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The future of search at Brighton SEO

The UK’s biggest search marketing conference has evolved, just like the discipline it shares its name with. No longer is Brighton SEO just about technical search tactics and site optimisation – its ever-growing tentacles now reach into content, social and email marketing as well as PR.

It’s grown a lot more in the two years since I last went – this year selling out a packed Brighton Centre, with attendees coming from all over the UK and even as far as Europe and the US.

I went along in search of new ideas and trends that we could employ here at Fresh Egg and have a few takeaways to share.

The future of search: Time to listen

The Future of Search talks were particularly relevant to us here at Fresh Egg. The focus is shifting away from keyword research and moving more into social listening. By fully integrating social listening tools and tactics into our search strategies, we can better understand audience intent , and adapt and react accordingly.

Social listening happens in real-time. We can future-proof against changes in user behaviour, and become altogether more agile and responsive to our customers’ needs.

In his talk titled Using Advanced Social Listening Techniques to Drive SEO, Daniel Rowles went on to discuss the lack of context that keyword research provides in comparison to social listening when planning campaigns.

With keyword research, the users and wider context behind the searches are not known. But with social listening you have an abundance of user data at your fingertips such as contact info, location, job title, interests, behaviour and more.

Keyword research tools are limited with no context, for example a Google trends search for ‘Jobs’ shows a spike which you might assume is a spike for people looking for jobs…but is in fact at the time Steve Jobs died. How can you determine a person’s motivations, emotions and reaction to your brand through a keyword research tool? Keyword tools are also often out of date, taking days to process the data.

The example I liked best, is the use of social listening used by Sony. Using Brandwatch, they identified a spike in negative sentiment the days after their ad aired showing paint being splashed around a housing estate. A bunch of people on social where complaining that this was not environmentally friendly, they then created a making of video showing the environmentally friendly paint used – silencing the negative sentiment.

This quick-thinking reaction is something they wouldn’t have been able to do without Brandwatch in place. What social listening enabled here is real-time monitoring of Sony’s true audience. They were able to hear and actively participate in the conversations around their brand.

Another interesting point was how we can use social media listening to help shift people’s focus. For example the majority of mentions around social media band fails or disasters is about surviving, not preparing or avoiding.

This identifies that brands aren’t aware of how to avoid one – so there’s a clear content opportunity here to change this rather than doing what everyone else will be doing and seeing that a keyword has the most volume and writing about that.

Time to talk: the rise of voice search

Not only is it time to listen in the world of SEO – it’s also time to talk. Saeley Jnr Johnson led a fascinating talk – Speak Easy: The Rise of Voice Search, - detailing his London agency’s research findings when using voice search technology.

Mindshare agency has spent months researching in to the rise of voice search and how it effects our behaviours as people, using scientific experiments, interviews and research across markets (UK, Germany, Spain, China, Japan, Thailand and the US.)

They found that the US, Spain and Thailand have all adopted voice search more rapidly than any other country (the US getting tech to market first with Alexa, Google Home etc.)

The UK is still fairly slow to adopt.

Interestingly, 60% of people used voice search to complete a Google search – rather than complete a task such as set an alarm. 53% used voice search to find a product they are interested in – completing tasks was at the lower end of usage.

I found the results of the neuro science experiments really fascinating. Monitoring brain activity when using voice search over text showed a more relaxed state of mental activity. Text searches showed higher levels of brain ‘intensity’, with a higher cognitive load.

So to capitalise on this brands need to target users in these moments of cognitive load as this is when they turn to their voice search devices. Voice search drives a higher emotional response in the brain, as users want and feel a connection with their virtual assistant.

He also ran through the gatekeepers of unlocking your voice search potential as a brand, these are:

  • Mobile SEO
  • Long tail and conversational queries – be aware of what these are: what do your customers turn to their assistants for?
  • Schema & Mark-up
  • Local
  • Position 0 – Rich answers

The main takeaway for me was this quote from Martin Reddy, CTO of PullString (An agency focused on how brands can use voice search and AI).


Never before has the term ‘brand voice’ been so literal. For example, it’s all well and good to have Google home answer your customers query with snippets of text from your site – but it needs to read in a personable and humanised way to forge that emotional connection with the user.

Time to know: the customer journey

A final takeaway was from the content marketing track in Amy Harrison’s talk – The Customer Disconnect: How Inside-Out Copy Makes You Invincible.

She spoke about the awareness of user stories and customer journeys, and how your content should support them at each stage.

There is often a disconnect in marketing and onsite content / copy – what you promise your customer and what you actually deliver. There are three critical elements to writing effective copy for customers where this disconnect happens:

  • What you KNOW about your product
  • What you WRITE about your product
  • What your customer THINKS you mean

What this basically means is your onsite content needs to be clear and relevant to the user. By understanding the customer journey from the outset you can create content that directly answers their needs – instead of writing what you think your customer wants to hear, or what you want them to hear.