A Close Look at the Five Most Interesting Talks from BrightonSEO 2016

Last Friday, myself and a number of fellow Distillers made our twice-annual pilgrimage to Brighton for the excellent BrightonSEO. Throughout the day, we took in as many different tracks as possible to get an overall view of what was on offer.

There are a number of excellent tip lists already available. In fact, I've linked to a few at the bottom of this post.

These are excellent if you want to pick up a few quick tips and upgrades, and without wanting to repeat what’s already been written, we’ve decided to take a deeper dive into five of the most interesting talks from the day, and what we learned from them.

1. Deep diving into featured snippets: How to earn more and rise to the top - Rob Bucci (STAT Search Analytics)

As CEO of STAT Search Analytics, Rob Bucci is a man who backs up his presentations with plenty of data. His talk at BrightonSEO was certainly no different. Taking a deep dive into featured snippets (the blocks of texts that sometimes appear at the top of SERPs), Rob walked us through the best tactics for helping your own brand or client feature in these snippets.

Why featured snippets?

Featured snippets, as Rob puts it, “represent a valuable opportunity to drive organic traffic for sites that are capable of getting them” and give your content a “big credibility boost in the mind of the searcher”. They’re valuable, basically.

Number one isn’t everything

Looking at Google’s traditional method of ranking, you’d expect that results sitting at number one in the SERPS would, by default, enjoy seeing their brand in the featured snippets. However, as the stats show, over 70% of rich snippets are not sourced from the first ranked result.

Subjective words rarely appear

Featured snippets are designed to give an answer. This means ‘objective’ words are more likely to appear. General question and definition words, like ‘does’, ‘cause’ and ‘definition’; as well as financial words like ‘salary’, ‘average’ and ‘cost’ are likely to trigger a featured snippet. Conversely, the word ‘best’ triggered zero featured snippets in over 20,000 instances.

There are tactics to help you appear in featured snippets

Beyond analysing the data, Rob suggests a few tips to help you appear in the featured snippets. Start by looking at your keyword opportunities to identify what high-frequency featured snippet keywords match up with your existing keyword targeting. You can also bring in Q&A formatting in your content, ideally by devoting one page to answering a single question.

2. What is AMP and do I care? - Dom Woodman (Distilled)

Here at Distilled, we’ve had Google Accelerated Mobile Pages on our radar for quite some time now. In fact, our CEO Will Critchlow wrote about AMP way back in October, and we’ve watched eagerly as the new initiative has been rolled out throughout the early parts of 2016. Therefore, it’s fitting that the Distiller representing us on stage at Brighton, Consultant Dom Woodman, was talking all about AMP.

What the heck is AMP?

As Dom explained in the opening part of his talk, AMP is two things. You probably already know that it allows you to create web pages in a very specific way, so as to guarantee speed. However, it’s also a way of Google having a greater level of control over the distribution of content. With this in mind, the first companies hopping on the AMP bandwagon have understandably been publishers.

Should non-publishers be using AMP?

As is often the way, the answer is ‘it depends’. In his talk, Dom laid out a number of questions you need to ask in regards to your site, which will help you decide whether or not you should be investing time and energy into AMP.

Interestingly, the answer is never ‘no’, but sometimes it is ‘hold off’. If Google News is an important source of traffic, if you have an ongoing problem with site speed, or if your site gets a large proportion of traffic from mobile, now might be the time to start getting AMP on your site.

What benefits will AMP bring?

The first and most obvious benefit you’ll see from AMP pages vs regular desktop pages is a huge decrease in load time. The time it takes for a document to load fully can be reduced by a huge 84%.

Beyond that, AMP is mainly a bet on the future. We’re assuming that the initiative will continue to gain traction, but having the backing of Google and the quickly growing list of supported ad networks (12 in February, 26 as of writing), signs are positive that AMP will continue to grow.

3. What games can teach us about user experience and conversion - Aferdita Pacrami (90 Digital)

I admit, I’m always skeptical about analogies as a basis for a presentation topic; they can sometimes feel a bit stretched. Aferdita Pacrami’s talk was certainly not one of these. In just 20 minutes, she explored how video game techniques can be used when improving a website’s user experience with a surprising amount of useful tips.

