. Tha30-second summary:
- From Google’s Cloud Next conference to Starbucks’ shareholder’s meetings, the live event industry has undergone a dramatic transformation in light of the global COVID-19 outbreak.
- As online services become more integrated into people’s lives, audiences expect more information that’s up-to-date and delivered quickly, including the events they plan on attending.
- This is where event schema markup can really help optimize event web pages so they show up on search results pages.
- Superb Digital’s Managing Director, Paul Morris shares a comprehensive guide on how to implement event schema markups that can win SERP rich results.
The live event industry has undergone a dramatic transformation in light of the global COVID-19 outbreak.
From Google’s Cloud Next conference to Starbucks’ shareholder’s meetings to live music performances, organizations and performers have had to move their in-person events online to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus while still addressing their audiences’ needs.
As online services become more integrated into people’s lives, audiences expect more information that’s up-to-date and delivered quickly, including the events they plan on attending. This is where event schema markup can really help.
What is an event schema markup?
Schema markup is code that helps search engines better understand what a web page is about in order to present more informative search results for users.
Instead of just basic HTML that points out what is the text or an image on a web page, schema markup provides context to information so that search engines know what content on a web page means.
Event schema markup is code that specifically points out to search engine facts relating to events, such as the location, schedule, organizer, and performers.
Schema markup is actually one of the multiple vocabularies that define terms and values in order to implement structured data (it just happens to be the most popular). In fact, Google, Yahoo, Bing, and Yandex have all collaborated to come up with Schema.org—an open community resource that provides schemas for their respective search engines to recognize.
What are the SEO benefits of using event schema markup?
Event schema markup can help your website’s search results ranking in a number of ways:
1. Rich results
Event schema markup provides specific facts that are immediately apparent on SERPs as rich results. Rich results are the details that appear in addition to the default blue links and text descriptions. They show important facts to users about a particular webpage and can include a multitude of things from reviews to recipes.
This has a two-pronged benefit. Rich results make for a better search experience for the users, first and foremost. Organizations, meanwhile, will stand out more in SERPs thanks to the eye-catching facts and visuals. On top of this, rich results also mean your webpage is occupying more screen real estate in the SERPs, pushing competitors further down the page.
2. Click-through rate (CTR) increase
One major effect of having rich results displayed for your webpages is that users are more likely to check out your site, instead of other sites that don’t show as much info. Your link will grab more attention.
Even if there will be users who are satisfied with just getting the bare minimum from the rich results, there is still a percentage that will click on your link to get more in-depth info or sign up as an attendee and book a spot.
3. Traffic boost
In line with getting higher CTR, your webpages that have event schema markup implemented can also enjoy higher traffic. Events platform Eventbrite is one of the strongest cases for event schema markup boosting traffic. They saw a 100% increase in the year-over-year growth of traffic from Google to their event listing pages.
Allen Jilo, an Eventbrite product manager, said that they saw a “visual difference in event search results on Google” within two to three weeks of event schema markup implementation.
4. Voice search optimization
Google Product Manager Aylin Altiok and Senior Engineering Manager for Google Search Will Lescszuk delivered a talk in Google I/0 2019 about the importance of structured data in improving the user search experience. In that talk, they mentioned that their motivation for schema markup was to be able to optimize content for both voice and search.
When you use event schema markup, you do not have to create two separate experiences to optimize for text and voice search. Apply it once and you can reach a bigger audience.
Google reported that voice made up 20% of searches in their app, and that was back in 2016. With digital voice assistants in use expected to reach eight billion by 2023, now is as good a time as any to start optimizing your event pages with schema markup.
What types of events can you markup?
Event schema markup can be used for a wide range of events, but there are still limitations that you need to respect if you don’t want to be penalized.
The event types that you can markup include:
- Business events
- Children events
- Comedy events
- Dance events
- Education events
- Food events
- Literary events
- Music events
- Publication events
- Sale events
- Social events
- Sports events
- Theater events
- Visual arts events
You can also mark up a series of multiple events that have a connecting theme.
