The first SEO event on the schedule for 2020 was to attend LondonSEOMeetup at TechUK which was held by Blue Array. Although it was their first London event, they also hold regular events as part of ReadingSEO Meetup.
Areej AbuAli : BigQuery & SQL for SEOs
Areej AbuAli was first up with her talk on BigQuery & SQL. She is SEO Manager at Zoopla and founder of Women in Tech SEO, a global community aimed for women in the Technical SEO field (as a side note, I’m ridiculously excited to be attending the first Women in Tech SEO conference in March). As well as being so knowledgeable, Areej is also really helpful, supportive and refreshingly honest.
I’d really recommend catching up on her other talks, in particular, listening to the Open Dialog podcast where she explains the challenges of getting technical actions implemented and the switch from working in an agency to going in-house at Zoopla.
Her talk was about BigQuery & SQL which she began using 5 months ago when she began at Zoopla. This was due to the massive amount of data that the website has (over 35,000,000 indexed pages!) and using GA out of the box just wasn’t going to work.
As Areej simply put it, BigQuery lets you analyse massive datasets quickly and easily using SQL. It’s cloud-based, has unlimited access to historical data, pay as you go and is simple to set up. SQL (Structured Query Language) is a language used for extracting and analysing the database data.
She then showed some examples of the BigQuery interface and the SQL used to extract the data.
Handily, Areej included links to useful documentation that she found useful, such as the Google Documentation and the BigQuery cookbook. A GA Sample Dataset is also available if you want to give it a go! The next part of the talk was about parts of an SQL Query and its uses, i’ve used SQL in the past but to be honest I’m a bit (very) rusty now, so it was great to get a refresher and also see the speed in which the queries can be performed.
BigQuery was something that I had heard of but haven’t yet had a chance to use so it was brilliant hearing Areej talk about its benefits, and also to explain what she has found it useful for. She also included loads of useful links for more information, tutorials and resources which can help newbies like me get started!
You can find the slides for Areej’s talk here.
Tom Pool : How to make any site blazing fast!!!
Tom Pool was next up with this talk about page speed. Tom is Technical SEO Director at Blue Array and was also awarded Young Search Professional of the Year at the UK 2019 Search Awards.
I was really looking forward to this talk – improving page speed is always something that often isn’t a quick / easy fix and is evolving with new tools and ways to optimise coming out all the time.
To begin with, Tom went through some examples of big brands that have terribly slow websites. He recounted a well-known sports retailer that was slower than most. Using PageSpeed Insights (which is a brilliant tool!), it brought back the issues you would expect, such as high res images, too many requests, lots of JS, etc. Its solutions included optimising your images and eliminating render-blocking resources.
But what page speed recommendations are less well covered by Google? Onwards to the next part of Tom’s talk! He explained that although the tools may highlight large images or JS files, it might be that the websites need to keep them and reducing them is not an option. So what other options are there?
This was an interesting one! HTTP/3 was announced in September 2019 and at this stage is rolling out exclusively for CloudFlare customers. While HTTP/3 is the new kid on the block, many sites are still not using HTTP/2 which is a lot faster than HTTP 1.1. It features multiplexing which allows multiple requests on the same connection – much faster!
Also, server push which can send a single request and get multiple responses back. You can check easily if a site is using HTTP/2 or not using Chrome dev tools. If they are not using it, find out if it’s possible to implement it.Minimising Requests
As Tom explains, every resource on a website requires a request to the server. A simple improvement is minimising the number of requests that are made. You can see the requests made using the Waterfall chart on a website such as GTMetrix.
Ways to minimise requests include :
- Combine CSS
- Cut and Compress Everything
- Minimise Ads
- Async Load JS
Optimising Request Order
The waterfall view comes in useful again here to work out which resources are the most important.
Lazy loading is when you only load what you need in the initial view / above the fold. His recommendation was that if you have content that loads below the fold, e.g on an ecommerce website with a lot of products (20 – 40 products of a list of 40), consider lazy loading these.
Another great recommendation was to look at your hardware. Such as:
- Is your website on shared hosting? (not recommended)
- Is the server up to date?
- Are you using a CDN? (recommended)
Configure your Cache
This will help optimise TTFB (Time to First Byte) and also improve delivery & efficiency of Delivery Resources.
I really enjoyed all the useful information that was packed into Tom’s talk, it highlights that although the page speed tools contain a lot of great suggestions there will always be other things you can additionally look into to help improve your page speed loading times.
You can find the slides for Tom’s talk here.
Next, we had a short break with a massively generous selection of pizza and beer. The pizza was amazing, I really wish I could get a delivery to our Birmingham office!
Luke Carthy : How to smash Google Analytics for eCommerce
Luke Carthy was up next on the agenda I was really looking forward to this one. Luke is an eCommerce Consultant and is very passionate about helping businesses improve their SEO. He also is super helpful on Twitter and creates some really useful blogs. My particular favourites were when he called out huge brands such as Lidl and pointed out the big mistakes they were making, well worth a read!
