Digital Elite Day Recap – June 6, 2019

Digital Elite Day took place on Thursday June 6th and I was honored to be the MC for the Search Elite track. This year was bigger and better than ever before with 26 speakers and over 200 attendees. Below is a write up of some of the key points from the Search Elite track.

PWAs SEO: Optimising for the Future of the Web

EU Search Personality of 2018, Aleyda Solis and founder of Orainti was up first at the Search Elite track.  Aleyda said that apps provided a fragmented and vertical specificities app experience. They can be expensive to develop, but we end up installing a lot of them.

Aleyda Solis

Why do we install apps?

  • The reason is that it is easier to access apps through the home screen
  • Apps can use additional phone features
  • Mobile websites speed and usability
  • You need internet to access web content.
  • SO mobile web is also broken.  BUT it is not more broken than the app one.
  • Because of this we are sometimes forced to download apps.


What are PWAS?

They are web based presence that has same type of functionality as the mobile apps. It is an improved mobile app experience.

  • PWAs close the gap between websites and apps.
  • This is possible thanks to 4 technologies
  • 4 key technologies of a PWA
  • All modern browsers now support PWAs.
  • We have not moved from desktop to mobile. It depends on the time of day. PWAs can also run on desktop. Many top mobile focused services are releasing PWAs.
  • Uber have PWA features in their mobile version of their site.
  • Go to the light house functionality of chrome dev tools, then there is this.

The web is going to be the new App Store. Why has it not been like this before?

PWAs have met with resistance. BUT you can also feature PWAs in App stores too. It requires a little bit of extra work.Trusted web activities highly facilitate the for the Play Store now. 1-800 Flowers seems to be the first PWA to be highlighted in the Google Play store.

PWAs are a natural evolution of how we distribute and consume software.

There are still limitations – there was a nice analysis by Maximilian Ferdinand – he says what is supported and what is not.(read Aleyda’s slides for more detail).

How can you create a PWA?

There are three main steps.

  1. User a responsible website (what can be AMP based too) that will be for application
  2. Create a web manifest, a JSON file that informs about the PWAS to be installable
  3. Set up a Service Worker a JS that tuns in the background.

Check out this step by step guide from Codelabs

  • You can also use the “ready to customiser and use” PWA builder files.
  • Also look at HowPWAMWorks – site built by Aleyda
  • You can also enable PWA features to your WordPress sites with Plugins.
  • Magento now also supports AMP with its PWA studio.
  • You can verify them with the lighthouse PWA validation in chrome.
  • You can use ChromdevTools Application panel to verify service workers.
  • Or use the PWA Builder to validate too

Closing remarks:

  • Websites that adopt PWA see benefits due to the app like functionality.
  • PWA relies on JS to show the content. They are using client side rendering.
  • Rendering Is expensive and cannot be done immediately.
  • Server side rendering is also supported by Magento too, but it is not the default.
  • A full SEO audit by crawling both with and without JS is necessary
  • Check out Google’s example of indexable PWAs using server, client side and hybrid rendered sites.
  • Check out Martin Split’s series over YouTube
  • Follow Maximilian Firtman to keep up to date with PWAs. @firt

The Nature of Intent: How to Nurture and Measure Throughout the Customer Journey

Aiden and Jill from the Colouring In Department  talked about The Consumer Cross Stitch Model.

Coloring inn team

Customer intent and consumer journey

  • What is a persona?
  • Aiden and Jill went through this which is useful as a thought peace and conversion to have.
  • What do the personas see, hear, say and do, think and feel?
  • This is done in a UX perspective but Aiden and Jill do this for search.

The consumer cross stitch model is taking the state of awareness like the keywords, then stitching with the customer empathy, then adding the keyword modifiers and then what is the relevant URL and what might the potential SERP look like.

So turn Jill’s spreadsheet into something more friendly.

States of awareness: Pain or Problem aware

  • Keyword modifiers – what should you look for in a Tokyo hotel? How to find a great hotel in Tokyo? Which hotel is in Lost in translation?
  • Customer empathy map: think and feel
  • Key message for your content? – Is this a problem for people like me? What is wrong with that I am doing now?
  • URLs

Bounce rate

  • Bounce rate – what Google defines as a bounce rate, the person goes to web page and does not go to another page on your site.
  • You can end up making bad choices by looking at it. The user may have completed their journey.
  • Blog pages have a high bounce rate but that is fine, people may have seen and got the information they need.

