Don't take the piss, I had to do the featured image myself :(
BrightonSEO is a free event for people who like (or are paid to tolerate) SEO and want to learn more about it. I’ve been attending for a number of years and it is always a highlight, not least because it means I get to spend the weekend in beautiful Brighton on the company’s dime. Brighton is a great - there is nothing better than stumbling through the Laines, shovelling food and alcohol into your gaping maw, brushing shoulders with the free spirits that live in Brighton (and the pretenders like me who want to live free for a weekend). I missed the last one on account of a wedding (lovely ceremony and I managed to eat 3 seperate people's dessert, so it wasn't a total loss) so it was nice to be able to attend this one.
If I'm brutally honest, I’ve always felt that there was a fairly low signal to noise ratio at BrightonSEO. Being a free event it has always been a worthwhile trip, but I’ve come away many times feeling like there was quite a lot of thinly veiled infomercials, and quite a lot of meandering, bumgazing talks about “what it means to be an SEO” or “is SEO dead” which don’t really help anyone do their job.
This September’s BrightonSEO was the best I have ever attended. Pretty much every talk I attended taught me some pretty interesting stuff or shared some really intriguing ideas and I feel enriched in a way I haven’t in previous years. I can’t speak for all the talks on the day, because I only experienced a fraction of it, but that fraction was so good, I thought I’d let you John Malkovich into my head for the day.
09:45 - On-Site SEO at the Old Court House
Session 1: Is your content working better for someone else? - Jon Earnshaw
Wot I learned: This was a very interesting case study which illuminates the importance of tracking more than just your own rankings for certain search terms. Very insightful look at the way Google deals with duplicate content across websites.
Plus, I always love a sexy graph. These ones have curves in all the right places.
Session 2: Cannibal Content – Stopping Your Website From Eating Itself - Chris Green
Wot I learned: Put together a proper siteplan when you're initially speccing out your website! Of course, you're already doing that, aren't you?!
Session 3: From SERPs to Markup: How to Increase Your Earned Traffic. - Pete Campbell
Wot I learned: Two words buddy. "Black Card". I've spent nearly £1000 at Nando's in a single year before now and I've got the bank statements to prove it. If you're going to try and recruit Technical SEO personnel using Nandos as an incentive, you'll have to be more specific than that.
Foreshadowing some of the later talks, JSON-LD is in, Schema is in, and we're more and more likely to get our results directly from Google rather than wait those agonising moments to click through to the website. We're also increasingly likely to see ever more prominent, invasive push notifications from corporations until the release of Google Brain in 2020 and the advent of marketing messages being mainlined directly into our visual cortex. Terrifying.
11:30 - Local and Mobile SEO in the Dome Concert Hall
Session 4: Mobile SEO is Still the New Black - Gary Illyes
Wot I learned: The thing that blew me away the most here is how sophisticated the Google Voice Search has become. While we might not use all of the features that Google offers at the moment, they're only going to increase in traction and we may need to modify our expectations of SEO to deal with the various interstitial and non-site based results that will be served for certain queries in the future.
Also on the list of things that baffle me (along with people who actually use voice search) are people that use Apps instead of the browser to access specific websites. I fear that far from being a technologically literate super-race, the so-called "digital native" generation are going to be exactly as feckless and technically illiterate (and ugly) as the preceding generations. Instead of being baffled by a VCR or putting CDs upside down in the CD tray, they're accessing the Tesco website via the Tesco app instead of going to tesco.com (or any of the other equally viable supermarkets - product placement Ed). Sadly, this means that getting in on the app game, and acknowledging the importance of app-indexing. Kids these days!
Session 5: Local SEO – A Seriously Awesome Blueprint - Greg Gifford
Wot I learned: Just grab all the resources from the corner of the slides and check them out. The talk itself was suitably engaging, but the real meat is in the appendices*.
*just ask David Cameron.
