SEO seemed almost impossible to unpick until visiting Brighton SEO 2019. This was my first SEO conference, but as an agency we are learning SEO fast. From this perspective I want to be able to deliver to you the key insights I picked out from the deluge of content generated both during and after. This includes both key takeaways of the event but also the content from other SEOs in blogs afterwards. Including what to watch out for in Brighton SEO 2020!

To see the over 4000 other SEOs at Brighton SEO made the job more uplifting, energising and exciting. I learned a lot, for example I didn’t even know you could pluralise SEO. These learnings are exactly what other blogs show. Such as ‘what I learned’ by Steve Job from Coast Digital (bit of SEO right there). Individual learnings can be hugely varied as you cannot get to every talk. For example, in Reflect digitals blog by Sophie, you can follow their journey through each presentation. In-fact their blog is first page if you search for many of the talks they went to.

 I strongly recommend checking them out but of course if you don’t have time my blog does it for you! The best at this was actually SeekerDigital who did a blog summary on every talk. But, in terms of comprehensiveness I recommend the Brighton SEO Event recap by Rachel Costello. My aim is that by the end of this blog you have the 4 major takeaways to watch out for. As well as an understanding of my predictions for 2020.

How content is taking the lead

To me, a significant change in the SEO landscape seems to be going from ‘beating’ the algorithm to playing to its strengths. This comes in many forms related to how the user consumes to your content. The prime motivation around many older Google algorithm updates has been to make keywords context aware and capable of detecting classic ‘hacks’ like ‘stuffing’. Google search console help, ground zero of SEO, has always been to make keywords natural. Oh and next time your content team needs a brief just say “compelling and useful content”. While broad and even unhelpful, this has never been more true. But what does it mean for your content? Along with many other factors it matters how your content is used by users, not exactly a helpful way of explaining it but putting the user centre stage is compelling compared to stuffing keywords.

One such example of ways to truly measure this change is Rate my Content, which focuses on making content more about the user and less about how great ‘you’ the website, product or service is. This is exactly the way the algorithms are set up to work, or at least what they are developing towards. I think the question next year will be how far has this been a positive development to help users.

Google Webmasters tweet. 
"Our Guidance is if you want the best success with Search, provide value-added content from your own efforts that reflect your own brand."
Tweets, podcasts, and speakers from Google often hint towards the value of ‘good content’

Business Critical Keywords

Within the wide world of keywords there is the continued expansion of the Zero Moment of Truth (ZMOT) as more than just a marketing term. Google’s coined ZMOT was originally built around the moment a buyer decides to make a purchase and begins to search (google) for it. The biggest development this year will come from more refined keywords and better uses of customer behaviour data. Which is collected everywhere but not necessarily understood well used. As this evolves you can target your user personas with more specificity at every stage of their purchase journey. As with the growth of the. ZMOT there is not just an initial research phase but more attention on phases after a purchase. To the point where people googling instructions for IKEA furniture would be its own possibility for acquisition.

In 2020 I believe this will be more powerful and especially, more circular, as SEO begins to feed this into a positive feedback loop of content. Even users will be a part of this with reviews and recapture. Expect to see the full funnel captured from early searches to post purchase, the first company to do this well is going to be 2020’s keynote next year!

The most important Search engine

Another observation from Brighton SEO is that everyone is hanging off of every word of Google. While Search engines are pound a dozen in our modern world, you interact with one at almost every major decision, it is the Alphabet search engines (Youtube and of course Google) that hold our wallets and SEO jobs in a vice like grip. There were entire talks based around a tweet from an important ‘Googler’. SEO’s now hang off of every Google tweet looking to gain a competitive edge and get a head start on the competition. This status quo of Google basically throwing everything up in the air every update seems to be ‘business as usual’ in SEO! 

Is there any alternative? In one conversation a PPC expert, Marketing Director at Mabo James Lees, was saying that you should always put some spend into Bing because not only are they more friendly to work with but they have at least 10 percent of the searches. Where this could go for the end user is worth expanding on in greater detail.

