The First BrightonSEO
BrightonSEO has changed a lot since my first trip down to Brighton in December 2009 (I think) to go for a drink with some fellow SEOs. This was my first trip out into the wild that is the SEO community and I haven’t looked back since. That first night I got to meet some industry type folks that I still speak to today, such as Anna Lewis, Any Keetch & Kelvin Newman, although its still with some sadness that I remember it was Jaamit that persuaded me to actually get my arse in gear to go and visit it. Still missed mate, still missed.
Edit: Having been discussing this on Twitter, I wanted to shout out to Fresh Egg and Tim Aldiss as well for their efforts with this as well – BrightonSEO wouldn’t be what it is today without their efforts.
The First BrightonSEO Mini-Conference (but 2nd BrightonSEO)
This was the first conference of any description that I’d ever been too, and with a few short days warning and not a great amount of prep I was actually talking at it too!
I don’t think anyone really knew what to expect from it all really – it was upstairs in a pub called the Quadrant, which in many ways still feels like its spiritual home, although sadly the conference itself appears to have massively outgrown that venue now. It felt like I was talking in front of quite a large crowd, and it certainly got bigger as the day went on, although I suspect I spoke in front of far fewer people than I thought at the time!
(Thanks to Silicon Beach Training for getting me this picture)
I did quite a big write up of this at the time, and whilst I quite enjoyed speaking, I think I would do a better job with it now that I’ve seen a wide range of speakers on a wide range of topics. I’ve certainly learnt a lot more about SEO in the following years.
A mercifully brief section of my presentation is on YouTube if you are interested.
Growth of the Conference
Over the following couple of years, the popularity of BrightonSEO exploded.
I first met my now business partner Nichola Stott at the next one where she was talking, and met a wide range of hugely interesting folks within the industry over the course of them as a whole.
From the top of my head, I think the next event was about 150-200 people in a large room upstairs in a community centre, growing to 400 odd at a university building with the next, through to filling the corn exchange at the one before last.
I think this was around about 500 booked in, although there were some inevitable no-shows (and I could be totally wrong with these numbers).
A recurring theme for me at all of these events is the amount of people that I’ve met for the first time that already feel like they’ve been friends for years. Social media does a really good job of the introductions, and so many people I’ve gone on to meet, its just felt so easy and natural. In many cases we actually have been talking for years by that point, so perhaps that’s natural!
What has evolved at the BrightonSEO’s is a real sense of community as its continued to grow. Every time there are some familiar faces to catch up with (many that I’ve only ever actually seen at these events), and as each year goes on, its grown further. I really hope that this can continue as it continues to evolve in the future.
Spring 2012 BrightonSEO – Fun, Games & Karaoke
This one was the biggest one yet, with over 1000 people at the sold out in minutes event.
I won’t do a write up of the content as such of this event, as this has been covered in great depth in some awesome posts elsewhere, including these:
- http://delicious.com/stacks/view/EwV9qd (great stack of coverage)
And below are most of the slides etc:
- Future SEO Vistas
- (Re)Launching a Brand or Product online Effectively
- Microformats and SEO
- Searchbots – Lost Children or Hungry Psychopaths?
- It’s Only Words? Working with A Content Strategy
- Advanced Search Queries for SEO
- 20 Tools You May Not Have Heard of But Should Be Using
- Sell the Sizzle Not the Search
- SEO & PPC Working Together in Harmony
- I Believed Authors are the Future
- Mobile Serendipity: How Google Plans to Send Search Results to Users, Before You’ve Even Thought to Look
Instead, I’ll look at some of the fun things that went on that day that I got involved with.
First of all, I raised my hand to get involved with an on-stage competition:
This involved being the first one to hit the target with an awesome nerf gun rifle. Fortunately my opponent didn’t quite manage to hit the target with their first three efforts, and I lined up the shot, had a loosener with the first, shooting just over, and hit the target smack bang in the middle with shot number 2.
