Highlights of #BrightonSEO Conference 23rd July 2010

I was back from my annual leave just in time to attend the 3rd Brighton SEO event which was held on 23rd July 2010. For those of you who are unfamiliar with it, Brighton SEO is a half day mini conference and is organised by Kelvin Newman of Site Visibility. Not only does it feature a line up of quality speakers, it is actually a free conference and is followed by drinks where, in my experience, most of the value of an SEO conference is found!

Our very own Sam Crocker spoke at the event and posted his presentation on Sunday. I wanted to add in my own thoughts and review of the highlights of the conference.  I haven't included every presentation but Peter Handley posted a full review of all the speakers over on Holistic Search.

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Kevin Gibbons - 20 Wordpress Plugins to Supercharge your Blog

The afternoon kicked off with Kevin Gibbons of SEOptimise who talked about the top 20 Wordpress Plugins for your blog. I feel I am quite experienced with Wordpress but Kevin came up with a few plugins that I hadn't tried which looked very useful. Here are my picks from his presentation.

Backtype - Pulls in related conversations from other social media sources and displays them next to your blog post

Flickr RSS - Allows you to display a feed of photos from your Flickr account really easily on your blog

RSS Footer - Adds a link to the bottom of articles in your RSS feed, Kevin pointed out this is useful for when your feeds are scraped

SEO Smart Links - You can automatically handle internal linking using keywords with this plugin, however be careful not to go over the top!

A/B Theme Testing - Allows you to split test two different themes and see which one performs better, personally I'd code the same theme twice and make minor changes as opposed to using two totally different themes.

Takeaway Tip - Start using the plugins above!

Cedric Wooding - Managing a Facebook Advertising Campaign

Although I don't run PPC campaigns for our clients, I found this Cedric's talk very interesting and it got me thinking about using the Facebook system for other purposes - more on that another time!  I was pretty amazed at the level of detail you can go into when targeting your customers, it is even possible to narrow down your adverts to show to a single user - very useful for PPC related pranks :)

Another interesting point to come out of Cedric's presentation was that the most popular time for advertising on Facebook was Sunday evenings and Monday mornings.  This makes total sense when you think about it but I hadn't really thought about it before.

A good tip was to target connections between various products and likes to keep costs down.  For example someone who is interested in the Top Gear fan page, may also be interested in an advert for a company selling experience days in a Ferrari.

Cedric told us that the more you spend, the more chance you have of getting Facebook's attention and getting an account manager which can be very useful.

Takeaway Tip - Target connections between products and people for lower costs

Annabel Hodges - When is an SEO Campaign not an SEO Campaign

I really enjoyed Annabel's talk mainly because she shared a lot of the feelings I have when it comes to SEO and online marketing in general.  Namely that sometimes, SEO isn't always the most cost effective solution for a client, as well as her belief that all online marketing campaigns need to be integrated for them to be successful.

I've seen many examples of clients getting good results by concentrating on an area which isn't strictly SEO.  A few examples being conversion rate optimisation and social media marketing.  Despite SEO being a solid long term strategy, sometimes there are other short term strategies which should be executed first.

Annabel gave some case studies for Channel 4 and New Look.  The New Look one really impressed me as it was executed totally on YouTube as opposed to the main New Look site - something you wouldn't see many SEOs recommend!  By doing this, they were able to compete on keywords which they wouldn't normally be able to target.  Their videos started showing up in Universal results mixed in with powerful ecommerce sites, therefore exposing their brand to different markets whilst doing no traditional SEO to their site.

Takeaway Tip - Ensure your online marketing plan fits with your clients business targets

Mark Cook - Making Accurate Traffic Predictions

One thing came out loud and clear from Mark's presentation - he doesn't like the Google Adwords Traffic Estimator :)

Instead of using this, Mark recommended using Google Insights for Search which provides (on the whole) more accurate data.  Mark went on to show some very impressive ideas of how he can predict traffic using a system his team have developed.  I'm not going to go into loads of detail but suffice to say, it was a very impressive system.  Mark basically looks at the various different types of search result pages we see, then attempts to calculate the CTR of various results on this pages.  For example a number 1 position on a regular organic listing will probably get a high CTR than a number 1 listing with Google Maps blended in above.

