What we learnt at brightonSEO 2022
brightonSEO is the world’s largest gathering of search marketers. Members of both our SEO team and our analytics team – including our new Head of Data & Analytics, Sara Cox – attended the conference and fringe event, MeasureFest.
This year, our very own Jess Mackereth took the stage for her talk on the intersection between SEO and accessibility, based on our work designing and building a new website for the RNIB (Royal National Institute of Blind People).
Both events were packed with inspirational talks about digital marketing, SEO, analytics and measurement, and paid search. Here we share our highlights of the week – including the future of AI in content creation, GA4 for measuring SEO, creating a content prioritisation model, and practical ways we can factor in accessibility to our recommendations.
AI & SEO
One of our favourite subjects that was covered at the conference was AI and SEO. We found the explorations of AI fascinating, both from a technical point of view and also ethically, including the potential for misuse. In the AI session, Katie Lingo of Katie Lingo Content Marketing talked about whether AI would take over the copywriting world. According to Katie, the answer is no – AI is not advanced enough yet. Repetition, inappropriate adjectives and inventing stats are some of the key issues. However, it was fascinating to see it in practice, and common issues with using it.
Also on the subject of AI and content, Mat Bennett delivered a fascinating exploration of how users perceive content produced by text generation systems, such as GPT-3 and OpenAI. Mat described how he’d tested perceptions of AI content vs human content, with both lower-cost and experienced copywriter options. Whilst 82% of those Mat surveyed said they would not trust website content written by AI, his research found that the public preferred AI content over ‘cheap’ human content. There were problems – of course – because AI cannot have original ideas, and often confuses fiction and fact. However, 64% of agencies that Mat surveyed were using AI text tools in some capacity, and 48% expected to be using AI tools regularly within two years.
AI and SEO is an area that is likely to grow increasingly over the coming years – and is something that nonprofits should be aware of – but our team is not convinced that AI will be replacing specialist content writers (particularly within the health space) any time soon.
Other highlights were sessions on how to use AI in our everyday lives as SEO practitioners. These were from Patrick Stox of Ahrefs (‘Machine learning use cases for technical SEOs’) and Danny Richman of Richman SEO Training (‘How to use GPT-3 for keyword research’). Firstly, AI can be used to aid keyword research, automate categorising keywords and define search intent. We were also shown how to build regex filters, generate structured data and even generate meta descriptions en masse. These uses of AI could be hugely invaluable to SEOs – as automating simple tasks means we can spend more time on SEO strategy.
Over the coming months, we’ll be exploring how we can use AI to save time on manual tasks and improve our working processes at Torchbox.
Sustainable practices and ‘Green SEO’
Another topic area of great interest to our team, and one of our passions as a company overall, is sustainability. Did you know that every Google search requires the equivalent energy of boiling half a kettle? Our sites have a hidden impact on the planet that most of us don't even think about. Our favourite talk in the sustainability track emphasised this, drawing on real-life examples of how to make a site more sustainable. As such, the term 'green SEO' was coined! Stu Davies from Creative Bloom (‘How your website impacts the planet – and what you can do about it!’), shared tools to track carbon emissions, and resources on how to make web design more sustainable. Have you thought about using a hosting solution powered by renewable energy for example? This gave our team a lot to think about and supports our existing initiatives around sustainability, and sustainable web development.
Using GA4 to measure SEO
Krista Seiden of KS Digital gave the day 1 keynote about why SEOs should love (not fear) GA4. This is something to care about because GA4 is coming! There are no two ways about it.
Our analytics team has been working hard on building new GA4 accounts for clients, and training both internally and externally – with a GA4 Masterclass Series for Nonprofits and the handiest tips in a DIY guide to setting up Google Analytics 4.
We’re confident of a smooth transition from UA to GA4 – and we came away from Krista’s talk bubbling with new ideas for reports we could build and even more ways to get the best out of the platform.
Creating a content prioritisation model as part of a content strategy
It would not be an SEO conference without a lot of talk about content, and one of our particular highlights was on creating a content prioritisation model by Sam Colebrook from iCrossing. Sam highlighted a really great example from Visit Wales – the Welsh Tourism Board – who have a large number of stakeholders contributing an infinite number of content ideas for the website. He highlighted that the things that most often stop content strategies from performing are organisational structure, siloed marketing channels, and lack of prioritisation, documentation and resources.
When you have finite resources, prioritising the content that most aligns with your organisation and will bring you the most value is paramount. This is relevant to nonprofit and public sector organisations that have a wide range of stakeholders and conflicting priorities that all require content production. Key questions to ask when faced with a content idea are:
- What value will this content bring to our brand and audience?
- How much effort will it take to bring the content to life?
- What chance will this content have to be visible to the right people?
We were reminded of the importance of creating content for people who want to experience it in different ways – so they get content in the way they want it, where they want it (thanks to Crystal Carter of Wix). For example, Tim Soulo of Ahrefs shared that 38% of SEOs prefer to learn via YouTube videos, compared to 41% who read blog posts – a question to ask is: how can we create content in the format that people want to access it?
Accessibility and SEO
Having good content is important, but making sure that content is accessible to everyone is something we’re extremely passionate about at Torchbox. That brings us to our final topic area of accessibility, which was a particularly exciting track for us as it included our SEO Analyst, Jess Mackereth, talking about the intersection between SEO and accessibility.
Jess’ talk centred around how screen reading software and search engines are actually quite similar. She based this on work conducted for the RNIB: a user research and UX design project which featured accessibility testing, as part of a new Wagtail website design and build.
Digital accessibility is important for both public sector bodies and businesses – it’s a legal requirement and there are also financial implications to not making your website accessible. Research from the Click-Away pound estimates that 4 million people abandoned a website because of the barriers they faced, taking with them an estimated spend of £17.1 billion – a shocking statistic which reiterates the importance of making your website accessible for everyone.
Jess then went on to discuss how best practices for SEO and accessibility best practices often intersect (and sometimes diverge) for internal linking, headings, page titles and alt text.
The accessibility track also included talks from the amazing Beth Barnham then concluded the session with an exploration of the relationship between accessibility, schema and strategy. Miracle Inameti-Archibong provided a comprehensive overview and cheatsheet for optimising for accessibility. Miracle included a fantastically frustrating video, in which she tried to navigate two different news sites using a screen reader, to minimal success. The example distilled just how important it is for us as SEOs to get familiar with screen reading technology and use it for ourselves. Miracle showed us that we cannot just follow guidelines and assume that our work is done – we need to speak to disabled people directly to really understand the user experience from search engines through to our sites.
Why brightonSEO is worth a watch for charities
brightonSEO is a favourite amongst search marketers and the breadth of talks covered across the two days is phenomenal. We could have written for days on the different speakers – both experienced and first-time – that provided inspiration and insights. Overall we’d highly recommend the experience of attending brightonSEO to anyone working in or alongside SEO – including our clients in the charity and non-profit space.
Whether you want to brush up on technical SEO basics, find out the best ways to conduct a content audit, or learn something completely new, there is something for everyone.
brightonSEO runs twice a year – next year in April (20–21 April 2023) and September (14–15 September 2023) at the Brighton Centre, and online. Give us a shout if you’ll be there too!
Feel free to reach out to Emma, Jess, Nick or Jenny about SEO for charities, or if you want to chat more about any of these topics or apply them to your organisation.