Here's our key takeaways from the UK's best SEO conference - BrightonSEO 2018

This year the Reflect Digital team once again descended on BrightonSEO, the UK's biggest and best SEO conference. Here's some of the team with a rundown of what we learned.

Brighton SEO 2018 camper van

Helen: Tech Stream

As a regular at BrightonSEO I’m now used to facing decision-paralysis. There are so many interesting talks, and all you have to go on is the title and the speaker. I hate coming out of a mediocre talk and hearing my colleagues raving about the one they’ve just heard so I’m always keen to make sure I pick wisely.  

My inner tech SEO geek finds it hard to pass up the opportunity to learn more about how the make-up of a website impacts user experience and search engine rankings however, so it made logical sense I would choose the Tech SEO stream as my first set of talks. Whilst my colleagues dispersed into the checked-shirt wearing crowd I headed off to Auditorium 2 to listen to a series of highly educational talks.  

First up was Tom Pool, on “Command line hacks for SEO”, specifically for users of macOS.  

I’m PC based so this first talk provided me with the perfect opportunity to check my emails and plan out the following week’s to-do list.  (It was a very good talk, just very Mac-centric! I learned a lot, just unfortunately nothing I can put into practice at the moment). 

Key takeaways

I’m going to have to get a Mac at some point if I want to do any of this cool stuff…sigh.

Moving on, Tom Anthony, a new SEO-hero of mine, gave a very pragmatic talk on “Diving into HTTP/2”. 

Having come from a strategic rather than development background I seek out any opportunity to get a better understanding of how code and technology impacts SEO.  

Tom did not disappoint. He carefully went through the differences between HTTP and HTTPS, and how HTTP/2 fits into the scheme of the internet.  

Key takeaways 

HTTP/2 allows for multiplexing (multiple requests at the same time) and as such can greatly reduce the amount of time it takes for a website to load. Coupling that with the fact that it requires HTTPS to function, this means you have a speedy, secure website. Switching to HTTP/2 doesn’t require development work and isn’t a website migration so there aren’t the risks associated with that. It’s even possible to use CDNs (content distribution networks) to run your website over HTTP/2.  

The final talk of the stream was Emily Mace’s “Diagnosing common hreflang tag issues on page and in sitemaps”

Her talk was highly relevant and useful for some client conundrums I’m working on. The session gave a great overview of the issues and intricacies associated with hreflang tags.  

Key takeaways 

Canonical tags must match your hreflang tags, pages using hreflang tags should have reciprocal links (ones that link back to other URLs that reference that page in their hreflang tags) otherwise Google Search Console will scare you with a “no return” warning and always, always make sure your country and language codes are legit! Emily included some great pro-tips, such as, check Google Analytics to identify where in the world your site’s traffic is coming from and use that to diagnose any hreflang tag problems. Also, it is crucial to ensure none of your hreflang tags are pointing to pages blocked in the robots.txt. Simple, but crucial if you are foraying into the scary world of multi-lingual websites!

Brighton SEO 2018 sign

Hannah: Content

After an early start and a long journey to BrightonSEO some of the Reflect Digital team started the day off in Auditorium 1 talking all things content. Welcoming some of Brighton SEO’s favourite speakers and some new comers to the stage: 

Firstly, Marcus Tober: Content for the Moments that Matter

Marcus, a familiar face at BrightonSEO, highlighted the importance of ranking factors on a niche/user intention level – according to Search Metrics, “universally applicable ranking factors are a thing of the past”. One of the most helpful tips from the talk was the actionable strategies you can put in place to target niche ranking factors. 

Key Takeaways

Sharpen your focus by identifying niche ranking factors which use more specific data to target user intents and needs. Look at things such as microdata, text length, number of paragraphs, structured data, social signals and number of images to target audiences. Then put a strategy in place; strategy 1: content specialisation, strategy 2: content updates and strategy 3: remove (duplicated) content.


