BrightonSEO: Building SEO Tools Using APIs - Workshop Review
Thursday the 13th of September was a day of learning in the digital marketing world; over one hundred people from a variety of backgrounds descended upon Brighton Dome to attend day one of BrightonSEO, where a number of digital marketing workshops were being taught by some of the leading industry experts. Topics of the digital marketing workshops covered a wide range of skills vital for a digital marketers toolbox, these included:
- Advanced Google Analytics -
- Advanced Link Building -
- Microformats & Rich Snippets -
- Content Strategy and Marketing -
- Building SEO tools using APIs -
Mr. Dom helping us dive head first into using APIs
The course I attended was building SEO tools using APIs conducted by Dom Hodgson. The reason for me wishing to take the course is largely down to a matter of efficiency; online marketers will be familiar with the creation of seemingly endless reports for their clients, many of which will be done in a very manual and labour intensive way. In marketing we work in a services industry, this means time is money, therefore ways to reduce labourious reporting can increase efficiency, freeing up time and therefore increasing potential billable time. APIs are increasingly becoming a popular way to assist us with approaching reporting utopia, however many are scared of the initial investment in developing reporting tools and are resistant to change, they therefore just amble along with ‘the way it’s always been done’. If this sounds familiar to you, then this needs to change. Numerous sites offer APIs, including:
- Google Analytics
- Google AdWords
- And many, many more…
Intelligent use of these tools can help a number of your SEO efforts, primarily with regard to:
- Linkbuilding & Outreach
- Competitive Analysis
Dom made it clear from the beginning that we were not going to cover:
- 'Best practice coding'
- Long term solutions
- How to build Facebook
He bookended this with saying that this day was focused on getting things done to save us time; not to build the new Facebook or search engine, therefore the code will not be pretty but it will be functional. He did say what we were going to cover, which included:
- MajesticSEO API
- Social Counts API
- Bing API
During the session we were primarily focused on using the MajesticSEO API to pull SEO link data, however by the end of the day we also went on to use the APIs from: Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, Pinterest, StumbleUpon and Google+ (!) to pull in social share figures. MajesticSEO (one of BrightonSEO’s headline sponsors) kindly gave each member of the class a voucher that entitled us to a month's worth of platinum access (worth £250!).
The members of the group was representative of how broad the level of interest [requirement] for learning how to use APIs were, with:
- A digital insights manager from SiteVisibility
- A member of the SEOptimise team
- In-house SEO from Lensstore.co.uk
- SEO project manager for an e-commerce site
- In-house SEO manager for DirectLine Group
- In-house SEO for TUI Holidays
- Individual from Direct.gov government digital services
- And myself an agency side SEO manager
The class was fast-paced and very hands-on (which I really enjoyed) although this didn't mean that Dom wasn’t able to help out those that were stuck nor that the class members couldn't speak up if they were stuck or falling behind.
Why learn about using APIs?
Dom made it clear during the class that it upsets him the amount of SEOs that don't have their own websites, to quote "there are too many people that think reading SEOMoz is enough, but it's not this is just other people talking about their testing, people should be testing themselves".
He highlighted that as SEOs we're reliant on other companies and people (particularly Google and Bing) and for many people there's no back up plan. We should be looking to be more hands-on, such as by using APIs, trying your hand at coding or even just setting up a basic blog, all of these examples show that we should be testing and playing with things ourselves.
During the day we were mainly using PHP to build our SEO tool, you may wonder why (and I even asked why!). Simply put, Dom explained that PHP is an “easy and accessible” language; it’s one of the reasons why it’s so popular. Should you have a problem or an error message then just Google it (seriously!) most problems that you come across have been solved by people before and these people publish the solutions on the Internet, specifically try:
- PHP.net/[any function] – This will link to a page with a full example of its use and comments from people who have used it, essentially they've already built what you need!
- StackOverflow.com is a great resource
- As is Snipplr
Now I know it isn’t pretty, but remember I was warned it wouldn’t be, however what we managed to achieve was create a SEO research tool that when you entered your keywords it would show you:
- No. of backlinks (using MajesticSEO data)
- StumbleUpon shares
- Twitter mentions
- Facebook shares
- Pinterest pins
- LinkedIn shared
- Google +1s
For the top ranking domains for that keyword, or in other words a potentially very useful SEO tool.
Reasons why you should attend a BrightonSEO Training Workshop
All of the people that I managed to speak to on the day spoke very highly of the workshops, saying that they were very useful and most of all were very hands-on, something that is often missed out on in other more theoretical courses. This is a very important aspect of online marketing courses in my opinion, there is a plethora available nowadays however it’s very common to see people talking the talk, and far rarer is it that these people can actually walk the walk.
I found the day hugely helpful and would have absolutely no reservations about recommending anybody looking to get serious about vitally important aspects of online marketing to consider them. Need more convincing? BrightonSEO workshops are great because:
- The classes are a relaxed format and no question you ask will be stupid!
- They are attended by a complete variety of skill levels (you won’t be alone if the topic is completely new to you!)
- They are taught by some of the biggest names in the business
- Plus, you get a free lunch and the ability to network with fantastic individuals
Keep an eye out for next years BrightonSEO, I can’t recommend attending a BrightonSEO Training Workshop event enough.
I’d love to hear your feedback on this, did you attend one of the BrightonSEO training workshops? What was your impression? After reading this are you thinking about attending one in the future?
Ned currently works as an SEO Manager at Quirk London.
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