WTSFest Virtual: Advance, Innovate, Empower

22 March 2021

Posted in: Events

Last week, our SEO Executive Becky went along to WTSFest Virtual, an annual conference held by the support network for women in digital, Women In Tech SEO. Here’s what she learned from the three-day virtual conference.

Women In Tech SEO is a fantastic community of women who come together to coach, inform and enlighten each other. It’s a really welcoming and nurturing, no-judgement environment, where the phrase “this might be a stupid question” is rightly banned!

They’re all across social channels, including a Slack channel, a Facebook group, and they put on regular events that I’ve heard nothing but great things about.

Women in Tech SEO was founded by the incredible Areej AbuAli, who deserves a huge shout out for all of her hard work in bringing women in the field together, and especially for committing to paying the event’s speakers!

I’ve been on the periphery of the group for a while, quietly following, watching and learning, so I was very excited to finally get involved and attend an event.

#WTSFest was a series of late-afternoon webinars across three days. Each day had its own theme: Advance, Innovate And Empower—the perfect mixture of learning and enlightening!

Day 1: Advance

The two talks given on day one worked in conjunction with each other, exploring the differences between what a human sees and what a crawler sees when encountering a website for the first time. Making the connection between ‘user-first’ and ‘bot-first’ is essential for enabling an efficient working relationship between SEOs and developers.

Roxana Stingu kicked off the conference with an amazingly in-depth yet simple explanation of the process we as users go through when we load a website.

The whole ecosystem of network and browser processing and rendering is often bewildering, tricky to understand, and hard to articulate. Roxana’s useful diagrams and analogies distilled this process perfectly, and I’ll certainly be revisiting this presentation for a long time to come!

Second up was Jamie Indigo, who talked us through the process a bot takes when crawling a website.

The core fundamentals of what we as SEOs do is to satisfy (as rightly put by Jamie) “our secret overlord”, Googlebot. The talk was an insightful overview of the journey a bot makes, particularly focusing on the various traps it can fall into, which are often overlooked when coming at the process from a ‘user-first’ perspective.

I came away from the first day with my brain absorbed with lots of new knowledge, and I can’t wait to dig into the subject in more detail soon.

Day 2: Innovate

The second day of the event was a little different, where we had two quite separate (but equally valuable talks) about how we as SEOs can innovate and improve in the work we do.

The first talk was Automated Content Generation at Scale, delivered by Emma Russell.

Emma talked us through a particularly interesting case study she had worked on. In this example, content generation was automated to populate a vast number of product pages for an affiliate website where thousands of product pages are potentially added each week.

As a new website, the strategy relied on having well-optimised product pages to pick up rankings. Emma really got into the details of the process, covering how to manage duplication issues (for an affiliate site with similar products, there were a lot!), difficulties with product variations, finding pitfalls that break your sentences, and how important testing and trial-and-error are for such a vast project.

I found the use of the case study so effective as a way of learning, and I’m eager to learn more about content automation and how we could use it here at Seeker.

Next up was the SEO powerhouse Aleyda Solis, whose presentation on managing complex SEO processes was an absolute treasure trove of valuable lessons.

Her presentation was packed full of models, memes and magic! It included everything from high-level business and organisational theory (such as Genchi Genbutsu, famously used by Toyota) to SEO-focused business processes and specific tools such as Content King.

Some things I found particularly useful were tweaking the Eisenhower Matrix to model IMPACT against EFFORT, the use of second-order thinking to prioritise tasks, and how we should always bring project management principles to everything we do.

I absolutely loved hearing Aleyda telling us: “don’t be afraid to change up your method”. SEO is an incredibly intricate and fast-changing field to work in, where you have to be willing to adapt to get results.

Some things work for certain sites and industries, and some things don’t—it can get extremely subjective and there is nothing wrong with changing your approach.

Day 3: Empower

The theme of the third and final day represents everything the Women in Tech SEO community stands for, so I knew this was going to be an amazing couple of talks.

Carolyn Lyden started the day by presenting an empowering and useful eight-step plan to negotiating your salary. Her talk applied to women negotiating in a range of different situations, from those with existing jobs seeking a pay rise, to freelancers and candidates applying for a new role.

Being able to sufficiently value ourselves and our skills is a hard enough task for many of us, especially for women. But it can get even trickier when your salary is the focal point of the conversation.

The eight steps are incredibly useful, but my favourite part of the talk was the focus on the language we use to talk about ourselves and how it is implicitly negative, for instance: “you probably won’t agree to this, but…” or “I’m no expert, but…”

Many of us find ourselves talking like this in our day-to-day working life (I know I do!), but trying to eliminate this negative, self-deprecating language is especially important to look out for when having conversations about salary and progression.

One of my actions following this talk is to create my own ‘win list’— a file or document with everything I’m proud of, big and small. It can be anything from large projects and deliverables to small messages of positive feedback. I can’t wait to start putting mine together and to use it as a constant source of positivity.

The final talk to round off a wonderful three days was delivered by Tiffany Da Silva. This was both an emotional and empowering talk, and Tiffany started by walking us through her experiences throughout her working life and how this has shaped who she is now.

It was a really honest talk, often tailing everything back to the dreaded imposter syndrome that so many of us can identify with. I came away from this talk with an arsenal of tips and tricks that will help me stay resilient through the ups-and-downs of life, both in and out of work.

Thank you so much Tiffany for being so open and honest in your talk, and I can’t wait to start putting the tactics you recommended into action! This talk was the perfect end to a really empowering few days of speeches.

I was never in doubt going into this event, but after it, I can say with even more certainty that if you’re interested in SEO (whether through your current role or if you want to learn) and identify as a woman, then get yourself involved! The group is a safe space that welcomes everyone, from the total beginners to the biggest experts in the field.

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