What Can Beginners Learn From BrightonSEO?

The story goes that BrightonSEO founder Kelvin Newman and a few other SEOs had the idea to give those who work in SEO and the industry in general a change to meet up, share ideas and talk shop. From the first meeting in the upstairs room of a pub, BrightonSEO has grown to huge proportions with tickets for this year’s September event selling out in less than 60 seconds. 

There’s no doubt that the event is popular, or that it brings together some of the most brilliant, expert and forward thinking minds in SEO – but what can the bi-annual event offer to beginner SEOs? I attended the BrightonSEO event on 2nd September with this exact thought in mind. Having only worked in an official SEO capacity for a year, primarily being a writer, I wondered if the jargon would rush over my head in this meeting of minds. How much would I be able to learn, and how much would I be able to offer the conversation in return?

BrightonSEO is advertised as providing practical, in-depth talks from genuine experts and this is exactly what it delivers. While industry terms were used throughout all the talks (presuming that everyone attending worked in an SEO capacity of sorts) the sessions were down to earth, frank, and at times genuinely funny. Despite growing to such proportions that it warrants the rental of a full conference centre, BrightonSEO certainly hasn’t lost its conversational, ‘we’re all friends here’ tone. Although it was my first time at the event, every session made me feel welcome and part of something bigger.

So what did I actually learn from the experience?

I took full advantage of my time there, attending four sessions (and therefore 12 talks) over the course of the day. I first attended the Links session at 10am which featured presentations from Stacey MacNaught, Paul Madden and Hannah Smith. This was a great start to the day that fully immersed the audience in witty yet practical anecdotes and advice on link building do’s and don’ts.

As I’m not only a relative newbie to SEO, but a content writing specialist, I found each of these talks interesting but also not wholly relevant to the work I do day to day. Despite this, I still took away some important advice about content creation, particularly from Hannah Smith’s talk, which urged content creators to consider how our content might resonate with our audience

WHAT DID I LEARN: Emotional connections are vital when it comes to someone scrolling past our content or sharing it on.

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Next up was the Content Marketing session featuring presentations by Steve Linney, Helene Hall and Simon Bennison.

The first talk was about the role of email in content marketing, which I didn’t find directly relevant for me specifically but it drove home the importance of working closely with our email team in order to deliver our content at the right time to those who are most interested in our client’s brand – their email subscribers.

Helene presented her content marketing framework which explained the basics of her system including Motivation, Research, Strategy, Content and Outreach. This was all great advice, and reassuring to know that our content team follows this exact process already.

Finally Simon talked about how to put a price on digital content which really exposed the impact content marketing has upon a client’s site (HUGE) versus the amount they’re willing to spend on the process (TINY) – and was probably one of the most entertaining presentations of the whole day!

WHAT DID I LEARN: Nothing I didn’t know already, but I gained a lot of confidence in my own understanding of how to approach my work and the impact it has.

After a delicious break for lunch, I sat in on the Ideas session featuring Bas van den Beld, Olga Andrienko and Maria White.

The first talk by Bas explored the psychology behind content, how audiences can be overwhelmed by choice and so finding a personal edge for your client’s brand is of tantamount importance and that begins with getting to know your audience so you can create content they’ll relate to. Very similar ideas to Hannah Smith’s talk earlier that day. The standout comment to me was “attention is a currency”.

Olga’s talk was possibly the one that sticks in my mind most – but not necessarily because I learned a lot of relevant tips from it. Nevertheless, it was a smart and completely unique social media marketing technique using a platform I wasn’t expecting – Tinder. Olga has expertly A/B tested Tinder profiles, CRO’d the hell out of her own profile and then engineered a series of opening lines designed to steer the conversation towards talking about the brand she’s marketing. Incredible stuff, but since it seems a lot like catfishing for brand exposure I don’t think it’s something I’ll be trying for myself!

Maria brought us right back down to earth again with an emotive and passionate presentation on blogging out of conflict, complete with inspiring and informative video interviews with international bloggers living in and reporting from war zones. She opened our eyes to approaching international bloggers and the outreach avenues that can achieve this, and get the important stories and resources out there for victims of war.

WHAT DID I LEARN: I feel like I have a more in-depth understanding of how to capture an audiences attention, but despite the engaging content in the rest of the talks I learned no practical skills I could put into practice when I get in the office on Monday.

Finally I sat in on the Content Success session with speakers Paddy Moogan, Lexi Mills and Lisa Myers.

Paddy’s talk was great and probably the presentation I got the most practical information from. He reminded us to avoid one hit wonders and to strive to create evergreen and reusable content that can be connected to a calendar of events without limiting itself to one specific day. We also explored other avenues of content such as long form articles including guides with reusable content templates, how to guest blog and how mini infographics can be just as useful as a huge design piece.

Lexi Mills delivered an impressive presentation about how to overcome launch fear with a formula of preparation and ‘guaranteed’ wins and opportunities. This was aimed at more of a project management/co-ordination audience but it helped to reinforce the importance of working across channels to deliver a seamless piece of content marketing.

Lisa’s talk was an inspiring note to finish on, more motivational speech than anything – all about how you shouldn’t limit yourself so why should you limit your ideas? She encourages not only thinking outside the box but thinking outside of the restrictions that others around you set – on both a personal and professional note.

WHAT DID I LEARN: Create content and templates for content that can be long lasting but also reusable, and to always go for a strong and simple idea over something that shows off the technology and interactive flair of your agency to ensure success. I learned that cross channel organisation can be incredibly effective when done properly, and finally – push back if you believe in something even if you’re told no at first. Don’t be a monkey*!

*this point is even more important considering our geographical proximity to Hartlepool.

I think that the main thing I took from BrightonSEO was not just some practical advice, but also inspiration and a wider view of SEO services and what can be achieved with the right time and resources. Which leads us to…

WHAT I REALLY LEARNED: As a beginner SEO (compared with the experts I saw throughout that day!) having that wider view is going to be so important in my work going forward, simply understanding what we should be aiming to achieve even if the practicalities of it aren’t quite there for me yet. SEO is about creating great content and pushing it out to the right places, about doing our clients justice with thoughtful and professionally tailored content. Also that Brighton is a really nice place to be around.

Hopefully I’ll return again and soak up some more SEO inspiration, but for now that’s given me plenty of ideas and motivation to move forward with, which was just what I needed, and I suspect exactly what I’d have got out of one of those early days pub trips right at the beginning of BrightonSEO.

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