Time stamps in GA

  • Time on page, Google calculates a bit old but best they can do.
  • Go to page 1 then go and read another page. Google only say how long you have been on that page when you go to the second page and they take away the top.
  • So look at custom metrics so can fire time on page. Also do event tracking.
  • Dana Tamaso written about customer content and built the containers to build on the page.

State of awareness: Solution aware

  • Keyword modified: Best hotels in Tokyo, Best onset, Top Jazz hotels Tokyo
  • Customer empathy map: See
  • Key message for your content?
  • What is the impact in using your product or service? My life with your product? My experience with your product? Can you show me your solution in action?
  • URLs –
  • SERP result will have reviews.
  • Content grouping:
  • This is your typical all pages content report.
  • Content grouping massively underused.
  • There is a Google demo account and you can see it. You can have 5 content groupings per property.
  • You can build this based on rules.
  • Eg can see 25,000 page views for bags
  • Because of intent, like to build rules. You can then start to loo at the content and see how many people are shifting between the content. Can also use reg ex.
  • Start using Content Groupings. The hard part is just what do you want in those groups.

Stages of awareness: Product aware

  • Keyword modifiers: Park Hyatt Shinjuku family room, imperial hotel, Japan location, Hyatt near Shinjuku
  • Custom empathy map: Hear
  • Key message for you content?
  • Am I making the right decisions?What do experts say about you? What do other customers say about you?
  • URLs –
  • SERP result – see the map.

To Link the Channels Role in the Customer Journey

  • You need to have goals, work it as if it is a funnel.
  • Look at the different goals and create all those 20 in GA.

The last non direct channel gets 100% of the credit.

SO when look at all the goals, you are starting to understand the intent of your channels.

Social and paid social does not tend to convert but helps get it over.

Stages of Awareness: Most Aware

  • Keyword modifiers: Hilton Tokyo v Park Hyatt, Book room Park Hyatt, Hyatt loyalty club discount
  • Customer empathy Mao: – Say and do
  • Key message for your content – how will it be delivered? Ts and Cs, Remind me why I am saying yes to you
  • URLs

Multi channel Funnel – Assisted conversions

  • You may not know or case there are 7 attribution models.
  • First interaction gets 100% of the credit
  • So do not just report on your acquisition – Go to assisted conversions.
  • You can also drill down into the 20 goals
  • In the MCF assisted respire, go into other, type in landing page URLs and you can see the assisted conversions too.

How to Make Your Content Marketing Drive ££ Not Links

Kevin Gibbons from Re:signal started his presentation by stating that when there is a new ranking factor, people are chasing this.

Kevin Gibbons

Google’s algorithm does not work like that, there is not just one big thing and then you win.

It was about links for a long time. Not a bad thing but there is so much more you should be working on to make sure it is working for you from an organic performance.

Everyone wants short term success.

  • Short termism is killing your long term impact.
  • You need to think how it fits into the long term strategy
  • For anyone thinking of content marketing campaigns, think about content marketing strategy. What will it take to be market leaders.
  • Content marketing – your reporting should not be focused around what is the easiest thing to track, should be about how you are aligned with your business objectives.
  • When Kevin started in SEO, he learned by testing and learning and improving. You need to figure out by yourself.
  • Do not just read blogs, think how you can experiment and change.
  • Best results do not always come from best practice.

3 pillars of SEO

  1. Strategy – forming a clear plan on how you can hit your goals
  2. Creativity – producing content that stands outing has a newsworthy hook
  3. Promotion – Digital PR outreach to get publishers excited
  • Don’t just work in silos and hope it will all work together.
  • Not just SEO team and content team and PR team.
  • Every team has a mini team focused on clients working towards shared goal.
  • You have to have everyone behind you.
  • It is not always the tactical stuff.


