SEO on the Edge Webinar Panel

Do you SEO for a big website? If so, do you struggle to get all the on-site SEO improvements implemented due to lack of site access or a poor CMS? Perhaps conducting SEO ‘on the Edge’ may be exactly what you’re looking for.

In this episode of Old Guard vs New Blood you will learn what can be implemented on the Edge, how to do it and how this could revolutionise the efficiency of your SEO approach.

Joining Dixon Jones are Nick Wilsdon and Chris Green from Torque Partnership and Emily Potter from Search Pilot.

Watch on-demand

Listen to the Podcast

Transcript

Dixon Jones

Hello everyone, and welcome to Old Guard, New Blood, Majestic’s monthly podcast show. Nice to have you. This is episode 21 and we’re going to be talking about SEO on the Edge. And as usual, I’ve got a great panel here today. Let be bring them in. We’ve got Nick Wilsdon, Chris Green and Emily Potter, who all have a lot more experience than me around this topic. So firstly, why don’t you guys all introduce yourselves. Chris, why don’t you go first? Hi, Chris.

Chris Green

Cool. Hi.

Dixon Jones

Who are you and where do you come from?

Chris Green

I’m Chris Green. I’m SEO consultant with Torque Partnership. I’m also a technical director at Footprint Digital. Yeah, long time SEO, kind of blagged a job as a content person about 10 years ago and haven’t looked back since. Now primarily involved in Edge work, high-level SEO consultancy and sticking my nose into things, just picking all the cool jobs and finding new ways to solve problems.

Dixon Jones

Amazing. Emily? Who are you and where do you come from?

Emily Potter

I’m Emily Potter.

Dixon Jones

And thanks for waking up so early, by the way.

Emily Potter

Yeah, no problem. I’m head of customer success at SearchPilot. And if you don’t know, we’re a tool, we do A/B testing, but it’s also an Edge technology as well, so that’s kind of how we implement our tests, and I’ll be talking about that today.

Dixon Jones

And it’s brilliant to have an actual Edge technology in with us, so thank you very much for coming in. Nick, where are you and where have you come from? Never seen you before in my life.

Nick Wilsdon

Yeah, I know. I’m very rarely out of this room really for the last two years. But yeah, I’m Nick Wilsdon, I’m the CEO of Torque, actually, so I work with Chris, and I’ve been an SEO for about 22 years now. And I’ve worked across agency seven years, Arena, Havas, Dentsu, and then worked in-house at enterprise across brands like Vodafone Group, eBay, yeah, and Estee Lauder.

Dixon Jones

Brilliant. So guys, before we jump into things, the first question for everyone, by the way… Well, actually, the first thing I’m going to do is make sure everybody in the audience understands what the Edge is and that kind of stuff. But before I jump into all that, I’d like to just bring in my producer, David. Hello, David, how are you? And is there anything I’ve missed out in today’s show?

David Bain

No, not at all. I just want to make sure that everyone’s aware, if you’re listening to this show afterwards on somewhere like Apple Podcasts or Spotify, make sure you sign up to majestic.com/webinars, and then you can sign up and be part of the live audience and hopefully interact and ask questions on future episodes.

Dixon Jones

Fantastic. And if anybody in the audience does want to ask a question, if you are watching it live, then please ask a question. I think you can do it on Facebook or YouTube and we’ll get it through to the panelists here today. So, just before I ask for your one tip, I’m going to ask, by the way, David, to choose the best tip for the whole session and bring it back to us at the end. So, if anybody can’t stay for the whole session, then head towards the end. But let’s start by just working out what the Edge is and what we’re trying to do today. So, Nick, why don’t you start and tell us what we mean by the Edge?

Nick Wilsdon

Yeah. So, what we’ve had previously today, is we’ve had CDNs, content delivery networks, and you’ll know these as Cloudflare, Akamai, Fastly. These are all the main players. CloudFront. And what they’ve been doing to date, have been making sure that you get content distributed around multiple servers, multiple points around the world. So, if I come into a website from Dubai, I have a local server, I can then access this content very quickly, so I’m accessing cached versions of that content. So, this kind of gave brands a way of distributing their content globally, effectively. They didn’t have to build their own network of servers, they hitched on the back of existing services like Akamai or Cloudflare. And these systems are massive. I mean, Akamai updates in… it’s under four seconds globally when you upload a single piece of content. So, this is amazingly fast.

But what they’ve realized is they can go the next step on and they can not only deliver content, but they can start to manipulate content, or taking content from different places. And so, if you imagine something, perhaps an example, a redirect. So, while you might do redirects on the origin server, we’d call this the… as you would imagine your server in your data center somewhere, we call that the origin. Instead of that, we would then do the redirect on the Edge. So, the user would come in, hit that redirect, and then go to the right place on the origin server.

Previously to that, you might have them go into the origin server through the CDN, getting the redirect, going back to the CDN, and then coming back to the place that they’re meant to be on. So, immediately, you can understand how Edge architecture could be more efficient and how it can help build out your network. This is developing really rapidly now where we have the ability… And we’re calling this serverless technology because we now have processing power, we have CPU power within this network to be able to run JavaScript, to be able to run A/B testing, to be able to run any kind of changes you want to make on the page. This is SEO changes, but it’s also security, personalization, anything on these lines. So, this is the new frontier.

Dixon Jones

So, it’s amazing some of the things that you can do then. And Emily, I mean, SearchPilot’s built this really incredible tool which is an amazing example of what you can do on the Edge. So, can you explain how you’ve used the Edge to do A/B testing?

