Website optimisation | 25/09/2017

Brighton SEO: Lawrence’s Big Day Out

Posted by Lawrence Greenlee

I would be lying if I said I hadn’t spent the run up to the 15th September geeking out about going to Brighton SEO. My boyfriend called it “cute” on Monday and “down right irritating” by Thursday.

So, I went to Brighton SEO with my carefully selected itinerary for the day in one hand, lanyard round my neck and a notebook and a pen tucked into my bag. I wrote over ten pages of notes, including actionable plans, which I was going to start implementing for clients on Monday.

Here are a few things I learnt on the day

Google Tag Manager – literally the coolest tool ever

Sebastian Monier’s (Woptimo) talk on Google Tag Manager was my favourite talk of the day. Who doesn’t love the apparent endless functionality of Google Tag Manager? I had already used it with Google Analytics event and conversion tracking. You may have seen me tweeting about it. Extensively tweeting.

What I had not considered is that Google Tag Manager is a JavaScript injector. JavaScript affects how pages render and can alter HTML. This means it is possible, with a little bit of Sebastian Monier’s Java-know-how, to insert crucial SEO-priority HTML tags into pages. This includes meta robot tags and page titles – something not every CMS includes as a basic functionality.

HTTPS – everyone was talking about it

I went to several talks that brought up HTTPS ranking boosts, but the most thorough was Aysun Akarsu’s (Searchdataology) on migrating to HTTPS.

The key thing that came up was that SSL – a certificate associated with a HTTPS protocol – is now vulnerable to interception. TLS – a form of elliptic curve cryptography – is now considered the most secure.

What also interested me in this talk is that 60% of top sites now have a HTTPS version. It has only been recent that these sites have begun migrating to HTTPS. Google were the first to migrate, in early 2012, but Amazon were as late to the party as 2016. For an ecommerce giant, I found it surprising that the site was moved so late in the day.

Some choice quotes on Googlebot

My favourite quote of the day was “Googlebot will get where water can’t.” Once a URL is in Google’s index, it is difficult to get it out. Dawn Anderson’s (Move It Marketing) talk covered how Google will queue URLs that do not return a 200-http status code (like broken and temporarily redirected URLs).

“Cool URIs don’t change”, from Sir Tim Berners-Lee, is more applicable now than it was in 1998. In a world of link sharing on social media, user-readable links are more likely to be shared. Organically shared content is a huge ranking factor – so avoiding the ‘cruft’ of dynamic parameters, mobile versions and unnecessary parameters could result in better engagement.

This talk also mentioned the power of the 410 – the 301 version of saying that something is permanently gone, to Googlebot.

Gary from Google

Gary’s keynote at the end of the day made sticking around on a Friday very worth it. It covered a few of Google’s developments, personalisation, the mobile-first index and the frequency of Google updates.

Gary used an example to explain how a user’s click-through-rate affected what they saw in organic search results. “Python” – the programming language or the snake – could serve up very different results. Gary claimed that ‘within a few clicks’, the algorithm would have learnt a user’s preference.

This made me consider that similar technology could streamline voice searches using homonyms. Jeans versus genes, margarita pizza versus margarita cocktails or morning versus mourning. Particularly in searches where context does not provide a distinction: “OK Google! Where’s the best place for margaritas in town?”

There was also some discussion about AI and search – RankBrain being the main Google tech that uses it. Gary pointed out that AI won’t apply to every search. Facts cannot change with machine learning and 1 + 1 will always equal 2, no matter how much dodgy algebra you do.

Safe to say I had a wonderful day. If you want to get in touch with the Cobb Digital SEO team and learn more about what we saw at Brighton SEO, you are more than welcome!