The 3 Biggest Takeaways from Kelvin Newman’s Reddit AMA

Yesterday, the mighty Kelvin Newman (@kelvinnewman) of brightonSEO fame did an Ask Me Anything on Reddit.

Kelvin Newman's AMA on Reddit screenshot
I’m a big fan of Kelvin, not only because he runs an incredible conference and has been crazy enough to let me speak at it (not just once, but twice), but because he’s a great guy as well. And as an SEO event organiser myself, I’m always curious to know the thinking behind brightonSEO, how he runs the event and where he wants to take it in the future.

To be honest, whether you’re an event organiser yourself, or just a big fan of brightonSEO (who isn’t?), it’s probably worth reading the whole AMA from start to finish, as there are tips and insights sprinkled throughout. But if you’re a busy guy/gal then here are my three biggest takeaways:

1) On starting a conference: start small and scale up

Kelvin Newman Prisma imageA few new SEO/digital conferences have sprouted up in the UK in recent months, which is fine, but to aspiring conference organisers, Kelvin’s advice is to start small:

I’d always start with something small and then scale rather than launching big. If gives you a chance to test and learn and make mistakes when not very many people are watching. Think of your first event as an MVP.

I can relate to this, as I’m not sure where to take Cardiff SEO Meet at the moment (an all-dayer event does sound tempting…), but at the very least, it’s good to know that small beginnings are the sensible way to go anyway.

2) On hiring speakers: seek out speakers (not vice versa)

It’s very easy to simply accept the speakers who approach you as an organiser, but Kelvin’s method is different:

Keeping an eye on blog posts people are sharing is a key one but I love scouring through our attendee list and looking for people who might have a good perspective and then stalking them online a bit.

Only giving slots to people who put themselves forward can lead to only attracting certain kinds of speakers.

I like this as it naturally leads to a variety of speakers, and perhaps those who aren’t even ‘natural’ speakers. And there is the risk that the people that approach event organisers offering to speak and doing so all over the shop – not just for your event.

However, if you do approach Kelvin and ask to speak (which – to be fair – is how I got to speak at brightonSEO both times), at least have a talk idea at-the-ready:

In terms of pitching to speak, have a talk idea ready to go. Much easier for me to say yes to a interesting talk title than a vague “I’d like to talk”.

3) On what talks to have: some SEO topics are important, but variety is good

This is an interesting one as I’ve always admired Kelvin for booking non-SEO talks at an SEO event, or at least talks that closely align with SEO (such as UX, etc.). But it’s still really important to have some types of SEO talks:

People expect decent technical talks and link building talks. If we don’t programme those people won’t come back.

However Kelvin argues that some of the non-SEO talks are the ones that stay with people – the problem with SEO talks (as is the case with some elements of SEO) is that there’s a ‘here-today-gone-tomorrow’ feeling about them:

Talks from people like Dave [Trott] and Rory [Sutherland] are the kind that sit in the back of your mind for years to come, whereas the learning about the latest SERP feature you’ll use immediately but it’s value will go down over time.

Our job is to get the right mixture between the practical talks and the inspirational/theoretical ones. Which is something I know we and other events have been criticised for in the past.

Kelvin’s clearly not backing down with this way of thinking, given what’s coming up at next month’s event:

Got three different academics talking this time round about machine learning that might not be mass appeal but pretty sure will get a great receptions.


Read Kelvin’s AMA in full here!

If you’re going to brightonSEO April 2017 then let me know – I’ll be there. 🙂

[Image credit – my own creation using Prisma]

Moving SEOno to HTTPS: How Using Cloudflare Caused a Duplicate Content Issue

HTTPS Secure badge image
A few days ago, I moved this blog to fully (and only) HTTPS. I’d been on Cloudflare for a few months but I didn’t realise that it was inadventently causing a site-wide duplicate content issue (between HTTP & HTTPS URLs). In this post I document the discovery of the issue, the process I took to fix it, and the potential knock-on effects of the change, such as needing to set up a new Google Search Console profile, ‘mixed content’ issues and more…


A few months ago, I moved SEOno to Cloudflare. The site was getting a ridiculously high number of malicious login attempts, and while none of them got through (thankfully), I looked into it and the volume of them suggested that it was slowing my site down. I moved onto Cloudflare – a fairly quick, painless process – and not only have the login attempts ceased, but the site is tons faster. Job done.