Emily Potter

Yeah. So yeah, as Nick explained, we’re sitting… We’re not Akamai, so we’re kind of going to come after your CDN or Akamai, Cloudflare, et cetera. But similarly, we will change your HTML and origin source code or client-side JavaScript if necessary, before it gets to a user, and crucially, before it gets to Google Vault as well. So, we’re changing things from a user perspective, Google Vault perspective, it’s changing the website, which means it gets indexed, it impacts your rankings, all of that.

But also it means we don’t need developers from our customers. We build all of this. And the unique thing about SearchPilot is we have a CMS on top of that as well. So normally, with Edge, you have to use workers, which is code in JavaScript that you write, and then that will change at Cloudflare. With our CMS feature, that’s that much easier. And we have a professional services team that helps with that. So, that’s how we’re changing websites and able to test things, which means we can test it, if it’s negative, we can roll it back immediately, and we’re not actually using engineering resource for that.

Dixon Jones

Okay. And Chris, I mean, this is a major new tool in an SEO’s arsenal when you haven’t got access to the main site. But is it one in a range of tools that SEO’s can use to do SEO if they haven’t got access to the main site?

Chris Green

Absolutely, yeah. I think this is the… Changing things on the Edge has become probably one of the better ways of workarounds. I think, when we’re talking about what we’re doing and fixing to get around these blockages, fundamentally doing it on the origin on the site is the best option, just in terms of keeping everything centralized and organized. But if you can’t make the change live, you could make it on the Edge. Or if you can’t make it on the Edge, you could go in via other vectors, potentially via JavaScript injection, tag managers and similar. I mean, I’ve even seen people use other third-party services like A/B testing platforms to create a variant test and have it running all the time. Now, these are all versions of an imperfect fix, but if they’re a proof of concept or if they’re a conversation starter to show the importance or the significance of getting this test live, it’s just the way forward. So, a lot of these are just enablers. The fix should always take place at the origin, if it can.

Dixon Jones

Okay. So, in a way, it’s a pretty exciting relatively new methodology for SEOs. I mean, I know SearchPilot has been around in form, previously in a different brand name, for a while. But even so, for SEOs, not many people have got into this methodology, have they? In order to do it though… Well, just before I go into that, just in case no one can stay for 45 minutes, if you have a quick takeaway for people, a quick tip that they might have for improving their SEO without access to the site, can you throw one out there? Is anyone going to come out first for a quick tip?

Chris Green

Go on then. I’ll start off.

Dixon Jones

Go on, Chris.

Emily Potter

Chris, you go.

Chris Green

Okay. All right. I’ve broken rank first. So, I think for me, very often in my experience, sometimes even just suggesting some of these workarounds is often quite a compelling reason to get people to actually do the thing they should do. So again, talking more about the JavaScript deployment, that puts fear into the hearts of most dev teams. They don’t want things deployed via JavaScript. And if you can construct the argument, which is, “Do it this way, or do it the way that’s proper,” then that can often help. So, the tip is, have the conversation, find the workaround, don’t accept that just because it can’t be done on the origin there is no other way. And that will often open up doors to you, even if you don’t go down the full Akamai, Fastly, deploy it on the Edge side.

Dixon Jones

Good tip. Emily or Nick? Emily.

Emily Potter

Yeah. I mean, I can piggyback off that. So similarly, it’s new technology, we’re using lots of terminology that sounds intimidating. But as Chris said, just knowing that this technology exists means you can leverage it. So, you can use it to make business cases, you can use it to do A/B testing. If you can’t actually code, there’s people in your team that maybe can. So, it’s still a good thing to be aware of and it’s still something you can leverage as an SEO, even if you can’t write the code yourself.

Dixon Jones

Nick?

Nick Wilsdon

Yeah. I’d agree. Yeah, everything they’ve said. And I think, for me, I’m all about process, because I deal a lot with large enterprises, and getting things done is the challenge. And the reason I got into Edge originally was… I mean, partly it was bypassing some of the blockages that we had in the business, but it was also because it fitted well into a process. And the process was that we would test these things, we’d run a POC, we’d do it on the Edge with the view that the results and the outcome of that would put it back into the workflow for the origin server. So, it became part of a process. And I think my tip on Edge would be, just because you can do it on the Edge, you may not want to do it on the Edge. So, have a thought for the tech debt that you may be building up on the Edge and the politics of the situation. So, that would be my advice when it comes to Edge.

Dixon Jones

Oh, can I just add in a… Well, just put a spanner in the works in the conversation though? Because the primary reason… So, you guys have all suggested that in a perfect world you’d do your SEO on the server. In an imperfect world, the Edge is a great place to do it, and sometimes it might be even faster. But here’s my question to you. If you can’t get access to the server, how are you going to get access to Cloudflare? Because surely that’s even more dangerous. I mean, if I had my Cloudflare or my Akamai connection for Facebook, I could do exactly what somebody else might’ve done. So, you can bring down a website using that just as easily. So, is that not just moving the problem to a more scary place?

Nick Wilsdon

Partly. I mean, it does scare them a lot. And I think the way you get into this is through knowledge. I mean, there aren’t a lot of people in this area. And I’ve been lucky enough to be having been taught Akamai really for over a year now across one of the largest eCommerce sites in the world. So, I’ve got full access to Akamai, I know how it works and how policies work, I know all the ins and outs of the procedure around this. So, you have to be very procedurally driven and you have to be very clear about, “This is how we’re changing. This is how we’ve got the sign-off policy. This is what we’re doing.”

As you say, you’re affecting production code, so what are the sign-off processes that you’re doing? How are you managing that code? Are you using third-party platforms to manage the code, to upload via API, to really get some kind of rigor into that? But knowledge gets you through that door. And so, if you have the knowledge in it, if you’ve done stuff in Edge workers and Cloudflare. Cloudflare’s the most open of all the CDNs. You can go into the develop-y part, you can learn how Cloudflare works, it’s free. Akamai costs a lot so it’s very hard to get into that area. But you can get into those area, but it’s knowledge that opens the door.

