I hadn't planned on writing this article.

I'd tweeted a long-held opinion of mine - that more people within the SEO industry should be talking about climate change.

This was an observation based on using Twitter for several years.

Of course I can't follow everyone and there undoubtedly will be people who have been talking about it, but from the conversations I follow I've not seen much climate talk.

I just hoped to see more people talking about it.

The reaction to the tweet

There were a few groups of responses:
- those that agreed βœ…
- those that agreed but with the caveat of "but what can we do about it" πŸ€·β€β™‚οΈ
- those that shared no opinion but said it was irrelevant to bring it up here β›”
- those that denied climate change is real πŸ™„

I'm not going to argue against climate change being a hoax - clearly it is real, is man-made and is a threat to all of us. Its not just about "bad weather" but about food production systems failing, biodiversity collapse, and a whole host of other pretty terrible things.

Instead I wanted to try and talk about some of the positive things we could be doing collectively as part of the SEO industry πŸ’ͺ

I also wanted to add that of course I don't blame SEO's or the industry - we're not at fault for climate change more than any other industry.

I'm simply taking the stance of - why not try and do something about it?

If lots of people from other industries/sectors/professions did similar, perhaps the fight against climate change would be a little stronger.

This isn't about winning the fight at this stage - it is about limiting the impacts of climate change to the best of our abilities.

We're already seeing the impact of climate change but now the challenge is to prevent some of the worst-case scenarios from unfurling.

Ways the SEO industry could help limit the impact of climate change

I think there are two parts to this - how to reduce CO2 emissions, and using our own platform or position by raising awareness of how serious climate change is.

I think as SEO's we're in a great position to be able to drive influence from our position within our client's business (inhouse SEO's may yield even more power here).

We probably have huge digital footprints - higher than the average web user - and so we shouldn't turn a blind eye to this.

Every time a web page is loaded, CO2 is released from the datacentre powering the site (unless run on renewable energy) and from the users own device (again, unless powered by renewable energy).

So as SEO's by growing traffic to a website we're (perhaps unknowingly) increasing CO2 emissions too! 😯

Again to confirm what I mentioned earlier - this isn't about us living perfect, completely CO2 free lives in some kind of ideological off-grid bubble.

This is about reducing emissions as best as we possibly can and using cleaner (renewable) energy sources.

1 - Reducing Co2 from websites (or, making your website load faster!) ⚑

This is going to be the easiest for SEO's to help achieve, especially for technical SEO's.

All websites emit CO2 due to the files and resources they consume.

Every time you visit a site, various files are loaded by the server and then again on the users computer/phone/tablet.

Each KB loaded has an equivalent in terms of Co2 emitted.

So reducing the size of the resources needed to power a site and making the site faster will naturally reduce CO2 emissions.

Software developer Danny Van Kooten reduced one of his WordPress plugins by 1kb which resulted in an estimated reduction in CO2 emissions of 2950kg per month.

This is the same amount of CO2 as flying from Amsterdam to New York 5 times! πŸ›«

It's not just about making asset sizes smaller but figuring out how to speed up the load times across the entire site.

That could mean setting up CDN's like Cloudflare, auditing the use of sliders (do you really need them?), clearing up unused JavaScript, and so on.

There are of course many more ways to make a site load faster.

The great thing about this fix is that it's tied to SEO performance too - faster sites should rank higher (all other factors being equal, which is rarely the case).

2 - Using hosts that are powered by renewable energy πŸ”‹

This is another big one although may be out of the hands of SEO's, falling more on the shoulders of web developers and other IT teams.

Making use of green web hosting powered by renewable energy should be high on all business owner agendas.

There are many good green web hosts out there but you have to be wary of greenwashing too.

A web host that plants a tree for all its customers sounds great - but planting trees isn't enough to help fight against climate change, and is often used as a form of greenwashing.

You should look for web hosts that are powered fully by renewable energy, not just those that choose to offset their emissions or by buying carbon credits or similar.

By running your site on a green host you can greatly reduce the CO2 emitted - non-green or dirty hosts will have far higher emissions.

This is one thing I need to resolve personally as this site isn't powered by green hosting - something I'm hoping to solve 😬

3 - Using SEO tools that are powered by renewable energy πŸ”§

How many of us have stopped to consider what powers the SEO tools we use on a day-to-day basis and the CO2 emitted in the process?