Session 6: Maximising Your Local Search Presence in 2016+ - David Mihm
Wot I learned: This one was a real "oh shit" moment. A search for 'Cecil the Lion' brought up a murderous dentist's office in local results. More than just a sickening joke, it's a really insightful glimpse into the inner workings of Google's local signals. I think people forget that our search behaviours are almost always being used to validate the results shown.
There was also even more talk about barnacle SEO, which I can't hear without reflexively clawing for my crowbar.
David doesn't tend to make his slide decks publically available, because ladies love an enigma. I was able to grab them by reaching out to him, but I am willing to share them with you for the low price of £10,000. Drop a message in the contact form for more info.
Session 7: On Page SEO for Mobile - Jon Henshaw
Wot I learned: This is the kind of talk I love. Schema, the srcset attribute for <img> tags to display different image sizes for different viewports, different input types for displaying the appropriate keyboards on mobile... and more! Swapping your JPEGs for SVGs... Oooh, I'm going to have to sit on my hands. The slides are strictly NSFW, if you're into that sort of thing.
Not to ride on Jon's coattails, but if you're into that sort of thing, this is a good read. Added value, look. You're welcome.
13:00 - Lunchtime!
Mexican Street Food at La Chosa
A Pulled Achioté Chicken Burrito with Pico de Gallo Salsa. To perfectly recreate my experience, order 2 plates of tortilla chips for the whole table, and then eat them all yourself. Bonus points for loudly talking about dogging and lightly showering your fellow diners in crumbs and spittle.
14:30 - Technical SEO in the Corn Exchange
This session was absolutely packed out, with a queue that dominated the entire foyer. Luckily, as sponsors of the event with special VIP tickets this was no issue for me.
Except that it was. I'm not sure exactly what the members ticket bags you, since we weren't able to skip any queues as far as I could tell, and the front desk guys took so long to find our names on the list that it started to get pretty embarrasing. Like, not not-being-able-to-get-reservations-at-Dorsia embarrasing.
In any case, I was not able to get into this talk, and instead was part of a small pioneering group loosely known as "the people craning their necks around the other side of the bleachers" or the TPCTNATOSOTB (it's a working title). Sadly, the talks themselves were basically inaudible from this vantage point, and it wasn't long until other people crowded the core TPCTNATOSOTB founders out. I held onto the faith for a while, but it wasn't long until some socially astute gentleman waltzed up and stood directly in front of me, completely obscuring the screen with his
head. Unable to now see or hear, I started a conversation with some other people around me, only for said chap to turn around and ask me to leave so that he could try and hear the talk (good luck with that pal).
So I guess I did learn something about SEO tools after all!
16:10 - Links! in the Dome Concert Hall
Session 8: A Systematic Approach to Managing Relationships & Links - Paul Madden
Wot I learned: This one kind of gave me the willies. No disrespect to Paul who came across as a very likeable chap who delivered an informative talk, but the social engineering aspect of relationship building is mercenary. I'm not sure how I feel about codifying conversation into a formula. One for the budding psychopath, I think...
At the very least, its a good argument for administering the Voight-Kampff test at networking events.
Session 9: A Process for Reverse Engineering Success Content - Paddy Moogan
Wot I learned: "There's no such thing as a bad idea in a brainstorm" is actually just one of those participation awards that they give to kids on sports day! It turns out, there are loads of shit ideas. Agree some filters for your brainstorm ahead of time to avoid ending up with a few pages full of ludicrous ideas you can't use! This one is probably a good one for Noisy Little Monkey who regularly float the idea of jumping out of a spaceship for publicity - even if our budget is only 10p and some chewing gum from Jon's pocket. (I'm not sure why he would put the chewing gum in there...)
Session 10: How to have less rubbish ideas - Kelvin Newman
Wot I learned: I happen to agree with Kelvin's assessment of trying to reverse engineer the product of a machine learning algorithm. Google's mechanism's are self-correcting, so the likelihood is that no single engineer at Google understands the full thing anyway. Since no-one knows the answer, it underlines the importance of data driven testing and conclusions when deciding what to believe when it comes to SEO.