Best Practices

BrightonSEO: What Can a Social Media Marketer Learn From Going to an SEO Conference?

25 October, 2018
13 min read
Veronika Vebere

As much as it may hurt to hear it, social media is not the be-all and end-all for brands. Every company is different, and essentially, requires not only a different strategy but also a solid understanding of its target audience and which of the used marketing channels are performing. That means you may have to look beyond social media to bring success to a brand and this is where understanding SEO comes in handy.

If we look through the content marketing prism, social media is a content distribution channel. Yes, we want it to grow into a space where engagement and delight prevails, and customers happily share their experiences, but for the majority of brands, that's still a bridge they need to cross.

BrightonSEO may not ring any bells if you aren't into search marketing, but it's one of the most successful marketing conferences in Europe. The event started in the attic of a pub as the brainchild of Kelvin Newman (the founding organizer) and a bunch of marketers. Since then, it’s grown significantly, into what is now a 4000+ attendee conference that takes place in the seaside city of Brighton in the United Kingdom, just south of London.

As attendees, we soaked up the knowledge and compiled the most valuable takeaways from the talks, presented by CMOs, digital agency owners and talented marketing professionals challenging best practices and running experiments.

Why should social media managers care about SEO?

google search and seo

Search-engine optimization or SEO, for short, may be more relevant to content marketers creating and publishing long-form content on websites, but there is value in expanding your knowledge beyond social media for a number of reasons. Besides, some social media managers naturally progress to become content writers and managers (like yours truly).

1. Every business and its audience is unique

What works for one brand, may not work for the other. You have most likely seen this happen on social networks – some networks take off while the others are slowly chugging along. It all comes down to the type of product or service the brand offers, but more importantly, their audience and where they hang out.

2. Social media and SEO are just two of the many marketing channels

There is a benefit in being aware of what is happening in the marketing industry and the latest best practices. For example, you may be driving all the referral traffic to a brand's website, but it may not be converting (lead generation), or people might be having trouble finding that content in search engines (SEO).

3. SEO isn’t as complicated as you may first think

When they talk about SEO, they mostly refer to optimizing website pages and blogs to appear in search. The goal is to be #1 on the search result for a particular query (also known as keywords) because that’s what gets the most visits. This traffic would be classified as organic in Google Analytics.

As mentioned previously, social media is a distribution channel. Most people go on social media to browse, interact with friends and family, get inspired and, potentially, shop if they are inclined to do so. On the other hand, people usually use search engines to look to solve a pain point or satisfy their curiosity. This can also include browsing comparison websites, reviews and other information that helps them make an informed buying decision.

Understanding these differences as well as the fundamentals of how to create a content strategy can help you create better marketing content.

With Google+ gone, does SEO for social really matter that much?

google plus feed

Google+ used to be the closest platform to SEO social media managers had. Writing keyword-specific copy, adding plenty of hashtags and appearing in Google search were some of the benefits to name a few.

However, since the announcement in October, Google has decided to shut down the consumer version of Google+ by August 2019 due to "challenges in creating and maintaining a successful Google+ product that meets consumers' expectations.” This won't have a significant effect on most brands except for the most dedicated users who did amass a large following and were still seeing some results.

But it's not all doom and gloom - there’s still Pinterest which works similarly. It's possible to increase brand exposure on Pinterest as long as you optimize your profiles, pin descriptions and make sure your images are high quality (with text where appropriate, like blogs). Hashtags are a necessity on networks like Instagram and Twitter, with LinkedIn slowly adopting their use, too.

Key takeaways from BrightonSEO about social media and SEO

brightonseo origin story

So, what did we learn from going to one of the best SEO conferences out there?

It was a delight to see social media marketing gain a foothold as a topic at 2018 BrightonSEO. When we exhibited and spoke the year prior about Donald Trump's election social media campaign, there wasn't as much excitement for how effective social can be as a marketing channel or tactic.

While the focus was primarily on content marketing, there were talks about how to appeal to Millennials on social media, do better live video, optimize videos for YouTube and many others.

Takeaway #1: Creating great content starts with understanding your audience

Data Journalism: A Practical Guide to Winning Big Links

Ross Tavendale, Managing Director, Type A Media | Twitter: @rtavs

Big news stories can be a great source of quality backlinks if you know how to do it right. Ross Tavendale at Type A Media (an SEO agency) talked about how to use data journalism to get stories in front of prominent publications.