  • Resignal has created many content marketing campaigns that have been v successful from PR perspective (for expedia).
  • Build links and coverage in a campaign.
  • But only hit creatively and promotion.(2 pillars).
  • Creative content marketing was getting more coverage but ddid not always correlate to SEO value and organic traffic coming through.
  • So Resignal identified car hire as a key app for Expedia to improve their organise search performance.
  • Sometimes you need less links than you think, focus on the business goal.
  • Built a set of 3,000 target app keywords, optimised 650 pieces of existing on site content and produced 75 new pieces of content and securing authority digital PR coverage with creative content marketing campaigns.
  • Saw a 19`% increase in organic traffic and 38% increase in organic revenue.

What does success look like?

  • You need to know this first.(Look at the triangle)
  • It needs a clear strategy
  • What keywords and topics are driving organic traffic?
    What type of content are competitors creating?
  • Who are the main competitors?
  • Who is winning/what are they winning?
  • What is your prioritisation in the market?
  • You can then work backwards and make a plan of attack.
  • Understand key reasons why people are winning.

SEO opportunity, Brand fit and PR newsworthy angle. Kevin Gibbons say they have a panel of journalists. This helps them get the content sweet spot.

Trying to build links to a domain might improve organic performance but for large sites it is difficult to measure the impact.

Think of content marketing in two ways – brand and tactical.

There is a still a place for brand led campaigns. Think how to get brand led campaigns link to home page.

  1. Following best practice only gets you so far
  2. Trying to catch competitors means you are likely to close the gap
  3. To become market leaders you need to pt your customers first and build a brand

Your brand is the single most important investment

Future proof-ish Link Building

Stacey MacNaught shared her insights on link building at Search Elite. She started off by saying that none of the sites that Stacey worked on before where they did buying for links they are not ranking.

  • After 2011 moved to more creative stuff. Stacey was doing copywriting to begin with.
  • Link schemes have not changed
  • Create unique content – that is naturally going to get popularity.
  • 250,000 blog posts published every single hour.
  •– look at this.
  • Link building is often SEOs fixing what else is broken in the company.
  • Google’s advice is build it, they will come. This does not happen for most businesses.
  • Turning customers not fans, that is how you get links.
  • Some people have to buy products and services not cause they want to but cause they have too.

We have To Build Links

Google says that if you made links yourself it is against Google’s Webmaster Guidelines.

So everything is against the rules.

So what do we do?

  1. Paid link building – still works and organic link building is hard
  2. Or you could build no links
  3. Or think about link building realistically

Need to treat links like conversions.

Create a white paper and ask for links.

Publish, promote, repeat

Stacey's talk

We need a completely different mindset.

We are really good at understanding users (SEOs) so we can treat them as prospective customers.

SOOOO Stacey recommends:

  1. SEO 101

Basic keyword research – what are people looking at

Competitor analysis – off the back of a simple approach creating statistic pieces. It is driving links naturally.

2. Look at external linking

Scrape a list of the most 500/1000 articles you want to be seen it, throw them into SF or site bulb and see what kinds of sites they are linking too. What does their external linking look like?

3. Publishers have a lot of insight how consumers are consuming content.

4. Think long term.

Stacey shared a case study of one of her clients. You need patience. Stacey did not ask for the link. Asked if they would like to see the study. Stacey does not ask if something was mentioned but no link (for the press).

Measure the value of the content over years not weeks. Think about assets in the long term.

5. Think beyond the outreach email.

  • Many journalists get way too many emails. So choose what’s app or call.
  • Emailing for content is cold calling. Journalists do not want for information from SEOs.
  • Journalists and staff writers, they have things like Viral Content as a title.
  • Think about doing more creative content. Instead of all these eggs in one basket.

6. Paid advertising

  • It is a solid way to get people coming to your content (Facebook)
  • For resources or other types of content writers might actively be looking at Google Ads
  • For stuff nobody knows they want until they have seen it, use Facebook.

7. Publishers are looking – Journorequest hashtag – journalists push requests there


Look at the trends in these platforms, what are journalists looking for.

We are obsessed with link but we think of links first. SO interns of assessing a link on a website and if someone stuck a no follow on their link, Is it still worth it?

