The Best Talks from Brighton SEO April 2016

by Stephen McQuinn on Tuesday 31 May 2016

Last month a handful of Forward3D staff ventured south to attend Brighton SEO to hear the latest news and advice from some leading search experts.  It was a great turn out and featured brilliant speakers that covered many aspects of SEO. As tickets were limited in availability, we wanted to share what we thought were the best talks of the day.


Better still, we have included the slides and the live streaming video of each talk for you to enjoy in your own time.

1.    Deep Diving into Featured Snippets: How to earn more and rise to the top of SERPs

Rob and his team analysed 1,000,000 SERP’s to uncover how Google selects featured snippets from the pages in its SERP and gave his own recommendations on how to achieve a featured snippet.

What is a Featured Snippet?

A featured snippet, is a quick answer to a search query that is shown at the top of a SERP. Featured snippets are pulled from a page that Googles considers “wholly” answers the search query and includes the title and a link to the page.


Before Rob discussed his research he stressed the difference between a featured snippet and a knowledge graph snippet. 

He explained that a Knowledge Graph Snippet is key information about a search query that is stored in Google’s data base. Knowledge graph snippets are powered by Wikidata and are difficult to influence, whereas rich snippets can be optimised for.


Featured Snippets are a fast track to no.1

Rob found that featured snippets are rarely pulled from position 1. His research, in fact, showed that featured snippets are more often pulled from pages nearer the bottom of the SERP. Nevertheless, if Google pulls information from a page to use as a featured snippet that page is then sent to the top of the SERP, regardless of Domain Authority. In other words, featured snippets are the golden ticket of SEO.

How to optimize your content for featured snippets?

As patterns started to emerge, it became clearer how to optimize content so that it might be used as a featured snippet:

1.    Use STAT to identify Featured Snippet Opportunities.

Rob demonstrated how STAT can be used to identify pages that show the best potential to generate featured snippets.

Instructions in STAT: Show/Hide > Columns > Google Universal Results > Universal Results Filter > Answers 


This list can then be ordered by ranking position to determine which pages offer the best opportunity.

2.    Avoid subjective search queries

The study found that featured snippets were often generated by definitive questions that used phrases such as “Definition”, or “How Much”. 

Conversely, subjective queries that used phrases such as “best”, or “worst” did not generate featured snippets. The word ‘best’ was tested over 20,000 times but did not produce a single featured snippet. 

To optimise content, Rob suggests that SEO practitioners consider definitive questions that audiences might be asking and provide direct answers that target keywords.

3.    Include <ol> and <table> tags

The study found that pages that include a <table> tag produced 21.8% more featured snippets than normal search results and the <ol> tag produced 41.6% more featured snippets than pages with a <ul> tag and normal search results.

Rob’s assumption was that <ol> and <table> tags make it easier for Google to identify important information and pull out ready prepared Featured Snippets.

Unfortunately Rob only had 20 mins to present his findings, however, his full white paper offers others plenty of suggestions to reach rich snippet glory! 


2.    How To Identify And Fix Crawl Issues: Crawl Optimisation


How to Identify Crawl Issues

Barry started by demonstrating how Deep Crawl and Screaming Frog can be used to highlight crawl waste on a website. 

As you can see, of the 96,157 URLs, only 412 of the pages were unique. This amount of crawl waste will have a negative impact on search rankings because Google wants to be to crawl your site quickly and efficiently. 

How to improve crawl speed

Barry suggested a few solutions to improve crawl speed:

  • Optimize XML Sitemap: So that Google can easily follow a simple hierarchy of your site
  • Look out for duplicate URLs with or without a trailing slash
  • Ensure your site map only uses final URLs
  • Remove/Minimise 301-redirects or other Non-200 status pages 
  • Avoid Internal Redirects: So that Google bots are not stopped in their tracks.
  • Optimize Site speed: So that Google can quickly gather information from each of your pages.
  • Avoid Unnecessary Page Crawls: This was Barry’s major concern: to prevent Google from crawling unnecessary pages in the first place

He presented an example of a jewellery store with 1,500 products that had 1.5 Million pages in Google’s index. 

Websites like this contain millions of pages because of the various paths that direct users around the site. To prevent Google from crawling these unnecessary pages we must address Pagination, Faceted Navigation, and Site Search Pages.


Pagination divides content into different pages. This is a common problem with product pages and must be structured correctly to avoid crawl waste.


How to resolve pagination

1.    Use rel=“prev”/“next” tags to indicate pagination: By using these tags Google will identify the pages as a whole series and will prioritise the first page.

2.    Disallow unwanted URL parameters in the robots.txt file e.g. Disallow: /*?sort=* . Disallow will prevent Google from crawling particular pages. Parameter settings can also be changed via the Search Console.

Norman from our SEO team recently addressed Parameter Settings in another blog entry in great detail.

Faceted Navigation

Faceted Navigation is a way of organising items into different categories on a site.