BOOM – I was in the final, much later in the day (just before the day at the Dome finished up)
Whilst Kelvin was getting this setup we had to keep the crowd warmed up. For my bit I talked up the later Karaoke on the pier, and was nearly convinced by the crowd to break in to song A cappella, but fortunately I forgot the words of the main tune I’ve been practising for PeteStock of late, and my phone was mercifully turned off so I couldn’t jog my memory in sufficient time to have a go. But I did promise to sing Bohemian Rhapsody later that evening, and my later fate was sealed (although, I had already promised Kelvin when talk of Karaoke was first mooted a few months ago)
When Kelvin was ready for us, we found out that competition involving a head to head match up in Street Fighter 2…
I’ll confess I groaned when I saw this – I never had a console back in those days, and whilst my opponent had never played the game, I had and I knew I was bad at it! Needless to say, I put in an embarrassing show that would subject me (rightly) to mockery for the rest of evening (and for some time since).
Before leaving for the day, I also managed to get the ShitForLinks stuff that I’d bartered for ahead of the event:
I’ve fortunately never really been that fazed by a bit of banter, or doing silly things for the amusement of others.
So on that note, here is a little video of me singing Bohemian Rhapsody (badly as ever for those that have heard me sing it before), featuring some awesome accompaniment from some friends (Kelvin, the organiser of BrightonSEO, Ben “yesiamben” Pritchard and Dom Hodgson from EmberAds and clicknmix):
I think the incessant cackle of laughter tells its own story really – hope you chuckled too!
Bigger thanks has to go to Kelvin for organising all these events to. Good work sir, and please, on behalf of all of us – please keep them coming! Now that you are finished here, go watch the “proper” videos of the presentations from the last event.
It’s been a while since I got a post up on here, and my last past, looking at the communities that really do form on Twitter, was tinged with sadness.
I am still around, it’s just life has been very busy of late. Whilst I’ve not been posting here much, I have been blogging still, and I thought I would share where you can catch up with some more of my recent writings.
I’ve been writing a bit about server load speeds – at least slow ones – having a negative impact on SEO and other Search/Online Marketing efforts – first back in November, where I looked at Negative SEO Issues with Website Loading Speeds (which in this case had caused home pages of a few sites I worked on to be temporarily de-indexed) and again in January with Further Implications for Search Marketing of Webpage Loading Speeds, where I reviewed an email sent to our PPC account manager for the same websites, and some of the problems that can arise when you have problems with loading speeds.
I also wrote a blog in January, moaning about the lack of update to that ever annoying, meaningless PageRank figure, only for there to be a huge update a few days later (and being informed that whilst the 100+ sites I check may not have been changing unless 301’s were involved that some others had been seeing changes in the period I hadn’t observed any movements). Whilst the title was “Please – Update or Ditch”, having had an update, I am somewhat of the opinion I would rather see it ditched, as despite our best efforts, I still hear tales of people being very heavily judged on the performance of this little green bar, when the fundamental bottom line for the website is steady or increasing. Ah well, such is life, all we can do is to continue to educate as best we can about focusing on what really matters!
I’ve also been doing some guest blogging over the last few weeks – I’ve done 2 already, have a couple more lined up and really need to get my writing hat back on for Vertical Leap again soon.
If you want to catch up with these guest blogs, go and check out Daniel Bianchini’s blog with Top Questions to Ask Your Potential SEO Agency, and Common Technical Mistakes Made When a Website Launches where Dean Cruddace has kindly let me post on SEO Begin.
I’ll be looking to be doing some more guest blogging on some sites if I can secure some slots too, so I am definitely going to have to get my writing motivation back, especially as my food blog has also been being somewhat neglected of late!
Coming up in the next few weeks/months, I’m looking forwards to being at ThinkVisibility in 2 weeks, giving me a chance to meet up with a number of my favourite Twitter friends again, and for the first time, and am hoping that I will be able to secure a ticket for the next BrightonSEO on April 1st, though that can’t be guaranteed until Monday morning when I learn if I have managed to be one of the lucky ones! I’m sure both events will be packed full of useful tips and tricks as well as great networking opportunities.