Visual cues provide navigation information

From the use of the mini-map to guiding lines pointing the player in the direction of where they should be going, there are a number of visual cues that can help us create important landing pages. For example, framing a CTA at the most visually standout part of an image will draw the user’s attention.

Video game designers are also experts in using colour as a method of making an important object or game mechanism stand out. This can be carried over to website design by making important CTA buttons one consistent colour, while avoiding the same colour in other areas.

Treat micro conversions as side quests

Put simply, micro conversions are seen as positive steps towards a macro conversion, such as signing up for an email newsletter (micro conversion) may lead to a sale (macro conversion). To keep this user flow in mind, you can treat them like side quests in video games.

Side quests are important for helping users feel more involved in that game’s ‘universe’. The same can be said for a website, because users want to feel a connection to a brand and micro conversions can help create this. However, as with video games, good side quests are not repetitive or disruptive.

4. Psychology of persuasive content - Nathalie Nahai

Sometimes living in the SEO bubble, it’s good to get a different perspective on something. As a web psychologist, Nathalie Nahai is in a perfect position to show us a new and interesting perspective of both the web and our own decision-making process. As this year’s BrightonSEO keynote speaker, it’s unsurprising that Nathalie’s talk was packed full of interesting and insightful advice

What is web psychology?

Definition-wise, web psychology is “the empirical study of how our online environments influence our attitudes and behaviours”. It is useful as it allows us to create more persuasive content, websites, apps and user experiences.

Put trust above all else

While many of us would like to think of ourselves as rational, emotion plays a huge part in decision making. There are ways to use this to your advantage. First of all, Nathalie suggests earning people’s trust, which is no easy task. Trustworthiness isn’t a tactic or a ‘hack’ but something you need to entrench in your brand’s values and express them throughout your business.

Remember the 'Big Five' personality traits in your persuasive content

There are multiple personality tests, with varying degrees of usefulness. However, the ‘Big Five’, according to Nathalie, is the gold standard of these tests. It takes into account five (surprise, surprise) personality traits, which are: openness, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness and neuroticism.

People high in certain traits are more likely to connect with certain types of ads. For example, making ads that make people feel safe and secure will appeal to those with high levels of neuroticism.

Nathalie Nahai - Psychology of persuasive content (Brighton SEO) from Nathalie Nahai

5. How to identify and fix crawl optimisation issues - Barry Adams (Polemic Digital)

In the morning’s Crawl session, Barry Adams of Polemic Digital took us on a whistlestop tour of crawl optimisation problems, along with ways to fix these common issues.

Crawl optimisation is the process of “ensuring search engine spiders waste as little time as possible crawling the right URLs on your site.” Wasting crawl budget means the pages you want crawled and indexed are unlikely to be so.

Using a crawler like Deepcrawl/Screaming Frog can help you identify if you have wasted that precious crawl budget. Deepcrawl, for example, tells you the number of discovered URLs vs. unique pages, and you can compare Screaming Frog crawl with the number of indexed pages.

7 mistakes that are wasting your crawl budget (and how to fix them)

  1. There are wrong URLs in your sitemap - you can avoid this by by only checking URLs in the sitemap that are final destination pages

  2. Allowing Google to crawl pagination unnecessarily - use rel=”prev” or rel=”next”

  3. Allowing Google to crawl unnecessary faceted navigation - block facets in robots.txt and nofollow links to pages with those parameters

  4. Google is crawling your site search results - block search results in robots.txt

  5. There are internal redirects that Google is crawling - crawl the site using Screaming Frog and update the links on your site (Tip: after a migration, keep pages that now return a 301 in the XML sitemap so that Google can discover them and remove them from the index)

  6. Over-used canonical pages - don’t use canonicals as a solution to the above problems

  7. Slow pages - you simply need to make your site faster (easier said than done)

How to Find & Fix Crawl Optimisation Issues - #BrightonSEO from Barry Adams

Other BrightonSEO 2016 roundups

Wrapping up

There you have it, our pick of the five most interesting talks. Remember, it’s all subjective, and while we endeavoured to take in as many talks as possible, there were a number we didn’t get to see.

Were you at BrightonSEO? Did any of the talks we’ve not discussed stand out to you? We’d love to hear your best tips from the conference in the comments section below.

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