Our Top Seven Takeaways From Brighton SEO, September 2017
One of the industries recurring events, Brighton SEO has just finished, and if you happened to miss the September SEO conference in the picturesque seaside resort of Brighton, then don’t worry as we’ve got you covered. We made the trek to the bi-annual SEO event and after going through the countless talks, digesting all the detail, we have created a round-up of the most important SEO topics and themes discussed at the show.
Are you eager to find out about what was the main theme of the talks at the event? Was there anything new discussed there that affects you as a business or new changes that will change the SEO landscape in 2018? Let’s delve further to find out if the event answered these key concerns.
Main theme: Technical SEO
Technical SEO was strongly represented as a core underlying SEO theme, as we found in our April visit earlier in the year. Over 70% of the talks were about technical, even talks that were headlined as something else were very tech heavy. This trend was foreseen by us a few years back and a lot of agencies out there keep pushing the whole content is king spiel. Content is still very important but ensuring you have the correct website foundations is more important (why would you spend your marketing resource on creating content led links and drive traffic to a site that has technical issues?).
This is why here at Infinity Nation, technical SEO has been the focus for us for over 3 years and a core part of our SEO strategy to make sure our clients businesses have the right foundations in place on which to build and grow upon.
Working with a large number of ecommerce businesses, it is key that technical SEO is enhanced. This is to make sure your site can be crawled and indexed within Google, you have addressed content duplication issues and to make sure your site can be easily navigated by your customer (and Google).
At a bare minimum in-house teams at brands should have a constant eye on their Google Search Console and be carrying out micro SEO audits (making sure meta data is optimised, no 404 errors/broken pages and that Google can index/crawl your site) every month to make sure there are no website issues holding back SEO performance.
Did you know? Over 80% of all the ecommerce sites we audit on a monthly basis have duplicate content still in 2017? We recently created a SEO whitepaper on our top 5 SEO fixes for ecommerce sites that highlights this as a key issue you need to be aware of when optimising your online store for search engines.
Voice search continues to rise
Part of a fast-growing trend and again a focus of the April event. We reviewed the subject of voice search in more detail at the start of the year, specifically on how voice search affects your business. But it’s worth reiterating, 37% of UK smartphone users surveyed use voice technology of some kind at least once a month, and 18% use it weekly. That’s nearly a fifth of smartphone users, so you really want to make sure that your site is fully optimised to allow search engines to crawl over it when people use voice search.
As a technology that is slowly being more widely adopted as more tech companies develop their own solutions to Home AI devices, we can expect voice search to play a more integral part to play in ecommerce performance in the years to come. This year has seen the UK release of Google Home as well as the official announcement of the Apple HomePod, if we could predict something we expect to see at both of Brighton SEO’s 2018 shows it would be the continuing rise of voice search.
Make sure your link profile is clean and adds value
Penguin 4.0 changed the link landscape. With the real-time update placed within the algorithm backlink profiles are now on constant monitoring every month. Whitehat SEO practices with reputable companies are now industry standard, however brands can be attacked by negative SEO attacks (high spam and toxic links) that can see a website penalised through no fault of their own.
The keynote speaker at the event was Google’s Gary Illyes, and he has confirmed that there are even more algorithm updates on the way, mainly under the label of Fred (webmaster guidelines). Fred has been around since April 2017 and was discussed in detail at the April conference. Fred isn’t just one algorithm on its own, it’s actually multiple algorithms, which are designed to penalise sites with dodgy links and content. Therefore, constant evaluation of your profile is key and also older websites that tend to have dubious link profiles should keep on cleaning them as a lot of old sites (3-5 years ago) have started to be deindexed. Such sites need to be disavowed to ensure a stable link profile with no penalties.
There are many tools out there to check your backlink profiles, the free ones have a smaller index so paid versions should always be used. A professional should review your profile as you may end up removing links that could affect your rankings and traffic, so care needs to be taken when evaluating and altering your own link profile if you have less experience in this.
Crawl budget and indexing is key for SEO success
Talks on this subject matter have dominated SEO for over 24 months and still agencies are not addressing these areas. The main reason? Many SEO companies are too content creation heavy and have taken their eye off technical SEO as a result. Crawl budget is so important, if Google is crawling pages on your site that have little to no value to you as a business, then these pages have little value to Google to index.
These pages create crawl bloat and means that Google is not crawling your site efficiently, which leads to pages not being updated quickly enough, ranks not increasing and ranking positions remaining static.
A brand only wants to get pages indexed that add value to the customer, Google and the business bottom line. So many ecommerce sites still have pages indexed that shouldn’t be (duplicate content, sorting, filters and pagination).
Also as another concern a lot of ecommerce brands tend to overuse canonicalisation, this means that pages that could be unique in Google’s eyes are kept out of the index through the excessive use of canonicals. A canonical should only be used on pages that are “substantially the same”, if a page is different, then it needs to be indexed. The more pages indexed the more visibility for key pages on the site and the potential to drive further converting targeted traffic.
As a part of our on-going SEO strategy we regularly review server log files and crawl all areas of the site (internal, external and search engine results) to make sure we have all the data at hand to make the most informed decisions for a brand.
Mobile First Index is coming in 2018 – are you ready?
