Technical SEO Highlights from Search Leeds

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So, Search Leeds. It’s the event’s third edition but my very first SEO conference as a Trainee Technical SEO executive. What was I in for? What was I expecting? Most of all, what did I learn?

Well firstly, I wasn’t expecting to be getting up at half four on a Thursday morning. Secondly, I wasn’t expecting to get blown away by 100 mph winds as soon as I stepped off the train. The main thing was, myself and my Ricemedia buddies got there safely. We stocked up on bagels and protein bars and made our way to the venue.

After queuing up and being patted down like we were entering a maximum security prison, we finally got into the First Direct Arena. The arena was packed with like-minded individuals and marketing professionals who wanted to learn and further their ever expanding SEO knowledge.

Once we were given our passes, we all headed up to Sistrix Stage where most of the Technical SEO talks would take place. Armed with my pen and notebook, I was ready to delve into the world of tech talk and amaze everyone at the office with my new found knowledge!

But soon after, I gave up on my notes as my colleague was typing away on his keyboard faster than Johnny 5 out of the old classic film, Short Circuit.


Johnny 5 is still alive at Search Leeds

Luke Carthy – How to Optimise the S*** Out of your Internal Site Search

The first talk I really enjoyed was from Luke Carthy, a digital lead at Mayflex. In this presentation, I learned how many URLs can be generated from filters and internal search. When this happens, it can cause a numerous problems across a website. These include:

  • Duplicate Content
  • Keyword Cannibalisation
  • Poor Crawl Efficiency

As an example, Luke presented a well-known national brand that had a staggering 67,000 URLs indexed within Google. Guess how many of those were search generated URLs? 39,000! All of these were happily sitting within the Google Search Index. Consequently, this meant that nearly 50% of their website is made up of search URLs.

Luke then goes on to explain what can be done when these type of problems arise and explains that there is no-one size fits all solution. However, there is a way you can size up the issue by using tools like Screaming Frog and Deepcrawl to find all of the search URLs.

Once found, using link tools such as Ahrefs and Majestic will help weed out any URL that has any authority, traffic or even those that generate sales.

Once found, Luke explained that any link that’s worthy of keeping, would best to be 301 Redirected to a relevant page on the website. However, we also need to be prepared to massacre millions of URLs de-indexing the rubbish ones. On top of all that, he also recommends using Nofollowing / Noindexing search filters and changing all internal links that are pointing to search URLs.

Luke Carthy ended his talk by explaining it would be best to monitor the issues over time by:

  • Keeping tabs on organic traffic.
  • Keeping an eye on core KPI factors.
  • Checking on URLs within the index.
  • Watching server logs and redirects closely.
  • If there isn’t an alternative page – then MAKE ONE!
  • Refrain from adding a robots.txt condition.
  • Don’t be afraid to massacre a load of search URLs at once.
  • Monitoring future backlinks.

Julia Logan – “How to Audit Your Site For Security”

Now I’m not a web design whizz kid but I’ve used the backend of WordPress for a few years now. This was what pulled me to Julia Logan’s talk auditing your site for security. What astonished me most was the number of WordPress websites that get hacked!

Them slimy little so and so hackers monetise off the power and authority of our websites by creating parasite pages and engaging in crypto mining.



Let me put this into a little more of a perspective for you:

  • 2016 saw 6,447 hacked website cases
  • 2017 saw a whopping 14,714 hacked website cases
  • 2018 has already seen 6,570 cases and we’re only in June!

Above all that, WordPress takes around 53% of the share among other CMS technologies like Drupal, Cpanel, and Joomla.

Julia continued on how we should plan a health check on our website when completing technical audits. As part of this, we need to be checking the number of pages that are getting indexed within search engines.

Other important but often overlooked problems include not removing unused plugins, revoking unneeded access (old employees who still know their passwords) and checking if anything within the CMS system is updated such as plugins, themes and even the latest version of the platform.

Oh, and that nice little green lock you have next to your domain. Do you think your site is safe? Well, it is and it isn’t. Just make sure your website consistently links to secure resources.

But what if my site is hacked? Good question. The first thing Julia recommended was site searching your domain to see if there is anything in the SERPS that shouldn’t be there. Another element to question is: Does the website suddenly seem much slower?

Some power tips that were mentioned:

  • Checking your server logs to see if unusual URLs are being requested
  • Check majestic SEO to see indexed/linked too pages
  • Check Google search console for any unusual queries, URLs and crawl errors.

Don’t Panic Stay Calm!

I know you’ve worked so hard on a website and built up that all important authority. All of this time and effort and all of a sudden some hack ball decides to come along an ruin it for you. However, this is no need to panic as there’s hope!

Julia informed us that we should always have a clean backup of the website. Do not delete anything until you know exactly what has happened. Make sure you start by updating all passwords, remove/update any vulnerable elements and check if your email server has been affected.

If hackers do indeed take a hold of your server, there’s a potential risk of hackers getting hold of emails, sending out spam and getting email accounts blacklisted.

In summary, Julia told us to monitor our websites and take action if required!


So after a very long day at search Leeds, me and the rest of the tired bunch decided to skip the after party, a free beer from Craig Campbell and catch our 2-hour train journey home. After all, I had another day of Technical SEO to prepare for with a head full of new found wisdom! I’ll also remember to bring a woolly hat next time…

Contact Ricemedia today to find out how our Technical SEO expertise can help boost your business.