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Simple guide to creating an expert roundup post that drives website traffic

30-second summary: Roundup posts are pieces of content in which a list of selected experts give their insights on the same topic, in short descriptions that include their opinions, predictions, or reviews. Creating an expert roundup post for your website or blog can take some preparation and organizing efforts, but it brings undeniable long-term benefits […]

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30-second summary:

  • Roundup posts are pieces of content in which a list of selected experts give their insights on the same topic, in short descriptions that include their opinions, predictions, or reviews.
  • Creating an expert roundup post for your website or blog can take some preparation and organizing efforts, but it brings undeniable long-term benefits in terms of traffic, authoritativeness, and peer recognition.
  • In the following guide, I will take you through every step of creating an enticing expert roundup post for your website.

Publishing valuable content is a constant challenge when it comes to the formats and topics to cover. As a blogger, digital marketer, or content creator, you already know how much thought goes into offering your audience fresh, engaging content on a regular basis. Readers appreciate formats they are familiar with and can consume easily. A roundup post is an example of a successful approach to topics of interest in your industry.

Roundup posts are pieces of content in which a list of selected experts give their insights on the same topic, in short descriptions that include their opinions, predictions, or reviews.

Creating an expert roundup post for your website or blog can take some preparation and organizing efforts, but it brings undeniable long-term benefits in terms of traffic, authoritativeness, meaningful relationships, and peer recognition. By gathering a group of experts to answer the same question, you will not only generate relevant content for your website but build a strong relationship basis with experts in your industry.

Having a list of selected experts answer a well-placed question gives you a valuable piece of content that is highly shareable, so let’s see what it takes to do it right. In the following guide, I will take you through every step of creating an enticing expert roundup post for your website.

1. Brainstorm potential questions

The first step you need to take after deciding to publish an expert roundup post is to find the perfect question to ask the experts. This will be the key element of your post, and it will dictate whether it will be successful or not.

The perfect question might not be easy to find, but take enough time to find it. Brainstorm as much as you need before you decide who to invite in. All the further efforts of finding influencers and experts could be in vain if the topic you choose does not fit the roundup format, or doesn’t spark interest in your readers’ minds. So I’d recommend you find a question that resonates well with both your readers and experts.

Things to consider when brainstorming

To better understand what kind of questions are fit for a roundup post, you should picture the end result. You want to have your experts give your readers a piece of their own judgment, advice, or insight on a subject that your readers are familiar with. It won’t be a 101, a critical debate, or brain-picking for ultra-specialized information.

Your question needs to be:

  • Easy enough to give your respondents room to elaborate and get ample answers from them without the need for extra-questions.
  • General enough to give you a reasonably long list of influencers, experts, and peers. Go to niche and you might be able to talk to a handful of people about it.
  • Original enough to get your readers curious about the topic, and what experts have to say about it.

What about the topic will you be asking about? Naturally, it has to be specific to your website or niche and what you usually write about. The key is to find a subject that your audience is curious or interested in. Perhaps a trend, or a subject that usually sparks debate or behind-the-scenes type of information that regular posts don’t really get into.

You have the chance to get insights about the latest trends everyone is wondering about, or tips and tricks, good practices that expert peers have discovered through their experience and expertise.

Examples of questions:

  • What’s one piece of advice you’d give to beginner bloggers?
  • What’s one thing you would’ve done differently when starting your blog?
  • What do you think the future of blogging is?

How to get ideas

Easier said than done? If you don’t already have a topic you’ve been pondering about, compile a list of possible questions for your roundup with a little research.

Use tools like the Ahrefs Content Explorer to find trends in your industry, and subjects that seem to attract a lot of readers. You can filter results by their social shares, number, and quality of referring industries so that this tool and similar ones can give you a good idea of what subject should be pursued.

With these things in mind fuel that creative engine and start putting ideas on paper, whether they seem perfect candidates or just potential pursuers. It’s best to have a long list to start from when drafting the winning question for your roundup post.

2. Find talented experts

After finding your question, you should have a good idea about the expertise of your respondents. Assuming that you are active in your industry for a reasonable time, you should already know who the experts in your niche are. You want to compile an extensive list of experts of at least 50+ because not all will reply to your inquiry.