What made his talk quite interesting was the different techniques his team would use in order to learn almost anything about the persona or group of people they were writing about! Content finds the audience – so create content for the person who will be consuming it.

  • Use Facebook Audiences to learn more about people: Think about what the person is and is not. Build the identity of the reader by pairing their identity and available social information.
  • Google Trends: Great way to evaluate topics and see if they are gaining momentum according to search traffic.
  • Mesh up your data with other sources: Data is good on its own, but you need to have a twist to make a great story. For example, through research, Ross and his team learned that gamers who play FIFA professionally, earn more than some professional footballers.
  • Learn how to use public data: Use Google Data Search to see previous publications and advanced search in Google with different commands to narrow down results.
  • Freedom of Information Act (FOI in the UK and FOIA in the US): This is a bit of legislation that gives you, as a member of the public, the right to access recorded information held by public sector organizations.
  • Google Surveys: Consider surveying your users to gain insights. Ross did note that Google Surveys will not pass as a source of data for newspapers like The Guardian, but tabloids might take it.

Slides for Ross Tavendale's presentation.

How to Get Millenial’s Attention on Social Media

Sarah Bradley, Head of Student Engagement & Communications @ Oxford Student Union | Twitter: @sarahmbradley

Sarah's talk wasn't at all about splitting people into different age groups, in fact, it was quite the contrary. She admitted to using a clickbait title for her presentation – knowing that most of us presume students are young, fresh out of school adults, while in reality, students fit broad age ranges. So, how do you attract the attention of Millennials and people younger than us? First things first, don't call them Millennials and put labels on them!

Generalizing your audience when marketing to them can seriously damage your strategy, especially when you are creating content you think will be meaningful without confirmation that it is.

When we create and market our content, we need to stop generalizing our audiences and personas and actually get to know them!

Get to know your target audience – ask them questions, hold takeovers and see if they want to create social media content for you. You can start as simple as adding a poll on Twitter or Instagram and see their response.

generations of people who go to university

What's interesting about Generation Y, also known as Millennials, is that they don’t trust traditional media and prefer reviews on social media and User-Generated Content (UGC). They heavily rely on technology in their everyday lives but are not necessarily faithful to one said place or product.

What brought a lot of success to Sarah and her team was to start focusing on lifestyles over generations and boxing people in labels.

What Sarah and her team discovered was that while students may have been from different age groups, they were all interested in a number of topics, including:

  • Social innovation — they want to see change.
  • Gender equality, positive mental health, healthy mind and healthy body — they want to lead their best lives.
  • Community engagement — they want to be heard.

Bonus tips for UK-based marketers working in higher education from Sarah:

  • UCAS is a great resource that lists all of the submissions deadlines, so plan your content calendar around them.
  • September to October are the best times for student discounts, remember, money is always on their mind. Same for the new starters in January.
  • It helps to engage with causes and the local community, so do what you can to support them, and share it on social media.

Slides for Sarah Bradley's presentation.

Takeaway #2: Choose content quality over quantity and measure your efforts

How to Use Live Video in Content Marketing

Bobbi Brant, Head of Creative @ Kaizen, London-based agency
Twitter: @bobbibrant | Twitter (for agency) @kaizen_agency

Back in 2016, the launch of Facebook Live made recording live videos much simpler. From then, we have seen many applications for live video in marketing: hosting Q&As, events, product announcements, takeovers by influencers and more.

There is an abundance of platforms to choose from, too – Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube Live – and the general rule is to always choose the platform you have the most engagement on.

Bobbi Brant, Head of Creative at Kaizen emphasized how effective live video can be, even for their London-based digital marketing agency. By running a simple test, they increased their engagement on Twitter by 1050% on their second live video event.

The team at Kaizen ran two experiments on Twitter

Experiment #1: First live stream which featured the team walking around and was quite short, lasting only 2.5 minutes. This still generated +25% higher impressions than an average tweet, 16% CTR on the live video, 375% higher engagement than an average tweet.

