General SEO

Dear BrightonSEO, You’ve Come a Long Way, Baby

Chris Haines
Chris is an SEO director who has 10 years of experience in SEO, agency side. When not involved in SEO, he enjoys messing around with vintage synthesizers, walks on sandy beaches, and a good cup of tea.
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    I’ve attended BrightonSEO for 10 years, but this year’s conference was one of my all-time favorites for three simple reasons: good vibes, great speakers, and (surprisingly) good weather.
    Ahrefs team posing for a picture

    If you’re not familiar with BrightonSEO, it’s a search marketing conference created by Kelvin Newman. It’s pretty much the U.K.’s “must attend” search conference.

    It’s been running since 2010 and was originally hosted in a room above the Quadrant pub in Brighton, U.K. 

    When I first attended 10 years ago, it was hosted in a smaller venue at the Brighton Dome. There were fewer people (and the swag was a little different back then).

    Fast forward to today, and 6,000+ tickets are now sold for each event. There’s a new stateside BrightonSEO in San Diego, so it’s fair to say it’s come a long way. 

    To give you a feel for the event (and perhaps persuade you to attend next time), here’s my breakdown of September’s BrightonSEO.

    The U.K. is not the first place you think of when it comes to the sun. But we got lucky and had great weather the whole time we were at BrightonSEO.

    Brighton SEO with blue skies

    From the outside, the BrightonSEO venue doesn’t look big. But inside, the scale of the event hits you (especially if you are a speaker). 

    Auditorium 1 has a 3,000-person capacity—so it’s big.

    One of the things that makes BrightonSEO special is that it’s managed to keep the “small conference” feel, despite becoming much bigger than when I first visited 10 years ago. 

    Small stages keep talks intimate (the Skyline stage holds just 300 people). Also, the after-parties and social events are great for building close-knit relationships.

    Conference organizers Kelvin Newman and Jo Walters still pace the event’s halls, as they have for over a decade. 

    Before the main conference kicked off, we hosted our first SEO workshop and networking event in a room above the Ye Olde King & Queen—a very British-looking pub built in 1779.

    Outside of the Ye Olde King & Queen pub
    Banner and swag at the Ahrefs workshop

    Michelle Lindner, our community manager, ran a live demonstration showing how to do keyword research for SEO. 

    Michelle Lindner giving a speech in front of a crowd

    Next, Joshua Hardwick, our head of content, guided us through a case study on how to build high-authority links. Finally—and perhaps most importantly—we chatted with attendees over a few beers and a buffet.

    It was great to see familiar faces like Alex Panagis and a father-and-son SEO duo, Matt Browne and Lenard, at the event.

    I’m sometimes guilty of thinking that only SEOs would be interested in an SEO workshop. But people from construction, SaaS, consulting, and other industries also attended. It reminded me that SEO is more universal now. 

    Wednesday was a busy day in Brighton. There were a variety of paid workshops organized by BrightonSEO.

    Wix also held its regular dinner, which our very own Patrick Stox attended with other famous industry faces. (See who you can spot.)

    The Lumar party at Patterns proved popular again this year.

    And even if you weren’t in the mood for partying, you could get involved in BrightonSEO’s free “netwalking” event.

    One of the great things about BrightonSEO is that even before you start the main conference, there’s no shortage of activities to get involved in. The biggest challenge usually is deciding what events to attend.

    The Ahrefs booth had two huge words stamped across it: swag giveaway. 

    So at 7 a.m., before the conference opened, we hauled armfuls of T-shirts, water bottles, books, bags, and—most importantly—a coffee machine to our stand.

    Ahrefs' fully stocked exhibitor stand

    BrightonSEO got very busy, very quickly. 

    Within minutes of the gates opening, the conference hall was buzzing with activity as SEOs and marketers navigated the venue.

    Busy crowds at Ahrefs' exhibitor stand

    The freshly ground coffee at our stand proved popular. (We even spotted John Mueller having a cup.)

    Ahrefs' coffee cup

    As well as the coffee, visitors to our stand could grab some Ahrefs swag: books, bags, T-shirts, bottles, stickers, and more.

    Our newly released beginner’s guide to SEO book was our most popular item. 

    If you want to get hold of one, we usually give them away at SEO conferences we attend. But if you can’t wait, you can order it here.

    Ahrefs SEO Book for Beginners

    Our T-shirt was our second most popular swag item, and people were proud to share that they got one on social media.

    As well as giving away lots of fun stuff, events like this gave our team a chance to catch up with our customers face to face. 

    Patrick Stox and Chris Haines talking to customers about Ahrefs

    I got talking to people from both agency and in-house backgrounds. From heads of departments to people starting their careers. They were mostly based in the U.K. or Europe, but some had come from as far away as Japan.

    As well as being asked about SEO best practices and the Ahrefs platform, we also got asked a few more specific questions at this event:

    • Technical SEOs asked us about how to deal with hreflang issues (thankfully, our new hreflang visualization tool was released midway through the conference).
    • Attendees asked about other new features—we were excited to share our new Portfolios feature that allows users to track multiple URLs in the dashboard.
    • Attendees also asked about what made Ahrefs different from competitors, and we were more than happy to tell them about the unique features of Ahrefs

    But it wasn’t all SEO. 

