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SES London 2014 – The Best 30 Minute Presentation From Any SEO Conference Ever

People tend to fall in one of two categories when dealing with search engine marketing conferences: love or hate.

I tend to be in the latter group. They are often too fluffy, too general, too long, and too big league for me. I can see where they fit into the industry; I understand that a small client side team doesn’t get to pick the brain of the SEO experts all that often, and I can see where an agency can really benefit from getting on stage and presenting to them.

I get it. But on the whole they just aren’t my bag.

While I am making incredibly sweeping generalizations, let me throw this out there:

Maile Ohye, a developer programs tech lead at Google, presented on day two of SES London 2014 and gave the most helpful 30 minute conference session ever. Maile, with her seemingly never-ending fountain of enthusiasm, stood on stage, spoke about common tech problems many webmasters experience, and gave straightforward advice on how to fix them. And did you catch her title? She is the developer programs tech lead. At Google. GOOGLE. Maile was a friendly human face behind the beast that both feeds and frustrates our entire business model. She coordinates Google Webmaster Central’s outreach efforts, and she blogs at the Official Webmaster Blog with some frequency.

You can find most of what she talked about in her post on faceted navigation.
What did she do? Maile spoke in the SES London session titled “Next Generations Site Architecture: Maximising Usability & Findability” where she identified real problems that many websites are struggling with and then told a room full of tech nerds how to fix them in the most Google-friendly way possible. I can’t tell you how refreshing it was to get some great hands-on advice that I could implement as soon as I got back to the office.

The three points that stuck out to me the most with faceted navigation were:

Problem: Rendering unique pages when filtering and there are zero results. I see websites do this All. The. Time. It creates a bad user experience and produces a large number of pages that crawlers will eventually waste time on when going through the site.
Solution: If there are no results for a given filter, grey them out and don’t allow users to click on them. This one came with an added pro tip: add item counts next to each filter so a user knows how many options will be available before he/she implements that filter.

Problem: Using non-standard URL encoding parameters, the example she gave was using [brackets].
Solution: Connect URLs with an equal sign and use an ampersand when appending multiple parameters. This will save a massive amount of trouble as crawlers are not yet smart enough to rationalise about what a URL means. Just keep it simple.

Problem: Using directories rather than parameters for values that don’t change page content. For example, putting a session id into its own file on the URL (www.example.com/candy/session123/product?swedish-fish). This creates tens of thousands of indexable URLs as every visitor will technically create new pages whilst navigating through the site.
Solution: Use URL parameters for this type of information so that Google can quickly figure out if a certain value in the URL requires the crawler to access all the different variations of the content. (www.example.com/candy/product?item=swedish-fish&session123).

Needless to say, Maile has a new fan and I will be sure to check out any future UK conferences where she is making an appearance.

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2 thoughts on “SES London 2014 – The Best 30 Minute Presentation From Any SEO Conference Ever

  1. Briony

    Hey Glen, I wasn’t at SES yesterday, so thanks for the post and summary! :) I’ve been looking into faceted navigation a lot recently, so Maile’s post is super useful!

    I can see where you are coming from, regarding conferences and their content. However, it’s also worth remembering that there are new people joining the industry all the time (especially with more awareness and investment in SEO), so these conferences like SES always be a valuable experience. I remember from my own experiences a few years back, feeling almost overwhelmed by how much I had learnt! And although it is hard to get the balance right and satisfy all abilities and backgrounds, I agree that the best talks are the ones that you can go away with actionable insights, rather than talks with just 100% theory and case studies. Sounds like Maile’s talk was just that!

    Reply
    1. Glen McMurry Post author

      Hi Briony, thanks for the comment. You are exactly right, that’s a good reminder of the wider industry beyond my bubble. Again, I understand the place of them and appreciate them, but on the whole, they aren’t my deal.

      Glad you liked the post.

      Reply