Do not markup business hours and promotions such as vacation packages, limited-time discounts, and coupons as events. Doing so runs the risk of your entire website being disqualified from showing rich results for any of your content.
How do I get my events to show up on Google?
First of all, you need to make sure your event pages can be crawled by Googlebot. If you use robots.txt or robots meta tags, they should allow Googlebot to index your event pages.
You should then implement schema markup in your event pages. Google only supports rich results for pages that feature a single event, so you should have individual pages for each of your events.
Required schema markup properties
There are three properties that an event page’s code needs for the page to show rich results on Google.
- Name – Name of the venue
- Address – Detailed address
- name — Use the full title. Don’t include prices or promotions.
- startDate — The start date and time (if available) in the local timezone. If you don’t have an exact time, don’t specify it.
The following properties are not required, but they allow for more customization of rich results and a better overall user experience:
- eventAttendanceMode (critical for online-only events)
Adding event schema markup
There are generally three ways to add event schema markup:
- Posting on third-party sites — The easiest way is to just post your events on big third-party events or ticketing sites like Eventbrite or Ticketmaster. These platforms are already integrated with Google, so they always show rich results for events related to particular search terms. Of course, these sites won’t be sending traffic to your website.
- Use platforms with built-in tools for schema markups — Ecommerce platforms like Magento and OpenCart already have structured data integrated. If you’re using a CMS such as WordPress, there are plenty of free plug-ins you can choose from to implement event schema markup easily.
- Coding — The third and hardest way is when you have a custom website that you can’t just use a plug-in with. This requires some coding but thankfully, you don’t have to be an expert web developer if you want to do it yourself.
How to add event schema markup yourself
The simplest method to add this code to your site is to use Google’s Structured Data Markup Helper.
In the Enter Page section, select “Events” and type or paste the URL of the events page you want to markup on the bottom bar and click on Start Tagging.
In the Tag Data section, highlight the information you want tagged and choose the appropriate tag from the dropdown menu.
If there is info that isn’t present in the page that you believe should be tagged, click on the “Add missing tags” button on the bottom right. Supply the missing information in the following window.
When you’re done adding all the important tags, click on the red “Create HTML” button on the top right. You should be taken to the View HTML section where you’ll see generated HTML code that has all the info you tagged.
Click Download to download the HTML code, which you can then copy and paste below the <head> section of your event page’s HTML.
If you are hosting an online-only event, you will have to manually add a couple of lines of code since the Structured Data Markup Helper doesn’t have the option to indicate if the event is strictly virtual.
The code is as follows, with the sample URL in “url” replaced with the actual URL you’ll be using for your online event.
How to test your event schema markup
Before you make wholesale changes to your site’s source code, you want to test the generated HTML to see if Google finds the corresponding page eligible for rich results. Fortunately, Google has just the tool for that—the aptly named Rich Results Test.
Click on the CODE tab, paste the HTML code generated by Structured Data Markup Helper onto the box, and click on the “Test Code” button.
If there are no errors in the code, the test results should show that the page is eligible for rich results.
Note that the tool will show warnings despite its eligibility, if you don’t include all of the recommended tags for events, such as the name of the performer, the end date, and offers. If you have that information available, it’s highly recommended that you tag them in Structured Data Markup Helper.
Employ event schema markup for easy SEO wins
We may now be in a world where in-person events are a rarity, but that hasn’t curbed our desire for gatherings as we’re naturally social creatures. People will continue to want to take part in mass activities, whether that’s offline or online. Utilising event schema markup, your business can make the pivot towards more online events, whilst standing above the competition in the SERPs through rich results.
After reading this guide, you should find that it’s not actually too hard to make a start. “Start” is the keyword here, however, as more familiarity with coding can lead you to even deeper customization of your event pages’ HTML for better event search optimization. Schema.org has a whole page dedicated to all the properties you can use for events with examples in different formats that, with some studying, can take up plenty of valuable space on Google’s SERPs with the most detailed rich results.
Paul Morris is Managing Director of UK based SEO agency, Superb Digital.