8. Does the link generate sales and credibility?

  • Forget about DR and DA
  • Look at the other benefits from the link.
  • Need to analyse the links
  • We should value content and contents valued over years

Managing SEO, CRO and UX to Build Beautiful Onsite Experiences

Nils Kattau and Izzi Smith shared the stage to talk about combining SEO and CRO to build great sites.

Search Engine Establishment is  about website health and security, indexible and secure

SEO is about doing content landing pages, get more traffic. The point is to get more traffic.

Then there is also Searcher Experience Optimization which is about writing really awesome satisfying content.

Izzi and Nils

A company should want to increase brand awareness and, improve trust.

  1. Engagement is implicit feedback for the website.
  2. UX can positively reinsure your hard earned work has visitors to the site.

Google’s algorithms are constantly learning.

These are some of the data points that Google can use and measure on a large scale:

  • Time on stie
  • Back to SERPs
  • Query refinement

User experience is a feeling, you cannot measure it.

Nils told us, he does not like SEO. SEO is educated guess work. If your site saw a drop in traffic, was this due to an algorithm change or not?

Nils likes CRO because you can see what you have done to the site and the results it generated. Then Nils introduced the heart framework – which one can use to measure UX.

  1. Happiness – measures attitudes
  2. Engagement
  3. Adaptation
  4. Retention 
  5. Tasks Success

Businesses should not have metrics that do not change behaviour, they should have metrics that are important. The metric you use should impact you. It should be numbers that you can work with and can act on.

Engagement issues to Find and Fix right now

1.Custom JS events in GA

  • User experience – to measure this you can measure content consumption depth. After 5 secs make an event.
  • Or measure if a single element or section visible, fire this after 3 secs in viewport.
  • Single element registered
  • And also see if someone interacted with element 
  • Rage clicking – fire on 3 clicks within 1 second.

2. Track SEO Page influenced funnel visits

  • Much easier to evaluate the include of your page and content.
  • Actual CRO may be impacted by outline factors outside of your continual (gunnel testing, pricing)
  • Also find and solve those bad bounce pages.
  • Izzie took all her bounce rates from top 1000 URLs. Higher the ranking, higher the bounce rate.
  • Finding problematic bounce rate, sort by weighted. See highest bounce rate for biggest pages.
  • Take control of the bad bounce rate:

3. Look at Dwell time

  • It is best way to find time on site, because it is reliable and scalable 
  • Longer Time on site, higher ranking.
  • Combine engagement metrics to target key problems.
  • If you have a low tine on site and high bounce rate, maybe kill this page.
  • Making users happy with good content.
  • Create useful content that serves an actual purpose.

4. SERP feature analysis

  • Which SERP feature does Google display to satisfy the searcher’s needs?

Easy to source content that serve a purpose

  1. USPs and services – user feedback and customer surveys 
  2. Inhibition solving Faqs
  3. Product specification too – product feeds
  4. User generate content reviews – using local listing management APIs
  5. personalised.dynamic content

How to find most important features from a customer’s perspective

  1. User a survey tool like hotjar
  2. Then ask your visitors – what is important
  3. Then extract the benefit s – clustering
  4. Then quantitative  feedback – what is the most imorntat (multiple choice)

And How to transfer these features into benefits

Location specific FAQs  Results – bounce rate dropped, time on site went up and conversions went up.

How to merges al these principles into one 

  • Preach the good word of SEO
  • Communicate your needs using their language
  • Learn about UX and CRO
  • Building a much better product, not just about organic 

The Truth About SEO data and How to Get Predictable Results

François Goube, the Founder and CEO of OnCrawl, started his presentation by stating that he loves to read Google Patents, which was one of the main reasons that he built OnCrawl. François shared some key insights about data in his talk.

SEO is a science

  • We can start predicting things and the main thing is about stopping to gamble with what to do, but start producing
  • Understand the data, then manipulate and analyse and then bring value to data
  • You need to have the right tools to manipulate the data
  • Need to work with a method therefore make observations, then think of interesting questions, formulate hypotheses, develop testable prediction, gather data to rest prediction and refine and alter
  • Test and learn
  • Time to upgrade your SEO, there is machine learning, big scary, deep learning and rank brain

Francois Oncrawl

François has been working with @DataSEOlabs and they shared some information with him which led to both of them  generating  some predictions. 

