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BrightonSEO 2017: A Long Way From A Room Above A Pub

BrightonSEO 2017 sign

Last Friday, 3,500 SEOs descended on Brighton for the UK’s biggest search marketing conference. BrightonSEO has come a long way since its inception in a pub, and five of us headed down from Verve Headquarters for a day of learning, listening, meeting people, and enjoying the good weather.

The day kicked off with a series of talks on the future of search in the main auditorium. Bing’s Purna Virji presented some interesting examples of how the internet – and the way we search – will have an increasingly visual component in the future. This included a video about the analytics of micro expressions which felt like something out of a dystopian science fiction novel, but maybe that’s just me.

A packed crowd assembled for Charlotte Davis and Sam Orams’ practical talk on making online videos from an agency perspective. This was followed by Sam Watts’s introduction to VR and 360°, a medium which offers some exciting opportunities for content marketers right now – provided it’s done right. Marshmallow Laser Feast’s In The Eyes of the Animal is a nice example.

But the highlight was Ogilvy’s Rory Sutherland delivering an entertaining keynote on what it means to optimise taking inspiration from nature.

Sutherland argued that we can learn a lot from the way bees optimise processes in their natural environment. When a nearby source of pollen is found, most of the bees go out to collect it, while a small percentage are permitted to “go rogue” and look for alternative sources of nectar. 99% of the time, these rogue bees come back empty-handed, but when they do find something, they usually hit pay dirt.

As an industry, we should make time for experimentation, challenging the status quo, and looking at things from new perspectives – despite our tendency to optimise processes as well as websites.

I caught up with the team at Verve to get their main takeaways from the conference:


Some of the talks touched upon the increasing importance of brand mentions as well as links. Although the speakers stressed the continued importance of links for increasing rankings, they suggested a more explicit mention of branding and building a brand’s entity around certain keywords may play a greater role in keeping clients up there in the future.


Personally, what stood out the most for me was keynote speaker Rory Sutherland’s view on reality vs. perception. I especially liked his quote, “Don’t always change the reality, change the perception”, drawing parallels between some of the most innovative companies of today. I also really enjoyed Raj Nijjer’s talk on the future of search.


My takeaway from the conference is that you can sometimes find patterns and mathematical beauty in nature itself – and this can also be applied to SEO. To optimise, we should sometimes learn to take risks, as it is often the risk-takers that can leap frog the business. Work on good ideas but remember to also put some of the eggs in the high-risk categories. There is opportunity in the data, you just need to find it.