

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