Predatory Thinking by Dave Trott
“90% of advertising goes un-noticed”. This was the opening thought from advertising expert Dave Trott at Brighton SEO. Despite being from an advertising background and apparently being un-aware of what ‘SEO’ stands for, Trott delivered one of the inspirational highlights of the day. The aim of his talk was to make the audience realise that in order to be successful in whatever creative project we undertake we must aim to beat the competition in order to be amongst the 10% that is noticed.
Predatory thinking is just that, beating your competitors. Trott used the following story to illustrate his point: “Two people are walking through the jungle when they hear an approaching tiger. One of them starts to put on running shoes, to which the other says, ‘you aren’t going to be able to outrun the tiger’. The runner explains, ‘I don’t need to outrun the tiger, I just need to outrun you’”
An anecdote you may have heard before, but a good’n none the less. The crux of the story is this; the tiger only wants to eat one person, so ensuring that that person is someone other than you is enough to reach your goal: survival.
Applied to advertising, or indeed to any creative undertaking, the metaphor is that you don’t need to go chasing the unattainable (outrunning a tiger), instead you should focus on being better than your competition.
Moving on, Trott then begins to explain to the audience how to solve creative problems. The basis of his thinking is that sometimes you are presented with a problem that is hard or even impossible to solve. An example he gave was of a project he worked on for the fire service; Trott and his team were asked to come up with an advertising campaign that would reduce the amount of chip pan fires that happened in the country every year. Short of personally confiscating chip pans, there clearly isn’t a guaranteed way to solve this problem.
Trott explained at this point that rather than focussing on a problem like the above, our job as creative people is to turn the problem into one we can solve. Trott and his team identified that the real problem that the fire service was suffering from was the amount of calls they were getting because of chip pan fires, meaning the problem now becomes; how to reduce the amount of calls to the fire service.
Immediately this becomes something that can be solved and it led Trott and his team to develop an advertising campaign that explained how to safely put out a chip pan fire, giving the audience the tools to deal with the issue without calling out the fire service. The campaign, needless to say, was a success.
Some interesting points raised in this talk and certainly ones that can be taken away and applied to situations that pop up during the working day.
Speaking Your User’s Language by Steph Troeth
Steph Troeth’s presentation was another highlight on the day and covered some detail on usability and how the language you use on your site is important and (in my opinion) is sometimes too easily forgotten, particularly by e-commerce websites.
Troeth reinforced the importance of your brand in connoting what your products are like. You could have a fun brand or a serious brand – whatever your brand style, it must apply well to the products you are trying to sell. It might sound obvious, but it requires some thought to get right.
As well as this, Troeth said we should carefully consider the emotional and rational language we use on our sites when preparing content. The importance of appealing to the emotional and rational sides of our customers is important and taking time to create a consistent brand voice is a point I think we all need to dwell on!
The other point Troeth presented surrounded the topic of content hierarchy and this led to one of the gem-like takeaways of Brighton SEO. The point essentially boils down to this: if you want to identify what is most important on your website then design a mobile version of your site. The restrictions of a small mobile screen will mean that you have to stack content on top of other pieces of content. This very process forces you to make sure that the most important content is at the top and in-turn makes you identify what is your most important message. Spend some time giving your content and logical hierarchy. Building a mobile site is no bad thing on its own merit either.
How to be a Better SEO by Richard Baxter
Richard Baxter is something of a hero to me, his tireless work around educating the masses in the areas of technical SEO and keyword research techniques using Excel wizardry has provided me with hours of fascination and improved me as an SEO expert again and again. So it was rather fitting that Baxter, an educator in his own right should deliver a speech on how to be a better SEO.
The resulting talk comes down to a set of bullet points on how to lead your life in SEO. Some of my favourites are as follows:
Get a mentor / someone you respect and copy them – Sound advice, everyone should have a mentor and this applies to all fields of work. Be it your boss or someone who has taught you, having someone to look up to drives you on.
Present your methods in the most simple / elegant way – This is something I firmly believe in. By presenting yourself and your work in increasingly more complex ways you are merely detracting from the main point of the work. Simplify and show confidence in that simplicity. For me, the best SEO solutions have simplicity and quality at their core.
Always develop new processes – This is another important piece of advice, not just for SEO but for all areas of work. To develop a process is to measure the usefulness of that process and then seek to improve it. This very task allows you to constantly ensure that you are offering the best possible solution for your client.
Just some of the points Baxter raised in a refreshing look into what this accomplished SEO thinks about what makes a successful SEO. We (as SEOs) could certainly do a lot worse than listen to what Richard Baxter has to say about the industry.
Other Take-Home Thoughts From Brighton SEO
A/B testing important – so important that you should be doing it alongside SEO. SEO is the art of making the best use of search engine visitors by targeting your website to certain groups of them. With this in mind it makes complete sense to run A/B tests on your website in something of a conversion-rate optimisation project at the same time. Combining these two things will make your website better at targeting visitors as well as converting them into customers and brand advocates. Sound advice indeed.
Rebecca Weeks delivered a presentation explaining a project she had worked on using only the power of links. It was within this presentation that Weeks dropped one of the most profound highlights of the day. “Without good content you are only ever going to close the gap”. Essentially, what Weeks is saying here is that without producing genuinely useful content you can try all of the link building, technical SEO and other tricks you like but the furthest you will get is to catch up with your content producing rivals. A stark reality and good reminder that you must overtake your competition by creating good content.
All in all, Brighton SEO was a huge success. The audience, myself included, lapped up all of the content and the diversity of said content was refreshing. My notebook is chock full of other useful tips and intriguing thoughts prompted by the presentations and I will be sure to pad some of them out in more future blog posts. Would love to hear your thoughts on any of the points I have picked out as highlights from the running order of the day.