I’ve always enjoyed seeing Luke’s slides from talks, he always provides loads of actionable tips, examples and takeaways but this was the first time I had managed to attend one of his talks in person. While providing a ton of knowledge, his talks also contain a lot of humour (and swearing!) so I’d definitely recommend attending one of his talks if you can.
Today’s talk was about how to be awesome with Google Analytics and find hidden gems. He started off with what must be a very familiar story around the world where a customer encounters an error, a ticket is opened by customer support but the developers can’t replicate it and then close the ticket. This means the issue found by the customer isn’t fixed and can result in many lost sales.
He went through two personas. The first is Dave, who uses GA regularly but it’s just an out of the box account. GA can tell him about sales won, but not where they are missing out on them. With there being no proof of these problems, the issues end up not getting resolved.
Lucille, the second persona, knows how to get this proof and so can get sign-off to fix these issues, resulting in more sales. In short, we all need to be more like Lucille and customise our GA, showing proof of problems that need to be prioritised and fixed.
Luke recalled a great example where he captured the error messages being found by users. A large majority of errors revolved about an error code concerning validity checks when a customer was trying to purchase. Fixing and improving the checkout for UX/CRO then resulted in less frustrated customers and a ton more sales!
This brings us to the how: Custom Definitions. It’s a way to send custom data to GA and can apply them to any dataset. You can add them via the Admin tab in GA by going to ‘Custom Definitions’ in the Property settings. You’ll need to do a little bit more set up after that on your website or GTM. Luke then gave examples of using these Custom Definitions to create custom reports and what they can help answer:
Capture Error messages :
- Which errors are showing at checkout and how many users see them?
- Do some errors need to be rewritten to improve UX/CRO?
- Which errors hurt conversion the most?
- Luke provides a dev-free 404 custom report you can create today (linked at the end of this section)
Capture Lost Basket Value :
- Which sales have been lost and where?
- How much cash is being lost due to error messages?
Capture Product Stock Status:
- Is zero stock why sales are low for certain lines?
- Does low stock impact conversion?
Capture Promotional Statuses:
- Do offers or price reductions impact conversion?
- Does 3 for 2 or a ⅓ off work better?
There is a limit of 20 for the number of custom definitions you can have but you can also look at events which have no limit (however there are key differences between the two to be aware of). His useful way to remember it was that Custom Definitions tell you ‘what’ and Events tell you ‘when’. Events are useful in particular as they can fire Goals whereas Custom Dimensions cannot.
Examples of ways to use Events
When a search returns ‘no results’
- What items are people looking for that we don’t sell ( and could we start selling that if the search volume is there?)
- What misspellings are people searching for, how often and can we optimise for that?
- What non-commerce queries are people searching for?
This was a really interesting talk and has inspired me to think more out of the box in terms of GA, and to review our existing setups on how they can provide more useful information in terms of what issues that users may be finding rather than just reporting on the successes.
In his slides, there is a link near the end where Luke has very kindly written further information with more GA tips and also a guide about how to create a 404 counter sorted by customer impact he mentioned in his talk.
You can find the slides for Luke’s talk here.
Lisa Luu : 4 Search Trends and Tips for 2020
The final speaker of the night was Lisa Luu who is Global Head of Insights at Hitwise and she spoke about the 4 Search Trends and Tips for 2020.
She first spoke about the recent search trends in the last two years pointing out the contradictions in search terms. With most white lies being about health and fitness. While terms such as “Veganism” have risen by 52%, so have less healthy terms such as “Sausage Rolls”, which has risen by 138%. There were also differences in these contradictions by age group.
How are search behaviours shifting?
She talked about how and where people are searching for is changing. Amazon is very close to Google now, especially in terms of retail budget. However, Google is still the key player. Mobile preferred for site visits over purchases, with 72% making purchases on desktop devices.
2. Is it all about Google?
There is a big battle between Google and Amazon. The number of internal searches in Amazon have now exceeded traffic occurrences in Google. Amazon is in a unique position where more people are going there just to use its internal search. However, it’s not always about Google / Amazon. She showed that for ‘Smart TVs’ Argos and Currys actually had more internal searches. To compete, you need to go deeper and understand behaviours by brand, product and category.
3. How can you compete by targeting intent-based audiences?
The next part of the talk focused on Etsy and how their visitors are coming to the website but then going to purchase on Amazon. What can they do to change that? Well, you can identify the search terms users are visiting and separate them by device. Push products in paid and content that you know people are searching for, which they stock especially for peak periods. Incorporate the brand/products for products you don’t stock.
4. How can you find quick wins through search gaps?
A really interesting part of the talk was finding the quick wins through search gaps. Lisa recommended regularly performing search gap analysis. She used the example of Zalando who are losing over 70% of their visitors to ASOS. A suggestion was to look at which search terms ASOS receives but Zalando doesn’t and to segment that data in order to find quick wins.
You can find the slides for Lisa’s talk here.
I can definitely say that the first LondonSEOMeetup was a massive success and we are looking to attend more of the upcoming meetups in the future. Thank you to Blue Array for arranging such a brilliant event, as well as the speakers for the excellent talks!