How to use XPath expressions to enhance your SEO and content strategy
30-second summary: As Google increasingly favors sites with content that exudes expertise, authority, and trustworthiness (E-A-T), it is imperative that SEOs and marketers produce content that is not just well written, but that also demonstrates expertise. How do you understand what topics and concerns matter most to your customer base? Can you use Q&As to […]
- As Google increasingly favors sites with content that exudes expertise, authority, and trustworthiness (E-A-T), it is imperative that SEOs and marketers produce content that is not just well written, but that also demonstrates expertise.
- How do you understand what topics and concerns matter most to your customer base?
- Can you use Q&As to inform content strategies?
- XPath notations can be your treasure trove.
- Catalyst’s Organic Search Manager, Brad McCourt shares a detailed guide on using XPath notations and your favorite crawler to quickly obtain the Q&As in a straightforward and digestible format.
As Google increasingly favors sites with content that exudes expertise, authority, and trustworthiness (E-A-T), it is imperative that SEOs and marketers produce content that is not just well written, but that also demonstrates expertise. One way to demonstrate expertise on a subject or product is to answer common customer questions directly in your content.
But, how do you identify what those questions are? How do you understand what topics and concerns matter most?
The good news is that they are hiding in plain sight. Chances are, your consumers have been shouting at the top of their keyboards in the Q&A sections of sites like Amazon.
These sections are a treasure trove of (mostly) serious questions that real customers have about the products you are selling.
How do you use these Q&As to inform content strategies? XPath notation is your answer.
You can use XPath notations and your favorite crawler to quickly obtain the Q&As in a straightforward and digestible format. XPath spares you from clicking through endless screens of questions by automating the collection of important insights for your content strategy.
What is XPath?
XML Path (XPath) is a query language developed by W3 to navigate XML documents and select specified nodes of data.
The notation XPath uses is called “expressions”. Using these expressions, you can effectively pull any data that you need from a website as long as there is a consistent structure between webpages.
This means you can use this language to pull any publicly available data in the source code, including questions from a selection of Amazon Q&A pages.
This article is not meant to be a comprehensive tutorial on XPath. For that, there are plenty of resources from W3. However, XPath is easy enough to learn with only knowing the structure of XML and HTML documents. This is what makes it such a powerful tool for SEOs regardless of coding prowess.
Let’s walk through an example to show you how…
Using XPath to pull customer questions from Amazon
Pre-req: Pick your web crawler
While most of the big names in web crawling – Botify, DeepCrawl, OnCrawl – all offer the ability to extract data from the source code, I will be using ScreamingFrog in the example below.
ScreamingFrog is by far the most cost-effective option, allowing you to crawl up to 500 URLs without buying a license. For larger projects you can buy a license. This will allow you to crawl as many URLs as your RAM can handle.
Step one: Collect the URLs to crawl
For our example, let’s pretend we’re doing research on the topics we should include in our product pages and listings for microspikes. For those unaware, microspikes are an accessory for your boots or shoes. They give you extra grip in wintry conditions, so they are particularly popular among cold-weather hikers and runners.
Here we have a list of 13 questions and answer pages for the top microspike pages on Amazon.com. Unfortunately, there is some manual work required to create the list.
The easiest way is to search for the topic (that is, microspikes) and pull links to the top products listed. If you have the product’s ASIN (Amazon Standard Identification Number) handy, you can also generate the URLs using the above format, but switching out the ASIN.
Step two: Determine the XPath
From here, we need to determine the XPath.
In order to figure out the proper XPath notation to use to pull in the desired text, we have two main options:
- View the Source-Code
- View the rendered source code and copy the XPath directly from Chrome’s Inspect Element tool
You’ll find that the expression needed to locate all questions in an Amazon Q&A page is:
Here is XPath notation broken down:
- // is used to locate all instances of the following expression.
- Span is the specific tag we’re trying to locate. //span will locate every single <span> tag in the source code. There are over 300 of these, so we’ll need to be more specific.
- @class specifies that //span[@class] will ensure all <span> tags with an assigned class attribute will be located.