Alexa, “Which Search Engine should I be watching out for?”

Does voice search represent the next hurdle for SEO? I think there are some major points to watch out for here. Google’s dominance does not reflect what we are seeing in every other market. Where there is tech there is always competition, think Uber/Lyft, Microsoft/Apple. There is not a lack of will to respond to Google’s monopoly on googling (I mean that says it all right) but there is not enough yet to impact the status quo as yet even from Amazon. According to Google, 20% of all searches are voice. This is rising consistently and will clearly have to become a focus of renewed SEO efforts. Amazon are similarly doubling down on voice devices and assistants are fast becoming a battleground of helpfulness. But I am not convinced that the search war is even over.

Alexa smart speaker coming out of the smoke
Amazons Alexa is trying to become a ubiquitous and natural part of domestic life, but does this bring SEOs doom or yet more avenues for growth? Photo by Jan Kolar / VUI Designer on Unsplash

There is another potential avenue for growth and change in the market for niche search audiences. Search Engines like Ecosia and DuckDuckGo have been gaining more and more ‘search’ market share from environmentally conscious and privacy conscious users respectively. Of course there is also Bing but I believe that alongside voice optimisations even different optimisations will be necessary to capture certain search engines for certain pages as audiences diverge.

I hope I can flesh this section out more next year, but I feel like this will be a far more longer term and certainly not inevitable change. For the end user choice will always be beneficial, so long as they find what they are looking for.

Search Authority

While the ‘human’ side of content may initially seem counter to the traditional technical building of links and spreadsheets of data. They actually work closely in the form of link outreach, the most classic of these being email outreach to the press. Getting an article made about you is still a significant boost to authority. Similarly links from shady places will can still hurt you. Though this is becoming less of a problem in a kind of Google ‘backlink amnesty’. Your authority can still be hurt from outdated content. In fact, one talk suggested delisting as a prime way to refresh and boost a sites usable content. This was a bold move that stood out against the many advocates of the ‘test and learn’ over months approach.

A key point of contention here is that Pat in his 30|30 webinar believes you can spend far too much time on link outreach and link disavowing. Not that either are the only methods for boosting authority. I actually learnt that getting authors into something like the Yellow pages is really powerful link building. While of course news media is still a great way to boost rankings on content. Neil Patel (of course) has a good blog on this. A major one to watch out for in this space is how far Social media authority will overtake traditional link building in rank significance. 

This is not necessarily a certainty but from seeing more and more youtube results in SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages), one of Googles sister platforms, it makes sense that this will precede more Instagram and Facebook results within top of funnel searches. Much like searching someones name used to require going into Facebook which itself precluded searching the yellow pages.

Essential SEO Sources 2019

Finally I would like to shout out the human side of SEO. If it isn’t starkly obvious yet I am new to both the Technical and Content aspects of SEO but the community is welcoming, growing, and apparently Oxford commas are good for optimisations. I will round this off with some of my favourite sources to help you figure out your own strategy for content:

  • Search Engine Journal – Well I hope this blog was relatable, relevant, and easy to understand!
  • Conductor | 30 for 30 – A great way to keep up with what’s happened in Search. Its delisted (bad SEO right there?!) but get in touch and I can send you the most recent one. 
  • Rate my Content – now this one was already up in my blog but its such a perfect way to prove the business case for good content. It’s flying up the rankings itself and I guess I am only helping with that.
  • The Deepcrawl Blog – Is an excellent roundup of the talks and goes into huge detail on the technical side of Brighton SEO 2019, love the dropcap design as well I just don’t have the style for it.
  • Neil Patel neilpatel – traffic analyzer app – actually has a great starting point setup for Domain analysis.
  • SEO Presser – does some great stuff to look into. I like their recent one about long tail keywords properly backed up with data and detailed analysis.
  • I always keep an eye out on the Centre for Digital Democracy – To see where future challenges to Google could impact search.