Let’s make a profile for the ideal respondent in your expert roundup post:

  • They are directly related to the industry you are writing about
  • They have a good follower base and an audience that regards them as influencers
  • They have contributed to roundup posts in the past
  • They are continually sharing thought-provoking, original ideas on their social media and on personal or business blogs
  • They have authority in the field: company owners and founders, top positions in companies of the industry, public speakers, success bloggers, and more

A practical, fast way of identifying possible candidates for your roundup post is to check other roundup posts in the industry. Does this approach seem lazy at a first glance? The redundancy of a roundup article doesn’t come from the list of people contributing to it, but from the very topic, you will choose for it.

As long as you are able to provoke your respondents to bring something original to the table, selecting them from other roundup articles is absolutely fine.

Depending on your topic, you might find tens of experts already showing potential for accepting your invitation. But don’t put your eggs in one basket: there are other ways of finding strong, authoritative voices in your niche.

A simple search on social media can give you a good idea of who is interested in the topic you have selected and fits the ideal profile described above. Twitter and Facebook are also great platforms where you can find experts in your industry.

For our roundup post about blogging tips for beginners, we have gathered content from CEOs and founders of content marketing websites, authors, bloggers, and podcasters in digital marketing. They were all able to give us valuable insight into what blogging is like for beginners, and what they should do to thrive.

Web search is another simple solution to putting together your expert list. We were able to find several experts by simply typing in our keyword or phrase onto Google. Find bloggers who have been covering your subject, or similar ones, and dig a bit more in their previous posts, to have an idea of who you’re going to contact.

Ahrefs, BuzzSumo, and Hootsuite are other awesome tools to research hot topics and authoritative blogs, as they display real-time data on their referring industries, traffic value, and the number of shares they get for their posts.

3. Find their contact information

Once you have a list of experts, bloggers, and influencers who can give you valuable insight into the subject you want to cover, it’s time to start gathering their contact information.

It’s best to keep a database of their information, on a simple Google or excel sheet with their names, email addresses, URL to their website, the date when you contacted them, and a column where you check if they submitted content or not. You can get a little more advanced by using a CRM or email outreach tool like Mailshake.

Keeping your contact information organized will speed up the preparation process and will help you avoid awkward situations like sending an invitation twice, or forgetting to do a follow-up with them.

Some of the experts you’re trying to reach won’t have a visible email address but you can use tools like Hunter.io to find them by simply entering their first name, last name, and their domain name. It will give you a list of the results it found. Ideally, you would launch your invitation privately, but if you still can’t find their email address, don’t hesitate to send a tweet that mentions your plan or a simple message via the other social media platforms.

Here are more tips on how to find contact information for people who you want to reach, and what good practices you should follow.

4. Reach out to your experts

If it’s the first time you are contacting someone, it’s a good idea to look into the good practices of a cold email. Roundup posts are great for getting quality backlinks, and the persons you will contact are aware of the positive influence their contribution can have on your traffic and domain. But they can’t endorse a website or a blog that doesn’t prove to be valuable on a constant basis.

We can talk about cold email outreach best practices for days on end but that would take too long. What I highly recommend is that you be genuine, polite, and kind when reaching out to your experts. This goes a long way and they’ll be able to tell when someone is being genuine since they receive hundreds of spam emails every day.

I also recommend you personalize each and every one of your emails. Yes, this will take time but you will have a higher conversion rate than if you were to send the same bulk email to everyone.

I don’t have a template to help you get started, but below I have provided a screenshot of an email I sent out to one of the experts that we included in our roundup. Feel free to use it for some inspiration and to help garner some ideas.

Another fantastic way of reaching out to experts is by joining and engaging with them via their live streams. We used this tactic to reach one of our experts who had not replied via email. It worked out, and he gave us some awesome advice while on his live stream.

5. Put it all together

Getting enough contributions from the experts you have contacted is a great achievement in the process of creating a stellar roundup post. But your job is not finished yet. Putting together the content you have just received from your guests is very important, as it will have to be a high-quality presentation that they will gladly share on their channels, therefore getting you some exposure to new audiences.