Eleni Cashell: How to Unleash the Power of Unique Content

Slides available here: 

Next up was a new face to the BrightonSEO stage, Eleni Cashell. Eleni highlighted the simple wins of removing all duplicated content you might have on your site or a client’s site. Simply put, ‘unique content is king’. Now, for most SEO professionals this is not something new, but considering 29% of the internet is duplicated content, it’s probably something not all SEO professionals practice.  

Key Takeaways

Don’t create duplicated content in the first place, always look to create unique content – don’t underestimate its power. Start by cleaning up your content and identify where the duplicated content is sitting on your site. Then make sure you get your whole team on board, creating unique content can be a long a task so you need a team behind you that understands the end goal. Eleni provides a helpful spreadsheet (you can find it within her slides) so you can organise the content that needs creating and its progress.  

Steve Rayson & Giles Palmer: How Metrics and Data Drive Content Effectiveness

Slides available here: 

Finally, some more familiar faces graced the stage of auditorium 1: Steve Rayson & Giles Palmer. The duo focused on a Buzzsumo Content Trends Report and encouraged us to delve into metrics and data to drive content effectiveness. Did you know that only 5% of content gets more than 343 shares!? Since there’s been such growth in content creation, private sharing and algorithm changes in Facebook, content sharing and engagement figures have dropped significantly.

Key Takeaways

Despite the average number of shares and engagement levels of posts falling on Facebook, average shares of the New York Times content has trebled since 2015. Do you know why this is? Quality over quantity. Produce highly relevant, highly targeted and high quality content even it is only once a week, once every two weeks or once a month, you’re more likely to see greater engagement levels, shares and external backlinks for a piece of content at this standard. 

Greg Gifford at BrightonSEO 2018

Mike: Link Building 

On a high after our satisfying lunch at Jamie’s Italian, we returned to Auditorium 1 for the eagerly anticipated link building talk featuring some of Brighton SEO’s favourites:

Grey Gifford: The Ray Stantz Guide to Real World Link building 

Slides here:

True to his word, Greg went “really f******g fast” but we still managed to make a note or two. Greg guided us through some highly practical link building tips set against the backdrop of 77 science fiction movie theme references (as only Greg can). One of the most actionable tips involved presenting new clients with a ‘link building questionnaire’ to help discover linking opportunities that already exist but have not been taken advantage of in the past. Good stuff. 

Key Takeaways

You do not have to spend resources ‘creating something big’ to gain local links to improve your clients local SEO. Sometimes all it takes is communication with your client and the ability to leverage the opportunities that they have already ‘set up.’ 

Laura Hogan Big Links for £0 

Slides here: 

Again, I was impressed with the practicality of the tips in Laura’s presentation on ‘how to get links for free.’ Laura highlighted simple tasks such as signing up for Google Alerts for your client’s brand name to keep on top of brand mentions or using Tweetdeck to follow and respond to popular hashtags such as #journorequest to put your client in front of journalists who can get you exposure. 

Key Takeaways

PR and SEO have never been more interlinked and often, all that is required is for SEOs to switch on to what is going on in their clients industries and stay 'on the pulse'. Link building budgets should remain, to some extent, fluid so that you’re able to respond to what is happening quickly. Increasingly, SEOs need to plan campaigns way in advance to keep abreast of the topic of conversation.  

Marie Turner - Effective Ecommerce link building 

Slides here: 

Marie from Amara took the stage to delve deeper into the main factor that should be fuelling our link building strategies: customer needs. Marie explained that the more value we give to our readership and customers, the more chance we have of gaining those highly coveted relevant and powerful links. 

Key Takeaways

A quote from Mr Neil Patel - “to rank higher is to offer tremendous value to users.”  This statement rings true about everyone we do as SEO’s. We need to be able to ask whether we’re providing any value to anyone else except our clients when we’re running campaigns or creating content. 


All in all we had a fantastic day and came away bursting with ideas. See you next time Brighton!


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