At ExtraMile, there’s a strong focus on CPD and attending any conference where we’re able to gain insight and practical advice from industry leaders in our specialist subjects. We then bring back the latest research, breakthroughs, recommended actions (the list goes on) to the office and share our new knowledge with the wider team. Taking a step back from our daily routine, and catching up with industry thought leaders, enables us to provide a better service to our client base – inspired by the most recent technology and practices in digital marketing.

During April 2018, I took a trip to Brighton to spend two days at BrightonSEO conference – a popular and respected natural search conference in the UK. Before I discuss some of the event’s highlights, I’d like to recommend that anyone who is interested in Search Engine Marketing (SEM) or is responsible for SEM activity on any level attends this twice-yearly event at some point. Some of the world’s best search marketers run training sessions and share their specialist knowledge on stage – the location is pretty good too (you’ll certainly have a little spare time to walk along the pier). After a full day of technical SEO training on day 1, I attended the conference at the Brighton Centre located on Brighton’s seafront. My key takeaways include:

The world doesn’t always need another blog post

I am totally aware that you’re reading “another blog post” but stick with me. During a session designed specifically for agencies, Peter Watson-Wailes from Tough & Competent urged us to recall an “iconic piece of search content” after showing us some success stories from the world of advertising – diamond shreddies, anyone? He then urged SEOs to start fighting for ad budget to place more importance on content created to fulfil SEO objectives and stressed that we need to push ourselves out of our comfort zone as SEOs. However, elaborate outreach campaigns aren’t necessary – text and video formats still work well (such as content published as part of a series). It’s time to stop defaulting to blog content.

If you struggle with development resource, consider the following

James Chapman from Banc highlighted that technical SEO requests are often low on the marketing agenda (think 301 redirects, canonical tags, site performance issues, and more). If it’s a struggle to get development resource at your organisation, consider the following:

  • SEO is not the job of the developer – put some of the hard work in by learning as much as you can about your CMS.
  • Provide clear and concise briefs and reiterate the benefits of completing the technical tasks for your client/the organisation.
  • Centralise the development work required and identify whether it’s low, medium, or high priority (and the level of work required) – keep it absolutely jargon-free.
  • Do not send a crawl report to a developer and hope they fix all of the “issues” – take the time to delve into the detail yourself.
  • Make sure you’re contacting the right person – stop emailing IT, for example, if you’re not getting anywhere.
  • Understand it may be a waiting game – use workarounds such as Google Tag Manager (for tag injection) or Search Console’s data highlighter (to create structured data).

Use the term “crawl prioritisation” rather than “crawl budget”

Ex-Googler, Fili Wiese of Search Brothers gave an interesting talk on optimising for crawl bots. He stressed that when Google first finds a website (discovery) it is crawled from the top down. However, this will eventually stop and the crawl becomes more “random”. As a result, the URL scheduler kicks in to determine what URLs to crawl and when. Not all URLs are treated equally – some are crawled regularly and others aren’t. To help Google prioritise effectively, a good internal linking structure is vital. It’s also important to keep the site healthy by crawling the site at least once a year as an absolute minimum. Finally, I found it interesting that Fili said that if your site is not yet secure, optimise it first and then schedule the migration – Google will crawl the entirety of your newly optimised and secure website (it’s not often that this opportunity arises – Google will pick up all of your new changes). In the next few months, Google Chrome will completely move to HTTPS.

Link building doesn’t need to take the form of an expensive outreach campaign

Link building expert, Greg Gifford of DealerOn gave an enthusiastic talk on building links. Greg gave practical advice for those building links on small budgets – a world away from the regular advice dispensed, often along the lines of “build something really awesome and expensive and hope it gets picked up by high authority sites”. Greg stressed that links should be built on partnerships that have real-world value beyond SEO. These links are difficult to replicate as your competitors won’t have the same relationships as you do. He was not a fan of infographics. Data visualisation had a bit of a bad reputation at the event too!

On the subject of link building, Laura Hogan from Ricemedia spoke about building big links for £0! She suggested setting up brand alerts as well as monitoring the hashtag #journorequest and following up with anything topically relevant.

As well as the above, I attended many more talks on topics such as structured data, keyword research, and the future of voice search. I would sit here and write all of it out – but it’s time for the SEM team and I to put what we’ve learned into action.