- @class=”a-declarative” dictates that //span[@class=”a-declarative”] only locates <span> tags where the class attribute is set to “a-declarative” – that is, <span class=”a-declarative”>
There is an extra step in order to return the inner text of the specified tag that is located, but ScreamingFrog does the heavy lifting for us.
It’s important to note that this will only work for Amazon Question and Answer pages. If you wanted to pull questions from, say, Quora, TripAdvisor, or any other site, the expression would have to be adjusted to locate the specific entity you desire to collect on a crawl.
Step three: Configure your crawler
Once you have this all set, you can then go into ScreamingFrog.
Configuration -> Custom -> Extraction
This will then take you to the Custom Extraction screen.
This is where you can:
- Give the extraction a name to make it easier to find after the crawl, especially if you’re extracting more than one entity. ScreamingFrog allows you to extract multiple entities during a single crawl.
- You can then choose the extraction method. In this article, it is all about XPath, but you also have the option of extracting data via CSSPath and REGEX notation as well.
- Place the desired XPath expression in the “Enter XPath” field. ScreamingFrog will even check your syntax for you, providing a green checkmark if everything checks out.
- You then have the option to select what you want extracted, be it the full HTML element or the HTML found within the located tag. For our example, we want to extract the text in between any <span> tags with a class attribute set to “a-declarative” so we select “extract text.”
We can then click OK.
Step four: Crawl the desired URLs
Now it’s time to crawl our list of Amazon Q&A pages for microspikes.
First, we’ll need to switch the Mode in ScreamingFrog from “Spider” to “List.”
Then, we can either add our set of URLs manually or upload them from an Excel or other supported format.
After we confirm the list, ScreamingFrog will crawl each URL we provided, extracting the text between all <span> tags containing the class attribute set to “a-declarative.”
In order to see the data collected, you just need to select “Custom Extraction” in ScreamingFrog.
At first glance, the output might not look that exciting.
However, this is only because a lot of unneeded space is included with the data, so you might see some columns that appear blank if they are not expanded to fully display the contents.
Once you copy and paste the data into Excel or your spreadsheet program of choice, you can finally see the data that has been extracted. After some clean-up, you get the final result:
The result is 118 questions that real customers have asked about microspikes in an easily accessible format. With this data at your fingertips, you’re now ready to incorporate this research into your content strategy.
Before diving into content strategies, a quick word to the wise: you can’t just crawl, scrape and publish content from another site, even if it is publicly accessible.
First, that would be plagiarism and expect to be hit with an DMCA notice. Second, you’re not fooling Google. Google knows the original source of the content, and it is extremely unlikely your content is going to rank well – defeating the purpose of this entire strategy.
Instead, this data can be used to inform your strategy and help you produce high quality, unique content that users are searching for.
Now, how do you get started with your analysis?
I recommend first categorizing the questions. For our example there were many questions about:
- Sizing: What size microspikes are needed for specific shoe/boot sizes?
- Proper Use – Whether or not microspikes could be used in stores, on slippery roofs, while fishing, mowing lawns, or for walking on plaster?
- Features: Are they adjustable, type of material, do they come with a carrying case?
- Concerns: Are they comfortable, do they damage your footwear, do they damage the type of flooring/ground you’re on, durability?
This is an amazing insight into the potential concerns customers might have before purchasing microspikes.
From here, you can use this information to:
1. Enhance existing content on your product and category pages
Incorporate the topics into the product or category descriptions, answering questions shoppers might have pre-emptively.
For our example, we might want to make it abundantly clear how sizing works – including a sizing chart and specifically mentioning types of footwear the product may or may not be compatible with.
2. Build out a short on-page FAQ section featuring original content, answering commonly asked questions
Make sure to implement FAQPage Schema.org markup for a better chance to appear for listings like People Also Ask sections, which are increasingly taking up real estate in the search results.
For our example, we can answer commonly asked questions about comfort, damage to footwear, durability, and adjustability. We could also address if the product comes with a carrying case and how to best store the product for travel.