How to resolve Faceted Navigation

1.    Choose a handful of facets that have great SEO value e.g. Casual Shirts, Checked Shirts, Formal Shirts etc.

2.    Build a static page for these facets

3.    Disallow all other unwanted Facets in the robots.txt file

Site Search Pages

Site Search Pages are fairly self-explanatory, they are the pages that are generated when users search for an item on your site. Site searches can result in infinite number of page because every unique search will generate a new page. 

How to resolve Site Search Pages

1.    Disallow Site Search Pages in the robot.txt with the following:

User agent: *
Disallow: /Searchresults.aspx
Disallow: /*query=*
Disallow: /*s=*

Unfortunately Barry was not on the main stage so there is not a video of his talk. Nevertheless, we have found this in-depth video of Barry discussing common SEO issues and how to fix them:


3.    Marketing to Local Customers: Moving Beyond Local SEO to Win the Race


Greg started with the basics of SEO and stressed the importance of local SEO since the rise of mobilegeddon. He gave advice on ‘Google My Business’ and suggested gathering links from local community websites that are “hyper localised” so that Google will associate your company with the area. He wholeheartedly recommended website blogs as a way to drive traffic, and gave advice about ‘local silos’ to drive local rankings. 

Google Updates Hindsight

After, his ‘basic SEO’ introduction Greg made note of the SEO hindsight that we benefit from outside of the US. He explained that Google updates are launched in America, 6 months before they are released across the rest of the world. Greg insisted that we use these months to learn from other people’s mistakes and prepare for the SEO impact. Greg recommended Moz’s Search Engine Ranking Factors for update news, and suggests we pay close attention to any fluctuations in America.

One particular update that Greg suggests could develop in the near future is Google Posts. He did not elaborate on how Google Posts might have an impact on SEO, but was cautious about the subject (It would be great to hear your thoughts on Google Posts in the comments).


Consider other video platforms

As Greg explains “We are all aware of the ‘power of video’” however, some of us may be less aware of the video platform Wistia. Similar to YouTube, Wistia is a video hosting platform that holds more emphasis on analytics and reaching a target audience. Greg was VERY enthusiastic about this new platform and as video marketing becomes increasingly popular, Wistia might be a helpful tool to consider for future campaigns.

Google Beacons

Greg’s final point on local SEO was Google Beacons. For those that don’t know, Google Beacons are Bluetooth devices that broadcast content to devices within a radius of a few meters.

Greg explained that in the past people would need to install certain apps to receive messages from these beacons, however more recently, beacons can send messages to people using any content app. 

What was really impressive about this new technology, was Greg’s research with his company DealerOn that received a 34.6%-45.7% increase in Click-Through Rate on ads from a Beacon. Greg suggested that this new technology could revolutionise digital advertising if this level of interaction was the norm


4.    The Secret Psychology of Persuasive Content: Five Personality Types


Nathalie was the keynote speaker at Brighton SEO. She jumped on to the stage full of energy and was the perfect end to a brilliant day. 

She pointed out that, contrary to popular belief, decision making is emotional rather than rational and explained that a positive emotional state can increase purchase intentions. To improve a person’s emotional state, that person needs to trust you, although, a lack of trust was actually found to be the biggest problem facing companies online. 

Nathalie proposes that homophily (the tendency of individuals to associate and bond with similar others) is the best way to win a person’s trust. Persuasive content must reflect its audience’s values and motivations, so that they feel, secure, understood, and supported. Nathalie identified the Big 5 Personalities that people can be separated into and highlighted their motivations that we should target:

1.    Extroversion: Someone who is excitable, sociable, talkative and expressive. 
Motivation: Excitement and social rewards

2.    Agreeableness: Someone who is kind, trustworthy, cooperative, and caring.
Motivation: Connection with family and community.


3.    Conscientiousness: pay close attention to detail and tend to be well organised. They are good time keepers and are rarely distracted.
Motivation: Efficiency and goal pursuit


4.    Neuroticism: emotionally unstable, moody, irritable, anxious and stressful.
Motivation: Safety and security


5.    Openness: Open people are more adventurous and have a broad range of interests. They tend to be adrenaline junkies that will happily try anything once.
Motivation: Creativity and intellectual stimulation


Instead of targeting people by their demographics, Natalie suggest that we consider their personality traits and target their motivations. This is something the Forward3D team already implement when building client personas. Identifying what personality traits the audience for a particular brand is likely to consist of, and designing a campaign around their motivations.


Here is more information about each trait and their motivations.

Also try the Big 5 Personality Test for yourself and find out what type of person you are.



It was a brilliant conference, with plenty of activities and talks spread across four different venues. The next event is set to be even better as Brighton SEO is moving to a bigger venue but to sum-up key takeaways from their May event remember to: answer definitive questions within your content to optimize your page for featured snippets, disallow unnecessary pages to avoid crawl waste, be prepared for the SEO impact of Google posts and consider audience’s personality traits and adhere to their motivations.

The next Brighton SEO will be held at the Brighton Centre, 2nd September 2016. While it's now officially sold out, you can signup today to join the waiting list.