    We had fun along the way, with a few attendees brave enough to try our temporary tattoos.

    Customer getting a temporary Ahrefs tattoo

    At one point, the Brighton “SEO Gull” appeared at our stand.

    SEO Gull visiting our exhibitor stand

    As well as SEO Gull, BrightonSEO had plenty of famous faces.

    When it came to talks, we were spoiled for choice—everything from crawling, to e-commerce, to accessibility, to AI and content automation, and much more.

    You only need to click through the talks to see they’re the who’s who of SEO. In fact, the biggest problem was trying to avoid timetable clashes.

    Snapshot of the BrightonSEO schedule with highlights

    Here are my favorite speakers from day one:

    SpeakerTopicDescription
    Greg GiffordProduct management—the secret to being an SEO superheroGreg was one of the most popular and animated speakers at BrightonSEO and provided an action-packed talk on the process of delivering an SEO product that clients would love.
    Ruth EverettDemystifying Chrome devtoolsRuth demystified the complex world of Chrome devtools and provided actionable methods and tips on how to use Chrome devtools to review, audit, and troubleshoot websites of all sizes.
    John Mueller and Billie GeenaAn update on Google SearchJohn and Billie discussed the recent changes in Google Search and how sites could take advantage of them. They then answered 14 questions and gave some off-the-record thoughts on how to prepare for the future.
    Itamar BlauerGenerating complex schema markup at scale with AIItamar gave an excellent talk on how to implement schema markup. He covered advanced topics on how to use AI to generate, combine, and fix schema markup issues.
    Aliya MirzakhmetJavaScript SEO, solvedAliya showed us how to fix some of the most common JavaScript SEO problems and covered the pros and cons of server-side rendering, static rendering, and dynamic rendering.

    Between talks, most people ended up downstairs around the exhibitor stands. 

    One of the most popular and eye-catching—BrightLocal’s arcade stand, with a vibrant retro 80s feel.

    It might have helped that it was also giving away £5,000! (~$6,117).

    It was also a fun experience, though we couldn’t get the Ahrefs team off it!

    Wix also had a great stand with a reaction game embedded into the wall. 

    When we approached the stand, Crystal Carter thought it would be a good idea to pit me against Joshua to see who could win a much-coveted can of Wix SEO beer

    With the stakes so high, Joshua’s reflexes became like a bolt of lightning, and he won the can of beer in a single round.

    After a busy first day, the team gathered for an evening meal of tempura prawns, oysters, and sauteed samphire at The Salt Room.

    Ahrefs team sitting around the dinner table at The Salt Room
    Brighton centre's outside view with sunshine

    Our coffee stand proved even more valuable on the second day after various after-parties the night before.

    It was a big day for our team: Both Andrei Țiț and Patrick Stox were speaking on Friday.

    Andrei Țiț relaxing in a chair at Ahrefs' exhibitor stand

    First up was Andrei. The room was so packed for Andrei’s talk that we struggled to get in and see him ourselves. 

    Andrei Țiț speaking in front of a crowd at BrightonSEO

    Andrei’s talk focused on 10 quick ways to improve your rankings using Ahrefs, with tips like:

    • Finding unlinked brand mentions using Web Explorer.
    • Using Site Audit to find critical issues, and going granular by comparing HTML code and text changes in the URL details panel.
    Sidenote.
    Check out Andrei’s slides here.

    Next up was Patrick, who flew all the way from Raleigh, North Carolina. If you know anything about technical SEO, then you’ll know who he is. 

    Patrick Stox at the Tech SEO panel
    Patrick showing which way his rankings are going.

    As well as moderating the Tech SEO panel, Patrick presented his recent hreflang study, which found that 67% of domains using hreflang have hreflang issues.

    Patrick Stox presenting his hreflang study at BrightonSEO
    Sidenote.
    Check out Patrick’s slides here.

    Here’s a quick sample of my favorite speakers from day two:

    SpeakerTopicDescription
    Aleyda SolisEmbracing AI in SEO: How to 10X your SEO leveraging AI botsAleyda delivered a masterclass on how to 10X your SEO using AI. It was one of the most valuable talks of the day, in my opinion, providing practical tips on achieving more by using AI.
    Ryan HasselFrom page to profit: Mastering SEO indexation for e-commerce successRyan dished out some golden nuggets for e-commerce success in his first-ever BrightonSEO talk. It was a well-paced talk with lots of interesting takeaways for those working in the e-commerce space.
    Bill HartzerAdvanced link profile analysis in 2023Despite being an industry veteran, Bill attended his first-ever BrightonSEO this year and showed us how to properly perform advanced link profile analysis.
    Michał SuskiFrom AI to authority: Why Al-generated content isn’t created equalMichał’s talk focused on addressing the major challenges of generative AI: taking control of the output. He showed us how to leverage AI content to enhance topical authority and scale up content.

    Final thoughts

    Seaside, sun, SEO, and good times. What more do you need? 

    BrightonSEO is one of my all-time favorite SEO conferences. It’s grown a lot since I’ve been in attendance. But it still feels as warm, friendly, and easygoing as the first time I went.

    If you haven’t been yet, it’s worth a visit to learn more about SEO, meet the Ahrefs crew, and have some fun.

    Want to ask a question about BrightonSEO? Ping me on X (Twitter).

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