Search Elite SEO

Search Elite – The Key Highlights & Takeaways

On the 10th May, I had the chance to be able to attend the first ever Search Elite in London, which was without a doubt one of the best events I’ve attended in the SEO industry so far!

Search Elite turned out to be exactly what was promised – for non-beginners, looking to learn the best by learning from the best – and so much more!

Search Elite Conference


From SEOs ironically expressing their dislike for the industry to 1,000 mile an hour tech talks, to chocolate flying around and a playful atmosphere, The Search Elite was most definitely an all rounder.

Some of the industry’s top experts shared their wealth of knowledge, including Sam Noble, Jono Alderson, Jim Banks and Gerry White – have a look at the full programme – and here are the key takeaways.

1. Bas van den Beld: “How to make Digital Marketing work in your organisation. A case study revealing a unique approach to marketing!”

Bas van den Beld & Daniel Rotting gave a great talk,  highlighting 5 key elements when it comes to marketing:

  • The organisation – identify the why of the company
  • Knowledge – make things simple for the client, from the vocabulary you are using, to using drawings and mind mapping. Get clients involved and “make them do the work”.
  • People – change people’s minds on how things should be done – there is no “right way”.
  • Leadership – always lead by example.
  • Connecting the dots – You don’t have to start from zero. Create a team: The group is responsible and need good leadership. Allow yourself not to know, sometimes you just have to see how it works and plays out.

View Bas’ full presentation below:

2. David Iwanow: “Automate or Die”

David went through some great tools to be using and reports/ alerts to set up to save time and make your life easier, such as TinEye for monitoring images.

By automating your processes as much as possible, this would enable you to:

  • Know why traffic drops – if there are any issues, when they are fixed, and visualise changes.
  • Be proactive.

He also suggested using the Google Chrome Safe Browsing API to see if your site has been flagged up containing unsafe resources or for malware.

A key recommendation which I couldn’t agree with more (especially working agency) side is to make sure you crawl your biggest clients’ sites weekly and smaller ones fortnightly. You can use deep crawls and regular site crawls – these can be scheduled.

Other automation tips included:

  • Track crawlability on SEMrush – top-level analysis (primary pages), for which you can then send issues to Trello.
  • Track changes in deep crawl – this will be particularly helpful when clients’ technical audits are being implemented. SEMrush does that too, in a more simplified way.
  • Set backlinks audit emails alert from SEMrush – flag up any low quality links.
  • Make https check ups on SEMrush
  • Set GA intelligent alerts  – track events for your biggest clients

Here are his slides:

3. Sam Noble: “Using Paid Media Insights to Uncover Who Your Audience Really Are”

A sentence that really resonated with me was, “Your audience is your unique marketing point”.

As an agency, it is not sufficient to just increase volumes and maintain conversion rate for clients. You need to be able to drive more revenue and increase clients’ ROI.

Here are some key points Sam went through were:

  • Get pixels added to all pages of your site. Even if you are not using the data, just to start collecting – don’t forget to update privacy policies!
  • Ensure demographics is enabled in GA.
  • Find out which audience segments spend the most money, what content they browse across other sites, what they are in the market for etc.

In fact, Sam emphasised the fact that most of us don’t take full advantage of Facebook analytics. Agreed.

Here are a few tips to remediate that:

  • Create custom audiences in FB
  • Take advantage of building audiences from email addresses – although you will have to wait to get 1,000 of them.
  • You can upload your entire database (segment by buyers, newsletter subscribers, LinkedIn data etc …)

Have a look at Sam’s slides below:

4. Russell McAthy: “Which channels are more likely to convert your browsers into buyers?”

Russel McAthy’s point was a little controversial but valid. SEO is hard to monetise.

Indeed, getting visitors to a site or building links does not qualify as a success. SEO agencies need to talk about revenue, margins and ROI for their clients.

His key takeaways were:

  • We need to remove bounce rate from conversion rate!
  • SEOs need to spend their efforts on converting users, but equally on engaged and bouncing users.
  • We need to start tracking micro conversions as these are users which would convert in 2 weeks time and are hence super valuable.
  • We should always have to combine volume metrics (i.e. traffic) with calculated metrics (i.e. conversion rate)
  • Try assigning comparison value for micro conversions to then attribute cost & revenue values to all touch points of your attribution models. This will enable you to show ROI from SEO work by showing the value of a page (how much it contributes to conversions vs which are journey killers). #winning

Takeaways for PPC:

  • Sometimes best ROI comes from lower AW positions (i.e. page 4).
  • Paying more for position 1 can sometimes result in more profit, but for different terms this might not work like that depending on high/low volumes, high/low cost and high/low competition.

You can view Russell’s presentation here:

5. Jono Alderson: “Unlocking performance – beyond AMP”

Such a great talk from Jono about page speed. If only all sites’ speed could be as fast as his brain…

Some of the key takeaways were:

  • HSTS – browser hardcodes 301s to skip browser loading time
  • If your site is on https, you need to be on http2 or you are basically just slowing the site down. Indeed, HTTP2 is multiplexing rather than sending baseline info based on what is requested, to then respond.
  • Build on mobile first and then layer on functionality
  • SRCSET is the only solution for managing images sizes/resolutions, can then also use <picture> to support multiple formats.
    • can convert images with base64
    • us WebP rather than JPG & PNG, except if a lot of users tend to save images to their desktops from your site.
  • Breakdown which files take time to load

Basically, page speed tools are BS, and we need to use multiple tools to just get an idea of a value. Google chrome dev tools are the ones to be used.

  • Page speed is very basic so really need to be above 90% score to actually make a difference.

Here are Jono’s slides. Make sure you’re seated…

6. Judith Lewis: “Turbo-Charged SEO – When You’ve Done It All This Comes Next”

A little secret from Judith’s talk… Bing is very good for clients in the travel industry from conversion and ROI perspectives. And search results is the most influential channel… Let’s keep this one on the down-low.

Judith also took us through her SEMrush 3D keyword mapping which I thought was brilliant:

  1. Look at your data (Keywords – organic positioning) and then competitors’.
  2. Take volume and results columns with Keywords, then change volume and results into log.
  3. Add metrics in scatter graph then add Keywords and plot them using xy chart labelling.

Another really good point to keep in mind was:

  • Social sharers are actually sharing by emails (almost 37% of UK population)

7. Gerry White: “Using and abusing GTM, WordPress and other tools to ‘hack’ SEO onto enterprise sites”

GTM is a controversial one. Can be great if you know what you’re doing, but can easily go wrong if you don’t.

Few highlights from Gerry:

  • You can use GTM to edit content
    • Set tag type as custom HTML
    • Variable -> JS
    • Trigger -> page view
  • Add custom search boxes to your 404 pages!

There’s actually a really good in-depth article about SEO changes using GTM.

  • Use GTM for JSON-LD to include the following in SERPs snippets
    • Events
    • Search bars and
    • Reviews

Have a look at the How to generate & insert canonical tag with GTM article

You can find the slides here:

8. Jim Banks: “Don’t waste money buying traffic”

  • Use the Facebook Pixel helper to see what your competitors are doing!
  • Take full advantage of Facebook analytics.
  • Use Dynamic Search Ads:
    • When you are short on time
    • For discovery

Jim also emphasised that you should NOT import Adwords campaigns straight into Bing, notably as match types are different and don’t always mean the same thing.

Other key points included:

  • You should be using AdWords conversion tracking not GA conversions
  • Thinks about AdWords scripts for 404s
  • Think about uploading email addresses for customer match

All of Jim’s slides are there:

Massive thank you to all the team who put this brilliant event together, and already looking forward to the next one!

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