Emily Potter

And I mean, in the case of SearchPilot, so our deployment process is long. We do HIPAA compliance, PCI compliance, all of that. We have long conversations with infrastructure teams before we deploy. So, we address all the security issues, but it’s not about getting access to the server at the point you have SearchPilot, it’s about you don’t need engineering resources to do SEO-led experiments. So, once we’re deployed, you don’t need to access Akamai because we’re changing those things.

Dixon Jones

I get it if you’ve got a specific product like SearchPilot, then you know what’s going to happen. So, after you’ve got it deployed, you don’t need to continue to go in and have access necessarily to the-

Nick Wilsdon

No, I’d say four CMS changes, absolutely. If you’re changing titles, meta. With cloud compute, you have the ability to attach databases and sources from the origin server. So, I’m literally pulling in data from the origin server to stitch into requests that are going out to users. So, within cloud compute you’ve got KV store, you’ve got the ability to have databases on the Edge, and I’m working with that data. So, you will get use cases that go beyond where you are developing Edge workers for those specific use cases.

Dixon Jones

Okay.

Chris Green

I think the other thing just to factor in there is, the gatekeepers for the CMS and the servers are often different from those at the Edge and that side of things. And that’s not that it’s necessarily any easier, but quite often, in my experience, there’s fewer people to convince that it’s a good thing if you’re going in via Edge as a vector. But equally, with the right business case, they can see… very often, one senior stakeholder will circumvent another because it’s more of a strategically valid move. So again, you’ve still got to get past the blocker, as Nick said, knowledge is the key, trust is key. But again, what is the case? Can you do something at a 10th of the price for a proof of concept that then buys you that time later on? And you can free up blockages quicker. So, it isn’t always… You’ve still got to get connected. You still need access via API or interface.

Emily Potter

Yeah. In my experience, engineering teams are really open to that argument of… They’re getting questions all the time from their SEO teams to make changes. We’re removing that, and Edge is removing that. Or some of it at least.

Dixon Jones

Yeah. I can see that’s a big draw for the development team, if they can take a big problem. Because SEO, as a rule, we’re quite demanding. We’re quite needy of developers. We kind of need somebody to go back in and change some XDSS code or change some schema or change bits and pieces all over the place. And it’s just a continued drain on a development team that’s kind of wanting to do the next new thing really. So, I can see that there’s a massive business case to be had for saying, “We’ve taken it all away from you. You don’t have that problem.” And it’s a good call.

Dixon Jones

So, thinking about that knowledge, gaining that knowledge then. I guess the way to gain that knowledge really at the moment, I mean, maybe there’s courses too for Akamai and things like that, but for the majority of us, we maybe need to learn on something that’s not quite as expensive, so Cloudflare being the obvious one in my head. Feel free to mention others, it’s just those are the two that stand out for me. But if you were advising a person in the audience who was… they get SEO, they can do some code, maybe they’ve seen a zone editor for DNS somewhere around the work time, but they’ve never actually started playing with workers on Cloudflare or Akamai, et cetera. So, they want to play with their own website for a little bit and do some of the learning, what kind of things can you do on your own website that would be fun to try, didn’t matter if you screwed it up?

Nick Wilsdon

Everything. Everything, Dixon. I mean, I would say for someone getting into this, the two obvious ones are Cloudflare and Fastly. They’re both very pro-people learning them and they’ve both got very… well, they’re free to use, which immediately eliminates one of the barriers to entry. But they’ve also got lots of code there and dev code and you can try some little scripts. And the scripts and JavaScripts can be something as simple as removing the parameters from your site or replacing all your titles or changing all your internal links. And you’ve got sample code, you can try some of these scripts and you can try and do this on your own website.

And it’s one of those areas where… I mean, they have done a lot of documentation, those two platforms, but it’s a really test and learn, get your hands dirty and just try it out kind of area. And the people who are in it at the moment have largely just been playing around and learned it, really. And even with Akamai, a lot of the Akamai engineers are people who previously worked for Akamai and they come out and they become Akamai engineers. So, it’s a very small, niche area. The tools are there though. They’re free. Go and have a go with them.

Dixon Jones

And it opens up an SEO agency to a world of new possibilities with a client if they’ve got that capability.

Nick Wilsdon

If you have that mix of technical ability and understanding of consultancy and process, I think you can go a long way with it.

Dixon Jones

Okay. Yeah. Any other thoughts? Any other ways of learning? Apart from-

Chris Green

I would take a step back even further than that. And I think actually so much of this is not just being aware of the possibility, but actually understanding Edge infrastructure, how it works, how it impacts it, why it’s important. Reading up on A/B testing on Edge. I know SearchPilot does a lot of that as well. And just becoming really aware of what is possible. Because fundamentally, as the SEO, you’re not necessarily going to be the one that’s writing all of the JavaScripts. You’re not necessarily… I mean, you can, but you’re not necessarily going to be the one creating, being the engineer. Very often, if these people have these systems in place, there’ll be an engineering team, albeit a very busy one. But being able to present the argument and the knowledge, and as I said, that acceptance that we don’t have to settle for this not getting done, there is another way.

I think actually, that’s where I would start. I mean, I spent years messing around with JavaScripts in Tag Manager. I keep coming back to that because that’s how I learned it. I broke my own site a lot. A lot underlined in bold. But when you start to see that then taking effect in search console and you realize that I haven’t gone near my CMS for this. And it just makes it more real. So, that’s the gateway. I mean, obviously, the quicker way to do it is be good at writing JavaScript and start building it in Cloudflare. But even if you’re not at that point, I think just an awareness takes you an awful long way.

