I first came across BrightonSEO when the name came up at Leeds Digital Week. I remember thinking, if people are willing to commute from Leeds, it must be good.
As it turns out, people fly in from all over the world to attend. The event tagline is “a long way from a room above a pub”. That’s an understatement. I’ve seen shorter queues for world-famous rockstars’ gigs. Suffice to say, when I strutted up at 9:50, there was no way I was making the 10am talk.
“Let AI be your friend”
Nil desperandum. Despite missing The Cash-Strapped Marketer’s Guide to SEO, I managed to catch the tail-end of Sal Mohammed’s talk on the future of search. Why AI Will Be a Key Part of Your Team, Not a Replacement featured some pretty eye-opening statistics.
For example, we produce 2.5 exabytes of data every day. (That’s 2.5 quillion bytes – the equivalent of all the words ever spoken.) How can we use data to our advantage when we can’t process it? This is where, Mohammed says, we should let AI be our friend. He cited Netflix and 5G as prime examples. We can get the most from AI by using our creative minds to complement its incredible processing power.
Over in the links and outreach showcase, I found out more about the best tools for reactive PR. Will Dobson taught us about newsjacking and content planning, citing ONS, BBC Live and even Piers Morgan as worthwhile sources.
You can go to bed an expert and wake up a novice.
Afterward, I was heartened to discover the Wellbeing and Inclusion stage. There, Amy McManus delivered her talk on battling burnout and Impostor Syndrome in digital. McManus hit us with pretty some sobering thoughts: truths that only become apparent when we consider how volatile this industry is.
Working in digital is as bad for mental health as medicine and law. Why? As McManus put it, “you can go to bed an expert and wake up a novice”. Digital is one of the most erratic industries out there, not to mention the dangers to our health, from screen time to unattainable social media perfection. She encouraged us to share our personal “impostor stories” with one another and assured us that there was no judgement.
“F**k me Doris – an exercise in content strategy
After a lunchbreak trip to the 90s (thank you retro gaming station), it was time to swot up on content strategy. Alex Jones set the bar with his talk on supporting content. He extolled the virtues of propping up your main content piece with other assets, from interviews to features, case studies and video.
Perhaps the best takeaway from this one was his focus on what journalists want. Quite simply, they want a story that causes readers to exclaim “fuck me Doris”, as above. In English, that’s unique data, case studies, exclusives and human-interest stories.
The golden circle
Up next were Lukasz Zelezny’s insights into gap analyses with SEO. He talked us through the SEO search volume “golden circle” – why, what and how. “How” is the stand-out interrogative when it comes to search volume. He outlined his detailed strategy of analysing competitors, narrowing keywords by search volume and keyword difficulty, then finalising with SEMRush’s Keyword Magic tool.
“Build a brand that transcends Google”
Sam Marsden concluded with his talk on profitable content strategies. Despite the conference theme, he advised us to go beyond rankings when building a brand. Rankings are only meaningful to SEOs – instead we should look at brand loyalty, and how we can help people with resources. He suggested:
- Building awareness with a distinctive voice on social
- Educating others with whitepapers and external collaborations
- Training and hosting events
- Providing content to help make decisions
- Adding personal touches like client gifts to build loyalty.
Befriending journalists with Google’s AI
I chose link building and outreach for my penultimate talks, starting with Alex Cassidy’s tips on emailing journalists. He advised using subject lines that could be headlines. Think capitalised words for real tabloid emphasis.
Likewise, he warned us to cut out the fluff. We need to focus on stats, quotes and unique angles. When we pitch, we should think of a journalist’s KPIs, such as clicks, shares and comments. A piece on the Royal Family’s pet names, for example, was a unique angle with instant shareability.
Next up was perhaps the most fascinating talk of the day. Ross Tavendale and Jack Merlin Bruce showed us how they “hacked Google’s AI” to analyse journalists. They identified journalists’ major “entities” – i.e. the topics they discuss most frequently – and encouraged us to diversify our pitches.
Many modern-day journalists are freelancers, writing about a number of topics. For that reason, we shouldn’t pigeonhole them. Tavendale and Merlin Bruce ran thousands of journalists’ stories through Google Cloud, using Gorkana’s RSS feed to analyse the biggest headlines. Next, they compared their press releases to the results and determined which journalists would most likely accept their pitch. Who said AI wasn’t our friend?
“Where the f**k was YouTube with Greensleeves?”
I must admit, I didn’t know what to expect with the keynote. “Simple is Smart, Complicated is Stupid” is a pretty cryptic title.
What ensued was a hilarious expert account of all the mistakes advertisers have made over the years. Keynote Dave Trott somehow managed to take the obvious and make it incredibly engaging. Not to mention hilarious.
He warned that marketers are often so caught up in trying to sound clever, they alienate their customers. Technology has changed, but people have not. In perhaps the simplest example, he showed a video of an ice cream man playing Greensleeves. “That was written 500 years ago and it went viral. Where the fuck was YouTube?”
Despite the laughs, Trott offered some very straight-talking insights. There are three things we need as marketers: impact, communication and persuasion. Simple.
The Richmond Running Festival
Those of you connected with me on LinkedIn might have heard me mention something a few million times. My networking at BrightonSEO was a reasonably sober affair thanks to the Richmond Marathon taking place two days later.
If you want to run Richmond, be warned, it’s nothing like the big events you’re used to. This year, 43,000 runners took to London. In Richmond, there were 978.
This probably explains why go meant GO – no time waiting around in pens. No time to warm up. Just go. This turned into a very leisurely 26.2 miles along the River Thames with the crowds quickly dispersing. It was almost like a Sunday morning run. You know, one of those four-hour, I-wish-I-was-dead runs.
A personal best (4:48) rounded off the perfect weekend. Big talks, beach walks, log flumes and Lucozade. I’m certainly sold on BrightonSEO.
Until April, folks.
View the slides from BrightonSEO here.