Experiment #2: Second live stream was a static shot, sitting down in a roundtable style with a full interview between multiple team members to make it seem more of a conversation. The video was 9.5 minutes long, and generated 1050% higher engagement than average tweet.

Sure, Kaizen's Twitter following isn't huge but it shows that live video can be a cost-effective way to engage an audience, even if it's quite small and targeted. So if you are still not doing live video, it's a brilliant time to try!

Slides for Bobbi Brant's presentation.

Are You a Content Creator, or a Content Documenter?

Matt Siltala co-founder of Avalaunch Media and The Business of Digital Podcast Twitter: @Matt_Siltala

Matt Siltala is the President of Avalaunch Media, a full-service marketing agency focusing on interactive, visual content. In addition to some of their viral work, they have collaborated with clients like SalesForce, The Home Depot, and GoPro.

Matt gave a brilliant presentation, useful for digital agencies and in-house marketers alike. He emphasized the importance of powerful visual content and always asking why when we plan to run a new campaign or want to create more content.

What struck a chord with me as a content marketer, was his series of questions, challenging the superficial data we look at when measuring success on social media (likes, impressions) and betting high on quantity, not quality. Do any of these sound familiar to you?

  • We need to create more content...
  • We need to be on all the social media...
  • I head we need to create an infographic...
  • I heard we need to be creating video...

These phrases can come not only from your director, but also from a client, and at that point, you have to dig deep and understand their intentions and expectations.

If you are trying to do what has already been done, it has a high chance of falling flat. - Matt Siltala

Always ask why you need to create a new content format like the infographic. Are you answering a question or pain point? Is it for creating leads or are you planning to sell it? Is it for improving branding and reputation, or is the goal to get a lot of social shares?

Have a purpose in mind when creating content, including social media. Matt also urged marketers to reconsider their obsession with being on all social media networks at the same time, and instead, focus on purpose and doing one or two things really well.

To add to this, we would recommend to always put quality over quantity, especially when thinking how often to post on social media.

Slides for Matt Siltala's presentation.

Video Ranking Factors in YouTube

Luke Sherran, Owner of Marketing Agency Falkon Digital | Twitter: @lsherran

Proud YouTube Marketing Partners, the marketing agency, Falkon Digital pride themselves in knowing all things YouTube. Luke gave a brilliant talk on how video ranking factors work on YouTube.

Historically, there was a reason to believe it would be the titles, the meta description and all the other bits YouTube asks you to fill out, but after digging deep, his agency confirmed that the biggest sources of traffic for them were through browse features and suggested videos!

brighton seo youtube analytics screenshot

There is accumulative value to filling everything in when you upload the video, but don't forget about the most effective which is the thumbnail. Luke highlighted that if there isn't much time and you wanted to optimize your channel, that would be his starting point instead of a massive overhaul.


  • Titles (weak correlation with ranking) — always write a title for the user, not the algorithm, they have to be exciting and succinct.
  • Description (weak correlation with ranking) — include keywords in the first paragraph as that's where they have the most relevance.
  • Tags — use all available space for tags as appropriate (500 characters).
  • Hashtags  not recommended to using hashtags, as anecdotally these have shown that they could decrease overall watch time.
  • Captions — automatically generate captions with 90-95% accuracy. Then, work on them to make sure they are 100% accurate.
  • Playlists — can contribute to garnering more views when titles are done well.
  • Schedule videos to improve viewership — use the same date or time when uploading.
  • Thumbnails — most of all, you want to make sure that your thumbnails are the best they can be.

Slides for Luke Sherran's presentation.

Takeaway #3: Chatbots and voice search can change the way we communicate and find products

There has been a much talk about conversational marketing recently, originally pegged by Drift. It's a new concept, primarily focusing on sparking conversations between website visitors and your team members, or AI-powered chatbots. You may be more familiar with chatbots on Facebook Messenger.

Voice search comes into play too, as the more people search for stuff online through voice, the more competitive brands become for being that #1 result.

Voice Search Marketing in the AI-era of search: Your guide to Creating Exceptional Customer Experiences

Purna Virji, Senior Manager, Global Engagement at Microsoft | Twitter: @purnavirji

Chatbots are taking on the world, and there are quite a few options available – you can place one on your website, landing pages or even use Facebook Messenger for that purpose.

