Brighton SEO 2023 | Friday Talk Round-up

20th September 2023

Team Varn was pleased to be attending Brighton SEO this year, one of the biggest search conferences in the world. It was a great opportunity to learn new ways we can do our jobs better, as well as keep up to date on new trends in our industry that we can take forward in our client work.

We were very proud of our MD Tom Vaughton, who took to the main auditorium 1 this year to share a talk on ‘How & why the history of SEO will help us plan for the future of search’. You can see Tom’s slides here.



Tom shared what 24 years of up and downs, success and failures in SEO has taught him about what we need to focus on for the next decade if we want to be successful as agencies and for inhouse SEO. Tom set the scene of why it’s vital to look back at the past to help us plan for the future and shared an insightful quote by Jeff Bezos:

“I very frequently get the question 
‘What’s going to change in the next 10 years?’
I almost never get the question
‘What’s not going to change in the next 10 years?

Tom highlighted to the Brighton SEO audience that he has identified 8 principles of effective long term SEO that he believes will not change and we need to be aware of these constants…

  1. The point of search engines was to make information easy to find – that’s still the same today
  2. Over time you WILL make more profit with organic search over paid.
  3. Relevant high quality content still rules.
  4. Always align with Google’s roadmap. Don’t try to trick it – you won’t be able to.
  5. There is no silver bullet.
  6. Never stop learning.
  7. Link building is irrelevant unless you build your brand. Work on building a brand for the long term with your clients.
  8. Understand your competition and ensure you are monitoring them closely as if you don’t stay ahead your competition will win.


Tom also noted six trends that he is keeping an eye on that will impact the world of SEO in the near future…

  1. Predictive SEO analytics. Big data & AI algorithms will be increasingly important and if you don’t have a specialist analytics team then build one.
  2. AI & machine learning. AI will be disruptive but not fatal – it’s about strategy, and how to use it.
  3. Ways of searching are always changing.  Having multiple ways to search means your content needs to be good and in multiple formats.
  4. Local SEO. With the rise of mobile devices and local search queries, local SEO will become increasingly important for businesses with a physical location.
  5. Search engines are becoming more personalised. Quality content and a brand identity will play a vital role to help you stand out in the SERPs.
  6. How Google understands content..Keep an eye on Google evolving it’s understanding and how that impacts how you write content and structure your website


Tom ended by noting that SEO may suffer from imposter syndrome, but actually search is very much here to stay, so always plan for the long term…

“in the early 2000’s people said SEO was a fad, a dark art and wouldn’t last. It seems a lot of the time we still treat it in the same short-term way. Like imposter syndrome it seems that as an industry we subconsciously worry that we may get found out. When in fact search optimisation, in whatever form, is here to stay and people that fake it or don’t plan ahead won’t be around in 10 years. So whether you work in ecommerce, healthcare or B2b be proud of what you do, be confident and plan for the long term. Please go set those big hairy audacious goals.”

Keep on reading to explore some of the key takeaways from a selection of the brilliant talks we heard this year.


Katy Powell – Ideation: Thinking beyond the first idea

During this talk Katy shared tips on how to up your game in Digital PR campaigns and create reactive PR stories. She focused on the idea of thinking bigger and better to grab the spotlight in crowded industries.

Key takeaways:

  • It’s important to spend time on the ideation process and look at what the consumers will want to read. Do more than one ideation session, and use popular industry apps like TikTok to look at what people are searching for.
  • Creating an ideation graph can be great for brainstorming potential ideas for Digital PR. You can mention off-brand and on-brand on one axis, and low press interest vs. high press interest on another. The graph could be useful for the idea analysis stage of ideation and can be presentable to a client.

Graph demonstration.

Andrei Tit – 10 quick wins to improve your rankings (using Ahrefs)

Andrei spoke about 10 low-hanging fruits of SEO use cases that enable you to increase your rankings, via Ahrefs.

Key Takeaway:

  • If you look up a search query you want to target a featured snippet for, using a minus search operation ( for the top-ranking site can help you understand who the next eligible competitor is and the kind of content that is pulling through. This can help you better target content for a client and better understand what will likely pull through to a featured snippet.


