What we learned at BrightonSEO

BrightonSEO is always a must, with five Equatorites in attendance this year. SEO Executive, Natasha Walker, summarises what we learned at the 2016 conference.

Anyone who works in SEO knows that if you're only going to one conference that year, BrightonSEO is the obvious choice. The conference has gone from strength to strength over the past few years, with 2016's edition seeing over 2,000 people flocking to Brighton to hear from top digital and search marketing experts.

Brighton may be at the other side of the country for us Glasgow folk, but myself, Fiona, Andrew, Chris, and Stacy all made the 462 mile trip. Between the food, wine, early starts, and grey jackets (more on that later...), there was learning to be done! Here's my personal highlights of the conference.

And here we are queuing outside the Dome! Not pictured is two guys playing steel drums...seriously!

And here we are queuing outside the Dome! Not pictured is two guys playing steel drums...seriously!

Morning events

The morning kicked off with a "big announcement". Yes, this announcement involved a dry ice machine. We don't do things in half measures here. Kelvin announced that BrightonSEO will no longer take place in the Brighton Dome, but don't worry! The next conference will take place at the Brighton Centre, right at the seafront! This is really exciting and means they can accommodate more attendees as it's a much bigger space.

Following the announcement, I attended the "Futureproof" session in the main Concert Hall. I was most interested in the final talk by Rob Bucci, CEO of STAT Search Analytics, who presented a study on featured snippets. The STAT team analysed almost one million keywords and found that featured snippets were present for 9.28% of search queries. This includes three different types of snippets: text paragraphs, numbered/bulleted lists, and tables. Interestingly, they found that there was no overlap between featured snippets and the map pack - good news for local SEO.

What does this mean for SEO, though? Featured snippets show that Google is putting mobile first, tying into what they call "micro moments". With more people using their smartphone to solve problems and research products, Google have responded by presenting them with what they believe to be relevant information within the SERPs. When one site leapfrogs into what is technically position one, this will undoubtedly have an impact on CTRs for the organic results. However, featured snippets are just a continual evolution of Google's search experience, meaning that they need to be taken into account for all SEO strategies. This means structuring pages in a certain way, making use of HTML such as

    , and
      , and consistently using structured data to mark up relevant pages.

      The next session I went to was all about links. That said, I think "links" was a bit of a catch-all term as this covered a whole load of topics from PR to site speed to content! I particularly enjoyed Tom Bennet from Builtvisible's discussion on why content marketers need to take page speed into account and some practical ways they can achieve it. Yes, a lot of it is common sense - optimise your images for web, use fonts that are externally hosted, minimise the number of scripts used (social sharing buttons are a prime suspect!)...but content marketers often think of site speed as something that's a job for developers. Not so! SEO very much overlaps into development and as Tom said, "being able to speak the same language as your developers is never a bad thing". Which language, though? I'll let you figure that out...

      The Kerboo guys created a location filter for Snapchat - Andrew and Stacy couldn't say no to a selfie with Dom!

      The Kerboo guys created a location filter for Snapchat - Andrew and Stacy couldn't say no to a selfie with Dom!

      Afternoon events

      I work on an ecommerce site, so the obvious choice for the afternoon session was...Ecommerce! Siobhan Swainston from Ayima gave a great talk on onsite strategies for fashion retail websites, which can easily be applied to most retail sites. If you've ever worked on an ecommerce site before, you'll know that dealing with out of stock products can be a nightmare. What do you do with a page when the product isn't available? If you leave it as it is, customers who land on this page will be annoyed that it's out of stock and are likely to bounce off the page straight away. If you remove it, you lose any value from other sites that have linked to this product. Siobhan advised that all ecommerce sites need to have a "product retirement policy" which will vary depending on the site, but is ultimately as follows:

      • Product is unavailable for a few days - leave the page as it is but try to suggest alternative products or inform customers when the product will be back in stock.
      • Product is unavailable for up to three months - canonicalise the page to the main product category.
      • Product is unavailable for the foreseeable future - redirect the page to a relevant product category if possible, otherwise, remove it to reduce wasted crawl budget.
      • Siobhan pointed out that a lot of ecommerce sites still don't handle out of stock products correctly, so a product retirement policy is a must to avoid a negative user experience.

      This was followed by James Perrin from Feefo, who spoke about the need for genuine customer product reviews. There's numerous reasons why but perhaps the most obvious one is that 84% of customers are influenced by customer reviews. Users are savvy and can spot a fake review, which is why verified review platforms, such as Feefo, are licensed Google partners. James pointed out that you should put review data next to the 'buy now' CTA (or similar), as this can increase conversion by 6%. Investing in a review platform such as Feefo does require an initial outlay, but for ecommerce sites, the power of customer reviews can't be denied and should be used to help boost sales.

      Keynote speech

      This year's keynote speaker was Nathalie Nahai, an expert in web psychology and how behavioural practices can be applied to digital marketing and web design. Our Marketing Director, Fiona, has seen Nathalie speak at a previous event and was very impressed, so I had high hopes! Nathalie was brilliant though, and a really charismatic speaker. She spoke about why all content we create needs to be of value if we want to build trust with our customers. How many clickbait articles have you come across that are useless and don't tell you anything you didn't already know? We should be incorporating elements of psychology to appeal to personalities and not just cheap clicks!

      Three out of five of us wore grey jackets. And then two of us also teamed them with stripes. Totally unplanned, I should add.

      BrightonSEO was a great experience - it's not every day you're surrounded by 2,000 other digital and SEO professionals! A big thanks to Kelvin and his team for arranging a brilliant conference with industry-leading speakers and we're already counting down to the next one! Until then, what next? We've got you covered - you can take a look at all the slide decks presented on the day or check out our list of digital marketing and SEO conferences in the UK this year.

      By Natasha Walker, SEO Executive