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This April, myself and Catriona represented team content for our first ever trip down to brightonSEO, along with many other c3ers! Alongside all of the great talks we attended, we had a fun couple of days exploring the cute side streets, discovering quirky coffee shops, and enjoying some delicious cocktails!

The talks were extremely invaluable, with both of us taking away plenty of actionable tips – these were our favourite talks overall.

How to do comprehensive research for your topic cluster – Chima Mmeje

I love hearing people who are passionate about content strategy, and Chima brought so much energy to her talk!

She started off by explaining how when creating a content cluster, it’s important to remember your internal linking structure; and that it should be treated as a way to drive conversions because ultimately, you’re aiming to move readers from the top of the funnel, right down to the bottom.

The other benefit she outlined, was that if you keep readers flowing through your different pieces of content, not only will your bounce rates reduce, but your engagement rates will increase.

Once your content is live, Chima reminded us how it can be repurposed further down the line (from podcasts and tweets to LinkedIn posts), so you’re continuously pushing readers down the funnel.

A few tips from Chima that you might find helpful are:

  • When it comes to choosing a topic of authority, if you’re a new business, pick the product/service you want your brand to be synonymous with.
  • Once you’ve done all of your keyword research, make sure you discard any that don’t align with your branding or product offering (e.g if you’re selling a luxury product, you wouldn’t want to optimise your content for keywords that mention the word ‘cheap’).
  • Make sure you break your keywords out into the different stages of the buyer’s journey. That way, you can identify the content that sits at the top, middle and bottom of the funnel.
  • Make sure that you’re also creating content for customers in a way that takes care of them, to encourage repeat purchases.
  • Avoid writing your pillar content first, as it’ll rank highest for all of your keywords. Instead, build out your smaller pieces of content to give them the best chance of ranking, and write your pillar piece last.

How we scaled our content ops from 4 to 40 posts a month in under 2 months – Emilia Korczynska

This talk was really interesting, with Emilia walking us through step-by-step, as to how she approached the task of increasing content production, when she became Head of Marketing at Userpilot.

She named her approach ‘Content epics system’, where she started off by – rather than having four in-house writers writing three blogs a week each – finding 10 writers, who were each responsible for writing one blog a week.

Each writer focused on a specific topic (known as an ‘epic’), which meant they had time to fully immerse themselves in each piece, and become experts in their assigned areas.

Two editors were assigned to create detailed briefs for each piece of content, which included the specific H2s, H3s and H4s to include, key talking points, images and specific links to include, and the SEO guidelines, to make the writing process smoother.

Once the writers had created their drafts, these went to the editors, who fact-checked each blog against their respective briefs. Once any changes had been made and they were happy with it, blogs were sent over to the proofreader for a final check.

This whole process was documented on a kanban board, which every person involved in the project had access to.

It’s always interesting to hear how other people approach content management – whilst this specific process of super-detailed briefs, and writers only having to create one blog a week isn’t really relevant for us (for example, we train all of our writers up in SEO, so they know exactly how to optimise their content, and what their subheadings should be called), it’s great to get a different point of view, and you still end up getting a good couple of tips to take away with you!

How to tackle digital content hoarding – Adrian Imms

A big part of our jobs within the content team, is to audit a client’s on-site content. We do with this when they first join us, and then we’ll relook at the content usually in 12 months’ time, to check it’s working as hard as it could be.

We’re lucky in the fact that the vast majority of our clients understand the need to remove content that isn’t performing, and trust in us that we’ll make the right decision.

However, what Adrian’s talk covered, was how to approach the topic of redirecting content from people who have become attached to it. And it’s understandable that certain people can have an emotional attachment to their content if they’ve written a lot of it, and it’s a big part of their job.

Essentially, Adrian’s talk was about how to be tactful in your approach, whilst getting the job done! So, once you’ve done your audit and set up a meeting with these ‘digital hoarders’, avoid saying things like “stats are low on your pages”, or “it’s off-brand” or listing the technical issues; because it could cause one of these three reactions:

  • It could cause animosity
  • The digital hoarders could try and amend the content, and waste a load of time, as you’d still want to redirect it
  • They may try and read up on technical issues, and then come back and make a case for it (and unfortunately, you end up in a dangerous area when they think they know a lot about technical, and they actually don’t…!)

Instead, Adrian explained how you can get them to buy into the process. Stroke their egos by saying you want to involve them in this project because you know they’re experts in their subject area, and as you’re the expert in content, it would be great to work together. Then, you can talk all about the benefits of removing duplicate content, as that should help them to bring on-board, as they know they’ll look good if they’re part of a successful project!

The final tip from Adrian (and one that’s relevant across all channels of digital!) is to set some boundaries. By that, he means, once you’ve had the go-ahead from whoever it is you’re speaking to, redirect the pages you want to. Otherwise, if you show them an updated audit before you implement your redirects, you’re giving them another opportunity to push back, ask more questions, and slow down the process.

Menstrual Health in SEO – Chloe Smith

Discussions of menstrual health and periods in working environments has always felt somewhat taboo, particularly in male dominated industries like technical SEO – men outnumber women 2 to 1 in the SEO industry, and this is unfortunately reflected in the way we deal with periods, and those who experience them.

Chloe Smith delivered some insightful yet somewhat depressing statistics about the lengths that people who menstruate will go to when their periods are affecting their work. Over 55% of a surveyed group of mixed individuals said that they will lie to their managers about needing a sick day when they are struggling with period symptoms. Over 69% of menstruators will force themselves to go to work rather than taking sick leave, even when they are experiencing common period symptoms like back pain, cramps, migraines, and nausea – not to mention the discomfort of using period products and having to maintain normal working hours and social protocols when energy is low.

