- The biggest Google update of the year is called the Page Experience update.
- Core Web Vitals are part of that update, and they are definitely ranking factors to keep in mind, especially when optimizing images.
- AMP is no longer the only way to get a “Top Stories” feature on mobile. Starting in 2021, any news webpage can become a “Top Story”.
- Combining AMP’s privacy concerns and cost of operation might mean that AMP will disappear within a couple of years.
- E-A-T is not a ranking factor right now, and we don’t know if it will become one in the future.
2020. What a year. History is happening around us, and Google? Well, Google keeps on revamping their search algorithms. Over the years, there have been many many major algorithm updates, as Google worked to keep us on our toes. 2020 was no different: in one fell swoop, we got the news about a Page Experience update and AMP news. All the while the debate about whether or not you need E-A-T for ranking rages on. How do the Core Web Vitals stand in changing the search game in 2021?
Let’s go over each of these innovations and see which will change the way we do SEO, and which will fade into obscurity sooner rather than later.
1. Importance of core web vitals for SEO
Core Web Vitals were part of Page Experience update, and, by far, caused the biggest ruckus.
There’s a lot to learn about Core Web Vitals, but they boil down to the three biggest issues on our webpages:
- LCP — Largest Contentful Paint, which deals with the loading speed of the largest single object on the page.
- FID — First Input Delay, which means the reaction time of the page to the first user input after (whether they click, tap, or press any keys).
- CLS — Cumulative Layout Shift — this is the measure of how much the content of the page jumps while loading content, mostly visual content, after opening.
How core web vitals influences rankings
Of course, some SEO experts think that the entire Page Experience update is nothing special, and could even: “[…] distract, […] from the core mission of communication and storytelling,”.
And, sure, most of Page experience update is simply an assembly of things we’ve known for a while: use HTTPS, be mobile-friendly, control your page speed, and so on.
But Core Web Vitals are a bit different and can influence the SEO practice in unexpected ways. Key factor that’s already changing rankings is Cumulative Layout Shift.
As most SEO experts know, for a while an important part of image optimization was using the <decoding=async> attribute in the <img> tag to avoid losing page speed while rendering the page.
Using <decoding=async> could lead to some seriously janky pages if coders didn’t specify the height and width of every single image to be rendered. Some websites did it anyway, for example, Wikipedia on most of its pages has a predefined space for images created ahead of time.
But as SEO experts we didn’t have to worry about pages being jumpy all too much, as that didn’t influence the rankings. Now with CLS being formally announced as a ranking factor, things will change for a whole slew of websites and SEO experts.
We’ll need to make sure that every webpage is coded with CLS in mind, with the needed space for every image defined ahead of time, to avoid the layout shifts.
Overall, of course, it’s too early to tell, and more work by SEO’s around the web needs to be done here. However, it seems that if you aren’t used to focusing on technical SEO, Core Web Vitals becoming ranking signals might not influence your day-to-day work at all.
However, if you are conducting complicated technical SEO, then Core Web Vitals will definitely change the way you work in as-yet unexpected ways.
2. Importance of AMP for SEO
The AMP’s relevance today is kind of an open question. While it’s always been great as a quick-and-easy way to increase page speed, the privacy concerns have been voiced over and over again since the technology’s very inception.
But in 2020, significant changes are afoot, since, within the same Page Experience update, Google announced that there’s finally no requirement for us to create AMP pages to occupy the “Top Stories” SERP feature.
That’s a pretty huge step for anybody trying to accrue as many SERP features as they can, and, in particular, for news websites.
How AMP influences rankings
If we believe John Muellers’ words, then AMP is not a ranking factor. Seems plain and simple enough. But of course, things aren’t so simple, because AMP comes with pretty significant gains in page speed, and speed is an important ranking factor.
Thanks to AMP’s pre-rendering combined with some severe design limitations, AMP webpages often really do win in page speed, even if not in ranking as is.
The “Top Stories” SERP feature, however, was a huge benefit to using an AMP for any news agency with a website, and it’s easy to understand why. Just look at how much of the page is occupied by the “Top Stories” results.
Not only do “Top Stories” automatically get top 1 ranking on the SERP, but they also sport a logo of the website posting them, standing out even more from the boring old blue-link SERP.
This means that for a few years now news websites were essentially forced into using AMP to get into a “Top Stories” SERP feature on mobile since it absorbs a whole lot of clicks.
On the other hand, it takes quite a lot of resources to support AMP versions of the webpages, because you are basically maintaining a whole additional version of your website.
Added to which, a page that’s been properly optimized for speed might not need AMP for those speed gains, as well.
