Search Elite: My Top 3 Talks

I recently attended the first ever Search Elite conference over at London’s Old Street. A conference comprising eight 40-minute learning sessions on everything from SEO automation to saving money on PPC.

I’m one of those people who likes to write everything down so I ended up taking 16 pages of notes (yep, 16!), Instead of going over them all, I’ve chosen my top three talks of the day. Somehow, this post is still pretty long, but if you make it to the end I’m 99.99% sure you’ll learn at least one thing.

1. Unlocking Performance – Beyond AMP

Jono Alderson

We all know AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages) has become a pretty big deal in the last few months, but is it the be all and end all? Jono doesn’t think so.

AMP is great but it has its drawbacks, such as once you’re in the AMP Project ecosystem it’s very hard to get out or guarantee removal of content when you change your website. Even if you actively remove pages via your AMP cache, Google may just decide to ignore you and put them back in again, thus potentially serving users out of date content and therefore producing a bad user experience.

Add to this the fact that AMP might be replaced by something else in future, it’s a good idea to look at the separate components and understand how each can help your site.

Here are Jono’s top ways to improve site speed without using AMP:

  • Get your website on HTTPS (and if you haven’t already there are so many more reasons why you must before the year is out)
  • If you’re on HTTPS, make sure you’re employing HTTP/2 otherwise you’ve slowed your website down. HTTP/2 can load items via multiplexing, rather than via the waterfall system of HTTP.
  • Make sure your CSS is mobile first (everything mobile first!)
  • Manage responsive images using the srcset attribute if you’re only changing resolutions, and let the browser decide what size image is best to serve depending on screen size
  • Serve WebP images rather than JPG or PNG
  • Correct any errors in your code which will slow down load times
  • Stop the bad habits we’ve all been taught or told by page speed tools, such as domain sharing and combining resources (not all pages will need to load all resources)
  • Look at AngularJS
  • Optimise your server configuration, e.g. tweak Timeout, KeepAlive, MaxClients
  • Identify resource drains and page performance using cPanel, WHM VPS Optimised, and Apache Status
  • Employ the preload, prefetch, prerender and subresource tags
  • Use CDN’s
  • Consider ‘above the fold’ (critical resource) loading – although be aware it’s not easy to cache

If this sounds a bit tech-heavy for you, there are lots of other companies that have their own AMP ecosystems that aren’t part of the AMP project, such as Cloudflare, which we love at Branded3.


2. Using and abusing GTM, WordPress and other tools to ‘hack’ SEO onto enterprise sites

Gerry White

Remember the dinosaur in a hat that appeared on the Vogue website when you typed the Konami Code, way back in 2013? (↑ ↑ ↓ ← → ← → B A)

Added using a simple JQuery plugin, this is just one example of the awesome things you can ‘hack-on’ to a website without having to wait in lengthy development queues.

OK, so dinosaurs in hats won’t help your website performance, but this segued to some genuinely useful things you can test for performance purposes, even if you don’t have access to the actual code of a website.

You can do this is by using Google Tag Manager to manipulate the DOM (Document Object Model) of a page or set of pages. Tests you can run include bulk fixing title tags and meta data, A/B testing of said meta data, and cleaning up website DUST (Different URLs Similar Text) by amending or adding canonical tags. You can even use it to dynamically generate JSON-LD tags so you can add structured data to your website.

What’s interesting is that I had this conversation with another of our strategists a few weeks ago. Adam Gent is a huge fan of this method and talked about it at Figaro Digital last year. He’s run various tests for clients around meta data and canonical tags, and has seen some excellent results so far. I’m sure he promised a blog post soon…


3. Don’t waste money buying traffic

Jim Banks

Apparently, the title of this talk caused a bit of controversy on Twitter before the event, but what Jim had to say made a lot of sense. He didn’t actually tell us not to use PPC, but instead how to get the most out of what the tools offer to make your paid activity more cost effective – and potentially even to benefit your non-paid campaigns.

Jim’s Ten Takeaways (there were more, but these were his favourites)

  1. Use value track parameters on all campaign URLs. Not just utm source and the regulars but also:
  • Campaign ID
  • Ad group ID
  • Match type
  • Keyword
  • Device
  • Location of ad served
  • Network

The caveat here is that you should set up another analytics profile so that this information doesn’t feed into your main profile

  1. Use Big Data – analyse it, find patterns and trends, and feed it back into your campaigns (both PPC or otherwise)
  2. Utilise Facebook Analytics – you don’t need to advertise on Facebook to get this but it offers incredible insights and can help you to build audience personas. Simply add the Facebook pixel to your website.
  3. Google Tabs & Labs – use the Audience tab in Google AdWords, and get yourself access to BETAs in Google Labs

5. Create audiences based on:

  • Include
  • Exclude
  • Behaviours
  • Events
  • Remarketing
  1. Labels – label up your campaigns in Google AdWords
  2. Capitalise on “dumb” competitors – keep an eye out for competitors who aren’t paying attention to their adverts; for example, a bed company advertising their winter sale in late spring. Use this to your advantage and try to gain some of their traffic through carefully crafted ads.
  3. Implement cross-device tracking – think mobile isn’t working too well? It might actually be ‘assisting’ lots of your conversions
  4. Use Dynamic Search Ads – but be careful and make sure they’re set up correctly
  5. Don’t ignore Bing – they have arrangements with AOL, Skype, Firefox, Windows 10, Yahoo and Gumtree so there are lots of places to advertise
    • A couple of things to remember…
      1. Don’t import your campaigns from Google and just leave it
      2. Don’t assume match types are the same

Gerry helps to organise Take It Offline – there’s a Take It Offline session on mobile SEO coming up in Leeds on 27th July which is free to attend, tickets are here:

And we’re finished. Well done, you made it!



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