BrightonSEO April 2018 – Event Recap – Part 1

Sam Marsden
Sam Marsden

On 30th April 2018 • 29 min read

BrightonSEO was back with a vengeance last Friday – it was bigger and better than ever. As always, the day was littered with a host of top speakers eager to share their unique insights on all things search.

The DeepCrawl team were out in full force, taking over the East bar with retro arcade games and free beer (as per usual!) A special shout out goes to everyone that took to the stage for the DeepCrawl Karaoke Pre-Party, there were some truly memorable performances that will live long in all of our memories!


Rob Bucci – Featured snippets: From then to now, volatility, and voice search

Talk Summary

Being the SERP stalkers that they are, STAT have studied featured snippets extensively and their founder, Rob, did an excellent job of communicating their findings in Auditorium 2. Even if you aren’t particularly interested in featured snippets, for whatever reason, it’s worth flicking through Rob’s deck, as you won’t find many that are better designed. Speakers, take note.

Key Takeaways

The Research

STAT have researched the behaviour of featured snippets, studying 4 million of them as part of their latest white paper.

As well as looking at the prevalence of featured snippets in the SERPs, the STAT team wanted to investigate how frequently they change (volatility) and what other search features they are displayed with (co-occurrence) to determine if targeting featured snippets is a stable strategy for SEOs.

What did they find out about featured snippets?

31% of the keywords included in the research had a featured snippet. Compared to their previous measurements, STAT are seeing featured snippets become increasingly prevalent over time.

STAT research - Featured snippet trends

Featured snippets are at the top of the results they appear in 96% of the time. They appear second place when they are displayed alongside shopping boxes.

Having your page shown as a featured snippet enables you to leapfrog other results even if the actual result is ranked lower.

Since their original research, STAT have found the organic rank of the page included as a featured snippet has dropped from an average position of 2 to 3 – lower ranking results are being used as featured snippets more frequently.

However, having a higher ranking page is still going to increase the likelihood that it will appear as a featured snippet. 99% of snippets are sourced from ranks 2-10.

What SERP features co-occur with featured snippets?

When a featured snippet is present, a “People Also Ask” box is in second place 60% of the time.

Featured snippets co-occur with images 7% of the time, shopping 4% of the time and with News and Places 1% of the time.

Video results are growing in prevalence and in co-occurrence with featured snippets. If you are working with an authoritative site that can answer questions with video, then this could be a big win.

STAT research - Feature snippet co-occurence

Rob encourages you to let “People Also Ask” boxes to inspire your snippet content. Build out your query universe from root queries and make sure that your site is answering these questions.

The research found that snippets used to rarely co-occur with places, but this is starting to change.

This co-occurrence happens when Google is trying to satisfy ambiguous intent.
For example, searching for “top casinos” could be about finding a physical or online casino so Google caters for both intents.

How are featured snippets formatted?

Featured snippets are most commonly formatted as paragraphs (60% of occurrences), followed by lists and then tables (32% and 8% respectively).

However, paragraphs and tables are declining in the overall proportion of occurrences and lists are on the rise.

Queries including “Best” and “How to” queries are most common for list snippets.

STAT research - Snippet type occurence

How volatile are featured snippets?

Volatility is defined by disappearances, reappearances or URL changes of featured snippets. Volatility was tracked over a 20 day period.

Featured snippets and voice search

Google Assistant relies on featured snippets for answers.

Natural language is becoming more important. Google is expanding types of queries that snippets are used for.

Full sentences are triggering featured snippets more and more as seen in the graph below.

STAT graph


From Black Friday to iPhones – how to rank for big terms on big days – Sam Robson

Talk Summary

Sam provided some excellent enterprise insights from the challenges he has faced in his role as Director of Audience at Future Publishing. Sam’s talk showed how setbacks caused by algorithm updates and a changing search landscape can be turned around using examples from first-hand experience.

Key Takeaways

A Baptism By Fire

Sam has worked at Future Publishing for a number of years and the combined traffic from their sites totals 62 million monthly users.

Sam overcame the site’s issues by addressing pages that offered a bad user experience and were poor quality. Sam says it’s crucial that all of a site’s pages are spot on, not just a proportion of them.

The Importance of Technical SEO

Technical SEO is more important than ever and Google now recognises need for SEOs.

An elite domain is going to allow you to rank for elite terms and give you access to an elite audience.

Redirect chains and broken pages are important issues that make a difference and need to be fixed.

Expert Insights For SEOs Working For Large Publishers

Tidy up your archives. These older pages need to stand up to 2018 standards. Noindex them or get rid of them if you can’t improve them.

Links are less important than they were. Sam has seen evidence of TechRadar publishing articles that rank 1st without links because of the authoritativeness of the domain.

Sam has seen that speed and good user experience are especially important for ranking on mobile even before mobile-first indexing started to roll out.

TechRadar’s strategy involves proactively publishing on future phone releases, as they can predict when they are likely to be released and searched for e.g. iPhone 11 – What we want to see.

Sam has also found a way for limiting SERP fluctuations after a release when the competition grows with more being written about the release in question.

Sam stressed the importance of picking your battles carefully as there may be some terms which you are highly unlikely to rank for.

TechRadar’s traffic has shifted to a mobile majority in a relatively short amount of time.


A Universal Strategy for Answer Engine Optimisation (beyond position 0) – Jason Barnard

Talk Summary

Jason rounded off what was an excellent session in Auditorium 2 with a more philosophical talk covering how Google is using Machine Learning and how you should form a strategy around ensuring answer engines understand what your site/brand is about, reinforcing these with credible signals.

Key Takeaways

Google is now an AI company and their search engine has become an answer engine which we need to understand the inner workings of so we can form a strategy.

