Google Algorithm Update & What it Means for SEO
Speed has been a huge factor in the performance of your website and SEO for a long time now – especially on mobile devices. Google already uses a website’s speed as a ranking factor in organic search, and this upcoming May is doubling down on that with the Core Web Vitals update.
Basically, Google is using 3 new factors to determine how fast your website is and what type of experience it offers to visitors.
Those three factors are:
- Largest Contentful Paint (LCP): This measures how long it takes for the main content of a webpage to load (For example, the background image of a hero section at the top of a page).
- First Input Delay (FID): This measures how long it takes for a visitor to be able to interact with your website (scroll down, click a button, etc.) once the page begins loading.
- Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS): This measures if elements on a webpage bounce or move unexpectedly after initially loading. You’ve likely encountered this yourself (especially on mobile) and can lead to a visitor making accidental clicks, which is terrible for user experience.
Fortunately, Google has built a free tool so you can see how your website scores on these metrics on both mobile and desktop devices here.
So, what does this mean for your website’s SEO?
Now more than ever your website’s speed is going to be a critical factor in how much traffic you will be able to generate from organic search.
Creating valuable content has always been key for long-term SEO success.
But even if you have been doing that, your website is going to need to be fast or you’re not going to be getting the full return on your investment.
Website Speed in General
Now, don’t think that just because your business doesn’t rely heavily on SEO that you don’t need to be concerned with how fast your website is.
Having a fast website is huge for providing a great user experience and making sure that your visitors don’t leave your website because it’s slow and unresponsive. Now more than ever, consumers are using the internet to learn more about local businesses in their area before making contact.
According to Unbounce, Pages that load within two seconds have an average bounce rate of 9%, while pages that take five seconds to load have a bounce rate of 38%. That means if your website is taking longer than 5 seconds to load, you’re losing nearly 4 out of 10 visitors on average very quickly.
So, what can you do about this?
If your website is relatively new and was built by a competent team, you likely will already have good scores.
But if your website is old or using a bloated WordPress theme or other frameworks, it’s likely you will need to do some major technical clean up to improve your scores.
I will be creating more content in the future on how to speed up WordPress websites. However, for now, know that if your website is slow and already outdated, you should begin considering a full redesign of your website.
Optimizing an existing site could already be a big lift and if it’s not running on a lean framework (such as Webflow or a WordPress site that’s on a custom theme or built with a tool like Oxygen) then how much you can optimize it will be limited.
Website Legal Policies: GDPR / CCPA / Cookies in General
Online privacy is at the forefront of consumers’ minds these days. And due to new laws and regulations that will affect your company’s website, it should be for you too.
Last year, The California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) went into effect. This law is similar to the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) that went into effect a few years ago in the European Union.
Basically, consumers now have a lot more transparency into how their data is being collected online, and companies are now legally required to have the correct data tracking, collection, and website policies in place to be compliant.
If you’ve ever wondered why so many websites have pop-ups asking you to accept cookies, it’s because of these new laws.
The CCPA is significant because it is essentially the United States’ version of GDPR, and signals that more regulation in this area could be coming in the next few years. And while you may think you don’t need to be concerned since your business is not in an EU country or California, it doesn’t matter. If your website gets visitors from either place (which it almost certainly does) then your business needs to be compliant.
I’m not a lawyer, so I don’t want to get too into the weeds of these laws and provide any misleading advice.
Fortunately, this doesn’t need to be super complicated.
I recently used the service Website Policies to update all of my website policies.
It’s quick and easy to do thanks to a setup wizard that ensures the policy is tailored to your business and not a one-size-fits-all template that likely wouldn’t hold up under scrutiny. If you want to be extra safe, you could then ask a lawyer to review it which should save you some cash.
For further reading on the subject that breaks this down much more specifically, see here.
Begin Using Your Website To Build an Email List
2020 was certainly a year of change. Many businesses that did not properly invest in their website previously were either forced to scramble and improve it quickly or unfortunately had to close.
In business and in life, there are a lot of things we can’t predict. However, there are clearly changes happening in the digital marketing landscape that is slowly but surely going to have a big impact on how you can reach potential customers online. And putting a plan in place now is going to be critical so you don’t get caught flat-footed.
What I am mainly talking about here is the fact that platforms like Facebook and Instagram have essentially become “Pay-to-Play”. Meaning, while you can still post organically on these platforms, the amount of people you can reach is way down from what it used to be before.
According to Hootsuite: On Facebook, the average reach of an organic page post hovers around 5.20%.
In non-marketing speak, that means that for every regular post you put on Facebook to promote your business, only about 1 in 20 people will see it. So if you have 1000 people that like your page, there’s a good shot that only 50-100 people will actually end up seeing that page. Ouch.
The same goes for Google and SEO. I’m sure you’ve already seen it, but more and more these days Google is providing answers to many searches right at the top of the page – making it unnecessary for people to have to visit websites that have created content around those keywords in an attempt to rank and drive traffic.
Google is now directly competing with business websites like yours to provide answers to people’s questions – and the result now is that over 50% of all Google searches don’t even result in a click anymore.
So, what can you do about this?
The only solution here is to start building an email list so you can reach prospective customers and re-engage with past ones directly on your own terms. By owning a list of contacts that have agreed to receive emails from your business, you can send messages directly to their inbox and not be reliant on Facebook or Google to get your marketing content in front of people.
This trend is only going to continue as time goes on – so the sooner you put in place a digital marketing strategy for building up your email list, the better position you will be in to weather this upcoming storm.