  • DataSEOlabs had been working for a hosting provider, They have been making SEO Datasmart,
  • They use RStudio and dataiku 
  • They realised the importance of any ranking factor. They found that citationflow was influencing their rankings.
  • They then prioritised other ranking factors
  • François shared this with us because it is very easy for us to learn how to use these things. There are solutions like dataiku so we can run our own experiments on our own sites and he encouraged the audience to do so.

Embrace the Data SEO era

Back to basics first:

  1. Understanding bots behaviour – you can see the product and brand pages and see what pages are being crawled or not – want to look at unique pages crawled.  You can see that 80% of the crawl budget is crawling useless pages. Also need to understand and identify when Google renders JS. And you can also check when Google is switching your website to the Mobile First Index. 
  2. Combine the Crawl and logs data – then punch this and find out which ranking factor influences Bots behaviour? How many words do I need to have to be friendly with Google? François said they analysed and saw after 800 words on a page, made a difference. You can also see the impact of the number of in links and also speed the page. And also looking at H1 tags too. SO H1 tags had a positive impact on the page being crawled. ALSO LOOK at crawl factor vs frequency 
  3. What are your active pages? Understand if what you are doing on your site is rational. François compared active pages vs page depth. Ask yourself the question “Is my content distribution good enough? “

You need to manipulate your data and add value. You know what space and market you are operating in so you know what matters. 

SEOs need to understand business restraints. Keep calm when looking at traffic. 

Think about the type of site working on. Eg conversions, traffic.

Focus on the method:

  • Map your website by business metric. Eg revenue per page. You can do this by crunching the data. Then you can look at page groups by depth with the revenue.
  • Then you can use your business metrics to better understand your SEO data.
  • When looking at rank level you can see if the pages that are converting if you are sending enough links.
  • Best pages that are converting, you might find not sending any popularity at all.
  • Also can do mapping by conversion rate.  You might have some inactive pages that are converting.

When looking at data from search console, pages that are ranking. Focus on the business metrics. Eg the orphan pages that are converting so do not delete them.

François said you can combine your Google Search Console with OnCrawl data and look at the structured data and the impact on CTR. You can crunch your data to understand search intent.

How SEO for News Sites can Help All Websites

Barry Adams, Director of Polemic Digital,  took to the stage after lunch to take us through an interesting presentation about News SEO. He said that, if you have a news site and you mess up, then you know straight away. You know within a day (not 2 or 3 months).

It makes for a lot of fun and games and also stress (lol).

  • 2002 – initial beta of google news
  • 2006 – official launch
  • 2007 – universal search
  • 2015 – accelerated mobile pages

The “Top stories” is where the real meat of Google news is located.

Google crawls the source code, extracts the content and then indexes it.

The code needs to be clean. There are some constraints on the HTML code. 

How can we make sure that we will get indexed in Google news and can start appearing in Google news?

  • Make sure you have Google clean code.
  • Your page was in Google News and in Google Search Console.
  • You can see in Google Search Console about the fragmented article, you can see this in the error section and you can see if Google stopped reading that article. 

Code quality still matters.

  • Barry talked about publishers writing about Arnold  Schwarzenegger.
  • Google sees these publishers as a reliable source on those entities so they feed this into the algorithm. Trust that publisher. Eg when Men’s health is writing about Arnold Schwarzenegger.
  • March 2018 – this was news apocalypse day. On this day, Daily Mail lost 50% of their traffic. It was all wiped out.
  • Since then, all the news sites are all hovering around a ceiling (Barry showed a screengrab).
  • No matter how much you put in or how good you are, Google makes the decisions.
  • Barry said that one of his clients saw a massive drop in rankings after the June update (this year).

AMP – on mobile this carousal is AMP

  • You are not in the top stories unless you have AMP
  • You have to optimise – so HTML should be clean and lean, keep it nice and tidy. You need to know what every component does.
  • Build your topical expertise over time – helps build your entity graph and structured data plays a v big part in it.
  • Google is still the boot and we are the ants. They will squash us if we do not follow what they want.