Dixon Jones

Yeah, okay. So David, I saw a question come up and it went past me. Or a point come up from someone… I didn’t… I missed it.

David Bain

Sure, I’ve got a point from Simon.

Dixon Jones

Okay. Tag management isn’t done on the origin. So, if a site is using that, the arguments should be easier.

Nick Wilsdon

Oh, they should. They really should. But what you’re finding now is that a lot of people were deploying scripts in Tag Manager, and let’s be honest, Tag Manager’s for tag management. So, the people running Tag Manager are getting a little bit upset with people running scripts in it for that reason. And I’m finding that across a lot of big brands. They’re pushing back on that heavily now. And Edge is a much more natural part of the architecture to do that work in. It is much more equipped for that work, so-

Emily Potter

Also, from an SEO perspective.

Chris Green

It’s not as effective, is it?

Emily Potter

Index isn’t necessarily… I mean, Google isn’t necessarily going to index things that are implemented in Tag Manager. So, even A/B testing solutions that use that. I mean, we say, “Test…” If you can’t use something like SearchPilot or Edge, then it’s still better than nothing. But it’s not ideal because you aren’t… you don’t know if Google is actually indexing those changes or not.

Nick Wilsdon

Yeah. I mean, think about how Edge is working, and you see what Emily’s saying. Is that the request comes through Akamai, and you’re taking it, instead of doing something at Akamai level, you’re taking it to the origin server, to the page, to load the page, to get the JavaScript tag for Tag Manager, to then deploy that thing. So, obviously doing that at the Edge is far more robust.

Emily Potter

Yeah. And if you think of core web vitals, now too performance. I mean, site speed’s always been a ranking factor anyways. But we really need to keep these performance things front of mind.

Dixon Jones

Yeah. But using Tag Manager shouldn’t be thrown out the bath… Well, you shouldn’t throw the baby out with the bathwater really, because I think putting… I mean, to be fair, Google Tag Manager, the first thing you put in Google Tag Manager is Google’s JavaScript code for their own urchin or whatever, Google Analytics.

Nick Wilsdon

Which is a tag, Dixon.

Dixon Jones

Yeah. But it’s basically there forever, not if you have the advanced version of analytics where you’ve got JavaScript all over the place. So, they’re asking you to put JavaScript in their own Tag Manager anyway, so I think it’s rich of Google to say, “We’ve built this amazing thing which allows you to run JavaScript, but you shouldn’t be running JavaScript.”

Nick Wilsdon

I don’t think the pushback comes from Google. I think the pushback that I see at brand comes back from the tag management teams themselves who are managing it. They want to be a tag management team managing a tag manager. And the minute you start deploying code through it, this then means they’re responsible for tag management work, you’re not working you’ll bring the site down. Dealing with code that they have no control over. So, it’s a process issue.

So, in terms of architecture, to put this stuff into the Tag Manager is really a bit of a hack. Putting it into Edge means that you’ve got it in staging, you’ve got it in production, you can siphon it off, you can use, for example, Bot Man, which is the bot manager within Akamai to determine who sees that, according to headers, according to user agents. So, you have complete control over that. Doing it on the Tag Manager level, it’s a bit hacky, to be honest. And the pushback I’m getting is from those teams. It’s not from Google. Google doesn’t own a CDN yet, so I think they’re-

Dixon Jones

And they probably own lots, we just don’t know what they are.

Nick Wilsdon

Haven’t found out. Yeah, they probably own all these.

Dixon Jones

Okay, all right. Okay. So, getting into access to CloudFlare or Akamai or Fastly, do those CDNs give layers of access? A bit like a… so that you can ask for a reasonable level of access and not the, “We’re going to change everything”? What are the layers of access in there?

Nick Wilsdon

Yeah, exactly. I mean, speak to different CDNs and different levels of access, but it is definitely easier to control than Tag Manager. So, within Akamai you can-

Dixon Jones

Okay, fair point.

Nick Wilsdon

I’m banging on about Tag Manager. I started, like Chris, in Tag Manager, so I don’t mean to rubbish it. It’s a bit like when you go from Tag Manager fixes to Edge fixes and you go, “Wow, this is much better.” So yeah, you have levels of access and you can limit access to a particular cloudlet, and you call a cloudlet a collection of JavaScripts. You may have a cloudlet within Akamai that does redirections, Edge Redirector, and that’s pre-built production-level cloudlet. And you would then, as a user, just have access to that part of Akamai. You wouldn’t be accessing the WAF or any other security features of Akamai or the others.

Dixon Jones

Effectively, you call each of those cloudlets a plugin for WordPress users.

Nick Wilsdon

Yeah.

Dixon Jones

You just give them access to one plugin.

Nick Wilsdon

Exactly. And so, you can definitely control access. And a lot of the CDNs, because it’s such a new area, they’re all dealing with this idea of process and how you deal with code on the Edge and access on the Edge. Because if this is going to be true to part of the architecture, that needs to be in place, and you can’t suddenly say that we’re going to have all these Edge worker scripts that you can go into and you can be part of the security team putting in JavaScript for fingerprinting, you can be part of the SEO team changing some titles. You can’t have a free-for-all within the Edge platform without some sort of control. So, they’re all thinking in terms of access levels and limited control within those platforms.

Dixon Jones

Okay, great. I’ll come back to Lolpole’s point a little later on because I don’t think it’s related to this particular point. But Chris, we said at the start, or you said earlier on, that usually the origin is the best place to make the changes, but you make the point that some elements could be better done on the Edge, full-stop, for SEO, than at the core website. Can you name some and why?