While it’s tough to imagine that AMP will fade away completely within the next couple of years, AMP’s privacy issues combined with the cost of maintaining it might spell the end of it being a widely used practice.
Now, with the “Top Stories” becoming available to non-AMP pages, there’s virtually no reason to jeopardize the users’ security for speed gains you could get by proper optimization.
3. Importance of E-A-T for SEO
Expertise. Authority. Trust. All perfectly positive words and something we should all strive for in our professional lives. But what about search optimization?
Coming straight from Google’s Quality Rater Guidelines, E-A-T has been the talk of the town for a good moment now. Let’s dive in and see how they might change the way we optimize for search.
How E-A-T influences rankings
For most of us, they don’t really.
Sure, Quality Rater Guidelines provide valuable insights into Google’s ranking process. However, E-A-T is one of the lesser-important factors we should be focusing on, partly because these are nebulous, abstract concepts, and partly because Google doesn’t exactly want us to.
As Google’s official representatives informed us, E-A-T is not in itself a ranking factor.
Receiving follow-up questions, Google’s John Mueller then reiterated that point, and Ben Gomes, Google’s VP of search engineering confirmed that quality raters don’t influence any page’s rankings directly.
However, in practice, we often see that the so-called YMYL websites already can’t rank without having some expertise and authority established. A very popular example is that it’s virtually impossible to rank a website providing medical advice without an actual doctor writing the articles.
The problem here is that expertise, authority, and trustworthiness are not easily interpreted by the search algorithms, which only understand code.
And, at the moment, there seems to be no surefire way for Google to transform these signals into rankings, except to read the feedback of their quality raters before each algorithm update.
While using E-A-T to rank websites might sound like an inarguable benefit for the searcher, there is a couple of concerns that aren’t easily solved, namely:
- Who exactly will be determining the E-A-T signals, and according to which standard?
- The introduction of such factors creates a system where the smaller and newer websites are punished in rankings for not having the trustworthiness that they couldn’t realistically acquire.
Responding to both of these concerns requires time and effort on the search engine’s side.
As things stand right now, E-A-T is not something to keep in mind while doing day-to-day SEO operations.
Let’s imagine a fantastical scenario where a webmaster/SEO expert has some free time. Then they might want to work on E-A-T, to try and stay ahead of the curve.
On the other hand, there simply isn’t any proof that Google will actually use E-A-T. Or that, even if used, these signals will become major ranking factors. For this reason, E-A-T shouldn’t be your priority ahead of traditional SEO tasks like link building and technical optimization.
Additionally, consider this. The entire Quality Rater Guidelines is 168 pages long. However, a comprehensive explanation of what E-A-T is and why it might be calculated a certain way will take many more pages than that.
As of the time of this writing, the Core Web Vitals seems to be the most important ranking news to come out in 2020 in practical terms. However, search is an extremely volatile field: what worked two weeks ago may not work today, and what works today might not work for most of us.
The matters are further complicated because we’re fighting an uneven battle: it’s simply not in search engines’ best interest to give us a full and detailed picture of how ranking works, lest we abuse it.
This is why it’s crucial to keep our hand on the pulse of optimization news and changes occurring every single day. With constant efforts from our SEO community to work out the best way to top rankings, it’s possible for us to close that gap and know for sure which trends are paramount, and which we can allow ourselves to overlook.
Aleh Barysevich is Founder and CMO at SEO PowerSuite and Awario.
Speed and performance of Web dev, SEO, and marketing agencies websites
- The research shows most agencies failed when it comes to the performance of their website.
- Search engine ranking is a multi-factor game, and performance, while it matters for many reasons, is just one piece in this puzzle.
- Nebojsa Radakovic shares insights.
Ever since Google announced that page speed would be a ranking factor in its mobile-first index in 2018, the need for speed became one of the most important aspects of web dev trait. A lot of businesses jumped onto the speed train.
Sure enough, one year later, Google reported that sites are faster, and abandonment rates are down since making page speed a ranking factor.
With performance being one of the top-selling points of a modern-day web dev architecture Jamstack that we are so into, it was only natural to take a deep dive into the industries that tackle website performance and see how we stand against our peers.
TL;DR: Key findings
Don’t have the time to read through the research? Here are the key findings:
- 27% of websites from our 20K sample still run on HTTP
- 65.7% of the websites are built with WordPress
- Only 2.7% of websites have good performance scores
- 2.9% of websites provide good user experience to their users, ie Largest Contentful Paint (LCP) occurs within 2.5 seconds of when the page first starts loading
What data was I interested in, and why?
