At the end of last month I attended the best Brighton SEO yet. From the opening keynote to the afternoon’s content-focused talks in the Corn Exchange, the day was packed with actionable takeaways. However, the five talks that really stood out for me were:
- How I Earned Loads of Links by Ignoring SEO – Malcolm Coles
- The Habits That Land You Links – Stacey Cavanagh
- How journalistic principles will shape the digital marketing of tomorrow – Julia Ogden
- Using Content for Direct Response – Matt Evans
- The Content Marketing Blueprint for Boring Industries – Mike Essex
Below, you’ll find my summaries (largely taken from my frantically scrawled notes) of the key points from each talk plus links to slide decks where available.
How I Earned Loads of Links by Ignoring SEO – Malcolm Coles
The conference kicked off with a keynote from Malcolm Coles, General Manager at The Daily Mirror and founder of UsVsTh3m. Malcolm spoke about how UsVsTh3m’s goal has always been to gain the biggest share of their traffic through social rather than search. They’ve achieved this through creating topical, highly shareable content in the form of games and quizzes, such as:
- The ‘Where’s Damascus?’ Game – thousands of people played the game online and failed miserably, including people from the Houses of Parliament, which resulted in news coverage.
- How Much Are You Hated By The Daily Mail? – though impossible to get to the end of unless you’re Michael Gove, this short piece of interactive content attracted over a million players, multiple pieces of online coverage with hugely authoritative links and caused UsVsTh3m to rank 3rd for the search term ‘Daily Mail’ for months.
Malcolm also spoke about how The Daily Mirror now sees more mobile traffic than desktop. Therefore, you must ensure that any content you outreach to publications (e.g. infographics) needs to look good on mobile. Your outreach email will probably be read in mobile too. What’s more, infographics sent as huge JPEGs won’t look good on mobile – these should be created in HTML and should be responsive. When UsVsTh3m launched their ‘Northometer’ quiz, 85% of plays came from mobile. In fact, the entire UsVsTh3m site is designed for mobile – Malcolm even went as far as to say that they “don’t really care” how it looks on desktop.
The most important takeaway of Malcolm’s talk was about content headlines. The best-performing headlines are interesting (you want to read them) and mysterious (they don’t give too much away) – these are the headlines that get you clicks AND shares.
Essentially, online content can be divided down into four categories:
- Gets clicked AND shared (what goes viral)
- Gets clicked NOT shared (tends to be content that includes swearing – after all, “your Mum is on Facebook”)
- Gets shared NOT clicked (rubbish headlines, but good content)
- Doesn’t get shared OR clicked (most online content)
You want your content to fall into the top category and sites like Buzzfeed work extremely hard to get this right – it’s standard for them to A/B test up to 25 different headlines for each piece of content.
Three more key points from Malcolm’s talk were:
- If you’re creating content that’s getting shared, the most important thing is that it’s visual – this means people writing about it are forced to link to it because it’s not something that they can describe with the same level of impact
- The reason quizzes work so well when it comes to generating content that gets shared is because people want to share content that’s self-affirming – i.e. it reinforces the way that people perceive themselves and/or want to be perceived by others
- Use Facebook Ads to deliver niche content to the right people – when people in a niche start talking about something, it’s likely to get picked up by relevant publications
The Habits That Land You Links – Stacey Cavanagh
Next up was Stacey Cavanagh, Head of Search at Tecmark, talking about getting into the habits that land you links. Stacey spoke about the importance of allowing time to be creative, championing the 6-3-5 method which enables six people to generate 108 ideas in 30 minutes. Next, you should use NUF testing (New, Useful, Feasible) to work out which ideas are worth following up – score each idea out of ten for each of these things and prioritise the highest scoring ideas.
Additional takeaways from Stacey’s talk were:
- Use a tool such as fivesecondtest.com to A/B test the effectiveness of your tweets
- Don’t underestimate the importance of having a Flickr page with high quality, original images – ensure all images have a Creative Commons attribution license and include direction as to how to attribute
- Have regular image reclamation sessions – imageraider.com helps to find sites using your images, then you can request attribution and a link
- Create stories from surveys – this is a great tactic for getting news links, even if you just write a story about it (you don’t need a fancy infographic to get quality links)
- Don’t underestimate the effectiveness of offline content – e.g. doing something “real” that results in coverage; links are a by-product of coverage
- Old-fashioned communications are disruptive – when it comes to outreaching to your contacts, doing something like sending a hand-written letter will get you more attention than an email
How journalistic principles will shape the digital marketing of tomorrow – Julia Ogden
Julia was a journalist before she went on to work at Zazzle. Her talk was about how she’s used the skills she learnt while working in local media to inform her digital marketing tactics. Key points were:
- Most people don’t read more than 250 words of a piece of content so make sure all the important information is at the top – the introduction to any piece of content needs to hook the reader and make them want to read on
- The internet is crying out for high quality, well-written content – in essence, this is all that “SEO content” is
- Content marketers should take advantage of the citizen journalism approach and crowd-source content from brand advocates and social influencers
- Google rewards a website/business which has a range of followed links, no follow links and even just online mentions – Google recently released a patent to reward content that just mentions a brand or associated keywords, but has no links
- When you’re creating content, always think about what’s new or different – why should people care about what you have to say?
Using Content for Direct Response – Matt Evans
It was Matt’s first time speaking at Brighton SEO and I thought his talk was one of the most useful from the day. Matt spoke at length about selling through content and provided some really great takeaways.
In essence, we’ve stopped stuffing Google with keywords and started stuffing it with content – but what so many online marketers overlook is that the sales funnel is content.
Matt outlined that there are four stages of the sales funnel that your consumers go through:
- Unaware – content at this stage should catch peoples’ attention
- Know the situation – content at this stage should inform people of the situation
- Product awareness – content at this stage should inform people about the product
- Purchase intent – content at this stage should push people to sale
Too often, content created “for SEO” overlooks this and completely misses the sales process:
- Your content should inform your audience – because an informed audience is more likely to purchase
- Get your content in the right place at the right time – tailor your content to what your audience want / need to see at each stage of the buying journey
- Re-market to your content, not just your products – use your content to move your potential customers down the funnel until they’re ready to purchase
- Don’t underestimate the importance of post-purchase campaigns – it costs 5 x more to acquire a new customer than to sell again to an existing customer
- Stop thinking about links first – create content with a real purpose
The Content Marketing Blueprint for Boring Industries – Mike Essex
Mike Essex from Koozai spoke about how we’re so obsessed with “great content” that we often totally overlook that fact that “boring content” is actually the best opportunity in content marketing. Great content might achieve awareness, but boring content is what sells.
Opportunities to create boring content include:
- Your ‘About’ section
- Technical specifications
- Press releases (these are still important and great for targeting niche audiences, which can be critically important)
- Company location pages
Ways that you can achieve stand-out “boring content” are:
- Repackage boring content in a visually interesting way – e.g. highly visual technical specification pages
- Distil your product information down into simple-to-follow comparisons – sometimes you have to focus on what stops people buying and create content to address this
- Think about customer aftercare – for example, other sites were ranking for Vax user guides so Vax invested in creating their own
- Have great product pages – Aviva are a great example of a company which uses its product pages to give them a competitive edge
Above all, remember that on-site content such as this MUST convert – that should always be your end goal!