Purna's talk was a compelling story about how chatbots can create better customer experiences by exciting website visitors and doing the mundane, simple work for them, without involving actual humans.

brightonseo purna virji

Are there any specific queries you seem to get a lot of the time? It may be worth creating a bot to answer them outside of office hours. Purna also gave a few tips for marketers wishing to build their first bot, for example, making sure it makes sense and it has a personality.

People like communicating with voice agents who have a personality and character. Focus on clear choices and concise questions.

Another great takeaway was that according to research done by Microsoft and Facebook, you shouldn’t trick your visitors into thinking that they are talking to an actual person.

It’s best if it’s friendly and we make it clear that they are talking to an agent. People are more forgiving towards technology they know is still developing.

Learn how to create your Facebook Messenger bot.

How to Use Local to Rock in Mobile and Voice Search

Greg Gifford, Vice President of Search at DealerOn, Inc and conference speaker | Twitter: @GregGifford

If you wanted to learn more about local SEO while having fun, Greg Gifford would be my first recommendation! Greg is not only the mastermind of search behind the success of DealerOn (a platform and digital marketing service company for car dealerships), he is also a well-respected speaker in the marketing industry.

His presentation was a wonderful collection of Samuel L. Jackson movie snapshots and nuggets of wisdom to help search marketers rank better with voice search and not to stress too much about new techniques and strategies.

brighton seo samuel l jackson screenshot

There aren’t that many direct links between Local SEO and social media, except for Google My Business (GMB) listings which are “basically your new homepage.” Having an accurate and active GMB profile can bring in a lot of new visitors for brick and mortar businesses, but they can work for online companies, too.

Both, Greg Gifford and Rand Fishkin (more on that below) advocated the use of Google Posts, making them even more relevant. These posts could easily be another service social media managers can offer as part of their packages!

GMB isn’t the limit, however, and we predict that there will be more ways how voice search and social media will work in the future. For example, did you know you can already do simple tasks like posting to your Facebook or Twitter with the help of an AI-powered assistant like Siri?

Keynote: The Future of SEO by Rand Fishkin

Rand Fishkin, Founder of Sparktoro, Founder and ex-CEO of MozTwitter: @randfish

Rand Fishkin, the founder of Moz and now SparkToro, is close to a celebrity among marketers. During his career, he has shed light on best SEO practices and expanded to other fields of marketing in the successful Whiteboard Fridays sessions at Moz. It was his first time at BrightonSEO, and his talk focused on the future of SEO, namely Google and its recent changes to the search listing page.

Google aren't the nice guys we thought they were — especially compared to how they were when they first started.

Rand's point was that instead of guiding people to your website, Google scrapes information from your site and shows it on the listing page. This means the user never actually has to go to your website to learn about what you do – they can see opening times, reviews and more without having to click on the URL.


Here are some more examples:

  • Business information now appears in the Google My Business listing – so there's no need for the person to go to your website to find information, like your phone number.
  • Google is abusing its monopoly powers by allowing to book directly from the search listings, for example, or sports.
  • Notable moments for famous people now also appear in search— scaring the publishers who fight for the strip at the top!

Main takeaway: Make your website (and email list) the center of your campaigns. Organic growth through results in search engines has started to reduce and will continue to do so, so we must invest in brand recognition and make people search for the name.

From a social media marketing perspective, it was great to hear Rand's endorsement to use Google My Business listing as another platform to tell searchers about your business. You can publish photos and videos to the listing – the downside is that these do disappear, hence why using a tool to schedule Google Posts is a great solution for local businesses.

What's more, it has become quite apparent that both Twitter and LinkedIn prefer content that doesn't take people away from its platforms. So, creating engaging content on these and other social networks will prove imperative if you don't have a lot of money to invest in paid advertising on social media.

Slides for Rand Fishkin's presentation.

Want to see all of the talks from BrightonSEO?

There were other great talks that we didn’t manage to attend like Byron Marr’s presentation on using Facebook funnels to improve e-commerce campaign targeting which is a brilliant resource if you are looking to make the most of every dollar or pound you spend on Facebook Ads!

Looking back at the agenda, we can tell that there is so much more to learn, you can explore more by:

So, have you attended any useful marketing conferences or meet-ups recently? We’d love to know about your experiences and what you found particularly useful!

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