Lighthouse performance metrics. There are a couple of popular speed testing tools, but most people use Lighthouse. While it may not be perfect because it provides a mix of both lab and field data about a page, I’ve used Pagespeed Insights API as described in James McNulty UpBuild post here, although updated to show core web vitals.
CMS. WordPress or not. 37% of all websites are powered by WordPress. Being the most popular web dev solution, it would be interesting to see and compare different solutions in terms of speed and performance.
Where did I get my URLs from?
Gathering URLs is a time-consuming work. But I managed to get 20k URLs (20397 URLs to be exact). I’ve cross-referenced results I got from scraping the first-page organic results of a set of keywords (like SEO agency, web dev agency, etc.), results I got by using tools such as Phantombuster to scrap review websites, and results I got from hiring virtual assistants on Upwork and Fiver.
There are a couple of issues I had to take care of first. Amazingly 27% of websites from my 20K sample still run on HTTP. That’s not good at all. On top of that, I had a bunch of URLs coming up with NET::ERR_CERT_DATE_INVALID error message in Chrome. Once those were taken care of, I ended up having results 13945 URLs instead of 20K.
Of course, the most popular CMS is WordPress, with 65.7% of websites from my sample using it. For 18.8%, I was not able to detect any CMS. 2.58% run on Squarespace, 1.6% are built with Drupal, 1.41% are on Wix, and so on.
The results should not come as a surprise given that WordPress powers 37% of all the websites on the Internet or 63.6% of all the websites with known CMS.
Performance scores – How scores are color-coded by Google
The metrics scores and the perf score are colored according to these ranges:
- 0 to 49 (Red): Poor
- 50 to 89 (Orange): Needs Improvement
- 90 to 100 (Green): Good
You can read more about it here.
As far as the performance scores for all websites are concerned, 77.1% of the websites are in the poor range, which means there is a lot of room for improvement.
Pretty much the same story when we check only WordPress websites, 83.9% are in the poor performance range.
Core Web Vitals
By now, you probably are well aware of Core Web Vitals. Their importance is twofold:
- Google considers them essential in a webpage’s overall user experience, and understanding them can help you improve the quality of experience you are delivering to your users,
- Google plans to make a page experience an official Google ranking factor with Core Web Vitals being an essential part of it.
The current set for Core Web Vitals focuses on three aspects of the user experience: loading (described with Largest Contentful Paint (LCP) metric), interactivity (described with First Input Delay (FID) metric), and visual stability (described with Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS) metric).
For this research, numbers follow the performance scores. For example, check out the Largest Contentful Paint (LCP) results.
Being that I’ve tested only 20k URLs (actually 13945), let’s not generalize conclusions. However, the general ‘feel’ is that the ones required to think of speed and performance failed the test.
Performance, while it matters for many reasons, is not and should not be the end goal. It depends not only on the tech used but also ‘features’ you’ll have on a website, which pretty much depends on the industry/theme your website is in. And balancing performance and functionality successfully depends on the value a feature brings to your business versus the reduction in speed that results.
The thing is, whatever tech you use, you can end up with good scores (some easier than others). The real question is, how important are the scores for your client, their business, and their audience?
Nebojsa Radakovic is an SEO wiz with 20 years of experience. He is also an extreme sports enthusiast. He can be found on Twitter @CookieDuster_N.
Top 10 Tools to facilitate web development
- Web development is very essential for guiding you past the traditional methods of website development and approaching to other more unique and efficient prospects in the IT field.
- Building an app or website is real but sometimes can be better facilitated through the testing and implementation phases of web tools.
- Entering the new age of the digital world is just impossible without proper deployment, scaling, and database management. And this where the best web development weapons are on standby.
Web development tools are necessary to adapt and integrate in the development environments since they help you create a webpage, gather metrics, discover layouts and designs. Web development is all about evolving and stepping up the game you are currently very proficient in. Along with that it doesn’t demand much money, require enormous sources or expect big money. The only thing development tools are incorporating is your boosted ultimate website performance. What is simply left is finding the right assistant on this journey. Here are the top 10 we have picked for you:
1. Chrome DevTool
If you are searching for a web assistant that would ensure your safety and optimize development, Chrome DevTool is sincerely recommended in this case. Taking into account that this is the most popular cross-platform browser of all, you should be certain that such a Chromium-based development technology will allow you to inspect, debug, and guide you through the browser.