This type of data is invaluable in my opinion, being able to predict levels of traffic can save you a lot of time and money and makes sure you are chasing the right keywords right from the start.

Takeaway Tip - Use Google Insights for Search for more reliable traffic data

Nikki Rae - Custom Variables and Google Analytics

I saw Nikki present at the last Brighton SEO and even became a participant at one point!  This time she was talking about custom variables and how they can be used to provide you with even more useful insights about your visitors.  I've worked with custom variables a fair bit but its obvious that the possibilities are just about endless.

Nikki again got the crowd involved with a demo of how a user is tagged with various data as they move through a site and how this data is then recorded into Google Analytics.

Video source: Silicon Beach Training blog.

Takeaway Tip - If you aren't already, start using custom variables!

Simon Dance - Link Building and CRM

Simon talked about the importance of relationships in the link building process and I could relate to a lot of what he was saying.  I think that many people forget about the importance of building good business relationships when doing link building.  Simon talked about a number of tools he uses to manage these relationships and link building in general.

The key point that Simon made was that if you can build these relationships, then you can build links which are very hard for competitors to copy due to your existing relationship.

One tools which Simon mentioned which I've used in the past is Buzzstream which I'd recommend.  It is not a link building tool but it is excellent for organising the outreach you do as part of a link building campaign.  It can keep track of all the people you contact and help you form those relationships which get you the valuable links.

Takeaway Tip - Build long term relationships to get the links that your competitors can't

Nichola Stott - Challenging the Conventional Wisdom of Anchor Text

I found Nichola's talk very interesting, in particular because it focused on a keyword that I've done work in the past for several clients - "outdoor clothing".  Therefore I found some of the stats and conclusions very interesting!

The main point to come out of her talk was that one particular website was ranking lower than others despite a very high number of anchor text links pointing to it for the term "outdoor clothing".  The sites above it were much more brand focused in their link building which appeared to be making the difference.  Perhaps this shows the shift towards branded links driving search results for keywords rather than pure anchor text links being the main factor.

What I loved most about this presentation was the fact that the time was taken to actually test a theory as opposed to just assuming what may happen.  So a big thumbs up to Nichola for that.

Takeaway Tip - Don't undervalue the power of brand driven anchor text links

Rishi Lakhani - Actually Making SEO Happen

I think this was my favourite presentation of the day.  I'll admit I didn't learn very much that I wasn't aware of before, but having Rishi present in his unique style was very entertaining and made me think a little more about the things that are truly important to an SEO.

I just need to give a quick mention to Rishi's opening statement which included the following -

"I don't like giving presentations and I don't think I'm very good at SEO"

I really wish I'd used that at the start of my first ever SEO presentation :)

Rishi has worked with some very big brands in the UK and knows the various problems this can present.  Getting SEO done when working with big brands can be very difficult given the masses of people to consult, contracts to agree and changes to sign off.  Just being a good SEO isn't enough, you need to be able to communicate with your client in such a way that they understand you and don't get bogged down stuff which can stop the job from being done.

Something that really hit home with me was the point that the owners of a company only care about the bottom line - revenue.  They don't care how many links you secured this month or what their META titles are - they don't need to know this.  All they need to know is how much money they are making - if they don't know this then they won't pay you.

Takeaway Tip - Talk to your client in a language they understand - not technical jargon

Big Brand SEO - Get Stuff Done

Sam Crocker - Running Competitions for SEO

I guess I should give a mention to Sam too :)

Sam talked about how to run competitions and benefit from the links that can be generated as a result.  He gave some real examples of how we have run these for Distilled clients as well as the mistakes we've made along the way!

One of the key points that Sam wanted to get across was to be creative.  He gave one example of a client we worked on that would usually be seen as fairly boring and not very link worthy.  However we created a competition that appealed to a number of people and built some good quality links in the process.

Here is the post that Sam put up with his presentation in.

Takeaway Tip - There are always ways to be creative even if you think your industry is boring

Overall it was an excellent conference and the feedback was great.  Big well done to Kelvin for organising it and thanks to all the speakers and attendees for making it a great event.

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