That’s it for now folks, and hopefully see many of you soon!
July 20th, 2010SEO
Well, its been 5 months since the last one – and we are now just a few days away from the next #BrightonSEO even. Mercifully I am not speaking this time, and the beginning part with the presentations not being in a pub this time, I may well manage to stay a little bit longer this time.
The full line up of the July BrightonSEO speakers is available now over at SiteVisibility, and there is a cracking line up of people to be listenig to and engaging with.
There are a few folks that I am particularly looking forward to here – I’m very much looking forward to hearing Nichola Stott talking about “Challenging the Conventional Wisdom of Anchor Text” as well as getting to meet the lady too, after almost a year of talking regularly on Twitter.
I’m certainly interested in Zachary Colbert’s talk on “Lev Manovich’s theory of Linking & Association”, although I don’t really have a clue what it is about. I got a fleeting chance to talk to Zac at the last event and hope to be able to chat some more again.
Another interesting topic that I am looking to hear about is “When is an SEO Campaign not an SEO Campaign” from Anabel Hodges.
There are plenty more of cracking looking presentations no doubt to be seen over the course of the day, with a very interesting, authorative panel of presenters lined up for us – and as well as that I’m sure everyone will be looking forward to getting to the traditinal home of #BrightonSEO (well so far anyway) the Quadrant, where even more serious chatting will no doubt be had over a bevvie or two.
I’m hoping to take some notes and get them into a post a bit like my previous reflections on brightonseo post after the last one.
Its now 4 years ago that I graduated from university with a degree in Entertainment Technology from Portsmouth, finishing with a 2:1, although I was agonisingly close to a 1st (69.7 was my final grade).
I was immensely fortunate, that upon graduating I got the very first job that I applied for, as a trainee SEO at Vertical Leap, and on the 1st August, I will celebrating 4 years working in the industry.
In the time that I have worked at Vertical Leap, I’ve been fortunate to work with a number of amazing people to learn SEO from (as well as learning many lessons on life) and seen a tremendous amount of growth in the company. In the time I’ve been here we’ve outgrown2 office already and seem to be swiftly filling up our new one too (though there is still plenty of room for us to grow further).
When we first moved in to these offices, we almost had enough space for a kick about with a football, whereas now we are getting to a stage where we need to think carefully about how to use that space.
In those 4 years, staff have come and gone, as they do, and I have looked to step up to the plate every time it was necessary for me to take on responsibility.
From starting as a trainee SEO, with no real knowledge of the subject (although my degree did supply me with a host of related skills), I have worked hard, kept my head down, retained as many of my clients as possible and done what I can to grow as a person into a bigger role in the company.
Around 18 months to 2 years ago, I was made Team Leader of the growing SEO department at Vertical Leap.
In my previous post, I alluded to this being a bit rubbish title, which was meant to be a joke, although with the pain I felt inside when writing that post, I don’t think that was particularly clear.
A title isn’t really very important in my opinion. I think mine at the moment is somewhat wordy “SEO Team Leader – Campaign Delivery Manager”. Suffice to say, I don’t use that in my email signature!
As I say, a title isn’t very important – what is important is how you fulfil that role.
As Vertical Leap has grown & we employ more staff in the SEO department, the more my role has grown too.
When I first started at Vertical Leap, I was entrusted with a small number of clients, and as my confidence and ability grew, I took on more responsibilities, more campaigns and helped the company generate more revenue.
We launched a blog on the site, and I am one of the more regular writers on the VL search marketing blog (I’m not THE most regular writer, though I do write more than many).
I now have to spend not inconsiderable amounts of time with new staff – teaching them the “Vertical Leap” way, showing them how we utilise our campaign management tool Apollo and ensuring that we treat our clients consistently well and do everything you can to keep them happy – understanding their goals for a campaign.
At first, these extra responsibilities did not come easily, but over the last year in particular I have done my best to do right by my team and help the, to help themselves in their own development – just like I was helped by those that came before me.