While varied development tools are primarily focused on setting up websites, creating online stores, and launching blogs, Chrome DevTool is highly helpful in inspecting and tweaking. Although it is a bit hard to navigate through so many tabs and functions, Chrome DevTool offers you numerous panels for boosting productivity, analyzing load performance, and enhancing better user-friendly experience:
- Elements panel
- Console panel
- Sources panel
- Network panel
- Performance panel
- Memory panel
- Application panel
- Security panel
Such a division gives you a more fixed structure on elements and commands that you can apply depending on the existing page you are willing to diagnose. In order to access Chrome DevTools, you won’t even need to pay for anything, as it is built into the browser itself. Here is how you can open it.
Good software development company’s support can facilitate your user experience with its comprehensive and all-inclusive approach even more. VironIT offers you a list of the new age web development tools and services to create a highly adaptable website or attractive web application.
If you wonder what kind of development tools are combined in one software, it might actually vary from AR&VR development (augmented and virtual reality) to IoT Software development (data visualization and analysis). Such a useful package of cross-platform tools in one place makes it easier for you to write, maintain and promote better development and react to possible vulnerabilities. In addition, it guarantees you rapid functionality of apps, programs, websites and its well-organized software designs.
There is nothing more efficient than a versatile service providing the fast and most secure web frameworks. You share the main goal.
3. React JS
- It is also error-free since all technical mistakes can be spotted during compilation.
- It is easier to write templates, especially when you are familiar with HTML.
You have no clue what the new age of web development means if you don’t try out GitHub. This web platform enables you not only to manage the web applications by coordinating the tools and its usability, but also to deploy regular teams and campaigns to the completion of these same applications or projects. GitHub accesses you a lightweight, branch-based workflow that helps you experiment with taking over new tasks and managing the existing workflow.
- It helps you make changes, reviews without affecting other involved branches.
- It offers a smooth documentation process that often complements the quality coding process.
- It can modify pages’ content and style remotely via the web or locally on your computer
Why GitHub? The suggested privileges of breaking down barriers within a team when the project is implemented and keeping everyone focused on having the best performance. In the same way, it can let your business flow run smoothly and consistently at any point in time.
5. Novi Builder
You can’t even imagine what excellent sophisticated features you have been holding back when you were not a member of the Novi Builder community. This easy-to-use development tool offers you facilities for HTML drag and drop builder, access to all existing and future templates including free of charge themes. Also, it provides you with 20 must-have plugins and elements, such as Social Plugins, Contact form, Sliders, Countdown, Google Maps, and more.
The functionality and designs are exactly built for beginners developers who want to evolve and rise up on their IT working ladder. It is a great chance for deepening your understanding of website creation and ensuring solid knowledge of application development.
Along with the above-mentioned features, here is what else Novi Builder has to offer:
- It offers advanced code editor support.
- It supercharges your projects just from scratch
- It can install an app and make it live in several hours at low cost
- It empowers and modifies your existing HTML website with additional application integration facilities
Unlike the rest of the feedback tools, this one doesn’t misuse or distort gathered information. It does exactly the opposite by testing development phases and saving your existing project from bugs. If you are quite hesitant it takes too long to collect BugMuncher feedback, you should remember that it is not about your colleague’s professional suggestion, a customer as a prime source of feedback. They can deliver you the most constructive criticism that would help you hone your business’ website or app development.
Moreover, ready-made blocks of code and flexible layouts needed for HTML, CSS can be easily customized and used in accordance with your project’s requirements. The greatest Bootstrap’s features of all are:
- Extensive list of components
- Solid guarantee of the project’s responsiveness
- Useful icon library
Notepad++ is your great assistant in text editing, syntax highlighting, plugin maintaining and this list of handy features can actually go on. Although it is available on Windows only, it can still be supported by GitHub, a primary distribution party.
Additionally, Notepad++ supports 27 programming languages. If you go to the Binary Translations page you can easily choose the language you need. Alternatively, you can open User Language Define System to help you define the definition of keywords or regular expressions. Moreover, if you are advanced at coding in languages like C++, Batch, and HTML, Notepad++ is just an ideal service for you. Imagine that:
- You can find every instance of a word and perform actions on it.
- You can access the replace function and get a change reference for each word.
- You can also save time by typing the keyboard shortcut and skipping the appeared code next time or previous time.
Doesn’t it sound amazing to apply a word-search and text-editor tool like this with just a quick installation and some default language setting? You should definitely try it out.