Chris Green

I think, yeah, there’s an argument of what could be established worked out quicker, more effectively, on the Edge rather than on the origin. So, some of the ones we consider quite a lot internally is redirect management, for example. Because at the moment, they hit the Edge, the Edge routes that to the origin, the origin then says, “I need to redirect you.” And we’ve seen instances where a user might be bounced between the Edge and the origin several times before finally resolving, which is inefficient, costly, I mean, it’s a nightmare. Whereas actually, if the single point of truth for redirects is sat on the Edge, that actually, you will never make it to an origin server until you’re hitting the final destination is a massive advantage. And then you can make use of things like redirect flattening. So, rather than chaining, every redirect is one hop to its final destination, for example. And that can be-

Dixon Jones

In that process, can you also check to see whether there is a live URL at the other end of the chain before you go and then redirect again, if necessary? You can?

Chris Green

Yeah. The idea is it only ever redirects once, that process. You may find that you need to follow the journey for Edge compute to work out where the hops are, then it’ll get cached, and then next time that journey will never happen again, in theory. I mean, you could even go one up and you could have multi CDNs where you have two running. So actually, you’ve got one CDN that’s working out the best location, and then handing it off to the other, but that’s probably going off in the more complex direction. But managing the redirects…

Dixon Jones

Nobody’s ever that optimized. No one’s ever going to be that optimized.

Nick Wilsdon

We’re working with multi CDNs.

Dixon Jones

Except maybe Facebook in a week from now, they’ll definitely have that.

Nick Wilsdon

They’ll be definitely thinking about that.

Chris Green

They’ll have backup routers, yeah.

Nick Wilsdon

But yeah, multi CDN’s getting really popular now because obviously we had the famous fallout with Fastly. I think Akamai’s had a bit of issues. And when you get these failures, it becomes big news across the whole of the web. And I know people get very upset and they’re saying that we’ve kind of centralized everything into these big players. And I think that’s partly right, but then the redundancy they’ve given us by having all those servers around the world massively offweighs that for me. But increasingly, brands are thinking about multi CDN because you can then, as Chris says, fall over to another CDN to serve the response. And that’s quite a sensible kind of strategic way forward with Edge.

Emily Potter

To go back to the question too about what’s better on the Edge. I know I said this, but also just A/B testing in general. Anything you’re testing is going to be better on the Edge because the whole idea is you’re testing things that you don’t know is going to work, and it means you can test really risky things. Also, things like Google algorithm changes that happen, or Google’s recent changes was overriding title tags, it’s really easy for us to then quickly adapt to that. Some of our customers were seeing it was taking the second half of the title tag, which they didn’t feel was well optimized. We could just take that out of their title and Google can’t scrape that anymore. So, that sort of agility is really useful.

Dixon Jones

I think Simon came up with a really good one. Just on the screen there is a good idea. It’s not necessarily going to be… That would be better done on the origin, I think, but it’s a brilliant way of considering hreflang because it’s a nightmare to get that right. I don’t know if Bill Hunt’s Back Azimuth tool uses the Edge to do hreflang? I don’t know.

Nick Wilsdon

I think it’s probably not using Edge. Because it’d be a JavaScript service that it’s bringing in, so it’s probably not using Edge, but it’s probably in the same way as you’d put a tag in to pull that into the page once you hit it on the origin, I would imagine. I don’t want to speak for Bill’s tool.

Dixon Jones

Could I ask a dumb question? Probably for the three of you, it’s a dumb question, but for me-

Nick Wilsdon

Never. There’s no dumb questions.

Dixon Jones

In theory, if you’ve got a JavaScript, any JavaScript that you were running on the server, could you, in theory, just put that JavaScript up onto the CDN and it would run from the CDN?

Nick Wilsdon

It would, yes. Absolutely.

Dixon Jones

Okay.

Chris Green

It would. At a cost though. I guess that’s the other thing to caveat. And I think this is often the prohibitive factor for smaller orgs, is all of this costs additional compute. And there are certain things that it makes sense to do so, so that cost is trivial versus the gain. But moving things excessively onto Edge does cost and it’s not the silver bullet, and the obvious, that will cost forever as long as it does cost. And you’re then down into Edge optimization territory where it’s like, “Well, how do we reduce the amount of requests that we make? The amount of compute time? The amount of data that we store?”

And then, naturally, the other questions are, this is a space that doesn’t have many players. If you’re tied to Akamai, you’re tied to Akamai and whatever their pricing structure. Likewise, with Fastly. And you don’t have a lot of room to maneuver at the moment. A barrier to entry or the lower… the one to enter is Cloudflare. It’s not typified as much as being this enterprise solution, but it’s a lot more open, as Nick said, you can develop on it, but it’s got its own apps and marketplace. So, that knowledge-share in people solving problems. So, I don’t know, a site map generator that works on the Edge could be built on Cloudflare and potentially be applied and ported without you need for an engineer to build one.

Dixon Jones

And I suppose, even if you have got more competitors in that space in future, once you’ve built workers in any one of those systems, then those workers aren’t necessarily going to be easily moveable onto another system. It’s not like moving-

Nick Wilsdon

No, they’re reasonably… I mean, they’re kind of coming around this common idea of the JavaScript and structure, they’re all doing that really, so that’s good, they’re not going completely random. I mean, Fastly effectively allows you to write in anything. You can write in your own programming language, and then it compiles it into a bundle and uploads it. So, that’s the ultimate one for developers. But yeah, if you’re writing JavaScript, it does work cross-cloud for Fastly and Akamai, in my experience.

Dixon Jones

Okay.

