7 Key Takeaways from Brighton SEO – September 2017

Experts come from far and wide to share their knowledge of all things SEO in Brighton twice a year at what’s one of the biggest events in search marketing.

Whilst we would’ve loved to see all the talks, we could only pick a few. So, with a three-strong team we went with the idea of ‘divide and conquer’, to try and cover all bases.

Here are some of the key takeaways from our time at Brighton SEO…

1. Budget for digital content marketing differently

It’s time for a test: define content marketing.

Stuck for an answer? Most marketers struggle too.

‘Content’ is often used to denote a series of different assets – think headlines, copy, multimedia, etc. And what most of us call ‘content creation’ skills are in fact disciplines in their own right – think copywriting, graphic design or film direction. Rebecca Brown, Head of Content at Built Visible, suggests we tackle this confusion not by spending less on these skills and outputs, but by budgeting for them differently.

Brown says we should remove the ‘content’ budget line in our marketing plans. Quite rightly, she points out that this nebulous term, which describes a collection of skills and subsequent outputs, exists to serve different marketing channels. Understanding that content will be needed to feed your display, PPC, organic search and PR channels and attributing their impact to each individual channel helps solve the ROI issue in content marketing.

We need ‘content’ to attract more customers via organic search. We need it to boost our paid media efforts. We need it to breathe life into our PR efforts, or our social media or email channels. Brown reckons if we only budget for those channels, and accept a cost for asset creation from various talent disciplines within each one, the confusion evaporates and ROI becomes clearer.
Watch her talk here.

2. Don’t adopt an asset-first approach to content marketing

When it comes to producing content on tight budgets, people tend to have the end product in the forefront of their minds. Bobbi Brent, a campaign manager at Kaizen, reminded us how important it is to avoid this mentality, pointing out that this challenge gives us an opportunity to be creative.

She presented one of the ways she tackles this; with the use of data as the raw material from which creative content can emerge. Brent urged the audience to borrow authority from other people, explaining that open data sources can help you do just that. Many people are mistaken in believing they have to collect their own data, but that’s simply not the case – in fact, you can find loads of fantastic data sources in our own post on data-driven content marketing.

Whilst this type of content can help give your brand a voice, you shouldn’t simply rely on that information alone. Put your own spin on it and work on creating something unique. Journalists, bloggers and content editors want to get an exclusive, so that’s what you should aim for, and remember to give people a reason to link back to you.

You can find Bobbi’s slides here.

3. Outreach: You’re not asking for a favour – you’re helping them do their job!

This was another pearl of wisdom that came from the talented Bobbi Brent.

Media outreach is not always easy. Pitching to bloggers isn’t always easy. But it’s important to remember that we’re giving them a story – for free!

Often, we approach bloggers and editors with the mindset that they are doing us the favour. And, in some respects they are, but that is in return for the fact you’ve packaged up a ready-made story for them to report on.

Rejections and unfriendly responses are a familiar part of doing outreach, which can leave you jaded, but remember you’re essentially helping them do their job. And who doesn’t want help?

You might not be offering them money in return, but you are offering time. You’re giving up your time to free up theirs. So, keep this in mind when you’re sending out those emails – craft your pitches so the value you’re offering is crystal clear.

4. Track when products are out of stock, not just when people purchase

It’s obvious to track when a user buys a product from your website. But, as Tim Stewart from trsdigital pointed out, it’s important to also track the moments when a user tries to buy but can’t. This might happen when a product is out of stock for a certain colour or size, or when a customer wants to buy 10 and you only have five in stock, for instance.

These events should be split out into different goals, and can help feed into which stock gets replenished first to reduce the amount of what would have been problematic orders.

You can find Tim’s slides here.

5. Consider isomorphic Javascript and pre-rendering to help search engines crawl and index Javascript pages

The excellent Bartosz Góralewicz presented the findings of his experiments with Javascript and search engines’ ability to process it. The jsseo.expert site uses a different Javascript framework for each of its pages in order to test how search engines crawled and indexed them. By doing this, Góralewicz found:

– Javascript requires way more computing power for a search engine spider to crawl it. This affects a site’s crawl budget. Bots crawled two pages per session and gave up, compared to 10 or more when crawling HTML pages.
– Google struggles to crawl angular.js – its own framework, which is ironic.
– Google and Ask Jeeves (!) processed the site’s pages well, but, Bing, Yahoo and many others struggled.

Towards the end of his talk, Góralewicz said SEO best practise for the development of Javascript sites included the use of isomorphic Javascript, as advised by Google’s John Mueller. Clever use of server-side and client-side rendering is also critical in Góralewicz’s opinion. He says that if you care about SEO you still need to have server-rendered content on your site. The answer, he says, is pre-rendering through tools like prerender.io, which allow sites to show HTML to a spider and Javascript to a user.

You can view his slides here.

6. Scrape a keyword’s search results for SEO success

Building on the trend towards SEO split testing which we’ve mentioned before, data manipulation is increasingly important for effective SEO. Two talks at BrightonSEO in particular offered interesting techniques for assessing opportunities and topics to include in your content, based on what already ranks for that keyword.

Some SEOs might have already heard about search engines’ preference for semantic themes and topics rather than exact match keywords today. Kelvin Newman explained the reasons for this trend, and he gave some quick and dirty tips on how to understand themes associated with your target keyword. He suggested scraping the top ten search results’ pages for your target keyword using Textise.net, then word-clouding the results to understand associated key phrases your page could be missing. His favourite word-cloud tool is: jasondavies.com/wordcloud.

Similarly, Dominic Woodman, a consultant at Distilled, offered tips for choosing the optimal information architecture and matching intents and keywords to your site’s pages and templates.

His Google Sheet, offers a detailed process for distributing intents and keywords across your site architecture. By scraping the existing pages found when searching for a keyword and categorising them using a term tagger, Natural Language Processing through IBM’s Watson, or by hand, the process of keyword mapping becomes much easier and the resulting information architecture is more trustworthy.

You can find their slides here and here.

7. With the rise of chatbots, copy is the new design

> “The most profound technologies are those that disappear. They weave themselves into the fabric of everyday life until they are indistinguishable from it.”

Mark Weiser, 1991 ‘The Computer for the 21st Century’

It’s this theory that Jonathan Seal, strategy director at MANDO, weaved into his presentation on chatbots. When working with these interfaces, you’re designing with copy; the focus isn’t on the visuals.

In a world where voice and messaging is becoming ever more familiar, we as consumers have high expectation from our digital interactions. Four billion people now use messaging apps, and that shapes what we expect from chatbots; we want an emotionally motivating experience.

Seal reminded the audience that we’ve come from a world where we’ve had to speak to machines in a certain way, and now they can talk back to us, but first we have to teach them how.


As the people in charge of building and educating these machines, we need to learn from ourselves. Seal made reference to the fact that we now expect manners, personality and conversation, even though we know it’s all coming from a computer, and suggested we should perhaps think of these experiences as ‘listen bots’ for now.

As we work towards creating more satisfying, human-feeling interactions, we should obsess about language, gather information, learn from it, and continue to improve.

You can find Jonathan’s slides here.

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