The Edit Blog

SearchLeeds 2018: SISTRIX Technical SEO Stage Live Blog

ARTICLE BY Michelle Roberts
READ TIME: 13 mins
14th June 2018

From mobile first to Mordor, we’ve covered a lot of technical territory here on Stage Two.

Thanks to all our speakers for their brilliant insight, and to all of you for joining us.

2019, here we come.


Google doesn’t like slow websites. Clients don’t like slow websites. So you have to resolve that.

Craig says to use tools to conduct in-depth site speed testing.

Page load speed is key for UX and Google. Do what you can to trim down page size (looking at you, videos, images Javascript, CSS).

Follow Craig on Twitter @craigcampbell03


Technical SEO: what are the most common mistakes and how can we avoid them?

The answer is SEMRush. The tool has grown from a keyword research platform to something that can help us conduct in-depth audits and deliver helpful reporting for clients.

Craig uses SEMRuch to zone in on Coca-Cola – and reveals some shocking gaps, including:

  • Broken internal links
  • Duplicate content

Errors become visible quickly, so you can take action quickly.

Follow Craig on Twitter @craigcampbell03


So, there you have it. Users might be weird, but they can help SEOs spot things that might slip through the net – like outdated Twitter birds, annoying autoplay videos, and websites that make you say “oh, yuck!” Oliver says: welcome them to your fellowship, next time you go on a mission to conduct an audit.

We now welcome our final speaker of the day: Craig Campbell is an SEO Consultant and Trainer at his agency, CraigCambellSEO, and regular host on SEMRush webinars.

How to fix the most common technical SEO issues

Craig discusses how to find and fix the most common technical SEO issues that your site might be facing using SEMRush’s auditing tool. Step on in for actionable tips and advice about site speed optimisation, time to bite, using the correct SSL certificates, and more.

Follow Craig on Twitter @craigcampbell03


Lord of the Rings. SEO. Yes, they’re related.

In fact, according to Oliver, they have a lot in common.

(Bing + Yahoo = Merry and Pippin).

The Lord of the Serps has unmasked himself for your benefit here at Search Leeds.

If you hadn’t already noticed, SEOs are different.

“SEOs are weirdoes, and aren’t really like normal people. You guys are weirdoes!”

SEOs feel existential dread about Google. They’re obsessed about niche stuff like ‘nofollow and dofollow’.

Users are weird too, but they also have great insight.

  • They use standard devices
  • Unconventional software
  • They find obstacles
  • And they’re objective

So, we should listen to them.

Follow Oliver on Twitter @LordOfTheSERPs, @OliverBrett


Why SEO wizards need user testing hobbits

Need we say more?

Oliver Brett leads a team of consultants at Screaming Frog by day and runs an SEO/LOTR-themed Twitter account by night. And he’s on Stage Two right now.

SEOs might be wizards when it comes to serving search engines, but sometimes you need the insight of a humble hobbit to help figure out what’s best for users. Oliver discusses how to bring UX into the auditing process to take your testing to the next level. What are you waiting for? Fly, you fools.

Follow Oliver on Twitter @LordOfTheSERPs, @OliverBrett


Julia’s essential checklist:

  • Check your server logs to see any unusual URLs being requested
  • Check Majestic for your indexed/linked to pages
  • Check Google Search Console for unusual queries, URLs, and crawl errors


 “If you only take away one thing from this talk, let it be this: always have a clean backup.”

Make a clean backup after conducting a health check, when you’re sure your site is clean. Keep it somewhere safe.

What else?

“Act quick – but don’t panic.”

These are Julia’s tips:

  • Don’t delete anything until you know what’s happened
  • Update all passwords
  • Remove or update vulnerable elements
  • Check if your mail server is affected
  • Clean your SERPs (look for parasite pages)

Follow Julia on Twitter @IrishWonder


The truth is, we are vulnerable.

(More now than ever before).

Vulnerabilities are growing YoY (even this second, as Julia speaks).

So, what can you do?

Undergo a ‘health check’. It should be part of your regular site audits

What you include is system dependent, but think about:

  • What gets indexed?
  • Check for known vulnerabilities using reliable tools (like WPScan)
  • Remove unused plugins
  • Revoke unneeded access

Follow Julia on Twitter @IrishWonder


Julia is mythbusting.

SSL=Secure Site?


SSL=Secure Connection.

“It has nothing to do with whether or not it can be hacked.”

Follow Julia on Twitter @IrishWonder


Why are we talking about security at a search related conference?

Why does security matter? What does it have to do with SEO and Digital Marketing?

Julia is going to tell us. (Hint: It’s not just because of GDPR).

“Security issues can give you SEO nightmares.”