3. Produce a product guide, incorporating answers to popular questions surrounding a product or category
Another strategy is to produce an extensive one-stop product guide showcasing specific use cases, sizing, limitations, and features. For our example, we could create specific content for each use case like hiking, running in icy conditions, and more.
Even better, incorporate videos, images, charts, and featured products with a clear path to purchase.
Using this approach your end product will be content that shows expertise, the authority on a subject, and most importantly, addresses customer concerns and questions before they even think to ask. This will help prevent your customers from having to do additional research or contact customer service. Thanks to your informative and helpful content, they will be more ready to make a purchase.
Furthermore, this approach also has the potential to lower product return rates. Informed customers are less likely to purchase the wrong product based upon assumed or incomplete knowledge.
Amazon is just the tip of the iceberg here. You can realistically apply this strategy to any site that has publicly accessible data to extract, be that questions from Quora about a product category, Trip Advisor reviews about hotels, music venues, and attractions, or even discussions on Reddit.
The more informed you are about what your customers are expecting when visiting your site, the better you can serve those expectations, motivate purchases, decrease bounces, and improve organic search performance.
Brad McCourt is an Organic Search Manager at Catalyst’s Boston office.
Five must knows for advertisers and marketers
- 2020 set the stage for one of the most disruptive and fluid years search has ever seen.
- Local search and Google My Business (GMB) set to be key focal areas for search advertisers and marketers amid shifts in COVID era search activity.
- Google continues to make moves at further integrating ecommerce into search.
- Manual Text Ads look to be on shaky ground as we move into 2021.
- Ashley Fletcher, VP of Marketing at Adthena, shares five must-knows for search in 2021.
From algorithm changes to shifts in search activity as a result of COVID-19, 2020 was one of the most disruptive years that the search industry has ever seen. And although positive movements have been made in helping to rein in the COVID-19, a “return to normal” still seems a long way off. However, with the COVID-19 vaccine raising the possibility that “non-COVID era” search habits may return, search professionals are hard at work trying to determine which industry changes are here to stay, and which may fade away, as the world begins to get long overdue COVID relief. This means the landscape of search in 2021 is likely to see just as unpredictable of evolution as it did in 2020.
With that in mind, here are three key areas search advertisers and marketers should pay close attention to as we move into, and through, 2021.
Doubling down on GMB and local search
Remember when Google My Business (GMB) was just a helpful little tool for search advertising and marketing? Those days are now behind us.
Accounting for 33% of how local businesses are ranked, GMB is now a huge factor when it comes to SEO. Moreover, as local continues to become a bigger part of the search environment as more users are opting to stay close to home as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, advertisers and marketers need to optimize their search strategies appropriately and stay abreast of any enhancements to GMB.
Greater consideration for voice search
With 157 million Amazon Echos in homes around the US at the start of 2020, voice search is poised to continue being a massive player in search moving forward. And given how easy it is, the fact that more smart speakers are set to be purchased in the years to come, voice search is likely to go from a secondary voice channel to a primary one in short order. Therefore, with this new avenue opening up and PPC having to be rethought as a result, advertisers should begin thinking about how to optimize their searches from traditional keyword search logic to spoken word-centric phrases.
Direct buy on Google? Amazon beware
E-commerce is set to be one of the most intriguing areas of search in 2021 as Google continues to indicate that shopping will be a key goal for its platform moving forward. For years, Google has been signaling that shopping and e-commerce are key focal areas for its platform. And through the rollout of features such as Smart Shopping — among other things — Google has never been in a better position to drive sales directly from its SERPs. This means that not only should Amazon be on high-alert, but traditional retail search advertisers need to seriously consider their search strategies in the year ahead.
The end of the text ad?
Could 2021 be the end of the road for text ads? This has been the question on search pros minds particularly since Google briefly scrapped the ability to create text ads in October — not to mention when the ability to create ETAs disappeared from Google Ads dropdown menus on a smaller scale in August. Plus, given the added emphasis being placed on Smart Bidding, it seems that manual text ads could have a limited lifespan at best, and 2021 could be the year where we see this search staple wound down entirely.