Things you want to include

  • A headshot
  • Their reply
  • Short bio
  • Social media and website handles
  • And your own comments

As you can see in our roundup post example, each contributor’s section starts with a professional picture of the contributor, the content that they have submitted, finished with our own thoughts on their commentary. We have added easy-to-follow social media icons that take you to their Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, or LinkedIn profiles, the titles they hold, and links to their main projects: companies they work for, blogs, YouTube channels, and others.

We wanted to make it easy for our readers to follow and engage with our experts via their blogs, businesses, and social media accounts.

While you want to emphasize the value of each contributor, you must also have your reader’s interest in mind, and clearly answer a need or a question your audience has.

6. Promote your post

Promoting your posts should be done in the interest of all your contributors, yourself, and your audience. The effort you have invested in compiling these pieces of content will ideally be rewarded with significant organic traffic, a good number of quality backlinks, and most importantly the start of new and meaningful relationships.

You should also edit the content carefully so that each contributor gets the same level of attention and appreciation. Take your time to thank each one of them for their contribution and don’t hesitate to personalize your message with your personal impression of their content.

Backlinks are certainly welcome, but asking them explicitly might not be appreciated by all the persons you will contact. The best ways of getting your contributors to share the roundup post are to simply ask them if they could share it with their audience.

Infographics, tweets, quotes included in an image, newsletters, and paid ads are all great ideas for getting your content everywhere and promoting it like crazy.

Conclusion: Creating an expert roundup post is totally worth it

Publishing an expert roundup post might not be everyone’s style of content, but for certain industries and domains, it can be a long-term valuable resource, both for your audience and your peers. And, of course, for you.

Keeping your focus on the value your post should bring to your readers will help you choose an enticing topic, ask the right question, and select the right people to answer it. While no one can ignore the advantages a roundup post has for contributors and creators alike, backlinks and traffic should not be your singular concern.

Ultimately, the success of such a compilation is given by the shares, referrals, and traffic you get from your audience. Create a fantastic expert roundup post by asking a question your readers are interested in, and your contributors can easily answer.

Give this type of content the time and effort it needs and it will prove to be a fruitful initiative, both amongst your peers and as a relevant post for your website.



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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 […]

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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 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.

XPath and how to find customer questions and preferences

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.

Example for finding details using Amazon

Source: https://www.amazon.com/s?k=microspikes

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.

List of questions - XPath and creating content

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:

  1.       View the Source-CodeDetermine the XPath
  2.       View the rendered source code and copy the XPath directly from Chrome’s Inspect Element tool

Copy XPath

You’ll find that the expression needed to locate all questions in an Amazon Q&A page is:

//span[@class=”a-declarative”]

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

Configure your crawler

This will then take you to the Custom Extraction screen.

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.

Run the desired URLs

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:

Final list of questions created using XPath

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.

Content strategies

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.

Conclusion

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. 



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Five must knows for advertisers and marketers

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30-second summary:

  • 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.

Closing note

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.



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28 Ways to supercharge your site

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30-second summary:

  • 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.

Core Web Vitals report elements - Above and Below the Fold

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.

Core Web Vitals report elements - WebP Image Optimization

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.

Core Web Vitals report elements - Inlining CSS

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.

C. JavaScript optimization

JavaScript is one of the biggest sources of code bloat and delay in loading websites. Optimizing your site’s JS can help speed it up tremendously, even when it doesn’t seem like it would have much of an effect based on what you’re doing to it.

11. Minify JS Scripts

Like CSS, JavaScript doesn’t need extraneous spaces and breaks to function.  It also doesn’t need verbose variable names, which are useful for development but can increase the size of scripts by a significant amount.

Run your scripts through a minifier before adding them to your site.

Core Web Vitals report elements - Minify your Javascript

12. Consolidate Scripts and Minimize Usage

Many of the purposes web designers use JavaScript for have been available as features in HTML5 and CSS3 for years now.  Particularly in older websites, a revamp or review of scripts can find alternative, faster ways to do the same things.  Review and optimize, minimize, consolidate, and strip as much JavaScript as you can from your site.

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.

Core Web Vitals report elements - Remove jQuery Migrate

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.

Core Web Vitals report elements - Lazy load your videos

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.

Core Web Vitals report elements - Pre-load your fonts

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.

Preload DNS queries - DNS lookups

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.

Minimize third-party scripts

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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