At the time, I noticed that HTTPS URLs were working on the site, in addition to HTTP URLs. In other words, https://seono.co.uk/ loaded the homepage, as did http://seono.co.uk/, whereas only the latter had done previously. “Cool,” I thought, thinking nothing of it for ages – I figured that the rel="canonical" tag of the HTTP URLs would take precedence, and at some point I’d sort it out properly.

Then, a few days ago, I was chatting to someone at my coworking space and did a very specific Google search that only brought up seono.co.uk results. And that’s when I spotted it: Google was indexing both HTTP and HTTPS URLs separately…

SEOno Google SERP screenshot
Uh-oh. This full-on flummoxed me for a few moments, until I checked the canonical tags of both versions. Here’s the one for HTTP…

SEOno HTTP canonical screenshot
…and here’s the one for HTTPS…

SEOno HTTPS canonical screenshot
Bollocks.

Rather than having the same canonical tag (and therefore one ‘version’ taking precedence over the other), they were each referencing themselves separately. This meant that the introduction of the HTTPS URLs had resulted in a duplicate content issue site-wide, with every page of the blog having two URLs showing the exact same content. Given the fact that Google was indexing some URLs of one type and some of the other (rather than all of one and none of the other), it was looking as though Google was struggling to understand which version to show predominantly. And worst of all? I hadn’t noticed for months, despite picking up on issues like this when I do technical SEO audits for clients. D’oh.

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The Final Fantasy Marketing Strategy: Nostalgia & Back Catalogue Introduction

Note: I’ve tried to keep this spolier-free, but if you’ve yet to start playing Final Fantasy XV and you want to be kept 100% surprised at what’s in store, then it might be best to hold off from reading this post. You have been warned, dear reader.

I recently bought and started playing Final Fantasy XV (FFXV for short), having been a life-long fan of the Final Fantasy series (my first taste was with FFVIII in the late 1990s, in case you were wondering – don’t worry, I discovered FFVII later on, it’s ok). 😉

One thing that’s really grabbed my interest while playing it is how Square Enix (its creators) are framing it: when you start loading FFXV ready to play it on a PS4, you’re greeted with this message:

FFXV intro tagline

“A FINAL FANTASY for Fans and First-Timers.”

It’s the “First-Timers” bit that especially got me thinking. It’s pretty much a given that fans of previous games of the series will dive right in – so it’s interesting to see that they’re also targeting and marketing the game to complete newbies to the franchise.

In this post I talk about how Square Enix’s marketing strategy for FFXV is two-pronged…

First… a bit about Final Fantasy and Square Enix

FFXV cover artFor those of you who are reading this but haven’t ever played a Final Fantasy game before, it’s important to know that they’re not ‘true’ sequels in a series. For example, the characters of Final Fantasy XIII don’t appear in FFXV – it’s a new set of characters, a new world, a new story. However there are similarities – and expectations from fans – of each new FF game, as I’ll talk about below. It’s similar to games series’ like Elder Scrolls (i.e. Skyrim) and Grand Theft Auto – in the case of the latter, the protagonist of GTA IV does not appear in GTA V, although there are certainly ‘nods’ to previous games.

Square Enix has been pumping out FF games since FFI was developed way back in 1987. In recent years however, it has been no real secret that the company has been struggling financially. Some were theorising that they were banking – maybe even relying – on FFXV being a hit, a make-or-break game in the series which may determine their future. Well, reviews of FFXV are good, sales have been strong (in the millions of units), and in the last few days they’ve struck a deal with Marvel, so it looks like they’re gonna be ok (phew). But given this on-the-brink-of-catastrophe feeling they’ve had in recent years, it looks like they have really been pulling out all the stops to try and make their later releases accessible to fans old and new.

Let’s start with the former – us old-timers…

For fans – it’s all about the nostalgia, baby

FFXV carries with it what other games have had in the past… There’s monsters such as flans and behemoths and iron giants. There’s spells like Fire and Blizzard and Thunder. There’s chocobos! There’s a Cid! The gameplay mimicks the previous versions (you have HP and MP, you encounter enemies in the big open world, you level up and get stronger)… You get the idea.

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It’s 2017 & I’m Still Seeing “SEO is Crap” Discussions…

Angry face art“The world is on fire,” the mighty Ed Harcourt recently sung.