Developing a SEO friendly CMS from the ground up: Top Learnings to Drive Hyper Growth

Fabrizio Ballarini from Transferwise talked about his personal experience of building a CMS. He said that publishing via a CMS does not scale

There are four categories of features you should invest in engineering

  1. Accessibility (make search engines bots happy)
  2. Monitoring (Avoid screwing up)
  3. Publishing Ops
  4. Scaling

Fabrizio from Transferwise


  • You need to have a list of platforms that the SEO platform should have eg canonicals, meta data, customise URLs, structured data, sitemap
  • Then define what is a must to build and what you can hack.
  • Human vs platform
  • Fab says that they spend a lot of time what can humans do vs what the platform can do.
  • Eg hreflang 
  • You also need to Invest time defining ideal user roles and rights.


  • Fab asked the question “Why crawl a site you actually own?”
  • Instead he made a good point and said that a company could monitor the site within the platform instead of using Screaming Frog for example.

Publishing Ops

  • Plain content search capability
  • We can now search content of each page directly looking into Looker
  •  So they locate the issue, replicate the issue and then inspect the element
  • Better sync
  • Fine tune backend to achieve seamless workflow 
  • User friendly built split testing


  • We need to leverage APIs 
  • You need to know your CMS, your content and structure data.
  • Then other thing is 
  • Scaling launches and MVPs
  • So want to build 1000 new pages about ice cream. 
  • So build a template, then prepare list of variables, test locally and execute.

What did they learn?

  • Must escape technical dependencies from other teams, takes time but worth it
  • Don’t limit to just sending a SEO recommendation without knowing how people will implement it in the organisation
  • Treat users of the platform as customers of the platform
  • Don’t build features until you future proof them
  • Be careful what you build cause have to maintain it.

So start with an an empowered autonomous full stack SEO team.

  1. Constantly reddened what SEO features are handles by platform vs users
  2. Build monitoring into your platform
  3. Invest in features to improve 

Gamification – How to level up your link building

Becky Simms, CEO and Founder of Reflect Digital gave an interesting presentation about gamification and how it has helped with her company’s link building.

Becky said that we all need to find new places in the journey that allow brands to build relationships with their audience. Users care about shared values and having experiences with brands. 

Reflect Digital started borrowing elements of gameplay and applying them in a traditionally non-game context. Consumers are open to gamification and they like it.

It does influence their buying behaviour – 60% of people surveyed said they would be more likely to buy from a brand if they played a game they enjoyed with that brand. You can download the full report here.

Game Find 50

They did a buzz feed game to generate interest and then launched a full game with the aim to generate links. They also won Betfair as a client off the back of it. There was no sales message in the game. This is very important in gamification. It is about building a relationship with the user.

How to build a game

  • The game Becky’s team made, created a community effect
  • It is important that games challenge the brain
  • Customers want to have puzzles
  • The game needs to be part of an integrated digital strategy 
  • Sense check with journalists, is there a hook?
  • Also consider achievements – will help motivate people
  • Consider all devices
  • Consider a series of games
  • Have multiple campaign goals, do not hang all your hopes on one
  • A game can deliver pr coherence, links, data, customer insight and more
  • Do not make it too sales focused
  • Do not do data capture too early
  • SO before launch tell your clients and then on the launch day tell the wider audience
  • Launch day- get social – do not need to spend a lot of money or time on social

How To Write Press Releases & Contact Journalists

Post Launch

  • Then 1 day post launch, reach out to targets that have not responded
  • 2 days post launch, consider forums 
  • Think about the local app
  • Challenge influencers and engaged audiences 
  • Then reflect, tweak and repeat. This is not just for the short term.

So what can you expect to achieve?

  • PR coverage
  • Engagement 
  • Increase in social following
  • Traffic 

Becky Simms and the pyramid

Then do the email journey planning. Ask yourself ” what does that journey look like for you?”.

Think about retargeting how as a company you can share the message.

Some of Reflect Digital’s games were: Find 50 clubs, Find 50 sweets and Caesars-casino

You can download the full slides here.


And that is a wrap. I thoroughly enjoyed being the MC of the Search Elite track. A big round of applause is deserved for Jackie, Craig and Andy for organising the 6th Digital Elite.


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