In case you missed it, the brightonSEO conference took place on 6-7 October — and it didn’t disappoint.

Over the two days, most of our London team attended the search marketing conference to learn, mingle, and accompany clients. 

As we heard from the next generation of SEO superstars, we took plenty of notes and cobbled together our thoughts on the best sessions we saw.

This is a collection of our favourite brightonSEO talks, in no particular order:

Luke Carthy: “A definitive talk on perfecting faceted navigation for SEO and sales growth”

Luke Carthy’s talk on faceted navigation tackled some of the main issues faced by SEOs and featured some great tips on how to roll this out successfully. Three of the main issues created by a faceted nav are: URL bloat, thinning out the equity running through the site, and potential crawl issues for search engines.

Facets should complement categories by adding granularity to those that should not be split further. These facets, or “filters,” should not be a category on their own somewhere else on the site, and there should be no overlap between facets and categories. Why? Because it will cause cannibalisation, which is already a big issue when using faceted navigation.

As Luke explains, there are general rules to follow when you use facets: 

  • All indexed filters should have search demand
  • Only one option per filter group will be indexed
  • Create an “Allow” list of filters that can be indexed
  • Nofollow all “sort options” and “number of products per page” options
  • Use logic rules for noindexing a page once it has a certain amount of facets selected (e.g. 3)

As an example of a site that does faceted navigation well, Luke pointed to Next UK because it follows the rules and avoids the issues covered above.

Want to see the whole presentation? You can view the slides on Luke’s website.

Alice Rowan: “What the (cluster)f*ck? Convince Google you're an expert and plan your content”

Alice Rowan’s content session looked at overcoming the issue of hitting long-tail keywords with low reach. We were encouraged to be as creative as possible when finding inspiration for research and received some suggestions on where to find these new ideas:

  • Reddit: Use the “how do you” and “how can I” format for questions. You can then identify any recurring themes among the topics users search for.
  • Quora: Look for niche questions. This will help you see what kind of questions your customers may be asking based on their pain points, which you can turn into content.
  • Internal sales and customer service teams: Anything they’re asked is often not promoted well enough on the site. Change that!
  • TikTok: This is a great place for outside-the-box ideas but also general inspiration. For example, the Gu pot case study where their site is not currently promoting anything on the website around recycling the pots. TikTok trends show a great opportunity here to increase reach because you can easily see the volume of interest (the number of videos).

Jo Walters: “How to think differently, get out of a rut, and generate new ideas”

In her talk, Jo Walters provided a number of ways on how to generate new ideas when it comes to planning and creating a content strategy. This session was great for anyone with an interest in content and for anyone who ever wanted to get a sense of how actual content strategists expand their ideas.

Looking back over the talk, the main theme was to play devil's advocate and question the norms. One standout example was looking at Colgate toothpaste’s packaging and asking the “what ifs” around it. For example: “Toothpaste usually comes in a tube… but what if it didn’t? Are there better ways to package the product?”

Chima Mmeje: “On-page optimisation lessons from analysing over 400 blog posts”

During Chima Mmeje’s time on stage, we reviewed the key concepts of any good blog post. This included making sure each subheading is structured as a mini-article containing a mix of facts, data, whys, and hows.

We also looked at the best way to get an understanding of what any landing page should look like and contain. The answer: do what the search engine results page (SERP) says. Identify your chosen keywords, look to see what is currently performing well, and figure out the why and how.

Chima reminded us to include offer-related language in the titles, such as “free templates” or any case where you're providing the user with an incentive. The key here is that you’re forgetting that the goal is to get the click and not just the SERP ranking.

You can view Chima's entire presentation on SlideShare.

Martin Splitt: “A guided tour of JavaScript for SEO”

This session from Martin Splitt was full of analogies, and the best one was when he encouraged us all to close our eyes and visualise a house with one door, one chimney, and three windows. In doing this, we realised that we all visualised a house with those same elements — but a completely different appearance. 

This concept is the same as the HTML we provide, and the importance of how this is communicated to the DOM in order to provide something that we, the users, can see. We have the opportunity as SEOs to influence the HTML using JavaScript to provide a “house,” which would appear differently to our audience.

