5 Excellent Talks from the All New BrightonSEO

Friday 2nd September was my introduction to the long-running BrightonSEO conference. As well as it being my first chance to really dive into the world of SEO beyond the walls of the Distilled offices, it was also the first BrightonSEO conference to take place at the Brighton Pavilion. Plus, my fellow distillers Will Critchlow and Tom Anthony were both on the list of speakers I was really looking forward to seeing. The latter of which was also the event’s closing keynote.

It was a great day, and I managed to watch some great talks and masterclasses, as well as grabbing a free coffee or two.  So having had a few days to really digest the talks, I’ve put together my list of the best talks I was able to see. This isn’t meant to be an exhaustive list of the event, as I’m sure you can appreciate I could only see a fraction of all presentations on offer. However, I hope that you’ll be able to learn a thing or two from the top-notch speakers in my roundup.

SEO split tests you should run - Will Critchlow

Our trusty CEO and Co-Founder had top billing, so forgive my bias in choosing Will as one of my top talks, but I couldn’t miss another Distiller on the main stage. Will presented his talk all about SEO split testing and how it is changing, and will continue to change, the way we approach consulting.

Test SEO like medicine -  an exact science

Medicine of old was a bit scattergun. Some stuff, like giving mercury as a cure for syphilis (yes, really), was a purposeful measure that certainly harmed the patient. Modern medicine uses clinical trials to determine how useful and safe every new medicine is for the patient. We should use this approach for SEO

What is SEO split testing?

Unlike traditional web-based split testing, like the services on offer from Unbounce and Optimizely, which gives 50% of users one version of a single page and 50% of another version,  SEO split tests need to make changes to a portion of a section of pages, i.e. product pages. This method will be able to measure any uplift (or downturn) in search traffic.

How SEO split testing works

A few tests to get you started?

The potential tests to run are endless, but there are a few that should be near the top of your list. If your site isn’t yet mobile friendly, you can finally put to bed any lingering uncertainty about the value of such a change. Adding structured data, which is another hot topic in the SEO world can also be tested in this manner.

Virtual snowballs, & the feels (or why beer is rarely the answer) - Hannah Smith

Distilled’s former content strategist has recently joined Verve Search after a sabbatical. Hannah set us a challenge to think like an artist, and really put this into practice when coming up with creative content. Hannah has been working in content strategy (in her words, making stuff that gets coverage, links & social shares) since 2011.

Create a framework for better pitching

Hannah uses the relevant/resonant/different framework for her ideas. Using the framework can help prove that an idea is right for the client and why it is a brand fit, why customers will care and how the idea is different from what’s already out there. These steps are a great way of shaping and revisiting an idea.

The success of the World Beer Map

Hannah told us the story of the world beer map infographic, which had a surprisingly successful engagement, and is simply a map listing beers popular in different countries around the world. If we look at the success like an artist and  take the idea/content apart and the success was driven by its resonance from the point of view of the recipients. The memories it brought up and the nostalgia it created. In order to offer some great creative content to clients we should really be thinking about the feelings it drums up, are you encouraging the audience a state of wanderlust or nostalgia?

Stop stressing over formats

People do not share formats, they share ideas. If your idea is ‘let’s make an infographic’ then you're doing it wrong. No one shared the beer map mentioned above because it was an infographic or a map. To help get past this format sticky patch, and pick out the key idea, read the coverage a piece gets, read the comments and try deconstructing a piece to get to the core idea.

How to be a Facebook advert superhero - Greg Gifford

Having seen Gregg talk at SearchLove Boston I knew I would have to be loaded up on caffeine to follow the pace of his twenty-minute tutorial. Speeding through his deck Greg explained how Facebook adverts can change the way you engage with potential customers and essentially target niche audiences most suited to your brand, service or product. He gave some great scenarios and stories of how Facebook Ads can work, have worked and also caused a little mischief whilst making 80 references to superhero movies!

Set measurable goals

To be picky with your targeting you should start by setting measurable goals, a due date and guidelines and then pick the platforms most suited to your business. For example, ‘we want 4,000 visits in 30 days who engage with the site’ is a good example goal. Then focus on picking the right advert type for your goal, such as ‘website conversions’ for lead gen and ‘app installs’ for, well, app installs.

Local awareness ads

You can bring competitors customers to you by creating local awareness ads. These ads only show on mobile devices within a set radius of a location, to gain local coverage run them at competitors locations and local events.

Read Greg’s slides and watch the videos

It’s really hard to distill Greg’s presentation into a few key takeaways because he packs so much into his presentation. You can find his slides from the day here, and watch the whole presentation here. Put 30 minutes of your day aside and seriously upgrade your local knowledge.

Are you experienced? Your customers are - Martin Chillcott

I was so happy to have managed to get a seat for this masterclass, as an events manager it really resonated with me. Martin ran through real life challenges and testimonials. He also offered tips and helpful advice on how to creatively close the gap between customers and marketers and customer retention.

Get to know your audience better

Martin gave an example of EE getting to know their existing and potential customers by asking detailed yes/no questions before offering a selection of product and service options most suited to them. Think about your product and how you can match it to your customers needs by asking questions.

How can you encourage consistent engagement?

Naked wines provide an ‘angel’ scheme where they ask you to invest in the business by paying a monthly subscription fee and then offer a number of different incentives to these members. Think about how you can encourage consistent engagement by making your customer feel a part of the business and offering a bespoke service or product tailored to their needs and wants.

Emerging forms of search - Tom Anthony

As voice search has become far more accurate than ever before, more and more people are starting to use it and it is hard to deny that it is going to impact search and SEO. However, in his BrightonSEO deck, Tom Anthony discussed how we need to break voice search and natural language search down into various components. Tom discussed 3 emerging types of search, which are all based on natural language, but each will be different and will provide search marketers with unique challenges and opportunities:

Ambient search

Home assistant appliances, like Amazon Echo and the soon-to-be-released Google Home, will means we do more and more ‘ambient searches’ . Ambient search is essentially ‘search everywhere’, with microphones always listening and interfaces always nearby. This will mean we do an increasing number of searches, new types of searches and ever more complex searches

Faceted search

As faceted search becomes more powerful, it will get better at compartmentalising a search to give answers for more complex queries, for example finding a hotel in a certain place, for a certain price at a particular date. Tom notes that classic web search will become increasingly unfeasible as a method for search as users will want to search the data from multiple sites, and sort and filter it right there in the search engine (or more likely intelligent personal assistant).

Transactional search

As the name suggests, transactional search is about search queries where the query itself is also a directive to buy, and works hand in hand with ambient and faceted search. For example, you can purchase from Amazon using Amazon Echo and you search for the product and buy it all in one short interaction. As all search types come together, the classic ‘funnel’ collapses, meaning the search engine can search, sort, filter and checkout in one search.


As a first search conference experience, it certainly wasn’t a bad way to start. I know BrightonSEO has been running for years, and it’s a testament to the conference that it had to move from the Corn Exchange to the Pavilion. The seven-track event covered a multitude of digital marketing topics and I will have inevitably missed some great talks. This is where you come in. Did you see any particularly good presentations this year? Let me know in the comments or on Twitter (@distilled).

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