netmagInterview

Kelvin Newman on BrightonSEO

Newman tells us about the BrightonSEO conference and being a Clockwork Pirate

Kelvin Newman runs BrightonSEO, a free one-day conference about search marketing. He's also written a free ebook about SEO, and presents iTunes' most popular marketing podcast, Internet Marketing. He is Director of Strategy at SiteVisibility.

.net: What can attendees expect to get out of the Brighton SEO conference?
KN: I always hesitate to call the event advanced because there's a huge amount for the beginners in attendance. What we really try to do is look beyond the basics and share new and interesting things influencing the world of SEO. Sometimes that means getting renowned SEOs like Richard Baxter to talk about something he'd never get chance to at another event such as 'how to develop a career in SEO'. We also look to secure the kind of people who'd never normally speak at a search event like a linguist from the University of Sussex or Dave Trott the ad man behind iconic campaigns like 'Hello Tosh, Got a Toshiba'.

Generally speaking though, we're trying to get to the nitty gritty behind search. At some events they might tell you that you need to "build a brand" or "produce great content" to do well in SEO. What we do is get speakers who can tell you exactly how to do that.

.net: How did you get into SEO and marketing?
KN: Living in Brighton's got a lot to do with it. I was working in London on a number of lads mags; I'd been doing general office stuff but volunteered myself to write for their websites, because at that time nobody else really wanted to. In the process of trying to become a better online writer, inevitably I came across SEO. It was an appealing sector. I liked the mix between technical and creative and enjoyed the process of understanding how people search and then try to reflect that in the design and content of a website.

It's a great industry to work in as there's still a shortage of talent which means if you're ambitious and keen you can progress quickly. Working in Brighton helps too; there's more SEOs per capita here than any other city in the world (or at least I reckon there is).

.net: Tell us about your book.
KN: It came about in an unusual way really – it was a blog post that got a bit out of hand. I started out by listing all the different approaches to link building I'd used, seen used or fancied doing. It became a huge list. Initially I thought I'd write a couple of sentences per technique and end up with a long but useful blog post. However, I realised very quickly that to really do the tactics justice I needed more than a couple of sentences and found myself with a blog post that was a book length.

At that point it seemed a no-brainer to package it up in a slightly different way and release it as an ebook.

It was also an interesting project because I got to experiment with 'social payments', which was an idea I'd been toying with for a while. The book was free provided you shared its URL on Twitter or Facebook. (I originally used a tool called Pay with a Tweet to do this but now use CloudFlood) It was amazing to see the book spread virally. I never really gave it a big marketing push; I just told a few people about it and allowed the word of mouth to spread. So it was a great experiment – and the content really seems to have struck a chord with people who want to build the right sort of links to their site to improve their rankings in the search engines.

.net: What would you say to aspiring Clockwork Pirates just starting out in the industry?
KN: The whole idea/conceit of the Clockwork Pirate is that to be successful in digital marketing you need to be creative and innovative, but also methodical and hardworking at the same time. I think that's a useful way of thinking about most areas of digital. It's no longer enough just to be technically strong; you need to be able to have great ideas as well but equally being creative isn't enough – you need to have a strong work ethic and technical grounding too.

With all these skills, they're things you need to practise and learn. If you're starting out in the industry you need to demonstrate that you have practised, so I'm always impressed with people who have 'side projects'. These will get the attention of potential employers and mark you out as different from the other 9-5ers.

.net: What are the important things for online marketers to be thinking about at the moment?
KN: I think it's all about learning outside your core discipline; for example I'm hugely interested in behavioural economics, which on the surface isn't directly related to my day job. However, it makes me a stronger, more rounded marketer who's not just reading SEO blogs, just attending SEO conferences, and learning about SEO. There's always the need for a specialist but nobody wants someone who works in isolation.

.net: Any killer SEO tips you'd like to share with us?
KN: The clich is 'just build great content' but I've seen some great content fail to get the kind of attention it deserved. So always start out by understanding who you want to link to your great content, and think about them every step of the way when your producing it. Additionally see if you can get them involved in the content production process. If you want a travel blogger to link to your work try and include them in the research for the piece.

Really SEO is about understanding people and how they think, but at the same time acknowledging the shortcomings of search algorithms and slightly tweaking what's great for people to please the algos.

BrightonSEO will take place on Friday 14th September 2012

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