Around a year ago, I was also challenged to become better known in the industry – as I’d been doing all this great work for my clients and concentrating on getting things done.
At first I wasn’t sure how to achieve this – and I was left scratching my head about it for some time.
I decided first to start talking to the rest of the SEO community on Twitter – a great place to exchange ideas and techniques , whilst also a platform for some fun exchanges with some other interesting people, and believe to a certain extent I have achieved this goal (although I’m not going to rest on my laurels just yet).
I’ve also looked to put myself about a bit more at industry events – initially with the local Brighton SEO events, but hopefully extending myself a bit further around the country if suitable opportunities present themselves.
Doing all of these things takes hard work and determination – just working the 9-5 hours aren’t sufficient for me to achieve the goals that have been set for me, and buy me.
Clearly, as can be seen from my last post – things in life can affect the course you are trying to take – and there are going to be bumps in the road.
But nothing worth having in life is ever easy – so I will continue to work hard to achieve my goals in life and be more of the person those close to me, need me to be.
February 20th, 2010SEO
I rolled up to Brighton yesterday afternoon to partake in the BrightonSEO mini conference organised by Kelvin Newman of SiteVisibility. It was an afternoon of presentations looking and discussing various aspects of SEO and online marketing.
I wrote a few notes as the day went on, and below is a brief overview of all the areas discussed.
First up was Jamie Freeman, from Message Digital, a self confessed SEO sceptic. I’d been amused by the premise of an SEO sceptic talking at an afternoon of SEO presentations and was quite intrigued by what he was saying.
He’d written a book with 500 web design tips (no mean feat that), and talked about what he considered to be the “Holy Trinity of SEO”, the 3 C’s – Content, Code and Connections (links).
Jamie didn’t really see the need to do SEO as the sites thathe made ranked well using compliant code, with good content and links seemed to happen in their own right. I can see what he is getting at, but things got a little hairy when he asked which of the the 3 was the most important – with the room being full of SEOs, the answers was of course Links, which Jamie disagreed with, as he felt the content was the most important
Some lively debate ensued, with the SEOs in the audience further explaining that tens or hundreds of websites can have great content on a subject – and in many scenarios this is a given – but the majority of the audience felt that in a competitive environment, content alone will not normally be enough to get to those top monetisable positions.
Next up was Andy Keetch from Wired Sussex, an organisation that helps people find the right Digital companies in the area. Andy talked a lot about the Digital Community in Brighton, how they help people find jobs and graduate opportunities in the area, helping organise social events. I was surprised to learn that they work with the region of 1500 companies and it sounded like a very organised community to be a part of, in an area of the country that has a thriving scene.
Whilst there are plenty of Web and Digital Agencies in Portsmouth and elsewhere in Hampshire, there is nothing (that I know of) organised like this in the Hampshire area and it was very interesting to hear how they go about helping that community in so many ways.
Next up was me, from Vertical Leap - I was talking about client goals, KPIs and managing client expectations. I was incredibly nervous at first and spent a bit too much time reading the cards I’d prepared the day before, but after I relaxed a bit more and stopped looking at my prompts I was a lot more confident, and I think my message came across well.
I was talking about the need to really understand a clients “real” reason to engage with an SEO Company – it’s to make money. How that website makes money, and the routes that it takes to make that money differ and the strategies that you put in place to achieve those goals differ – but all it comes down to the bottom line in the end.
I talked about many of the long term relationships I have formed with my clients, and how communicating effectively with your clients about the wins that you gain them were vital.
Clients often have goals to increase rankings for particular phrases, or to hit certain traffic targets, but these are measures that are a means to the end result of making money. Many times, these may be specific goals that you work to for a client as part of a long term strategy, but that ultimately you need to have some short term goals as well to ensure that you are delivering some kind of return on an investment as soon as possible.