2017 has begun, swirling from 2016’s turbulent aftermath of Trumps and Brexits – and yet here I am, publishing my first post of the year nitpicking about what someone said about SEO.

“In the name of SEO”

I regularly check and contribute to the Cardiff Start Facebook group, and got a little excited when I saw someone asking for advice on content marketing. While I didn’t contribute myself, SEO got mentioned – although in a way that got my back up a bit:

Cardiff Start FB group comment screenshot
Mike offers some great advice – the only problem is that very first line. The pertinent text (with emphasis added):

“First. Prioritise quality over quantity – pumping out volumes of crap in the name of SEO helps nobody – times have changed.”

Aside from one other teeny-tiny mention, this was the only mention of SEO in the whole thread. A whole thread about content marketing and SEO is seen as the bad bit. “Don’t do it” is essentially what’s being recommended.

I’d usually roll my eyes at comments like this – like I’ve done so many times in the past – but my concern here was that people who are new to content marketing may be new to SEO, too. And now their whole experience of something that could be so crucially beneficial to their website/their business/their livelihood has been tainted. Also, a few people Liked it, suggesting agreement.

So what’s the alternative? Later on, Mike goes on to say that content should provide three things:

a. build trust with existing and potential customers
b. develop your own unique, tailored, audience
c. create demand for your service or product with that audience

Here’s a question for you: why can’t content fulfil that criteria and have an SEO focus?

SEO doesn’t have to be a dirty word

One of my clients has done insanely well creating content with a bit of an SEO focus. With my help, he’s grown his blog from 30 organic search visits a month to 10,000+. That’s an increase of over 300x – in other words, 300 times more people are visiting his website through search engines (through SEO) than they were previously.

So, is he “pumping out volumes of crap” in order to do this? Is that the secret? No. He’s writing good quality content, which helps to build trust with existing and potential customers, that’s unique and tailored to the audience, and that helps to create demand for his service with that audience. Hey, does that sentence seem familiar? Look up a couple of paragraphs.

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3 Events Down – What Cardiff SEO Meet Has Achieved So Far (& Future Plans)

Cardiff SEO Meet May crowd banner
After teasing the idea of running regular Cardiff SEO events this time last year, in March I introduced Cardiff SEO Meet. We had our first event in May, and we’ve run two more since then: one in August and one in November.

A while back in a post on State of Digital, I argued that running events is a good way to get inbound links, which can help on the SEO front. Running the event has been a good way to practice what I preach – and not only has it helped in gaining links, it’s helped in numerous other ways, too.

The benefits of running a local meetup

In this post I wanted to talk about what Cardiff SEO Meet has achieved so far (links or otherwise), and tease potential future plans…

It’s helped me to get links

When I launched the meetup, a couple of local publications covered it:

TD screenshot
In addition to linking to Cardiff SEO Meet’s Meetup group page, they linked to MOM (my freelance site) as well – a nice added bonus, which I wasn’t expecting. Even if they’d only linked to the former, it links to the latter, so I would’ve got some ‘link juice’ anyhow. But a direct link was even better.

At least I wasn’t talking rubbish in my StOD post eh? Hehe.

It’s helped me to meet potential clients

Another pleasant off-shoot of announcing the meetup: someone I knew at my office location (not a part of Welsh ICE, but based in the same building) got in touch saying that they saw me announce it, that they didn’t realise I was an SEO, and that they’d like to have a chat. So simply announcing the event got interest from a potential client. Nothing came of it immediately unfortunately, but we’ve kept in touch, so something could come of it in the future – “never say never,” as they say. They’re a pretty sizeable, £1M+ turnover business, so a nice client if it does come on-board.

It’s resulted in a potential shadowing/secondment opportunity

For a while now I’ve considered hiring staff and growing MOM into a full-on SEO agency. I’d been considering a few options – such as Jobs Growth Wales, GO Wales, etc. – when a low risk, dip-your-toe-in-the-water opportunity came up. One of the attendees of the first few meetups is a junior SEO working in-house for a local company, and he suggested shadowing me. It’s win-win: he learns more SEO tricks of the trade from a more experienced SEO (and takes that back to his employer), while I get a taste of being an employer. It’s still in-the-works but we’re hoping to work something out early next year.

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