SEO Articles

How Page Speed Affects SEO & Google Rankings | The 2019 Page Speed Guide

Speed is very important for a website. It’s so important that Google has made it an actual ranking factor. Over time, Google has taken action to improve the loading speed of websites by providing a set of tools for developers and webmasters. One of these tools is Google Lighthouse.

 

But how does this PageSpeed Insights Tool from Google actually work? And, more importantly, does page speed affect SEO? You’ll find everything you need to know in this article.

how_page_speed_affects_google_ranking

 

The PageSpeed Insights Tool didn’t use to be very good in the past. Most of the information there could be found relatively easy elsewhere and it didn’t quite indicate speed itself. However, Google has recently updated the tool and it’s a lot better. Unfortunately, it’s also a lot harder to understand.

 

However, this tool has became popular among SEOs through PageSpeed Insights, which is, in fact, powered by Lighthouse, but provides the information in an easy to follow format, on a web page.

 

  1. What Is Google PageSpeed Insights?
    1. Mobile vs. Desktop
    2. What is page speed actually?
  2. Does PageSpeed Insights Affect SEO? Is 100/100 Score Essential?
  3. PageSpeed Insights Metrics
    1. Field & Lab Data (Performance Metrics)
    2. Opportunities & Diagnostics
  4. How Is the PageSpeed Insights Score Calculated?
  5. Key Points in Improving the PageSpeed Insights Score
    1. Server response time
    2. Image compression
    3. HTML & CSS Structure
    4. Minification & Script Compression
    5. Cache Policy
    6. Lightweight Theme & Plugins
  6. How to Bulk Check the PageSpeed Insights Score
  7. Other Tools for Measuring & Improving Site Speed
    1. Pingdom
    2. GT-Metrix
    3. mod_pagespeed
    4. Google AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages)
 

What Is Google PageSpeed Insights?

 

PageSpeed Insights is an online tool provided by Google which is used to identify web performance issues on sites. Although mostly related to technical SEO issues, the tools also analyze the site from a User Experience and accessibility point of view.

 

You can access PageSpeed Insights by visiting https://developers.google.com/speed/pagespeed/insights/.

 

PageSpeed Insights Home

 

You can enter the URL there and after a few seconds the tool will return a page with some results regarding your website’s performance. At the top, there will be a general score, which is an average of multiple factors. Below you will see detailed information about what actually affects your speed.

 

However, it isn’t the only PageSpeed tool provided by Google. There also is mod_pagespeed, a server module used to solve these speed issues, and the full fledged Lighthouse (the site analysis tool that powers everything), available in Chrome itself. There are also a number of Chrome Extensions related to Google’s PageSpeed Insights.

 

We will discuss briefly about all of them throughout this article, but we will focus mainly on PageSpeed Insights as it seems to be the handiest tool most SEOs use when checking a website.

 

Mobile vs. Desktop

 

When you insert a page to test it, Google will give two scores: one for the mobile version and one for the desktop version.

 

Initially, the PageSpeed Tool only gave one score, for the Desktop version. But recently, mobile usage has became more and more popular. As of 2018, more than 50% of search engine users search on mobile devices. As Google moved to a mobile first index, it also made sense for them to test mobile versions for speed first.

 

PageSpeed Mobile vs Desktop

 

However, if you have a responsive design, you might think that these versions are mostly identical.

 

If so, why do they have different scores?

 

Mobile: When you use the PageSpeed Insights tool, the first result you’ll get is for mobile speed. This means that your website has been tested on a mobile connection, probably with a 4G connection, as it seems to be the most common speed around the US at least.

 

Mobile Network Coverage

https://www.uscellular.com/coverage-map/voice-and-data-maps.html

 

However, keep in mind that many mobile users around the world still get only 3G signal and, although they have a slower connection speed, they still expect the website to load really fast.

 

And here’s the problem. It’s not always about your site, it’s more about the connection’s speed. It might seem like your site is slow when, in reality, the connection speed is slow.

 

Desktop: On desktop, the score is higher because the connection speed is higher. That’s just the thing with light and fiber optics. Unless you live in the UK, of course, and still have cups and string internet.

 

So the website goes through the same testing, but it’s mostly the connection speed that differs.

 

That’s why mobile comes first, as mobile devices usually have slower connections. Things might change with 5G but, until then, make sure you focus on improving your site speed for mobile devices.

 

What exactly is Page Speed?

 

OK, so we know what the tool does: it gives a score based on how fast it thinks your site is. But what exactly is page speed?

 

Page Speed is the speed at which an individual page loads on your website. Different pages can have different speeds due to factors such as images and scripts.

 

But speed is relative. It depends on so many factors such as the website’s performance, the server’s performance, the particular web page you’re on, the connection type, the user’s internet service provider, the internet package, the device’s processing power, the Browser, what the user is doing at that point, how many apps are running and so on.

 

However, we can only work with what we can work, which is our website and our server. We don’t really have control over the rest.

 

Just to get things straight, page speed isn’t a score, like PageSpeed Insights presents. It’s a web page’s loading time and it is measured in seconds. That’s what matters.

 

That’s why Google PageSpeed Insights wasn’t so good in the past. It didn’t quite give you information about how fast your website is actually loading. Just scores.