Andrew Holland – The new SEO metric that makes SEO 10 x more valuable (and 10 x more effective)

In this talk, Andrew presented a new SEO reporting metric called “Share of Search”. This metric changes the approach and places SEO at the centre of all marketing.

Key Takeaway:

  • ‘Share of Search’ is a useful metric to track for clients instead of ROI as it won’t be impacted by market forces. Share of Search both gives a more accountable impression of the impact of search engine optimisation, as well as actively helping to inform and improve SEO strategies.


Azahara Corrales – Unlock the power of AI: harness AI to create your winning marketing strategy

Azahara explored the immense potential that AI can have in a winning marketing strategy.

Key Takeaways:

  • The power of AI saves time, use it to test and find the right data.
  • Invest in people and invest in training.
  • Feed the right data to the algorithm.


Michel van Luijtelaar – Apple, Bing & Google platforms for multi-location local SEO Optimisation

In this talk, Michel explained the latest local SEO strategies with a focus on the latest developments in ABC and Bing.

Key takeaways:

  • Assess how many reviews local competitors have and target more than that. This is a strategic way to get enough reviews to rank higher than the local competitor.
  • 6/10 business listings are not claimed on Apple Business Connect (ABC), and 59% of businesses are not aware of its features.
  • ABC is showing strong growth. Most of the impressions come from Apple Maps.
  • Use Google My Business for a keyword list – what are your potential customers searching for?


Ellie Connor – How to measure SEO sustainability

Ellie spoke about how to measure SEO sustainably and why it matters. She covered Google’s commitment to sustainability, and the rising interest of consumers and financial markets in this area and gave actionable insights on how to create a more sustainable website.

Key Takeaways:

  • ChatGPT already emits 8 tonnes of carbon p/y, and uses 700,000 litres of water. Every chat is 20 bottles of water.
  • Good SEO equates to a sustainable website – there is a lot of commonality in aims. For example, more efficient page loading and fewer pages per user to get to the information they need.


Meg Sharma – Level up your content by REALLY knowing your audience

Meg discussed how you can really level up your content strategy by going beyond keyword research tools to find content ideas, and really understand your audience and the topics they are interested in.

Key takeaways:

  • Explore your market on Reddit to see what the community is talking about and how they are talking to each other.
  • See what questions are being asked in Reddit – they’re asking in a niche community so these are the questions that aren’t being answered when they search in Google.


Aleyda Solis – Embracing AI in SEO: how to 10x your SEO leveraging AI bots

In this talk, Solis explores a variety of practical methods you can use in SEO. This ranged from conducting keyword research and competitor analysis to performing audits and generating reports.

Key Takeaways:

  • A balanced approach is needed with AI. Don’t assume these tools are always correct, ensure you properly fact check.
  • The prompts we use are critical to gaining rich outputs, e.g. ensure you use prompts like ‘without copying’ and compare your content with the Google Helpful Guidelines.


Margaret MacArthur – Designing Viral Content

Margaret explored what content tends to go viral and what content rarely does. She focused primarily on TikTok but also touched on other relevant platforms including the up-and-coming platform Lemon8.

Key takeaways:

  • Don’t bore your viewer. Gen Z has an attention span of 8 seconds. Say what you need to say as quickly as you can. For Ads, it is only 1.3 seconds.
  • TikTok trends end by day 3. This can be vital for coming up with Digital PR ideas to gain traction, as well as reactive posting on social media.


Ryan Jones – Mastering mental health in digital marketing’s always-on world

Ryan talked about his personal experiences navigating his mental health while working in digital marketing and he shared the valuable insights that he had learned along the way.

Key Takeaways

  • Have a shutdown ritual at the end of the day.
  • Make sure to take your lunch breaks and holidays.
  • Remember that little things can go a long way, Ryan noted that having a free half-day to watch the football final was great for morale.


Why we attend Brighton SEO 

As the world’s largest search marketing conference, Brighton SEO is a must for our calendars at Varn. Every year the team come back having learnt new things, met inspiring people and are energised to make an even bigger impact in search for our clients.

If you want to learn more about SEO and the different areas and talks covered above, get in touch with a member of the Varn team today.


About Varn

Varn is an expert & specialist SEO search marketing agency. Technical SEO * AI & Data Analytics * Offsite SEO * Paid Search

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