From Brighton SEO to the Write My Site office

Hola from colourful Brighton’s sunny shore! This week’s special edition of Content Marketing Trends is Brighton_Signcoming right at you from the unforgettable, the indomitable, Brighton SEO Conference.

As experienced industry-bods will know, the Brighton SEO conference is a hotbed of check shirts, hipster beards and comprehensive SEO innovation. Now that we’ve had time to digest our findings, we’ve returned to bring you a ‘Top of the Talks’ list from this April’s show… enjoy!

Lava – the world’s first emotional search engine – looks too hot to handle!

After a hearty lunch and jaunt through the cobbled, labyrinthine streets of The Lanes, Brighton Dome was all set up for an afternoon that promised to impress. First up was the dastardly duo of Lisa Myers and James Finlayson from Verve Search, with whispers abounding that a new beta product would be launched as part of their ‘Why SEO needs to get emotional’ talk.

The pair started with the science behind the emotional SEO idea. While the frontal lobe of the brain (left side, if we’re being precise) is responsible for logic and reason, the limbic system is what orientates our emotional compass. A statement like “It’s impossible to make a decision without emotion” seems like fodder for dispelling. But, as they dig down into it, human traits like validatory excuses (“I can splash out on X because I did Y”), individual propriety (“X is SO my style. It’s got to be in my wardrobe”) and aspiration (“If I buy X, it will make me a better person”) all seem to add fuel to their fire. After all, you don’t need to make the audience cry, just to co-operate and buy your stuff.

It was this logic that drove the Verve Search team to develop the innovative new Lava app, which was launched live on stage to about as much murmuring excitement as content marketers can muster. It’s an intriguing concept; input one word or phrase and receive a chart of the word’s sentimental value going back as far as the turn of the Millennium, a list of which newspapers approve and disapprove of the phrase, and an RSS-style digest of how the topic is discussed in the media. Enter a second word – even third – word or phrase and you can directly compare how the popularity of each has risen or faded over time.

Not only is this a great way to generate random facts (e.g. Katie Hopkins is about to become more popular than The Pope, and not for the first time – see graph below) but to create content strategies that take into account the global emotional response to a specific topic within a predefined geographical area or time period. If something’s popularity is soaring, write a “How you can have X too” style piece, and when popularity is at rock bottom, write a “Save yourself from X in five easy steps” style piece. As with life, it’s ambivalence you want to watch out for!

Brighton SEO Graph

Think local to sell local

Now, you’ll have to bear with us on this one. With well over 100 car movie themed slides for a 20-minute speech, Greg Gifford of Search Engine Land was undoubtedly the most energetic speaker of the day. He promised “a peak under the hood of Google’s local algorithm” with some insightful SEO tips – and boy did he deliver!

Sticking with the movie theme – the halcyon days of Field of Dreams content strategy (“If you build it, he will come”) went out with Google’s ‘Pigeon’ update. Instead, businesses need to optimise the subject and tone of their content for a local area, tugging the nostalgia chord for a smaller, yet more dedicated audience catchment.

Think about what you typically see in your Facebook feed every day. How many iterations of “10 things you’ll only know if you grew up in [almost uninhabited wasteland]” do Buzzfeed legitimately think they can put out? But, there’s method in this madness. Suddenly, sentimental souls start a genuine and engaging conversation, reminiscing about their little country town, and sharing the link like wildfire among school friends. This is an example of Buzzfeed owning local SEO.

So, what subjects did Gifford recommend covering to appeal to such an audience? Local celebrities, well-known nightclubs/venues, cultural traits, local foods and language quirks were all put forward as potential topics – anything that differentiates one region from the next. Gifford also dispelled the long-held view that local links are somehow less valuable than those from national or international bodies, explaining that links from the likes of schools, sports teams and places of worship carry more weight in terms of Google’s localised algorithm.

To this end, Gifford had some choice morsels of advice to keep abreast of the latest recommended SEO strategy for localised markets, including:

  • Don’t be afraid of ‘nofollow’ links! Use them to strategically mask your method from competitors.
  • Facebook ads has grown up. What was once an over-simplified platform now offers exceptional value in picking up the buzz surrounding a certain theme in a certain area.
  • Google Beacons is the next big thing for local SEO, enabling everyone from venue owners to taxi drivers to distribute their own messages personalised for their target market/regular customer base.

SCOT might just be your new BFF

Graph-maestro James Perrott of Zazzle Media helped bridge the gap between content and SEO when he took to the stage for the morning session of the conference. The first section of the talk was a tight and compelling summary of how to identify ‘quick wins’ from under-performing keyword categories with as yet unclaimed value. That’s all well and good, but there were a few too many spreadsheets for the average copywriter.

What we were waiting for was the promise of a tool that could do it all for us. The Stickyeyes Content Optimisation Tool (SCOT) was developed late last year in response to what many called Google’s ‘Phantom Update’ – a tweak to the algorithm not publicly announced in the same way as Panda or Penguin. To develop a thought-leader style brand, you need to know what aspects of your brand are being best served by content, and where there’s a deficit.

SCOT scores the ranking potential of any page on a specific website, highlighting opportunities to develop new content that works. People are still guessing at the full implications of last year’s update, and this tool can be used to carry out bespoke assessments on each client. However, the tool has already highlighted Google’s aversion to ‘How to’ type content that promises much in the title, and delivers little else other than short, spammy articles. According to Stickyeyes, SCOT has shown us “that engaging, detailed pieces of content that either retain a user’s attention for longer periods of time, or that encourage users to access further information on site, are effective at supporting strong rankings.”