Takeaways from Brighton SEO 2011

So last Friday I was one of around 500 SEOs who descended on Brighton for the 2011 Brighton SEO conference, organised by Kelvin Newman of Site Visibility.

It was blurry awesome, well done Kelvin :)

For those of you who couldn't make it I've attempted to decipher my erratically scrawled notes into something more useful - enjoy, and hopefully see you there next year.


Google's Panda: A Case Study - Jonathan Stewart

Jonathan works for Review Centre who found themselves adversely affected by Google's panda update earlier this year.

What happened?

  1. Both US and UK traffic was hit
  2. Interestingly, their forum pages didn't seem to be affected - which might suggest that user metrics are not being as strongly weighted as previously hypothesised.
What they did:
  1. Site redesign
  2. Decreased adsense density above the fold
  3. Moved more content above the fold
  4. Noindexed weak content
  5. Removed duplicate content
All looks good right? Unfortunately it doesn't seem to have worked for them and they've not recovered.


Jonathan thinks that it's about them not being a recognisable brand. He compared Review Centre to Trip Advisor (who also suffer from many of the issues which face Review Centre) - the difference? He believes it's down to brand equity - i.e. Trip Advisor is a much stronger brand than Review Centre.

He also shared his thoughts on the Panda lifecycle - he puts it at around 4 months:

  1. It takes around 4 weeks to make changes to a site
  2. It then takes around 6 weeks for Google to crawl the changes
  3. It then takes 5 weeks for Google to re-run panda
As such it can take up to four months to see whether or not a site has recovered from panda (for every set of changes you make).

Key Takeaways...

  1. Panda might be more brand-biased than originally thought.
  2. An excellent reason to be less reliant on Google traffic.
  3. Start your social strategy now.

Building a Private Blog Network  - John McElborough

John McElborough provided some tips for those who are looking to create their own private blog network...

Points to note - links from these sort of links work well for long and mid-tail terms, but won't work for head terms. John was also quick to point out that this sort of activity in no way replaces other forms of link building.

Benefits of building a network

  1. Value add for clients
  2. You get to keep the intellectual property (i.e. you're creating content for your own network rather than creating content for other people's sites)
  3. Potential for monetisation in the future
How to do it:
  1. Get domains
  2. Install wordpress
  3. Get unique content
  4. Get links (NB don't just interlink them all together)
  5. Lather, rinse, repeat
  1. Stick to .co.uk & .org.uk
  2. Mix up registrars, hosting etc
  3. Don't use 123Reg
  4. Opt out of WhoIs
  5. Spread your IPs around, but don't obsess about C-Classes
  6. Mix up nameservers too
  7. Use pro themes to make them look authentic
  8. Block Majestic, Yahoo & Linkscape bots
  1. Only use original content - no spinning / scraping
  2. Link out
  3. Use images
  4. Get content from - textbroker, oDesk, interns, students, etc

Attracting Links - Shark SEO

SharkSEO (AKA Dave) is sadly not a big orange metal shark in real life. However, he built Hacker Buddy, is very smart and you should listen to him.

He shared stories of his own experiences with linkbait - here are his tips:

  1. Focus on a specific community - this can be different from your 'desired' customers.
  2. You really need a news angle to leverage
  3. Be quick - the longer it takes you to create the less your ROI
  4. Fail fast
  5. Promote via StumbleUpon, Facebook, Reddit
  6. React quickly - use something like ChartBeat for real time analytics
Also, you should probably get an iPhone #justsayin'


Dr Social Love - James Carson

James Carson works for Bauer Media who publish titles like FHM, Heat, Grazia. Social media is an increasingly important source of traffic (and brand engagement tool) for publishers.

Here are his tips for getting likes and comments via Facebook:

  1. Ask questions
  2. Post games
  3. Post polls
  4. Be specific - tell people what you want them to do - i.e. share this, tell us what you think of this, etc.
He then went on to talk Facebook 'bait'. When looking to build a Facebook following you can leverage larger Facebook pages. He shared the following example:

The Inbetweeners Facebook Page has 3.3million fans. So in order to engage with these people FHM did a photo shoot of Will's Mum and asked the guys who run The Inbetweeners page to promote it for them - results as follows:

  1. 7000 Facebook 'likes'
  2. 1 million newsfeed impressions
  3. 60 tweets
  4. #2 Google ranking
  5. 35,000 UK referrals from Facebook to the FHM site
Lather, rinse, repeat and you too can become a powerful Facebook page... Nice, huh?

He also coined the term 'social spurts' for the traffic spikes you see from this sort of activity which made me giggle.

Next steps? Well, once you've got yourself a powerful page you could potentially send 'social spurts' to other sites. Maybe in exchange for links? Sweet.


Choosing & Implementing Friendly URLs for Ecommerce - Erika Ungar

Erika works for Boux Avenue - a lingerie site backed by my favourite dragon Theo Paphitis (who I'd quite like to cuddle - but that's an aside).

She shared her experiences of negotiating with developers to get SEO-friendly shizzle baked in to a site build.

Her tips:

  1. Understand the challenges developers face
  2. Justify what you're asking for
  3. Seek solutions collaboratively
  4. Compromise
Oh & she gave us a discount code - see, you really should've gone, huh?


How to win at SEO with Duplicate Content: Featuring Pippa Middleton's Arse - Malcolm Coles

Malcolm Coles has ruined his blog (his words, not mine) thanks to *that* sitelink - tee hee.

He came along to tell us exactly how he did it, so we too can ruin our own blogs (or perhaps more usefully actually - dominate news stuff).

How to find what's 'hot' news-wise:

  1. Google auto-complete
  2. Google Insights
The 'rules' - In the medium term Google will filter our dupe content and de-index 301-ed content. BUT - in the short term you can get multiple entries for this sort of content in the SERPs - mwah ha ha ha ha.