The Landscape

Voice assistants are becoming the norm and when we’re looking at optimising for them we need to consider that there are two sides to the equation.

A Universal Strategy for Answer Engine Optimisation (beyond position 0) from Jason Barnard

Machine Learning

Google have appointed veteran engineers and there has been a big “AI-first” push within the company.

Machine learning is starting to run search algorithms on the front and back end and there are three types:

RankBrain is generally associated with the front end, but it doesn’t just understand user intent (understanding the question). RankBrain also helps Google to understand the available options (providing the answer).

A Universal Strategy for Answer Engine Optimisation (beyond position 0) from Jason Barnard

The Strategy

Google is moving away from the knowledge graph with full information manually inputted. Google will eventually allow machine learning more freedom to deduce nodes from search queries as well as attributes.

As a result, you should make sure you communicate to Google who you are and what you offer with clear unambiguous content.

Corroboration – Provide Google with social proof and consistent signals that allow them to have more confidence in their understanding.

A Universal Strategy for Answer Engine Optimisation (beyond position 0) from Jason Barnard


Why Brand is Replacing Authority – Ade Lewis

Talk Summary

Ade’s talk on the growing importance of brand provided a good overview of what it means to build a brand and how this is gradually becoming a ranking factor.

Key Takeaways

Old School Google

Ranking in Google used to be about relevancy and authority, where the former took into account everything that was written on a website and how relevant it was to a given search term and the latter being anything written about you on external sites (AKA external links).

The problem with Google’s “old school” reliance on authority is that it left them open to manipulation with paid links.

Google has gotten increasingly better at detecting deceptive link behaviour, like paid links. Tom Anthony has a useful article on how to detect anomalous linking activity.

Why Brand is Replacing Authority from Ade Lewis

Google has had to evolve

Google has had to evolve to look at non-link based signals – algorithm updates like Penguin have been part of this.

However, there is still an issue because while Google is trying to move away from authority as a ranking factor, we are still fundamentally focused on building authority. This is still the main intent behind content marketing and digital PR.

The power of brand and why it matters

Brand is the personality of a business and its reputation. A brand is the sum of all customer experiences with a company and is therefore defined by customers and not by the business itself.

Ade had a great slide on the brand signals which Google take notice of:

Why Brand is Replacing Authority from Ade Lewis

Companies need to think about their brand values. Ade has written a great article on the components of brand value.

Ade asked a few industry experts what a brand is and Greg Gifford defined it as:

“It’s what gives people warm fuzzies or makes them throw up in their mouth a little bit when they hear the name of the company.”

Final thoughts

Links are not dead, they are now brand signals.

Don’t give up on content marketing and digital PR, just make sure they fully align with your brand.

Focus on building brand signals that correlate with good rankings.

Why Brand is Replacing Authority from Ade Lewis


Killing Giants – How to compete with Big Brands in the SERPS – Ross Tavendale

Talk Summary

Ross’ humour-filled talk revealed a ton of smart tactics that he and the team at Type A Media use to compete with big brands with limited time and resource.

Key Takeaways

Being efficient with your time

Killing giant competitors is all about doing the same as them, but working faster and more efficiently.

Ross ran a Twitter poll asking people how long a 1,000 page technical audit typically takes. 60% said one week and 20% one month. One person even said that an audit shouldn’t take less than a month.

Ross is all about finding efficiency hacks. He bought his team Bose Noise Cancelling headphones and productivity went up by 50% according to Slack activity.

Kill giants by achieving perfect technical SEO.

Killing Giants – How to compete with Big Brands in the SERPS from Ross Tavendale

Fix broken stuff – 404s, orphans and non-indexed pages

Orphans and weak pages

Killing Giants – How to compete with Big Brands in the SERPS from Ross Tavendale

Identifying content gaps

Going after big links

Only build links with bragging rights attached to them.
Consider the algorithmic vs. flop risk.

Killing Giants – How to compete with Big Brands in the SERPS from Ross Tavendale

Ross has a few recommendations for coming up with data-led stories.

Killing Giants – How to compete with Big Brands in the SERPS from Ross Tavendale


Preemptive Reputation Management – Julia Logan

Talk Summary

Julia finished the last speaking slot of the day before the keynote with a useful talk about the importance of pre-emptive reputation management and how it can be successfully incorporated into a company’s existing brand-building activities.

Key Takeaways

Brand building and image

Additional search features are a potential risk for brands

Preemptive Reputation Management from Julia Logan a.k.a. IrishWonder

Mending a brand’s reputation

How can you fix something bad that starts ranking organically for your brand?

Preemptive Reputation Management from Julia Logan a.k.a. IrishWonder

Benefits of pre-emptive reputation management

Pre-emptive reputation management saves in the long term and can be incorporated into a brand’s existing activities.

How do you go about pre-emptive reputation management? Be prepared and ensure your brand receives plenty of positive exposure for the message you are attempting to get across.

If you’re not just trying to get positive exposure at the time of crisis then it’s going to make your brand more resistant to any negative exposure that might come your way in the future.

Don’t forget that every positive mention counts and to use multiple channels to put out your message to reach more people.

Try to encourage people to search for your brand in the desired content and be creative about it – do something your competitor won’t.

Ultimately, investing in pre-emptive reputation management is going to result in a better brand image.

Preemptive Reputation Management from Julia Logan a.k.a. IrishWonder



Sam Marsden
Sam Marsden

Sam Marsden is Deepcrawl's Former SEO & Content Manager. Sam speaks regularly at marketing conferences, like SMX and BrightonSEO, and is a contributor to industry publications such as Search Engine Journal and State of Digital.



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