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Well, SearchLeeds 2019 is over and it was worth the wait! For those unaware of what it is, it’s the biggest Search Marketing conference in the North of England. Over the course of the day, dozens of 25-minute talks were given by industry experts on all manner of subjects.

These subjects included SEO, conversion optimisation and user experience, paid media and analytics. Agency51 were in attendance this year and we learned a lot. Here is a summary of our main takeaways;

Table Of Contents

  1. Killer CRO Tips Using An SEO Web Crawler – Luke Carthy
  2. Why Most SEO Audits Are **** – Bastian Grimm
  3. The Business Value of SEO – Jennifer Hoffman
  4. Intent Optimisation: Why It Matters and How It Can Improve Your SEO Results – Rory Truesdale
  5. Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Data Says – Samantha Noble
  6. Machine Learning for SEOs – Britney Muller
  7. The SEO Bullsh*t Battle – Various

Killer CRO Tips Using An SEO Web Crawler – Luke Carthy

Luke’s talk was one of the first of the day and it was a great one to start with. In it, he detailed a method of utilising custom extraction features within crawling tools. This was used to analyse Best Buy’s internal search URLs for indexable, no results found pages (bad for SEO!) and categories with solitary products that could be consolidated into others. He did this by identifying the auto-generated headings within the fully rendered HTML of the pages, and using that as a custom filter.

He also mentioned the excellent value to be had from gathering competitive intelligence on competing sites by crawling them for product, pricing and review data at scale. This adds great value to any business looking to compare their own prices against competitors without paying for expensive data. We have covered something similar before on the 51 blog (that post is located here) and it’s worth reinforcing just how useful it can be.

Main takeaway:

Be creative with the data that can be extracted from web pages. You may be surprised at the information available!

Why Most SEO Audits Are **** – Bastian Grimm

Bastian gave a straight-to-the point, practical examination of why most SEO audits fail at what they ultimately try to achieve. He split this out into 3 parts:

  1. The wrong format – many audits are either very long documents that won’t always be read to the end or are not laid out in a user-friendly way. Common mistakes include no index for the document, spelling and grammar errors and exports from tools being used as audits.
  2. Looking at symptoms, not causes – according to Bastian, many audits simply state that there is a problem with the site. The example he gave was that of duplicate title tags being produced. Many audits are simply stating the fact, and not trying to understand why it is happening.
  3. No proritisation – a large number of audits simply list all the things ‘wrong’ with a site without considering business objectives. This can be a problem when clients have limited development resources available.

He then went on to talk about the most important audit items for ecommerce sites (e.g. handling product variants, filtered navigation and dealing with out of stock products), news sites (e.g. getting articles indexed, dealing with content quality,duplication and tags) and items applicable to sites in all industries. Overall a very useful talk!

Bastian Grimm SEO Audit talk

Main takeaway:

Bastian recommended the following to make audits more useful:

  • Ensure audits are formatted correctly and for the right people. For example, a marketing manager would be more likely to read through a detailed document, whereas a top-level executive will most likely concentrate on an executive summary.
  • Identify what the root causes of site issues are and provide a solution. In the page title example above, this was being caused by the content management system (CMS) substituting a template when the title was empty. The solution was to create a new template for the system and to hand-write titles for the 100 most important pages.
  • For prioritisation, use data (e.g. log files, Search Console, Google Analytics),if possible, to help order and validate which order tasks should be carried out in.

 

The Business Value of SEO-Jennifer Hoffman

Jennifer’s talk came from the perspective of a marketing manager on both sides of the client/agency spectrum.  As such, she had some interesting insights on how agencies and clients could work best together. Her 3 main areas where she recommended action were:

  • Be customer-focused
  • Use business impact metrics
  • Be friendly with developers

Takeaway – Be customer focused. Consider the customer experience and the user experience.

Jennifer highlighted some of the most important aspects that customers expect from a site to have a great shopping experience. These included:

  • Page speed
  • Items are easy to find (e.g. a good site navigation)
  • The content fits well to the device screen
  • Simplicity
  • Attractive design

Takeaway – Use business impact metrics

One good example given to illustrate this was the revenue loss tool provided on the Google developers site. This essentially takes a domain’s order value, conversion rate, page speed and traffic, and then estimates how much revenue is being left on the table by slow page speed – Great for making a case to a client about the ROI benefits of page speed.

Takeaway – Be friendly with developers

Understanding the work and workflow of developers (alongside taking them out for a beer!) is often an effective way to build trust and likability between teams which can greatly help with productivity.

Intent Optimisation: Why It Matters and How It Can Improve Your SEO Results – Rory Truesdale

Unfortunately we only caught the end of this talk, but Rory revealed an ingenious way of scanning the search results pages and then using natural language analysis to determine where Google had rewritten titles and meta-descriptions. This can provide great insight into the keywords and areas of documents that Google feels are important to users. We’ll definitely be looking at the slides from this one!

Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Data Says – Samantha Noble

Sam is a self-confessed Google Data Studio addict and her talk showed that off in a good way! The customisability of Data Studio, as well as the wide variety of connectors available, essentially means that marketers can build dashboards for almost any possible scenario (all of which update in real-time). This can not only save large amounts of time, but also allow them to provide better reporting, such as assessing on the value of Mailchimp campaigns and looking at the PPC auction data of competitors.

Samantha Noble SearchLeeds

Main Takeaway:

Manual reporting may be necessary for some items, but the time-saving possibilities for routine reporting shouldn’t be ignored!

Machine Learning for SEOs – Britney Muller

Coming all the way from The States for SearchLeeds was Britney Muller from Moz. She gave an entertaining talk on the applications of machine learning for SEO and detailed some of her efforts with applying it through experimentation. Machine learning, in simple terms, is teaching a computer program to do something specific by ‘training’ it with data and, as such, can be very useful when it comes to automating tasks.

Britney Muller SearchLeeds talk

Examples of how it could be used include the writing of meta-descriptions or the automation of 301 redirects (both of which have been worked on by Paul Shapiro in the past). Also, Wordlift has written about using it to analyse which low click-through-rate pages of a given site would benefit from being worked on, and Searchviu has written about predicting rankings using Python (through asking the model to look at whether the keyword is in the title, URL etc)

Main Takeaway:

For those interested in getting started with machine learning, Tensorflow for Poets and Google Codelabs were cited as useful sources. When using machine learning, the  general principles below are useful to bear in mind when doing SEO or anything else!

  • Use clean, quality data, and preferably a lot of it, to give the model plenty to work with
  • Split-test data to avoid over-fitting (otherwise know as back-fitting)

The SEO Bullsh*t Battle – Various

And last, but not least, there was the ‘SEO Bullsh*t Battle’ which provided an amusing end to the day. The topics debated included the Search Community’s thoughts on the ‘SEO Twittersphere’ as well as whether the Google Organic or Paid Search specialists were the best to listen to about changes within the industry.

We are looking forward to making use of the additional knowledge that we gained from SearchLeeds at Agency51, if you have any questions about the event and what we thought of it, please let us know. Here’s to the 2020 event!

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Ben Henderson

Ben Henderson

Ben Henderson is a SEO specialist at Agency51, and enjoys working on and writing about all aspects of technical SEO for a wide variety of websites and industries.

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