Andrew Cock-Starkey (aka Andrew Optimisey) started to hold small conferences at a local college to help inform some of the local businesses of the best standards for digital marketing and search engine optimization. But that small college was Cambridge and you would not believe who came to speak there. Free pizza and beer didn’t hold a candle to the top-level thought leaders sharing their craft. This is our SEO community and Andrew Optimisey may have just shown us how to get together again after 16 months of shutdown. Small, hybrid, tactical SEO conferences. That’s the play here on EDGE of the Web.

[00:07:41] The Cambridge events: Getting smart people to come and share.

[00:09:47] SEO thought leaders who have spoken at the Cambridge events.

[00:13:43] The SEO industry giving back, caring and sharing.  Is it unique among industries?

[00:16:43] A Cambridge virtual event just won’t cut it.

[00:00:00] Are small conferences the future for our industry?

The Experience and Background of Andrew “Optimisey” Cock-Starkey

Andrew Cock-Starkey, commonly known by his brand Optimisey, is an SEO consultant from the UK. Andrew is the founder of Optimisey, an SEO consulting company based in Cambridge, which he started about two years ago. Andrew is known for a series of SEO events that he coordinated at Cambridge, the school he attended. 

Andrew fell into SEO later in his life. He got his degree in Media from Cambridge, where he studied to be a journalist. He then worked at BBC, working on BBC Sports. Andrew came to notice that traffic on the Sports site would jump when the headline for a particular article would be changed or rearranged throughout the day. The story would stay the same, but the headline would bring more traffic. It was through this realization that he was introduced to SEO and its capabilities.  

A Deeper Look at the Cambridge Events 

The series of SEO events at Cambridge, dubbed The Cambridge SEO Meetup, began in 2018. Andrew ran these live events himself, which were completely free to the public. He started doing these while working in-house with a digital marketing team before he turned freelance. He found himself advising friends and answering questions about content and SEO from running their businesses and page. It was through this that he got the idea to host these events. 

Andrew wanted an event that allowed people to get more informed about SEO, the industry, and marketing in general. He wanted to give people a how-to when putting themselves and their business onto the web. His primary motivation was to help the surrounding community understand the SEO industry more and do things better.   

Andrew was able to bring on some top list speakers, some traveling from far away just to come to speak. He explains that he considers himself ridiculously lucky to have gotten the speakers he has been able to reach for the events. While providing free pizza and beer to those who attended the events, courtesy of local businesses, brought in event attendees, he knows that the major draw for most was the SEO-knowledgeable speakers.  

What’s Unique About the SEO Industry

One thing that Andrew touches on is the unique characteristic within the SEO industry of giving back. The people of the SEO industry are always eager to give back, educate, and help others learn the ropes and fix their issues. Andrews says that he finds the number of people willing to give information out for free amazing. Knowledgeable people tend to gate-keep their insight, but that isn’t the case within this industry. He genuinely loves the generosity of the SEO industry. 

Why a Virtual Event Won’t Cut it

Andrew is eager to bring back events as soon as it’s safe. He recounts his having to pull the plug on his last event, which was planned for March 2020. He wanted to prioritize people’s health and hadn’t anticipated things to be pushed off for so long. Due to how long it’s been since an event, Andrew has been tempted to dip into virtual events. However, he thinks that one of the more unique aspects of his events is the fact that he is bringing these speakers into Cambridge. With a virtual event, he loses that aspect. He loves the fact that he gives people the ability to see a speaker and then have the opportunity to comment by getting a beer or some pizza with the speaker after. He sees his events as an exceptional experience that can’t be recreated virtually. 

What the Future Holds for SEO Events

During the podcast, Andrew is prompted with a question: “What does the future hold for meetups, learning, and in-person events?” Andrew claims that nothing provides a better connection than a direct-human connection. He’s participated in virtual meetups himself and admits there are some significant aspects to them. One of these aspects being Zoom break-out rooms, which provide a similar idea to his events’ providing the opportunity for people to ask questions and create discussion. Andrew says that no matter what, these events show people that others are having the same issues that they are having. However, he still states that virtual is not quite the same. 

Andrew compares virtual meetups to something he did with his Cambridge events. He brought on a videographer to videotape his events, which he then uploaded to his YouTube. This allowed people who couldn’t make it to the event to watch it. He follows up that while the events are great to watch, you still miss out on the in-person discussion. Andrew admits that virtual events are easy to attend. You don’t have to spend money on a flight or any travel; you can just wake up and essentially attend an event.  

When asked about the hybrid model for events, Andrew says that there are benefits to it, especially since he doesn’t see any large meeting in the foreseeable future. 

He says that hybrid events were a bit of a thing before the pandemic. He does assert, however, that hybrid events can be draining for the event coordinators. You essentially have to do multiple things at once, ensuring that the people tuning in virtually and the people there in person are getting a good experience. While it is gaining traction, it can be expensive for those running smaller events. At the same time, it can be difficult for large events because of its coordination on a massive scale. 

Andrew points out that this time has focused people’s minds on how vital their websites can be. Among his clients, he says he is surprised by how many businesses don’t google themselves or have any idea where they are within the search engine rank. He accepts that he is a digital native, so it’s common for him to rely on digital marketing, but he wants people to see how important a website is to improve a business overall.