Being OK with uncertainty
Search advertisers are used to adapting to continuously evolving circumstances. But 2021 could push the term “evolution” to an extreme. From better understanding search patterns during the COVID era to figuring out which trends are here to stay and which are just passing fads, 2021 is going to be a very hard year for search professionals to get their heads around — let alone always get it right. With that in mind, it has never been more important for search professionals to lean into both technology and teamwork to make sense of what lies ahead. Moreover, search professionals need to move into 2021 with a whole new perspective on flexibility. Simply put, search advertising is set to chart completely foreign waters in 2021, and by embracing the fact that uncertainty is the new normal search professionals will likely have a much easier time adapting to these new circumstances.
While 2020 presented the search industry with an unprecedented amount of uncertainty, 2021 could represent a period of even greater unpredictability as several foundational changes seem to be set to take place within the space. However, by keeping an eye on these emerging areas and game planning now, search advertisers and marketers will not only be able to avoid potential headaches and growing pains but be able to put themselves in a position to drive success as soon as possible.
Ashley Fletcher is VP of Marketing at Adthena.
28 Ways to supercharge your site
- Google plans to roll out the new Core Web Vitals update in early 2021.
- The overall size, dimensions, load order, and format of your images will drastically affect your PageSpeed score.
- Loading critical CSS and JS inline can improve the perceived load time of your site.
- Above-the-fold videos and large background images can be particularly damaging to your Largest Contentful Paint time.
- A server upgrade and a CDN can improve your server response time and your contentful paint score.
- Founder of Content Powered, James Parsons, shares an exhaustive list of 28 elements that will supercharge your site for Google’s Core Web Vitals update and Google PageSpeed Insights.
Announced in early 2020, the Core Web Vitals are a set of metrics Google is developing and plans to roll into their overall search algorithm in May of 2021. Given that it’s almost 2021 now, anyone who wants to get ahead on optimizing their site for this new algorithm update can get to work now. Thankfully, Google has been very good about publicly disclosing what these new metrics are and how they work.
Armed with that information, it’s possible to build a checklist of action items to check and optimize on your site to ready yourself for the inevitable rollout of these new ranking factors. Here are 28 such items for that checklist.
A. Image optimization
Images are one of the largest influencing factors in the core web vitals. All of the web vitals measure the time until some initial rendering, and loading images is the largest source of delay before a page is initially fully loaded. Thus, optimizing images tends to be the most powerful tool for improving core web vitals.
1. Reduce the Dimensions of Background Images
Background images are rarely fully necessary to a site design and can be a large source of delay in loading a page for the first time.
If you use a background image, reduce how large that image is and optimize it so it loads as close to instantaneously as possible.
2. Minimize or Replace Background Images with Patterns
If you’re not tied to a specific background image, either replace the image with flat colors, a gradient, or even a simple tiled pattern. Again, the goal is to minimize how many assets need to load before the initial load of the website is complete. Since background images don’t make a huge impact (and are even less necessary on mobile), minimize or remove them as much as possible.
3. Remove Images on Mobile Above the Fold
Speaking of mobile, the mobile browsing experience is often slower than desktop browsing due to the quality of cell and wireless signals. Mobile devices are especially susceptible to delays in the first input and on the content shift.
To help avoid that, strive to make as much of your above-the-fold content as possible based on text and other simple elements. Large images and slideshows above the fold are particularly rough on your score, so remove or move them as much as possible.
4. Implement Lazy Loading
Lazy loading is a common technique for speeding up the initial load of any given page. With Google’s new metrics on the horizon, it’s no surprise that support for it is quickly becoming a default feature. WordPress, for example, added native default lazy loading in version 5.5 earlier this year. Make use of lazy loading for any content, particularly images, that doesn’t need to load above the fold initially.
5. Use WebP Images
Another Google initiative, WebP is a new image format developed back in 2010. It’s a smaller image format with better compression algorithms than your traditional image formats like PNG.
While it hasn’t really picked up widespread traction until recently, it’s becoming more and more valuable as both users and search engines are increasingly concerned with speed and load times. Support is widespread, even if usage isn’t, so you can more-or-less safely use WebP images as your primary image files.
