Our BrightonSEO Roundup - Part One

by Felicity Dudley on Thursday 13 April 2017
A roundup of this years April 2017 BrightonSEO event, with highlights from all talks discussing both technical and content SEO techniques.

Last Friday, a group of lucky Forward3Ders ventured down to sunny Brighton, for the bi-annual SEO conference, BrightonSEO. This year certainly didn't disappoint with some seriously thought provoking talks, leaving us feeling energised and inspired. We had so many takeaways from this year's conference, that we have broken down our highlights into two bight-sized chunks. 


Raj Nijjer - AI and Structured Data: How Voice Search Raises the Stakes for Businesses

Raj, the VP of Yext, kick-started the session on the subject of Structured Data and it’s use for Voice Search. With the launch of Google Assistant the previous day, he really made a point of highlighting how search is quickly getting smarter, noting that by 2020 it is estimated that 50% of searches will be done through voice recognition. Raj stressed that in this Digital generation, searches are becomingly increasingly intent-driven, leaving little room for more than one response within the competitive, search landscape. 

Consumers now are making voice searches such as “best restaurant within 1km of Covent Garden”, where voice assisting search devices return an algorithm derived answer curated from a plethora of data from different sources. This is why it is important to market across all available channels.

Links are just one factor in the equation now. It’s ever more important to utilise schema which provide a language for computers to interpret and understand. User engagement, social media signals, map listings and review sites are all sources being used in the knowledge graph which aid in becoming prominent through this new search medium of voice.
His main advice for us in order to stay competitive was to maintain control of this Rich Content, or risk being left behind.

This goes to show how search is no longer only typing into a web browser. With 60% of consumers claiming star rating is the most important factor in purchasing decisions with 87% of them not considering goods or services with a low reputation, the consumer is ever more putting their decisions in the hands of robots. Which for us as marketers means “browsing” is becoming archaic and competing to be the “best restaurant in Covent Garden” is becoming even more competitive than ever.


Purna Virji - Keywordless Searches: How your Camera is the New Search Box

Purna Virji harked of a similar evolution of search with Keywordless Searches: How your Camera is the New Search Box. Generation Z are becoming increasingly more exposed and learning search from a younger age than millennials. With this keywords and typing are becoming a thing of the past as richer engagement mediums rise. Visual intelligence is having a huge uplift now, with users being able to search by image alone.

Captionbot which can solve capture forms and How-Old.net which uses face recognition, are only a few examples of how AI is channelling into visual in the online community. Users are using “visually similar” to take their searches further within Pinterest than returning back to a SERP to see similar results. 

Rebecca Minkoff released an app at a recent fashion event whereby users could upload a picture of themselves and then see the clothing items used in the show overlayed. Microsoft’s HoloLens is another example of augmented reality where consumers will be able to shop for household items and see how they look in their homes before purchasing, making much richer purchasing experiences.


Shaona Ghosh - Machine Learning and AI algorithms


Shaona Ghosh, postdoctoral researcher at the University of Oxford, provided us with an overview of the current state of AI & machine learning.
She outlined differences between narrow AI (something that is focused on one narrow task e.g Deep Blue chess computer which is very good at chess but can't learn to play a new game based on a description of the game rules) and strong AI (when the machine can actually think and perform tasks on its own just like a human being). Shaona noted that there have been a lot advancements in AI in recent years with a whole set of algorithms being built around looking at data from different perspectives.
She noted that programming an AI is very similar to teaching a toddler. A toddler learns through trial and error based on responses over time to successfully recognise objects. Similarly to the toddler, machines learn based on data mapping. They are programmed to update their beliefs based on mistakes. Once the machine has learned how to successfully complete the task based on test pool of data it will then be tested on data that it has not been exposed to before.
Shaona then highlighted some impressive examples that AI machines were able to achieve recently. She cited an art project whereby being exposed to 'The Starry Night' painting by Vincent van Gogh the AI could replicate his artistic style on modern images. Another example showed a machine successfully escaping a 3D game maze by just being instructed to collect fruit within the environment.
Shaona's talk was a very good setup for subsequent talks from Thomas Nowotny, who talked about bio-inspired computing and control, and Neill Horie, who talked about SEO & AI optimisation.


If you are interested in reading Part 2 of our BrightonSEO roundup where we will be highlighting top tips from Omi Sido, Emily McLaren and Sam Auchterlonie, please click here.


Written by Olivia Stone, James Tremain, Artiom Enkov, Dorothea Facchini and Jack Reid.