Brighton SEO 2011: Search Marketing Grows Up!


Brighton SEO is an event for the UK search marketing industry and after attending the last successful conference we once again took the trip down to Brighton to hear from some of the leading lights in the SEO industry. Attending the event were Head of Online Marketing, Darren Bond and Online Marketing Consultant, James Fairweather who had the following thoughts.

Brighton SEO

Thoughts from Darren Bond

Brighton SEO was a great day, with some excellent speakers and some very entertaining presentations. The event provides our national search marketing industry with a unique opportunity to share knowledge and discuss pertinent issues. My hat must go off to Kelvin Newman and the team for their excellent work and hospitality throughout the day.

The presentations were on the whole brilliant, although after the strong line up at the last event, I felt that the presentations didn’t have the same edge as before. Also, the lack of structured debate this time around was slightly disappointing as this was one of the most enjoyable aspects of the previous conference for me.

Highlights of the day

  • The first had to be Malcolm Coles’ (Director at Digital Sparkle) presentation “How to win at SEO with Duplicate Content: Featuring Pippa Middleton’s Arse” where he showed some excellent techniques of making short term gains with duplicate content.
  • The second was the 20:20 presentations which were a great addition. With 20 slides which changed automatically every 20 seconds, presenters covered a lot of ground in a relatively short period of time.
  • Finally, Sam Crocker’s (SEO Associate Director at OMD) presentation on Pitching SEO was excellent and he talked a huge amount of sense. During his 20:20 he highlighted the importance of putting in good amounts of effort for a pitch from various departments in the business and forecasting results up front in a tiered format.

Overall I couldn’t recommend Brighton SEO enough for those working in the search marketing industry as the insight delivered in the sessions is always useful. As well as being useful however, the presentations and conversations which took place during the event clearly demonstrated the increasing professionalism and maturity of our industry.

Thoughts from James Fairweather

For me, the day was great and a testament to the hard work that Kelvin Newman and his team put into arranging it. Some great characters took to the stage and a few juicy tips and tricks were shared with the audience.

With any event like this, it’s hard to cater for the masses and with an event that was at least double the size from the previous one, for me the trade-off was in the technical detail of some of the presentations. Perhaps it’s to do with my advancing length of service in this industry but it seemed that some of the presentations lacked the technical depth that I’ve seen from conferences (and Brighton SEO) in the past.

That’s not to say that the day wasn’t a success; there were plenty of interesting sessions on more agency-specific issues that I’d not seen covered at events before; account management, selling and pitching SEO and some points on client relationships.

In contrast to Darren I felt that the 20 slide, 20 second rule at the end of the day did some presentations, and subjects a disservice. The following presentations were excellent and warranted far longer than the prescribed 6 minutes.

  • How to Pitch SEO – Sam Crocker (SEO Associate Director at OMD)
  • Stormy Weather: The Accuracy of Search Volume Estimation and Forecasting – Graeme Benstead-Hume (Digital Marketing Manager at Site Visibility)
  • Beyond the last click: Finding hidden SEO value with Multi-Channel Funnels. – Dara Fitzgerald (Head of Insight at Fresh Egg)
  • Driving SEO with PPC – Kane Bartlett (Senior PPC Manager at
  • Market Research: Informing SEO and Link Development – Rosie Freshwater (Managing Director at Leapfrogg)
  • Delight in the Digital World: Why Settle for Customer Satisfaction – Rae Lovejoy (Senior Digital Account Manager at iCrossing)

Strangely, there was a lot of talk on twitter about the morning sessions advocating black hat tactics (very tentatively so, might I suggest) and a blog post live by 2pm (I won’t allow the pleasure of an inbound link) criticising the event for encouraging ‘unethical’ link behaviour.

It’s a fair point to raise, but as SEOs, it is vital to know what the rest of the marketplace is doing to achieve results, regardless of an individual or an agency’s stance on any kind of less-than-white-hat practise. People are using it to some effect, it is important to know how, why and what you can do to keep up and compete in the most appropriate way.

Brighton SEO

Highlights of the day

  • Malcolm Coles stood out for his excellent slides on using WordPress to maximise the visibility of news content.
  • Dom Hodgson’s “My Hack Addiction” for making every non-coder in the crowd feel very small.
  • Dara Fitzgerald for covering the newly released Google Analytics multi-channel funnels in six minutes (no mean feat).
  • Jonny Stewart from Reviewcentre for candidly sharing the details of the widely publicised Panda penalty they were hit by.

In summary; Brighton SEO was good, the standard of presentations was high, the venue was top quality and the take-out tips were, perhaps less plentiful, but indicative of a more mature industry than that of a couple of years ago, with more focus on quality of service, the account process and long term benefits for clients.

On a final point, we must both extend our thanks to Kelvin Newman for the hospitality and fantastic organisation.

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