6. Optimize Image File Sizes
Using a tool to crunch or smush image files to be smaller in file size should be a default part of optimizing images for the web by this point.
If you don’t do it already, make sure you implement a way to process images as part of your blogging workflow moving forward. You’ll also want to make sure you’ve defined the height and width of images to prevent layout shift.
B. CSS optimization
CSS has become an increasingly critical part of many site designs, so much so that blocking it makes the web almost unrecognizable. With so much of a site reliant on CSS for everything from colors to positioning, making sure your code is optimized is more important than ever.
7. Inline Critical CSS
You don’t need to inline every bit of your CSS, though that works as well. In particular, you want to inline CSS that is critical to the overall design and layout of your theme.
This minimizes the number of individual files a browser needs to call from your server just to load the initial layout and paint the initial content on your site.
8. Minify CSS
CSS is by default a very minimalist language and can operate perfectly well without spaces, indentation, comments, and other text that makes it more user-friendly and easier to develop. Before uploading new code to your site, run it through a tool to minify it and remove all of that excess cruft that has a microscopic-yet-tangible effect on page loading.
9. Consolidate CSS Files and Code
It can be tempting to store CSS in a variety of files and scattered throughout your code, placing it where it seems like it should be rather than where it makes sense to put it. Remember; what is easiest as a developer is not necessarily the fastest for a user. Consolidate your CSS, whether it’s inline or in separate files, and only execute specific elements as necessary.
10. Optimize CSS Delivery
CSS is often a late-loading element of site code. Traditional site design loads the framework for the site, then the content, then the CSS to format it all. Particularly when CSS is stored in an external file, this delays loading significantly. Preloading your CSS is a strategy recommended by Google to force the browser to load the CSS and have it ready when it’s needed.
11. Minify JS Scripts
Run your scripts through a minifier before adding them to your site.
12. Consolidate Scripts and Minimize Usage
13. Defer or Async Scripts Whenever Possible
Scripts are roadblocks in rendering a website. When a browser has to render a JS script, it has to process through that script before it can continue loading the page. Since many developers put scripts in their headers, this delays page loading significantly. Using Defer allows the browser to continue loading the page before executing the script, while Async allows them to load simultaneously. Using these two features allows you to offset the delay inherent in using scripts and speed up your initial page loads.
14. Remove jQuery Migrate
A recent update to jQuery has led to a lot of old plugins and scripts no longer working. To buy time and allow webmasters to update their sites, the Migrate module was introduced. This is essentially a translation module that allows old jQuery to function on sites that utilize a newer version of jQuery.
Perform an audit of your site to see if anything you’re using – particularly old plugins and apps – uses jQuery Migrate. If so, consider updating or replace those plugins. Your goal is to remove usage of the Migrate module entirely because it’s rather bulky and can slow down websites dramatically.
15. Use Google Hosted JS Whenever Possible
Google offers a range of standard libraries hosted on their servers for use on your website. Rather than relying on a third party for those libraries or hosting them yourself, use Google’s versions for the fastest possible load times.
D. Video optimization
Videos are increasingly popular as part of the average website, from core elements of content to video-based advertising and everything in between. They’re also extremely large files, even with partial loading and modern video buffering. Optimize your use of video as much as possible.
16. Use Image Placeholders for Video Thumbnails
There are plenty of users who browse the web with no desire to watch videos, so forcing videos to load in the background for them is completely unnecessary. A good workaround is to use an image placeholder where the video would normally load.
The image loads faster and looks like the video player with a loaded thumbnail. When a user clicks it to start the video, it begins the video load but doesn’t require loading any of the video file or player until that point.
17. Minimize Videos Above the Fold
As with images, video files are extremely heavy, so loading them above the fold is a guaranteed delay on your first content paint. Push them below the fold; most people want to read a title and introduction before they get to the video anyway.
E. Font and icon optimization
Fonts and icon usage can be a lot heavier on a site’s load times than you might expect. Optimizing them might seem like minuscule detail work, but when you see the impact it can have, you’ll wonder why you never made these minor-yet-impactful optimizations before.