Emily Potter

Yeah. I mean, in terms of disadvantages of having things on Edge in general, aside from that too, like the cost, as Chris said, the security, which you touched on. So, if Cloudflare, Akamai goes down, then all your rules are going to go off, so those changes will not be live for that period of time. And then, I mean, I’d say coordinating with dev teams too. At least that’s what we find. So, we have to work closely with our customers’ engineering teams, because they need to know what we’re putting in. And anything that gets changed at the origin will then… it could break what you built on the Edge. So, we see this with title tag changes, for example. For changing a bunch of titles, it’s based off of regex or something, they change titles at the origin, and then that rule doesn’t work properly. So, there are downsides, but I think the upsides definitely outweigh them, but they’re just things to be aware of.

Nick Wilsdon

Emily’s points, that’s such a key point, it’s really important, because if you go out on your own, start doing stuff on the Edge and they don’t know and they’re not aware of what you’re doing on the origin, it can be chaos because you will be conflicting with… They won’t know where things are happening. You’re doing a redirect, is it happening on the origin? Is it happening on the Edge? They won’t understand what they’re seeing because they won’t be testing it from your perspective. So yeah, that’s absolutely key. And this is where it comes back to process and it has to be done in partnership with those teams.

Dixon Jones

Yeah. I can see that being a… The bigger the organization, the bigger that challenge gets really.

Nick Wilsdon

It’s process. And you can do it, but it has to be from that perspective and you have to be deciding how you’re working deeply with those teams. Most of what I’ve learned about it is the process part.

Dixon Jones

So, Nick, I mean, you’re all about process. How do you recommend an organization, a large organization, documents their processes?

Nick Wilsdon

Compliments. Yeah, you just need to be very, very systematic about this. So, you need to be explaining what they’re doing. You’re working with a third party, so you’re working with SearchPilot to do that testing. You’re then explaining how that works. What’s the process, what we’re testing, over what period, what are we doing with the results of that, are those things then coming into the queue to be fixed on the origin? And it’s very, very process-driven.

Dixon Jones

But how is a person that’s then changing a regex going to be aware if they’re in a different department?

Nick Wilsdon

If they’re not-

Dixon Jones

If they’re in a regex department, not the-

Nick Wilsdon

Yeah. No, I mean, if they’re not, I mean, ultimately… I’ve got this with a couple of clients. I mean, the argument for redirects are that you move them all to the Edge, that you aggregate them all together in that space because it doesn’t make sense for you to have redirects in various parts of the origin server. And that happens with big enterprise a lot. And half the time you have redirect loops is because you’ve got redirects in different parts of the origin server, so they’re not even… They have that situation already, Dixon. They’re already conflicting. So, moving them all to the Edge is great because we put them in one single place and because-

Dixon Jones

Single point of truth, yeah.

Nick Wilsdon

Yeah. And because the Edge is obviously called first, it overrides any redirects that would be happening further down the response at the origin server. So gradually, you’re replacing those legacy redirects with a central aggregated group of redirects that you can then do the things that Chris spoke to, where we flattened redirect chains automatically, we’ve helped flag up 404s and helped recorrect links. So, we’ve done those kind of jobs. So, that’s the argument for moving to the Edge.

And the reason that architecture… That isn’t a fix because, as Chris says, you’re stopping that bouncing going on between the Edge and the origin, the Edge and the origin, to get the user to the final destination. And by not doing that, you’ve not only massively increased performance, you’ve knocked milliseconds off the time. I’ve had 800, 900-millisecond reductions in journeys by doing this. But you’ve also taken the performance impact off the origin server because they don’t really want to be dealing with this. And they’re not scaled for this. They’ve got HTC access. If you go into Edge, I’ve got policy files with 100,000 redirects in them in a single policy. I got to… You can get up to millions.

Dixon Jones

You don’t want a typo there, do you, Nick?

Nick Wilsdon

I don’t want a typo. I’ve always got enough space just fit in the whole Majestic.

Emily Potter

Also, enterprise companies. You’re not walking into a company that has everything perfectly organized already. I think, what we’re finding it can help sometimes, as Nick’s saying, if you move everything into the Edge, there’s parts of the website that are actually easier to manage. Big enterprise companies, old legacy servers, they can have multiple servers serving different parts of the website. There’s already lots of different clashes going on. So, this isn’t really new if you can build the processes, like Nick said. And we have custom headers that devs can use for debugging, so they don’t even need us to determine. So, yeah.

Dixon Jones

So, I think it’s kind of, as we’re already answering… we’re talking to Simon’s point, the question that came up on the screen there. For podcasters that can’t see the screen, sorry about that. Simon’s question that popped up was… Can you pop it up again, David? Can you use the Edge to improve page load speed?

Nick Wilsdon

Absolutely.

Dixon Jones

So, obviously, yes, the time to first byte is massively affected by the drop in the redirection chain, and also, of course, CDNs themselves, that’s their very purpose, you’re bringing the data closer to the user, aren’t you?

Nick Wilsdon

And SearchPilot. SearchPilot’s use cases. I mean, they’ve got… I mean, I’m sure Emily will say. They’ve got ways of optimizing the page within that CMS to improve elements that might be causing performance issues.

Emily Potter

Yeah.

Dixon Jones

So, can you demonstrate then, so you don’t have to demonstrate A/B testing based on conversion rates, you can sit there and say, “Look, this page is loading faster than this page because we’ve modified it”?

Emily Potter

Yeah. I mean, so I don’t know, we’ve talked about this concept of default to deploy. So, we do A/B testing, statistical significance is the standard, but sometimes you have something like a redirect that you know you should just do. That’s when our customers are using what we’re calling the Meta CMS or the Edge. There’s some things that just make sense. Or, if you know it’s going to improve page speed, why not just do that? So, sometimes we are just implementing those things.