Some of these include:

  • Ranking for keywords that have nothing to do with your site
  • Getting hacked

According to Google Webmaster Guidelines: You’re responsible for your own site. And if you don’t look after it, you might get a penalty.

“Nobody’s going to do this for you. Don’t rely on Google to help you with this.”

Because by the time you see a security warning, it might be too late.

Follow Julia on Twitter @IrishWonder


We’ve had a busy afternoon up here at Stage Two (ahem, standing room only at one point, ahem).

And a special thanks to Luke Carthy for stepping in last minute and saving the day with his outstanding lessons on the amazing things internal site search can do for you.

Join us for another lineup of brilliant talks to finish off a great day of technical revelations on Stage Two.


Join us at 15:45 on Stage Two to learn about

How to audit your site for security

With Julia Logan, SEO consultant at IrishWonder’s SEO Consulting.

Don’t worry, we’re not going to ramble on about GDPR (well, not too much). The only people who like security issues are hackers – and we don’t like hackers. Julia outlines simple things you can do to make your site more secure.

Follow Julia on Twitter @IrishWonder


But how does Google interpret all this?

Take yourself over to Google Search Console to find out. Rachel says to look into:

  • ‘Google chose different canonical than user’ – Google thinks they’re duplicate pages.
  • ‘Alternate pages with proper canonical tag’ – Google thinks these are duplicate pages.
  • ‘Submitted URL not selected as canonical’ – Also seen as duplicates.
  • ‘Duplicate page without canonical tag’ – Again, duplicates.

The best way to check – use the info query in the cache. Doing so will show you canonical URLs, so can see if a different URL has been indexed instead.

In summary:

“It’s in Google’s hands.”

But you should still do all you can to ensure Google handles things right.

Follow Rachel on Twitter @rachellcostello



Some SEO for thought: “Parameter handling has been confirmed by John Mueller as a strong signal.”

There’s more to the story, but the jist is that canonicals are complicated. Rachel’s key takeaway:

“With website signals, there’s strength in numbers.”

Remember, Google looks at:

  • Canonicals
  • Internal linking
  • Parameter handling
  • Backlinks
  • Redirects
  • Sitemaps

Follow Rachel on Twitter @rachellcostello


“What powers do we have left as SEOs?”

It’s the question that inspired Rachel to dig into this topic. After all, if Google does all it says it does, what’s left for us to do?

To find the answer, Rachel asks some questions:

  • How does Google handle signals?
  • How can you test these signals?
  • And how can we see the end results?

Follow Rachel on Twitter @rachellcostello


Controversial closing note: Luke says be brave and don’t be afraid to massacre search URLs – after all, if you take the right steps you can always get them back if there’s a negative impact (but there won’t be.)

Next on Stage Two, we welcome Rachel Costello, Technical SEO Executive at DeepCrawl. She wants us to:

Stop confusing search engines with conflicting website signals!

Nobody can tolerate mixed signals – especially Google. And if your site is getting wires crossed, it can have a disastrous impact. Rachel discusses canonicalisation, pagination, hreflang and mobile alternates, discussing how to prioritise areas of your site and get things right.

Follow Rachel on Twitter @rachellcostello


So, what’s the solution?


  • Figure out your Search URL issue (use tools like DeepCrawl, Screaming Frog, Google Search Console)
  • Do a report to find out just how many URLs Google is aware of.
  • Identify ‘link juice’ to search URLs
  • 301 redirect worthy search backlinks (recycle)
  • Identify which URLs are generating good organic traffic and sales (reuse)
  • Prepare to lose or de-index useless URLs (reduce)
  • Don’t forget to nofollow, noindex search filter URLs
  • Tidy up your internal link structure


“I dated a redhead once.”

Not sure why it’s relevant, but it feels like an important thing to mention.

On a more familiar topic, Luke explains:

Why internal search SEO is essential

Category page urls play a minority role in terms of search but a majority role in terms of conversion and revenue


Key takeaway from Dave – don’t create content for search engines. Create content for users.

We now welcome Luke Carthy, Digital Manager at Mayflex, who is going to teac us

How to SEO the s*** out of your internal site search

Internal site search is a pivitol, but often neglected aspect of search. So Luke Carthy has decided to give it some much needed love and attention – find out how to get into your internal site search and make it into an SEO success.


“When in doubt, ‘just Google it’.”

Never stop looking for ways to optimise, Dave says. Conversion and Ranking should go hand in hand. Don’t sacrifice content for other elements.

Follow Dave on Twitter @davefreeman



Build a picture of your consumers.

  • Who are they?
  • What are their problems?
  • What challenges to they face?
  • Where do they hang out online?

And then use other data to address their needs:

  • Paid search keyword insight
  • On-site search data
  • Google Keyword Planner
  • Ahrefs Content Explorer
  • Competitor research

Follow Dave on Twitter @davefreeman



Too often we ask:

“How do we optimise content for search engines.”