18. Preload Fonts
Similar to scripts, when your website calls for a font that it needs to load, loading that font takes precedence and stops the rest of the code from rendering.
Using a preload command to load the font earlier than necessary helps speed up page loading, as well as preventing the “flash of unstyled text” effect that happens for a brief instant between the text loading and the font styling appearing.
19. Only Use Fonts You Need
Many web fonts and font families load their entire character sets and stylesheets when called, even if your page doesn’t utilize 90% of that content. Often, you can limit how much you load, though you may need to pay for premium font access. It can be quite worthwhile if you’re using limited amounts of a given font, or a font that has a particularly large character set included.
20. Use SVG Whenever Possible
SVGs are Scalable Vector Graphics and are a way to create extremely small elements of a page that can nevertheless scale indefinitely, as well as be manipulated individually, to a much greater degree than traditional fonts and icons. If possible, switch to using SVGs instead of your usual icons.
F. Server optimization
No matter how many optimizations you make to the code of your website, to your images, or to other elements of your site, none of it matters if your server is slow. The proliferation of web hosting companies, the ongoing development of faster and stronger tech, all means that web hosting shows its age very quickly. Every few years, it can be worthwhile to change or upgrade hosting to faster infrastructure.
21. Upgrade to a Faster Server
You don’t necessarily need to upgrade from a shared host to a dedicated host, though this can help with some of the speed issues inherent in shared hosting. Even simply upgrading from a slower package to a faster one can be a good use of a budget.
22. Use a CDN
Modern content delivery networks can handle most of the elements of your site faster than your typical web host can in almost every circumstance. At a minimum, consider using a CDN for your images, videos, and other multimedia. You can also consider offloading stand-alone script files as well.
23. Preload DNS Queries
Preloading or prefetching DNS queries helps minimize the delay between an asset being requested by the visitor and the display of that asset.
This couples with using a CDN to store assets by loading and resolving the CDN’s domain before it’s called for the first time, further speeding up page load times.
24. Preload Your Cache
Often, a cache plugin or script used on a website triggers when the first visitor arrives to view the page. That first visitor has a slower experience, but their loads cache the page for future visitors until the cache expires. Unfortunately, the first visit is often a Google bot crawling your page from your XML sitemap or an internal link, and that means that Google is the first one to experience the slow version of your site. You can get around this by preloading the cache on your website so Google’s next visit is a guaranteed fast-loading web page.
25. Consider a Server-Side Cache
Software such as Varnish Cache acts as a server-side cache to further speed up the generation and serving of a cached version of your page, making it as fast as possible with as few server calls as possible.
G. Additional optimization
Anything that didn’t fit in another category has been added here. These additional optimizations might not apply to your site design, but if they do, taking care of them can be a great boon.
26. Minimize Third-Party Scripts
Webmasters in 2021 will need to strike a balance between site speed optimizations and user engagement tools.
Many plugins, such as social sharing buttons, third-party comment systems, and media embeds all need to execute third-party scripts in order to work, but those scripts slow down the site. Minimize them as much as possible, and try to find the fastest versions of each.
27. Avoid Pre-Load Filler
A common technique for sites with slower load times is to add a spinner, a loading icon, an animation, or another form of content that loads and displays to indicate to a user that the site is, in fact, loading. While this can help minimize bounces, it’s a huge hit to the initial loads measured by the core web vitals. Remove these and work to speed up your site such that you don’t need them.
28. Consider a Site Redesign
When all is said and done, sometimes you need to make so many changes to so many foundational elements of your site that it’s easier to simply scrap your current design and engineer a new one with speed in mind. Consider it a possibility, and analyze the benefits you’ll get from optimized core web vitals. No one knows yet how influential those metrics will be on the overall algorithm, but it certainly can’t hurt to optimize for them.
James Parsons is the founder of Content Powered, a blog management & content marketing company. He’s worked as a senior-level content marketer for over a decade and writes for Forbes, Entrepreneur, Inc, and Business Insider.
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