Chris Green

The other thing you can do in Edge… Oh, sorry, I’m jumping in there. But the other thing page speed-wise is even using tools like Prerender.io on Edge as well. So, it depends on the setup and what’s kind of going on. But if you do have complex challenges with just rendering JavaScript client-side assets, Edge can be used to package that up and serve it easily as well. I mean, it depends on the stack and how complex the problem is. But it’s surprisingly flexible if you do want to speed up delivery.

And then even you have the ability to then say, “Well, that’s my delivery, which could go to just search engine bots and not customers or particular types of bots and regions.” We’re working on a few concepts that are even more nuanced than that, if it needs to. So, you can kind of do anything really.

Dixon Jones

So, Prerender, for novices like me, what is Prerender going to do to help speed? And how do you get that onto the Edge?

Chris Green

So, pre-rendering is essentially just loading all of the assets, typically JavaScript and TSS, other resources, loading it all, and then delivering it as static HTML, rather than putting on that burden of client-side loading. So, in terms of the amount of data that’s transferred, it’s far less because you’re just transferring the front end, not all of the workings and the code that backs up, but you’re also then taking away the need to process and then interpret. So, if you’re running on lower-powered devices that don’t have as good ability to process scripts, you’re actually speeding up their experience two-fold there. And that can just operate on the Edge. So Prerender, you just point at Prerender services on the input, and then you just output pre-rendered output. So, it literally just sits another layer into it, and it just, again, streamlines that process, again, with compute time and cost, but it will greatly increase speed, especially for search engines.

Nick Wilsdon

Because you have to imagine, the Edge can change any URL, any URL response. So, you can basically direct to that page on pre-rendered servers, but then give it any URL string that you wanted it to have. So, it will appear, to all intents and purposes, to the request or the bot or even the user, to be that URL.

Emily Potter

Yeah. And I mean, with that technology we’ve even built landing pages, so you can go that far. We’ve redirected URLs to a blank 200-page and built a whole new page on there. One of our large enterprise customers has used that for really crucial things that their dev team couldn’t get out quickly, but we were able to help with.

Nick Wilsdon

Yeah. And I think the… And the Edge compute is allowing us to stitch. So, we’re basically stitching from various different APIs or data sources around the origin. You can stitch these bits of data together to form new pages. So, we can literally assemble these on the fly within the Edge.

Dixon Jones

Oh, this is fascinating. I’m never going to get back to the question on links, or link building, which is absolutely fine. I think there’s so much in here that we’ll just carry on. We’re nearly at the end anyway. But Chris, you mentioned something about… Well, you were talking before we came on or in chat, that smaller businesses can work as effectively and they can sort of use the app marketplace. So, I’m assuming then that these Cloudflare services have third party apps that can go in there. Is there a market for coders that’s just diving and just asking to be had by going and starting to write for these… Instead of writing your WordPress plugins, start writing your Cloudflare plugins?

Chris Green

Yeah, absolutely. So, a couple of years back, myself and colleague Simon worked together to write a prototype of such an app. The app created the worker script for you, you just deployed it via your Cloudflare. And since then, that whole space has matured. Even things like applications that essentially turn visitor data on the Edge into, effectively, log files. So, everyone that struggles to get… easily obtain log file data, that could all be streamed to you via the Edge, that can be done on Cloudflare, doesn’t necessarily need other really expensive layers.

I think the difference with the use cases of Cloudflare versus some of the others is the challenges of SMEs or lower-trafficked or smaller businesses, they’re different. So actually, that tactical nature of deployment on the Edge and what might be working, you often need to move really, really super quickly. You’re not as often bogged down within the same processes, but you don’t have as much money to… or much time to do it. So actually, the agility that Cloudflare can offer is really important.

The one kind of frightener that got put me… When you compare it to writing apps on a WordPress site or writing extensions, is that same thing. Is if you are building something on your infrastructure that someone else has written, that kind of whole thing of trust, of due diligence and understanding is key. We are in the opening stages, so it is a little bit like the Wild West. You would never copy and paste someone else’s JavaScript and stick it in your Tag Manager code, right? Because that’s not very clever. I mean, I’ve done it before, but I don’t anymore. But, for the same reason that you wouldn’t and shouldn’t do that there-

Dixon Jones

I trust every WordPress plugin implicitly. Surely, it can’t do anything… WordPress said it’s okay.

Chris Green

Exactly. But what’s the worst that could happen on the Edge? Well, actually, I mean, kind of everything. So, you have to proceed with caution, but that’s where there is… There’s only a few people working in this space, but there’s a lot of knowledge that’s quickly accruing. And just basic best practice around security, around what do you implement, what do you do?

But I’ve always been a big fan of Cloudflare, just their ambition and what they’re trying to do. They’re very open. They want to learn. And Cloudflare and Fastly, you have the opportunity to build straight back into that community, and they’re looking to hero and put up people who are using their infrastructure well as well. So, you actually often, those who do want to develop and get a foothold into this space, will feel the benefits through that reciprocity, through that shared platform. And even, they have referral programs and they want to work with partners that do good stuff on it. So, if you are enterprising, can write JavaScript and like SEO, there’s quite a big opportunity.

Nick Wilsdon

Yeah.

Dixon Jones

Has SearchPilot ever been tempted to do a SearchPilot Lite where you just plug and play in these tools?

Emily Potter

I mean, I think we’ve leaned on… So, we do have the CMS, we’ve made the balance between user… It’s not point and click the way WordPress is. We’ve opted not to do that because you lose a lot of power when you do that. So, we can do almost anything through our platform, but it requires a bit more coding knowledge than something like WordPress. I mean, maybe one day there would be something light, but for now… I mean, especially since we’re working with big enterprise customers too.

Dixon Jones

Yeah. So, you haven’t really got a market for a light product anyway, it might just undermine your own offering anyway, so fair point. Fair point. Nick, sorry, did you want to jump in with something there?