Chloe encouraged businesses, in particular those who manage others, to take into account that menstruation is a continual process – it’s not something like a sickness bug, or a pandemic, where we can hope that one day it will end. Companies will always employ people who menstruate, so why has it taken this long to implement lasting policies and workplace support for those who menstruate?

She outlined four distinct ways in which business can support those who menstruate:

  • Free period products in all bathrooms, to alleviate financial and time-related difficulties.
  • Menstrual illness days, to be taken throughout the year, as and when they are needed.
  • Use of non-gendered language when referencing periods, including not referencing ‘feminine hygiene’ or ‘sanitary products’ and failing to recognise it’s not just women who menstruate, and that not all women can menstruate.
  • Including all of this information in onboarding for all new starters, regardless of gender or sex, to ensure that all individuals are aware that your workplace is a safe place to talk about menstruation.

Mental Health in the Workplace – Charlotte McIntyre and Kat Nicolls

Charlotte McIntyre and Kat Nicolls gave two talks that closely overlapped in regard to looking after your mental health in the workplace, particularly when your work is stressful or contains sensitive material that you may find difficult. As a writer, we’re required to immerse ourselves in the content that we write, to find the core of what we want to discuss, and conducting extensive research to ensure that we are educated in our delivery of every topic.

In doing so, research can take you to places you may not feel comfortable, or you may feel that your core beliefs are challenged. In situations like this, it’s good to have a tool kit in your arsenal that can help you get through, not only difficult topics, but also topics that you may find a little dry and you struggle to inspire yourself with.

Kat used the analogy of climbing a mountain to compare to the similar steps you should take when writing difficult content:

  1. Set boundaries – for yourself and your manager, about what you are and aren’t comfortable writing about and researching. Like climbing a mountain, know where your summit is, and if you manage to surpass it then you may surprise yourself!
  2. Plan in breaks – regular breaks not only help you to resurface from difficult topics, but can also inspire creativity and productivity. You wouldn’t ignore signs of fatigue or dehydration when climbing a mountain, so why ignore warning signs that you’re tiring yourself when you’re writing?
  3. Find non-work-related activities to help you switch off from the task at hand. You might sing a song or play a game if you find that morale is lacking on a hike, so taking diversions can help concentrate the mind on something fun and enjoyable rather than an arduous task.
  4. Celebrate what you have accomplished. When you get to the top of the mountain, stop to take in the view and marvel at your ability to complete something difficult. You wouldn’t jump onto the next mountain right away after pushing yourself to your limit!
  5. Take note of your learnings. Like forgetting to pack blister plasters or not bringing any snacks, these are things you’ll remember for your next hike, so take note of what helped and hindered you during the writing process.

How Google teaches you to be creative – Max Hoppy

Max Hoppy used to work for Google as one of their ad sellers, and during his time there, he was sent a one-week retreat to the beautiful English countryside to learn about creativity – in particular, what it is and how to get it. He took this knowledge and applied it throughout the rest of his career and gave an adapted version of this knowledge at brightonSEO.

When it comes to creativity, a lot of us find that we don’t have our most creative thoughts when we’re at work, being bombarded with emails, messages, work requests and time constraints. In fact, when Max surveyed a group of creatives on where they found they were most creative, the top answers were:

  1. 34% said while exercising
  2. 20% said in the shower
  3. 13% said while they were falling asleep
  4. 2% said on the toilet

While these answers may have Creative Directors shaking their heads, when we look at the science behind creativity, these answers are not actually very surprising.

When the brain is too busy managing multiple tasks, we enter a state called ‘Beta Brain’, which is when the link between out conscious and subconscious is practically shut off, and there is no fluid movement of abstract thoughts and ideas. When we’re in the zone and focused on one thing, like exercising or falling asleep, our brains enter ‘Alpha Brain’ mode, which is where this gap widens, and the fluidity of our thoughts expands. So, a key takeaway here was that our environment is foundational for inspiring creativity – now the farm excursion makes more sense! No emails, no managers, just rolling fields and some inspiring discussions.

From these discussions, Max took away the concept of the three Rs – three unique ways we can try to stimulate creativity even in uninspiring environments: Related Worlds, Revolution, and Random Links:

Related Worlds asks us to perform three steps:

  1. THINK – about the essence of the challenge
  2. ASK – how it is being addressed in other worlds
  3. JUMP – into that world and take inspiration

Revolution uses these three steps:

  1. LIST – the rules that currently exist
  2. PICK – a rule to break
  3. USE – this stimulus to create an idea

And Random Links also has three steps:

  1. GRAB – a random word/object/place/animal
  2. THINK – about your challenge/brand
  3. FORCE – a link between the two to generate ideas out of the box.

When we use these three exercises, Max also insists that we separate two schools of thought: expansive and reductive thoughts.

Expansive thoughts are when you take the challenge and run with it, with no limitations and no holding back. Reductive thoughts are when you put constraints on, restraining ideas to a box of client values, pricing, and branding.

Max insists that these two thought pools should never cross – instead, you should host expansive brainstorms where everyone can be free to toss an idea into the ring, no matter how wild or seemingly unachievable. After this brainstorm, bring in a much smaller group of key decision makers to introduce reductive thinking to the pool of brainstorm ideas – this way, some ideas that may never even have come up could be put for consideration to the client.

In this way, we can introduce, and induce, creative thinking back into the meeting room, allowing creative thought to churn out potentially show stopping ideas and campaigns.

With so many great talks happening, it was impossible to cover them all, but we hope you enjoyed reading about our favourites. If you want to find out more about our approach to content strategy, ideation and audits, get in touch with us today!