Earlier this month I attended my fourth edition BrightonSEO conference - another great day that left me walking back up to Brighton station with my head brimming with ideas!

Once again I find myself reflecting on how incredibly fortunate it is that this fantastic resource is just a few stops on the train away. People come by plane, train and automobile to what is now Europe’s largest SEO conference, so being able to have a bit of a lie-in and still be there for the 10am start is an absolute luxury!

Throughout the day I managed to attend 13 different talks (with time for a cheeky Nando’s for lunch!), spanning everything from link-building, business, GDPR, social media, technical SEO, chatbots and content marketing.

Here are some of my key takeaways/interesting nuggets from the day:

Duane Forrester: Markup, User Driven Change and Your Future

  • Smartphone sales are slowing - hence the introduction of the ‘Internet of Things’! Amazon Echos, Google Homes and more are filling this sales gap, and it means that voice search optimisation is only going to increase in importance in the coming years.
  • 28 per cent of local searches result in a purchase, whilst 76 per cent of people who use location search visit a business within one day.
  • The prevalence of ‘near me’ searches is plateauing, as users are now understanding that search engines are personalising search based on their location.
  • The days of being Director of SEO or Director of PPC are dying. Instead, you need to be the one who ties it all together. Enter…the Digital Knowledge Manager:

(This isn’t a million miles away from the idea of being a ’T-shaped marketer’ - one that’s a jack-of-all-trades, but a master of one)

  • For voice search, context will influence content even more. Conversational query strings are becoming more important, and it’s good to bear in mind that, for voice searches, a device such as Google Home doesn’t give you a list of ten blue links…but just one result!
  • Mark up your content with schema - and make sure your site is clean, accessible, mobile-friendly, and secure!

Stephan Spencer - ‘How to Hire an Insanely Great SEO’

We’ve been taking on some good new clients in the last 12 months at Tomango, and it’s got us thinking about planning for the potential future expansion among our ranks.

Because of this, I made sure to attend the track that I don’t believe I had seen before, called ‘Business’. The first of three talks in this was courtesy of Stephan Spencer, who shared some very useful tips on how to approach the hiring process for a new SEO person (although much of the advice is applicable to hiring in any industry).

Here’s the rundown:

  • Get the garden to weed itself. Essentially, use the job posting to filter out any candidates that might not be suitable by being smart with the application process. Some of Stephan’s ideas for this included: adding to the application an assignment or riddle, asking them to apply via voicemail, or asking for a particular keyword in the email subject line of their application to show they’ve read the job description thoroughly. All of these throw up barriers to the potential applicant, and you’ll likely remove some of those that aren’t enthused enough about the role to do them.

  • *Ask for their social media profiles and do some digging. *Are they posting about SEO, answering people’s questions, or interacting with key industry figures? What kind of content are they sharing? Do they have good spelling and grammar? And, of course, are they racist, sexist, homophobic, abuse drugs or alcohol, or are overtly political?
  • *Split test the job advert. *We all love optimisation in this game, so why not do the same with your job posting? You could do two ads with different job titles, use different language, have one with the salary and one without…keep experimenting and see what gets the right people applying for your company!
  • *Use trick questions in the interview. *This isn’t done with the aim of trying to fool the candidate, but rather to test the knowledge that they claim to have that would make the suitable for the role. For an SEO role, something like “What’s the difference between Panda and Penguin?” would work here. A great suggestion from the audience that’s applicable to all manner of jobs was “How do you rate your skills in ~topic~ out of 10?” - which then leads to the interviewee trying to find the correct balance between not seeming to arrogant and not seeming like an idiot that doesn’t know anything!
  • *Ask specific questions that allow them to demonstrate their expertise. *Can they give quantifiable examples of previous successes? What have been their best and worst moments?
  • *For the second interview, bring in the expert. *Having an outside pair of eyes and ears can be truly valuable.
  • *Once you’ve hired them, confirm they’re the correct fit by having a trial period. *It’s your chance to see them in action at close quarters, so designating the first few months as a probationary period gives you the chance to rectify the situation if you don’t think they’re quite cut out for the job. You can also utilise some sort of psychographic testing or training to get further insight into how they work.

Emilie Reynaud - What I Learned From Building a Chatbot

I’m personally fascinated by the growth in brands that are using chatbots, so there was no way I was missing the dedicated session on the topic!

They’re becoming an efficient way for companies to sell products and provide instantaneous customer service.

In fact, acccording to Emilie an incredible 85 per cent of online customer service interactions will be carried out on the company side by chatbots by the year 2020.

Not only that - by 2030, artificial intelligence is predicted to add a total of $15.7 trillion to the world economy. That’s 13 times the size of Australia’s GDP!

But this doesn’t mean you’ll expect a seamless and instantaneous experiences just yet - and if your business does decide to use a chatbot for this purpose, make sure a human isn’t too far away, just in case things go a bit skeewiff:

Emilie’s tips on building a chatbot

  • If you do plan to build a chatbot, remember to plan, research and test it extensively. Remember what your users need - and analyse your previous conversations with them to find common trends or issues that could be resolved via AI.
  • When it comes to rollout, make sure to tell users that they are interacting with a bot…they will find out anyway!
  • Give the user the option of a fallback if they make a mistake.
  • UTM your links to your website that are in your bots so you can see how much traffic it’s generating.

All in all a great talk and a great session, with another pair of brilliant chatbot presentations following Emilie’s.

We’ve already got a couple of ideas in mind for clients for how they might utilise chatbots…we’ll be checking out the drag-and-drop editors such as Chatfuel as well as the more technical platforms such as ai.ai!