Nick Wilsdon

No, exactly. I mean, I was going to say that all these CDNs, they realize that they’re the platform, they’re the environment. And so, they are really encouraging people to come and develop within that platform. I mean, Cloudflare just recently had their competition, didn’t they, Chris? Where they’re running to see who can create an interesting Edge worker, JavaScript. So, they’re all actively encouraging people to come into that space and start developing, but it’s very early on. So yeah, but yeah, to Emily’s point, I don’t think it will ever probably be plug and play like WordPress plugins, and especially enterprise, because enterprise, you’re solving large enterprise custom problems and you’re dealing with the way that… And especially when you get into connecting different data sources and stitching stuff together, it’s really quite bespoke. But it’s a really interesting area, but there aren’t a lot of people working in it at the moment, so it’s quite exciting.

Emily Potter

And if you go too point and click, you lose some of the benefits. So, like we talked about, you can do it for A/B testing, it’s indexable, all that stuff. You want to make sure you keep that functionality, or else it’s not…

Dixon Jones

We’ve gone through the whole 45 minutes without mentioning Amazon, which I think is amazing. Except for then. David, well, firstly, to everyone else, everyone, thank you very much for… I mean, fascinating conversation and absolutely sometimes you go on these shows and you think, “Well, I’ve been there before.” I haven’t been there before. This is all new stuff to me, or a lot of this is new stuff to me. And incredibly interesting. I’ve played around a bit with Cloudflare, but not really appreciated just how powerful the options are. And it just opens up some things for me. David, I asked you if you wouldn’t mind just pick out the best tip that you could. I don’t know if you were paying any attention or whether you were dealing with things in the background. Is there anything that stood out for you?

David Bain

I was watching a nice episode of Coronation Street.

Dixon Jones

Oh, fair enough.

David Bain

No. A quote actually from Chris jumped out at me, and that is, “Don’t think that it can’t be done if you can’t do it right.” And I think that a lot of SEOs would be a little bit scared of probably getting involved with SEO on the Edge if they haven’t actually been involved or don’t understand it at all. And the fact that you can maybe just test a little bit with… I know the general consensus is, “Don’t use Tag Manager or other services,” other maybe split testing services to actually get it done. But maybe as a little test, just to demonstrate what it can achieve is probably worthwhile experimenting with. So, I like that quote.

Dixon Jones

Amazing. Okay, David, before we ask everybody to say their goodbyes and how we can find out more about them. What have we got coming up next month?

David Bain

Sure. Next month on Wednesday the 3rd of November, this is the annoying week when it’s actually GMT in the UK and still summertime in the United States, so it’s 5:00 PM GMT.

Dixon Jones

Oh, we’re going to make a nightmare with the… Yeah, okay. Right. Watch that on catch-up.

David Bain

And 1:00 PM in Eastern Daylight Time. We’ve got the topic is website crawling for SEO. Already booked for that one is Izabela Wisniewska and she’s from Creatos Media. We’re going to have some more guests for that one on that topic as well.

Dixon Jones

Brilliant. So guys, I really appreciate you coming along today. It’s been really useful. If anybody wants to get hold of you, Chris, how can they find you? Where do they go?

Chris Green

Best place to find me on Twitter. DMs are open. I pontificate a lot. But @chrisgreenseo. Unfortunately, there are many Chris Greens, even within SEO.

Dixon Jones

I was going to say, if you’d got @chrisgreen you were doing really, really well.

Chris Green

He hasn’t accepted my offers on the handle and doesn’t matter how many-

Nick Wilsdon

Chris bought his first NFT though, so it could all just happen now.

Dixon Jones

There you go. Nick, how do they get hold of you?

Nick Wilsdon

Again, Twitter is easy, @NickWilsdon. No one’s going to be able to spell my surname. But yeah, W-I-L-S-D-O-N.

Dixon Jones

W-I-L-S-D-E-N.

Nick Wilsdon

No, see, it’s wrong again Dixon. 15 years, Dixon. 15 years.

Dixon Jones

Or whatever it was.

Nick Wilsdon

Yeah, whatever.

Dixon Jones

I don’t know. It’s Nick to me.

Nick Wilsdon

Nick, yeah.

Dixon Jones

Okay. And Emily, how do they get hold of you?

Emily Potter

I mean, Twitter is also best for me. @E_MPotter. Or, I mean, if you’re interested in SearchPilot, look at our website, lots of resources on there. We have a case study emailing list with tests that we’re running, or you can sign up for a demo and that sort of thing.

Dixon Jones

And SearchPilot’s on where? What site?

Emily Potter

Searchpilot.com.

Dixon Jones

Searchpilot, com, okay. That’s great. Guys, thank you ever so much for coming on. If you want to stay on after it goes live, then I’ll just be saying thank you again. But everybody that’s come on to the podcast and everybody that’s watching, thanks a lot. Tell your friends about this one because I think this was a pretty special episode, and tell them to have a look at it on Spotify or iTunes when it comes out because I think this isn’t your average SEO presentation. So, thanks guys for coming along.

Previous Webinars

Follow our Twitter account @Majestic to hear about more upcoming webinars!

Or if you want to catch up with all of our webinars, you can find them on our Digital Marketing Webinars page.

Comments

  • Dixon Jones

    This was an awesome episode. I learnt SO much! We really only talk aboutthe power of using CDNs to change webiste content. It’s an SEO skillset waiting for its time! Get in on the ground floor, like these panallists have.

    October 7, 2021 at 2:45 pm

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>
*

THANK YOU!
If you have any questions in the meantime, please contact help@majestic.com
You have successfully registered for a Majestic Demo. A Customer Advisor will contact you shortly to schedule a suitable time to connect.