I think after battling my nerves I managed to deliver the message of what I was trying to say effectively enough, and have certainly learnt some lessons for future speaking from doing this. I will definitely make a Powerpoint presentation next time, I will just try and speak rather than attempt to read from a prompt and I will try and relax more. I definitely enjoyed it though, and had some good feedback from people as we discussed the days presentations later on.
I really liked his SEO is like a racing car analogy – you can have the best car and driver (website changes – on site optimisation), but that doesn’t mean you will always win a race (the link building part of SEO). He also interacted well with the audience offering an alcoholic prize for the best “worst thing a client has asked you”, but seemed rather disappointed when one of his own employees one the audiences loudest cheer.
Next up was Cedric from Jollywise, talking about some really interesting social media techniques for films like Up and The Boat That Rocked. It seemed like they had some good ways of getting social engagement with Banner adverts as well and it was fascinating to get an insight into some other areas of Digital Marketing that I have not really looked at before.
Steve Purkiss stood up next and gave a demonstration of an SEO Checklist for Drupal – this seemed like a really useful way of ensuring that you have the right modules required to do SEO well with this content management system – I liked the quote of “Obama uses it, it must be good!”.
The next talk was about “cookies” from Nikki Rae of Fresh Egg. This was a really entertaining presentation, that had plenty of audience interaction with me, Paddy Morgan from Pin Digital (who must win the award for travelling the furthest – all the way from Birmingham!), Annabel Hodges (better know to me as SearchPanda), Mark from Fresh Egg and Anna from MAD taking part in a demonstration of how cookies (which Paddy got to eat) go from the person browsing to a website to a sever and back again.
I must confess to not really having the greatest knowledge of cookies and found this a really interesting introduction about them. It was certainly interesting.
The last of the main speakers was Jack from Propellernet, who was taking the opportunity to show off some fantastic new offices they have moved to, with some really good Graffiti artwork. He then talked about how he formed the company and I particularly liked the phrase “block out the noise – focus on the clients”. I was also quite interested in their somewhat different approach to SEO with very tight integration with traditional PR techniques.
After the main speakers were complete, Kelvin then thanked everyone for coming along and mentioned that one more person wanted to speak – in regards to an NDA that had been floating around in recent weeks and introduced a chap called Paul that wanted to speak to us. I don’t know that this is necessarily being widely talked about yet, but I’ve never agreed to not disclose it, so here I go.
Paul explained about his background – he was a blackhat that had controlled millions of millions of links in the past and had used that to propel sites to the very top positions for highly monetisable phrases. He then went on to explain that he was now working with a large number of national and regional Newspapers across the UK and US, and essentially they have had enough of Google taking all the advertising revenues that they have over the years been used to receiving and think they have found a way to “fight back”.
As I understood what was being proposed (and this might be slightly misinterpreted), is that the Newspapers have millions on pages that they don’t gain traffic from anymore, and they are prepared to sell links on these pages, with anchors that you want and large volumes of them – in an effort to a) make the newspapers some cash, and b) manipulate Google’s rankings to gain those websites traffic. As I understand it, this is being planned on a particularly large scale, and I think that we were being offered the opportunity to take part.
I’m not convinced that Paul selected the right audience to talk to about this. Many people in the room had not engaged in buying links at all, and whilst all the SEOs in the room agreed that Newspaper links as a rule do a carry a lot of weight, it seemed agreed that they might not do in the foreseeable future were this to come out in the open.
Paul’s thrust on this was that many journalists have lost their jobs in recent years because of the rise of the Internet and the amount of “free” content that gets put out on the web – often without the “standards” that journalists have to adhere to.
I think that whilst the concept sounds interesting (and quite possibly expensive), that this surely, once out in the open, has very little chance of success in the long term. When Paul discussed his sites, he seemed to be prepared to throw them away if they crashed and burned in the SERPs, but with my clients and their brands that they want to establish for long term success, not take risks for short term gains. If everything he said was true – it sounded effective, but certainly not long term strategies.
All in all, it was a great day and a great evening!
If you were there, and I’ve missed anything important, please feel free to leave a comment!