Many of us have subscriptions to great SEO tools like SEMRush, Ahrefs and many others - but its not clear (or kept private) as to how they're powered.

Sitebulb would be one exception here - they have a great Climate Positive page that explains what steps they are taking. I'd love to see more companies doing something similar!

Sitebulb's climate positive page
I love this from Sitebulb - their Climate Positive page (why can't more websites do something similar?)

Knowing how powerful Ahrefs is for finding backlinks it must have incredibly powerful (aka resource hungry) crawlers that access the web 24/7.

I know Tim Soulo the CMO of Ahrefs has tweeted about their data centres before - but it would be interesting to know how green their setup is.

It would be great if those big SEO tools (and sites in other industries too!) could create accessible pages that discuss how they're helping to deal with their own emissions, not only because they care but also to encourage others to follow suit.

And similarly to how privacy policy or cookie pages seem to exist on all sites - why not have a dedicated sustainability or climate page?

You can disclose how the site is powered, and the steps the business takes to reduce its climate impact.

Those could be accessible from the footer so its easily found and becomes a great reference point for all sites.

4 - Broadcasting/live streaming SEO conferences to avoid long distance travelling 🀳

I know people love to attend SEO conferences, and I have nothing against that.

I think it's super important to meet up face-to-face and to get away from screens to chat, making real human connections.

However sometimes this might mean people travel long distances - often flying - simply to attend a conference.

Why not livestreaming conferences so people around the world can digitally attend?

This won't be the same as attending in person, and networking opportunities will be lost, but it then makes the conference more accessible to the wider community (many of which likely can't afford the high costs of travelling and accommodation anyway).

We could then look to prioritise attending any local SEO conferences instead - and if you don't have one nearby, have you considered trying to start one, or even setting up a local Meetup or similar?

I remember when TechSEO Boost livestreamed a conference for all to benefit from back in 2017, making it free in the process. This was great and I wish others could do this.

Other ideas here would be to offer discounted tickets for those people travelling via low-emission means of transport (bike, train, bus, etc) or worst-case scenario, offsetting the emissions generated by people who attend the event.

Offsetting doesn't remove CO2 but it would be better than doing nothing.

Other ways we can educate or raise awareness of climate change in the SEO industry 🌍

This is a slightly trickier task as it becomes more about raising awareness and of course bringing up a fairly difficult topic.

Some will try and shut that down for being "political" - something I don't quite understand as climate change is a non-partisan issue, aka it will impact all of us.

5 - What are my clients doing about climate change? πŸ“¦

I think one big way we could all look to take meaningful action is by looking closely at the kinds of clients we work with.

Are we helping to serve businesses which clearly don't care about the environment?

Are they selling cheap disposable plastic items where eco-friendly alternatives exist?

Are they not bothered about investing in green hosting or in reducing their website emissions?

You could go one step further by looking to only work with those businesses which are helping to fight climate change by investing profits into environmental schemes - like many purpose driven businesses do.

Failing that, you may even just like to bring up the subject with your client in a tactful and responsible way.

Encouraging businesses to become greener, and ensuring that they are shouting about the work they're doing in that space will have a positive impact on their marketing too.

That's not to say you should help them to become greener solely for the marketing benefits of doing so - its just a happy by-product.

Worth remembering - don't beat yourself up if you're not working with green companies, and don't expect overnight change even if you do ask them to go green!

Ways to reduce your CO2 emissions outside of SEO 🌲

I think it would be bad of me not to mention some of the ways you can reduce your CO2 emissions outside the wonderful world of SEO, in your day to day lives.

  • Eating less meat is likely the biggest change you can make, particularly beef πŸ–
  • Try to eat locally produced, seasonal vegetables and fruits when possible πŸ…
  • Cycle more often, use the car less, and avoid flying if you can 🚲
  • Avoid buying clothing from "Fast Fashion" retailers - use charity shops or shop for used clothes (and remember to reduce, re-use and recycle in general) πŸ‘—
  • Plant more flowers and trees whenever possible 🌻

I personally believe that whilst the above will help the cause - far greater change is needed at a systematic level to impact meaningful change at a rate that we really need.

Do you think the SEO industry could do more to help with climate change?

If you made it this far then great - hopefully it means you're on board with what this post is about.

I'm keen to hear from others who feel passionately about this and would like to share ideas or collaborate on any projects in this space.

If you wanted to share thoughts or comments then drop a note below.