As a growing part of mobile optimisation within Google, Mobile First Indexing was part of the talk in April and again during the September event. Although not a large part of the discussions it still features heavily in upcoming key SEO areas to keep an eye on.
The Mobile First Indexing is an evolution of the so-called “mobilegeddeon” from April 2015 as part of an on-going evolution for mobile customers, the update was a way to ensure websites all up-to-date in relation to the mobile requirements Google has placed on sites over the past few years.
MFI has been muted since 2016 and has started to roll-out and the mobile search interface has changed over the years, the lean towards responsive sites is now a lot more embraced by brands, however some mobile sites could be affected by the MFI in relation to SEO.
How does MFI affect SEO? Does the above fold section of your mobile site load quicker than 1 second? Do your desktop site and mobile site have different link structures/information/buttons? Is your mobile site lacking content that is visible on your desktop version? If you answer yes to any of the above then you may be devoured in the mobile index by Google.
Over the next few months we will delve deeper into MFI as there is a lot to write about the subject that we cannot do justice to the update within a few paragraphs.
Keyword research has evolved
Keyword research is one of the most constant evolving areas of SEO. As Google updates its algorithms this means that the terms to optimise for have been changing over the past 5 years. The old traditional way of keyword research has long gone and now it is more about relevance, searcher intent and theme modelling for a particular page/product offering.
The old SEO method of targeting one head term keyword is now obsolete. Over 85% of all searches done in Google are now “long-tail” and contain a word query search of 4-6 words.
This was addressed at the event and there was a few talks about “advanced keyword research”. These talks mainly looked at keyword research at a tool level, but also reinforced something which we have been focusing on for a few years – different keywords for different use.
This means that a brands category page needs a specific keyword set, whereas a blog content would be targeting different terms. Content for blogs should be funnel terms and target users at every part of the funnel (top, middle and bottom). All of these funnel areas require different key-terms even if they were targeting the same seed keyword:
Keyword: Hotpoint Washing Machine
Top: Why whirlpool washing machine drum doesn’t turn on rinse cycle?
Middle: Hotpoint washing machine vs whirlpool
Bottom: Hotpoint washing machine online
This example is quite basic but it covers all areas of the buying funnel: awareness, confidence and action (or the classic marketing model Awareness Interest Desire and Action – AIDA).
The best keyword strategy is to diversify and make sure you choose the right keywords for the right use.
Big PR content campaigns, get links
Content is still very much king in the link building world, especially if you have large hero campaigns backed by PR. These campaigns have dominated the industry over the past years and they get very high tier links, however these campaigns are not for everybody and not every business can focus on this area for links.
These campaigns (such as the ones showcased at Brighton SEO) would require a large investment – creative, PR campaigns and constant outreach. These campaigns can take in excess of 120 hours to complete and can cost up-to £20,000 so the investment has to warrant the return. Which in many cases (especially from an SEO POV) cannot be quantified or justified in the short-term.
If you have the budget then by all means look at these campaigns but their ROI is usually very low and they are mainly a “status campaign” with a focus on a wider brand awareness angle.
However, you do not need a substantial budget to get traction with content led PR campaigns but your idea has to be outstanding, the execution has to be the highest it can and companies need to invest the right level of resource and full team buy in to achieve a successful outcome.
As mentioned over 2 years ago, SEO’s and PR’s need to work a lot closer together to maximise the potential to grow your businesses, PR’s get coverage and SEO’s require high authority links. All parties need to be working towards the same company goals.
PR also serves all digital channels, by increasing the brand awareness and brand traffic this can boost multi-channels – online and offline revenue generation.
Overall Brighton SEO offered few surprises this September, as many high-level SEO’s will agree the theme was the gentle push to remind ecommerce companies that content is not the catch all solution to achieving sustainable organic traffic to a site, and more importantly that technical SEO is the true measure of a sites long term success.
Ensuring a multifaceted approach to your company is essential, while many companies are already keenly aware of the power of content it is plain to see, from an agency perspective, that a great deal of sites are ignorant to the limitations of this without the other core areas of SEO. Committing to removing the fear of working on the technical side of an ecommerce site is going to separate the attendees of this year’s conference between those that stagnate and those that progress.
Whilst we always thoroughly enjoy the conference itself, it must be said that relying solely on Brighton SEO’s speakers is likely not the solution to your website’s health issues. As with April’s talks we found many to be a little too focussed on selling tools and not on giving insights that translate into actionable tips for entry level SEOs. While we at Infinity Nation use some of these tools daily, to great effect, it goes without saying if you are a smaller business you don’t want massive monthly overheads for tools that are not strictly necessary for doing a good job on your site.
Despite the fact technical SEO is often put on a pedestal as a mythical, impossible part of SEO as we have seen with this year’s talks it is one of the most worthwhile investments in your businesses development. We recommend if you are in doubt about how technically sound your website is to work with experts to ensure a defined plan for the future, popular conference topics such as crawl budget and advanced keyword research are rarely translatable into actionable tasks without a great deal of expertise to guide your business.
If you have any questions about ensuring your company is entering this more technical era of SEO with a solid foundation, or if you are conscious of the clear focus on mobile optimisation or the upcoming age of voice search, then get in contact with us today.
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