9. Source tree
We wouldn’t bet on the wrong horse if we said that most of you are intermediate or even advanced developers who’d rather focus on coding than interacting with the Git repositories. SourceTree is a free web development tool available for Mac and Windows and perfect for database visualization and management. However, Source tree equally claims to serve both powerful experts, as well as absolute beginners. Yet, understanding the interface specs is easier than you can even think:
- Bookmark windows represent database you are aligned with
- Toolbar lets you take action without any command line
- The sidebar is where you access the information about your current project
- Repository history and code diffs share control to monitor previous changes
From now any coding changes will be demonstrated in real-time and with the aggregated view on all of your work.
10. Lambda Test
Now, you are completely forearmed to successfully lead the war of web development. Getting an application done or an advanced code supported has never been easier. Try these top tools out and you will not regret it.
Why behavior analysis is important online business
- A typical consumer now owns an average of 3.6 devices which means a person’s journey may start from a laptop and end on a mobile or a tablet.
- In the ecommerce business, the cart abandonment rate is the thing that haunts most of the business owners.
- Developing analytical skills can help you better manage these obstacles.
- MD of SEO Discovery shares a guide to help you understand Cohort Analysis and Behavior Analysis to eliminate roadblocks and improve engagement.
In today’s digital age, the customer journey is getting complex day by day and if you are doing online business then it’s vital to understand your customer journey. A typical consumer now owns an average of 3.6 devices which means a person’s journey may start from a laptop and end on a mobile or a tablet.
In the ecommerce business, the cart abandonment rate is the thing that haunts most of the business owners. According to Statista, 88.05 percent of online shopping orders were abandoned in March 2020 worldwide, which means over 88% of people added selected products into the cart and left without buying for various reasons. This is a massive business opportunity loss for ecommerce players.
Developing analytical skills can help you better manage these obstacles. Without adequate knowledge of analytics, your marketing won’t work because you won’t know what worked and what didn’t work. All the marketing suits come with analytics tools to help perceive the behavior, engagement metrics, and demographics of the visitors coming to a website. The most common web analytics tools are Google Analytics, Adobe Analytics, Kiss Metrics, and Mixpanel. They generally come with the following features and capabilities:
- Real-time analytics
- Mobile analytics
- Attribution modeling
- Ecommerce tracking
- Funnel analysis
- Cohort analysis
- Cross-device tracking
- In-page analytics (Session recording, click tracking, heatmaps)
- Goal conversion tracking
- Event tracking
- A/B testing
Every feature has its own data sets which can be compared to help you make informed decisions. Today we are going to understand Cohort Analysis and Behavior Analysis to eliminate roadblocks and improve engagement.
What is a Cohort Analysis and why is it important?
Cohort analysis is a subset of users grouped by shared characteristics. It simply allows you to compare the behavior and metrics of different cohorts over time.
Cohort Analysis Example – Finding Engagement Drop
Let’s suppose you have an online food ordering website/app and using acquisition date (when users started their first sessions) cohorts you can find out when in the customer lifecycle your users tend to drop off.
The best way for visualizing this data is to chart out the retention curve, portraying retention over time.
This retention curve clearly reflects the most important insight – around 75% of the users stop using the website after the first day. We can see a downfall in the engagement. Hence, it’s evident to improve the overall experience and abet customers through daily offers/coupons to boosting retention.
Cohort Analysis Comparison – Organic vs Direct
The below cohort analysis indicates that organic traffic has a better retention rate than direct.
Visitor behavior analysis and its importance
It’s a process of tracking user behavior on a website and there are some great tools in the market that give accurate information. Tools like Hotjar, MouseFlow, Crazy Egg record visitor sessions to see how visitors are navigating on the website. They also offer click tracking and heatmaps to analyze the most engaging and ignored (skipped) elements on a page.
If you look at the above heatmap, you would notice that no one bothered to click on “PORTFOLIO” in the top menu, which means people aren’t interested in see the portfolio. Maybe we have to replace it with something more interesting (like Case Studies, Achievements, and more) which grabs a visitor’s attention. These kinds of insights help you add/remove elements to improve page engagement.
Using filters, you can further segment your audience to dig deep and pull out actionable insights, see those filter below:
In Google Analytics, behavior flow gives you a visual presentation of how people are navigating on your website. You can apply segments to get a deeper view of their behavior and it also enables you to apply different dimensions on top of these segments to get actionable insights.
The power of these analytical tools lies in the fact that it allows you to view which customers leave and what’s making them leave your website/app – so that you can fix it. You can also hire a professional digital marketing agency that can help you find these hurdles and remove them to enhance your overall engagement.
Mandeep Singh is the MD of SEO Discovery. He’s mission is to provide affordable digital marketing services to startups and SMEs. He’s an official member of Forbes Agency Council. You can find him on LinkedIn.
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