Martin reminded us that anything that is in the DOM will be reflected on the page but that, as SEOs, we shouldn't only be looking at visible elements. This is particularly important when measuring the impact of elements like infinite scroll.

He closed the session with a few takeaways:

  • It takes Google longer to see and crawl anything in JavaScript.
  • Using server-side rendering for links makes it easier for crawlers to process.
  • Always check the rendered HTML version of pages in Google Search Console.
  • Inspect with browser developer tools and use the [elements] and [network] tools, so you can edit and change things while testing the page as a different user agent.

Andrew Charlton: “The power of probabilistic thinking in SEO”

Andrew Charlton’s session looked at different means of forecasting. While “search volume X click-through rate” will give us an idea of the average clicks per month, Andrew shared a different method of his own. He boiled it down to a much more transparent approach with clients using probability instead: “What you could achieve X what are the chances this will happen = expected value.”

Andrew also encouraged the use of probability statements, such as a "10% probability of increasing organic traffic by more than 20-30% in the next 12 months." When you use ranges and probability in forecasts, especially in the pitching stages, you can stand out from competitors who may promise more but lack the data required to make these calculations.

Will Critchlow: “What we can learn from losing tests - the importance of paying attention to negative outcomes”

“What is A/B testing anyway?” In the case of Will Critchlow’s talk, A/B testing is when you tie individual on-site changes to organic search performance. You can do this by using a platform to make a change to a site and then deploy it to a subset of pages. Then, compare its performance with the predicted traffic of the pages where you didn’t make that change.

Will also provided examples of tests:

  • Removing terrible content: Even though it was “bad,” removing the SEO copy resulted in a negative organic traffic trend. This proved that the copy is actually useful for SEO.
  • Adding timely offers (such as “easter flights to”): This proved harmful for SEO.
  • Avoiding auto-generated snippets by forcing Google to respect the meta description: This is negative for SEO because if Google can replace the meta description, it can better serve the unique searches. It does this by adding a specific snippet from the page that matches the query.
  • Alt-attributes: This test was inconclusive, meaning that adding a description to an image doesn’t affect performance.
  • E-A-T authorship: This test was also inconclusive, meaning that including an author description and profile didn’t make a difference.

You can also watch Will's full talk at SearchPilot.

Grace Frohlich: “The ultimate SEO maturity audit”

Grace Frohlich’s talk centred on a maturity audit framework, which determines a site’s organic maturity in an industry. It allows you to assign a score to different aspects of a site, so it’s visually clear which areas to prioritise and what markets, if you have multiple countries, to go after.

The following are the seven areas of the audit, which includes a score based on its positioning in each area:

Each section doesn’t have to go too in-depth on all the testing areas. For example, the Link Profile will only look into how the number of backlinks and referring domains compared to competitors.

The score is based on the impact on a site, with “5” being difficult but also the most “mature.” The output will be a table like this:

When delivering this to a client, you can make the visual more digestible, like this:

Want the full scoop? Check out Grace's presentation on SlideShare.

Andi Jarvis: “Launching DTC. Why SEO isn't the answer (...and what is)”

Andi Jarvis’s talk was about strategy in general rather than just SEO. The point was that different marketing teams should collaborate and work toward a common goal instead of existing in a silo, as is usually the case.

While there isn’t a particular action to take away, Andi’s point was not to change your entire strategy but to talk about how marketing spending can have the most impact. He recommended asking these questions:

  • Who do we want to reach?
  • What do we want to tell them?
  • What is that worth to us?

Once you have the answers, you can have more clarity on the channels to use. The other main goal here is to focus on the user, which is often forgotten in SEO, rather than focus on the channel. Once you know your customer and how they behave, you can more easily understand why and how to move investments into SEO compared to social (for example).

How to watch every talk from the Oct 2022 brightonSEO

As you may have noticed, not every brightonSEO talk is widely available online via Slideshare or another platform. If you want full access to the event, head over to brightonSEO to purchase a Replay pass.

Hero image via brightonSEO Facebook

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