Here's how:

  1. Create a blog post
  2. Front load keywords
  3. Publish
  4. Ask for tweets (for indexation)
  5. 'Fiddle' with the post (make a couple of amends)
  6. Publish on a new URL
  7. 301 first post to the new post
  8. Repeat
  9. Repeat
  10. Repeat
  11. Repeat!!!!!!
When he did this for Pippa Middleton posterior he managed to get 3 posts ranking on the first page of the SERPs and received around 30k visits per day as a result. Smart, huh?


Links - SEO Value vs Client Expectations vs Cost - Neil Walker

Neil Walker polled a sample of SEOs and clients to try to ascertain what SEO's think makes a good link, and what client's think makes a good link - the results were pretty illuminating.

Neil highlighted that (for the most part at least) client's don't really know what sort of links they want / need. As such education is key.

His tips:

  1. Be transparent about your link building activity
  2. Explain your strategy and why you're doing it
  3. Manage your client's expectations
  4. Sales and traffic are the main objectives for clients, so be sure that your strategy feeds into their objectives.

What Can Social Learn from Mad Men? - Roger Warner

Roger works for  Content and Motion a social PR agency. His presentation focused on the similarities between Social media and traditional advertising. He deserves particular kudos for including a slide with Nick Kamen on it -circa *that* Levi's ad (be still my beating heart).

His tips for running social media campaigns went a little something like this:

  1. You need an amazing idea (like Nick Kamen)
  2. Think conversation not broadcast (but bear in mind that people might not want to converse with your brand)
  3. Never stop thinking like your audience
  4. Be authentic
  5. Stories sell - not technology

James Bond: Architecture Critic - Toby Barnes

Far and away my favourite presentation of the conference came from Toby who works for a company called Mudlark.

His talk was mainly about a tiny horse in the apple store. Go read that post. Or if you can't be bothered - read this:

"When does the magic of a situation fade? When do we get acclimated to the exceptional? Is this how we get by? Would anything get done if we were constantly gobsmacked? Is this how we survive, how we stay sane? We define a pattern, no matter how exceptional, and acclimate ourselves to it?"

I also learned that:

  1. Ian Fleming was so scared of futuristic architect Erno Goldfinger, he turned him into big fat Bond baddie.
  2. This exists. This makes me sad.
  3. I'd really like a robot.

My Hack Day Addiction - Dom Hodgson

Dom describes himself as huggable. I would tend to agree, despite his best endeavour to simultaneously break my nose and smash out my front teeth with his over-enthusiastic hand gestures at the post-conference drinks.

His talk centred around how to run a successful hack day event - essentially you'll need a *lot* of:

  1. WiFi
  2. Caffeine
  3. Food
He also reminded me (again) that I really ought to learn to code. Apparently the Pascal which I learned in 'A' level Computer Science doesn't count.


We then entered the 'speed' round - each of the following speakers had 20 slides

and less than ten minutes - go, go, go!


How to Pitch SEO - Sam Crocker

Sammy C says:

  1. Make sure you *want* the business before you spend a lot of time on a pitch
  2. Ask lots of questions before you pitch
  3. Spend time on a tiered forecast (optimistic, neutral, pessimistic)
  4. Give something away for free - one good idea is worth a million vagaries
  5. Bring the A Team, not the sales team
  6. Consider a performance related fee
  7. Don't alienate in-house teams
  8. Don't just tell the client what they want to hear

Keyword Research & Traffic Estimation - Graeme Benstead-Hume

Graeme of Site Visibility presented his findings on the relative accuracy of the Google Keyword tool, Wordtracker and SEO Book tools when trying to forecast for SEO.

Topline Findings

  1. Low traffic keywords (i.e. mid and long tail terms are especially inaccurate via all three tools)
  2. A co-efficient of 0.25 of whatever the Google Keyword Tool claims looks pretty accurate
  3. Wordtracker was the most accurate
Keep your eyes peeled for a blog post on Site Visibility on this topic (sorry guys I was really struggling to keep up with this one).


Finding Hidden SEO Value with Mulit-Channel Funnels - Dara Fitzgerald

Dara works for Fresh Egg - he presented a compelling case for using multi-channel funnels in GA:

  1. Both last click and first click attribution models fail to tell the real story
  2. Multi-channel funnels allow you to see which channels assist conversions, the time lag between first visit and conversion and what your top conversion paths are
  3. Plus you can create custom channel groupings which work like advanced segments

Driving SEO with PPC - Kane Bartlett

Kane shared a case study on how PPC appears to affect organic results. He was quick to point out that whilst PPC spend is definitely not a ranking factor they did see some interesting result - when they increased PPC spend they saw increased visits from organic keywords too.

I'd love to see some more work around this - I wondered if this might be down to personalised search? Food for thought in any case, huh?


Market Research: Informing SEO and Link Development - Rosie Freshwater

Rose works for Leapfrogg. She shared their process for using customer insight to influence SEO and link building:

  1. Look at your customer's media habits, lifestyle choices etc
  2. Run focus groups to find out what they read and what their interested in
  3. Use the qualitative data from the focus groups to survey a larger number of customers.
  4. Use the qualitative data and quantitative data to create customer profiles
  5. Create content to appeal to these customer profiles
  6. Build links / partnerships with media titles that these customer profiles read

Why Settle for Customer Satisfaction - Rae Lovejoy

Rae works for iCrossing and she's all about delighting customers. Here are her tips:

  1. Be honest and admit when something has gone wrong
  2. Be proactive
  3. Deliver what you've promised on time
  4. Have regular reviews
  5. Celebrate successes with everyone involved

All in all a fantastic day. Well done to all the speakers and to everyone involved with organising the event :)

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