When we should ask?

“How do we optimise content for consumers.”

How do we do it?

  • Adapt to your customers.
  • Execute the great ideas your team has.

“There’s a lot of bad content out there – we need to focus on creating good content.”

Follow Dave on Twitter @davefreeman


Everything in SEO is related to content.

“Content really is fundamental to anything you do.”

Your content must succeed at every stage:

  • Attract click through
  • Suit the Device its being accessed on
  • Engage with users
  • And Convert them

Follow Dave on Twitter @davefreeman


A massive thanks to our speakers this morning.

Here’s to another afternoon of tasty technical SEO!  Join us for Dave Freeman’s talk, starting now!

Follow Dave on Twitter @davefreeman


It’s time to absorb all that over a sandwich.

We return after lunch, at 2:05pm with Dave Freeman, Group Head of SEO at Treatwell and columnist for Search Engine Land. Head up to Stage Two for:

Creating knockout on-site content by simply understanding your consumers

Content plays a role in everything in SEO – directly or indirectly, it helps us attract, engage, and convert users. And so, it must be great. Dave discusses how understanding your users is key to creating content that delivers traffic and conversions.

Follow Dave on Twitter @davefreeman


Dawn says information overload is a real issue. There is too much content. People are addicted to research.

So how do we cut through the noise?

“Nobody puts SEO in a corner.”

We need to think apprehensively. Plan for Iceberg Searchers, who think that everything in the ‘read more’ is much the same as what’s on the surface. Plan for Reasonable Surfers who think ‘what you see is what you get’ and won’t scroll for more.


Lay out your information better:

  • Group your content
  • Summarise important things at the top
  • Try a table of contents
  • Embrace interactive web design
  • Use proximity to your advantage (people will connect the dots)
  • Imagery is your friend

And think like Ernest Hemingway – less is more.

Follow Dawn on Twitter@dawnieando


Dawn discusses new ways we’re searching using subordinate systems – these are your Alexas, your Siris, your Google Homes.

To get a step ahead, we need to work even harder to understand context and need – and use it to help users before they ask to be helped.

“It’s going to rain in Leeds today – bring your umbrella!”

Follow Dawn on Twitter@dawnieando


Dawn gets theoretical and discusses Mizzaro’s Framework of Relevance.

Touching on information resources, user problem, time, andcomponents.

Follow Dawn on Twitter@dawnieando


Kristine’s key takeaways – you’re the interpreter, so talk to Google the same way we talk to each other: natural and conversational language. Add semantic mark-up (structured data via schema). Be the voice amongst the noise that helps Google understand what the hell you’re talking about.

We now welcome Dawn Anderson, SEO Consultant and Search Strategist at Move it Marketing and trainer/lecturer at Manchester Metropolitan University.

What lies beneath – ‘The Iceberg Approach’

Hemingway meets Search as Dawn discusses how to say more with less and get through to both users and search engines. She looks below the surface of the site and touches on methods for passing themed ‘equivalence’.

Follow Dawn on Twitter@dawnieando


The Knowledge Graph is Google’s database.

This lets you search for things, people, places that Google knows about. Think people, places, sports scores.

“If it’s a noun, it’s going to be in the Knowledge Graph.”

Nouns = Entities.

And if Google can understand entities, it can move from sight to sound. At the moment it’s text based, but we’re working towards natural language processing (“hello, Google.”)

This means transitioning from the Knowledge Graph to the Answer Engine.

Kristine notes we’re moving from Search to Answers – sometimes, Google delivers the answer before you even know the question.

Cue Hummingbird – adds a semantic layer to algorithms, helping Google understand context and intent so it can deliver us better results.

Follow Kristine on Twitter @schachin



And that became Google.

In 2015, there were 63k search queries every second.

That’s a lot of data – that’s big data.

Kristine notes we began with unstructured data: you know it – text based, keywords at the top (hello, black hat SEO).

But then there was too much data. Which meant Google needed another way to organise and understand it was seeing.

Hello, Knowledge Graph. Hello, Semantic Search.

Follow Kristine on Twitter @schachin



And that became Google.

In 2015, there were 63k search queries every second.

That’s a lot of data – that’s big data.

Kristine notes we began with unstructured data: you know it – text based, keywords at the top (hello, black hat SEO).

But then there was too much data. Which meant Google needed another way to organise and understand it was seeing.

Hello, Knowledge Graph. Hello, Semantic Search.

Follow Kristine on Twitter @schachin


Fili’s key takeaway: structural data is all about helping Google understand your content. And what could be more important than that?

We now welcome Kristine Schachinger,CEO and founder of Sites Without Walls.

