Jono Alderson - Need For Speed

by Gianluca Fiorelli

Jono Alderson, Principal Consultant at Distilled, will talk about the latest trends in web performance optimization in a Mobile World at The Inbounder London event next May 2nd. We asked him few questions about the topic of his talk, and his answers literally blew our mind.

Jono Alderson at SMX Munchen 2017


When you look at Jono Alderson, you feel as though you are standing in front of an alternative type of 'Doc', the crazy but genius scientist from Back to the Future.


While always ready for a good joke and friendly banter, Jono can suddenly flip the conversation to the highest levels of geekery and start talking about the future of search or the implications of A.I. in the daily life of a marketer or society.


I have had the privilege of knowing Jono Alderson for many years but it was only three years ago, while attending Searchlove by Distilled, the agency where he now works as Principal Consultant, that I realised how smart Jono truly was.


He was talking about how to make your Wordpress website run at rocket speed when, all of a sudden, the building fire alarm started ringing and everybody had to evacuate.


When we finally returned to our seats, Jono jumped back on stage and picked-up his sessions as if nothing happened.


Since creating The Inbounder, Jono Alderson has always held a spot on the list of speakers I wanted to invite and, finally, I have the opportunity to include him in the lineup for The Inbounder London event on May 2nd.


Jono will discuss two of the most trending topics these days: website performance and mobile.

The title of his session is: Accelerated Mobile - Beyond AMP! 


I asked Jono a few questions to better introduce us to his presentation at The Inbounder in London. 



In your presentation for The Inbounder London you will talk about some of the most advanced techniques used to ensure a website is running at rocket speed.


However, even if every SEO knows how important speed is for the user experience and the undeniable proof relating speed and conversion rate, this facet of SEO seems still somehow neglected by many search marketing professionals.


What would you tell them to convince them that this is a myopic attitude? 



I think, by now, most people have achieved the easy 'front end' wins (like shrinking their images, combining JavaScript files, etc), but perhaps struggle to go deeper than that. 


The problem with performance optimisation is that it gets very technical, very quickly. You need a reasonable grounding and some expertise in areas like database design, caching, server setup, scripting, CSS and JS in order to identify and remove bottlenecks; and that's an increasingly alien skill set to a generation who've been mostly focused on content + inbound marketing.


This worries me a lot. Improving performance is so important, but we're not equipped to move the needle. I worry that the SEO community is increasingly lacking an understand of how websites work at a technical level. I worry that, if we don't catch up, we'll find that we're not really digital marketers anymore, but rather just new-age PR folks. I'd love to see more SEOs becoming experts in web infrastructure, etc., and us leading the charge on performance improvement.


Jono Alderson speaking



One of the main topics in your presentation will be PWAs (Progressive Web Applications).


I personally find them fascinating. In essence they are the best of both Search and APP and offer a great opportunity especially for ecommerce websites, which still are substantially not considered by the AMP consortium.


However, a recent tweetstorm by Ashley Berman Hale (you can read it here), put the focus on how PWAs seem to be struggling with one very basic need for every website: indexation.


Is this issue a threat to the potential reception and success of PWAs? And what are the most common mistakes that can cause it?



Yeah, PWAs aren't a magic bullet for your poorly-built website.


You're absolutely right that they'll only work for you when you've got everything else working and set up for success. It's not something that you can just 'bolt on' and hope to easily drive any kind of value from.


I do think that they're positioned to disrupt the current app ecosystem, though. Google's betting the house on the combination of AMP and PWAs as a way of combating the app ecosystem, but we're only just scratching the surface of what's to come. 


I'm excited to see what happens as we explore sideloaded APKs (where the PWA will generate an app on the fly), which raises some interesting possibilities. In particular, these apps will have much easier and deeper device integrations; access to phone hardware, authentification, location, etc.


Imagine an experience where I search for car insurance and click a result, and seamlessly transition to a sleek, sideloaded app experience which prompts me for permission to automatically submit an enquiry form using the details stored on my phone. This sort of thing will become increasingly common, and even more exciting when you consider that PWAs work best on repeat and frequent visit models.


But back to your point; all of this is only really going to be viable when you've fixed your crappy website and sorted out your crawl/indexation/value issues. Perhaps, not even then - if you're going to really take advantage of the opportunity, your AMP and PWA experiences should be designed-for-purpose and take advantage of the format, rather than just delivering just-another-version of the same web page.


Jono Alderson



The other protagonist of your presentation at The Inbounder will be HTTP/2, which unites two of the most promoted needs for Google aimed web owners (and SEOs) : security and speed.


Do you think that "factors" like having a secure website and PageSpeed will finally become important ranking factors that, despite past buzz, never became?



I don't think that speed or security are necessarily (nor ever will be) ranking factors. However, you can bet that they correlate very closely with user behaviour, trust, preference, and more. And, given that, it doesn't matter what the signal itself is; just improve it!


Frankly, I think it's incredible that the industry is talking about 'having a secure website' as if it's an SEO thing, and as if it's even optional. I'd love some hard numbers on it, but I'd expect the vast majority of consumers to prefer a brand which is 'secure' to one which isn't, and for their behaviour to reflect that.


How many consumers or sales do you lose to slow experiences, red padlocks, or browser warnings? This is so basic that it isn't even marketing, never mind SEO. The web is maturing and your customers expect you to mature with it - if you're not there yet, you're going to get left behind.



Tell me in 140 characters why people should come to The Inbounder London on May 2nd.



Lightning fast tips for a lightning fast website; leave your competitors in the dust. Speed up your databases, CSS, JavaScript and websites!


Finally, if you have read my past interviews with other The Inbounder speakers like Rand Fishkin, you know that I like to finish them by asking my interviewee to answer to the so-called Proust Questionnaire, which I find is an amazing way to discover more about an interviee's personality.


What is your favorite word?
I like 'interfenestration', which is the space between two windows. Doesn't come up often, sadly.

What is your least favorite word?
Link. Links. Backlinks. Linking.  Link building. Get the idea?

What sound do you love?
The first 'glug' noise as you pour from a newly opened bottle of wine.

What is your favorite curse word?

What profession other than yours would you like to attempt?
City planning

What profession would you not like to do?
Anything without some kind of 'sucess' or end outcome. I need to feel like I can progress towards a meaningful goal.

If heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the pearly gates?
I'd like to understand whether I did anything worthwhile, meaningful, impactful. Did my life change the world - even a little bit? Or did I just turn the wheels of some economic machine with no real output?


In conclusion, if you would like to see what a brilliant speaker Jono Alderson is, you watch the talk he offered last February at Friends of Search below:



Gianluca Fiorelli
SEO Consultant
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