Entities, Search, and Rank Brain: How it works and why it matters

Entity-based search – what is it? What are entities? Where do they come from? And how does Google use them? Kristine answers all, explaining how Rank Brain ties into it and what SEOs need to know.

Follow Kristine on Twitter @schachin


Fili’s key takeaway: structural data is all about helping Google understand your content. And what could be more important than that?

We now welcome Kristine Schachinger,CEO and founder of Sites Without Walls.

Entities, Search, and Rank Brain: How it works and why it matters

Entity-based search – what is it? What are entities? Where do they come from? And how does Google use them? Kristine answers all, explaining how Rank Brain ties into it and what SEOs need to know.

Follow Kristine on Twitter @schachin


From articles to recipes, there are many different schema you can take advantage of, depending on your site.

Fili asks: Ever thought about data as schema?

Getting schema right can help your CTR and make you stand out from the other options that users are facing.

But how to do it?

Google Tag Manager – great way to test a schema, but not a long term solution.

“Can be good to test, but I wouldn’t rely on this long term.”

Follow Fili on Twitter @filiwiese


Thanks for everyone who has joined us this morning on Stage 2! Not to boast, but we’ve had quite the turnout.

Come join us for our next round of speakers, starting with Fili Wiese, of Search Brothers, ex-Google engineer and expert at all things SEO.

At 11:15, he’ll be delivering his talk: Structured data explained

With Fili, it’s all about actionable SEO tips that will help you see results. Whatever experience level you’re at, you’ll learn about structured data and how to make it work for you.

Follow Fili on Twitter @filiwiese



We shouldn’t have to remind you, but we will.

“If you’re not launching a mobile-friendly site in 2018, you’ve got some serious issues.”

Test for issues – think about everything from font size to page speed.

Follow Steve on Twitter @SteveChambers


Steve discusses offensive and defensive actions you can take to make sure your migration goes as smoothly as possible.

Plan accordingly – ensure there’s the correct resource allocated and everything fits into your wider workload.

Create a checklist beforehand and check it (duh) to stop things from slipping through the net (looking at you, Robot.txt, redirect loop, and log files).

And, an insider tip:

“Never plan a migration on a Friday!”

Follow Steve on Twitter @SteveChambers


Gerry shared some innovative insight into the channels we should be turning to, including apps, voice search, and augmented reality (remember Pokemon Go? Enough said…)

We now welcome Steve Chambers, SEO Manager at Stickyeyes, who’s going to teach us How not to f**k up a migration.

After all, as many of us know, it’s something that a lot of people f**k up… Steve outlines what you need to do to avoid taking a major hit on organic traffic and outlines common pitfalls – and how to avoid them.

Follow Steve on Twitter @SteveChambers


Voice search – everyone’s talking about it, but how many of us are actually using it?

And for those who do use it, does it actually work?

Gerry talks about Google Assistant:

“We have to understand what Google is looking for. It isn’t web pages any more – it’s information that users need.”

Follow Gerry on Twitter @dergal


Apps are where it’s at – both Google Play and Apple have more than 2m available to download.

But a bad user experience on apps will drive people away.

“The level of stress caused by mobile phone delays is actually greater than a horror movie.”

Follow Gerry on Twitter @dergal


“Most of us today seem to be Nomophobic.”

FYI, Nomophobic – the fear of not having a mobile phone.

(Gerry blames Nokia).

Follow Gerry on Twitter @dergal


Thank you, Bastian! To summarise: slow site? No more excuses.

We’re now onto our next speaker: Gerry White, Global Technical SEO Lead at Just Eat and of

Gerry will be discussing The past, the present, and the future of Mobile

We already know about the importance of mobile optimisation – but what about the future of it? Gerry talks about where gaps and opportunities will emerge in mobile, and how you can capitalise on them.

Follow Gerry on Twitter @dergal


Images make a massive difference – especially on mobile.

62% of web traffic is made up of images.

WebP: Google’s alternative to JPEG, PNG, and GIF – swap it and reap the benefits.

It’s not always a straight trade – play around with different methods (check out Cloudinary).

“80% savings can become very easy.”

Follow  Bastian on Twitter @basgr


Are you ready for our first speaker of the day on Stage 2?

International site speed: Going for super-speed around the globe

We’re getting ready to welcome Bastian Grimm, Director of Organic Search at Berlin-based ‘all things search’ marketing agency, Peak Ace

He’ll be talking about how to use web performance optimisation to make your website fast – and your users happy. Bastian looks beyond short term solutions and discusses how you can make every precious second count.

Follow along here:

And find Bastian on Twitter @basgr


Today is the day! Welcome to SearchLeeds 2018. We’re about to kick off, you’re here with me, Mady Ritzker, live blogging from Stage Two.

If you’re following the conference here online, check out tweets from:


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