 

And that’s why this new version is just so good. It tells you everything you need to know about actual loading speed while also keeping the good stuff from the old version.

 

There are, of course, different points of interest in the loading time. For example, you may want to run some scripts towards the end because they don’t need to be used initially.

 

They might take a lot to finish loading, so the total loading time could be higher. But if the site is usable until then, it isn’t such a big problem.

 

Fast Website Loading Speed

 

For example, let’s say you want to run an exit intent pop-up script. That script takes a hypothetical 5-10 seconds to load. However, you want to show it to the user only after about 20-30 seconds.

 

If you start running your script immediately, you might postpone loading other important elements, such as the first thing the user should see: the above the fold content. This would be very bad, especially since you’re not going to use that script until about 20-30 seconds in the future.

 

So you can postpone loading the script after everything else that is vital loads in order to give the user a better experience.

 

However, if you have a script that makes the menu work or something vital to the usability of the website, you might not want to load it towards the end. This would ruin the experience as the user would not be able to access that function before everything else is loaded.

 

Does Page Speed Affect SEO? Is 100/100 Insights Score Essential?

 

The simple answer is that page speed does affect SEO. Page speed is a direct ranking factor, a fact known even better since Google’s Algorithm Speed Update. However, speed can also affect rankings indirectly, by increasing the bounce rate and reducing dwell time

 

 

At Google, users come first. Studies by Google show that average 3G loading speed is very slow. They also show that users leave the site after about 3 seconds. This means that their experience is bad and Google doesn’t like ranking sites which provide bad user experience.

 

 

 

What you must remember is that speed is measured in seconds, not in points from 0 to 100. While PageSpeed Insights is a tool that helps you improve speed, the score there doesn’t necessarily mean anything in the real world.

 

Even so, it is important to improve the Page Speed Score.

 

Why?

 

Because with Google we don’t know for sure whether the score there is or is not used as a ranking factor. Does Google use seconds? Does it use the score? Who knows…

 

However, I’ve seen sites with perfect pagespeed score ranking poorly and websites with a score lower than 50 that rank very well (#youtube).

 

However, you have to take into account how Google makes these tests. We don’t know where the tests are performed from. Is your server from Romania and Google tests it with a 3G connection in the US? Well then, you can obviously expect low speeds.

 

 

But just for the user’s sake, put the loading time first. And don’t use only PageSpeed Insights to test that. Stick to the end and I’ll show you a couple of tools which you can use to test the speed at which your website loads from different locations.

 

Sometimes, Google contradicts itself!

 

For example, Google PageSpeed Insights considers the Google Analytics script render blocking, which means you should load it later, in the footer. However, Google Analytics specifies it pretty clearly that the script must be placed in the <head> section of your website, otherwise it won’t work properly and won’t initially be accepted as a valid install.

 

So you get a small score hit in PageSpeed Insights… by doing what Google says… just to be told that you shouldn’t do it like that… by Google. You get the point.

 

Also, you can’t cache the script properly unless you store the analytics.js file on your server. That’s obviously something Google Analytics doesn’t recommend. It’s also a hell for maintenance, as every time Google Analytics JavaScript file gets an update, you would have to update it on your site as well.

 

This, of course, doesn’t happen only with Google tools and scripts but with any 3rd party script you don’t have control over.

 

In our defense, even YouTube, which is owned by Google and should theoretically set an example, has a pretty slow PageSpeed Insights score, at least at the time of writing this article.

 

Slow YouTube PageSpeed

 

But that doesn’t mean that the site loads slow. You can see that the field data (for which there is plenty of, as it’s YouTube) says the site loads in pretty much 4 seconds, which isn’t actually bad, considering that recently YouTube provides video previews in the thumbnails.

 

You can also test your site with https://www.thinkwithgoogle.com/intl/en-gb/feature/testmysite/ to get a more simple explanation of how fast your site loads!

 

ThinkWithGoogle Test Mobile Speed

 

Our other business’s website, BrandMentions loads in under 2 seconds on a 4G connection, as you can see above. We would see it as pretty good. Sure, there’s always room for improvement. By Google standards… it’s average.

 

However, Google seems to consider cognitiveSEO’s website speed slow, even though it loads in a little over 3 seconds, which is still pretty fast considering the amount of 3rd party tools we’re using.

 

CognitiveSEO

Note that you’ll have to go under 1 second to be considered fast! To do so, you’ll probably need a very simple site with no 3rd party plugins or fancy pop-ups. Not easy if you actually want to do some digital marketing.

 

So yes, loading speed is important for SEO, but a perfect PageSpeed Insights score is not. As long as your website loads in around 3 seconds, you should be fine with most users.

 

PageSpeed Insights Metrics

 

Since so many things can affect site speed, Google breaks everything up in different categories in the PageSpeed Insights Tool, for a better understanding of the issues.

 

This is helpful as Google also provides some sort of prioritization, showing you what exactly affects speed the most.

 

Field & Lab Data

 

These are the new metrics that are actually useful. They are split into two categories: field and lab data.

 

Field data is what’s important in the real world, as it’s the data extracted by Google from real users, either through Chrome or other data providers.

 

Sure, it’s an average and if Google doesn’t yet have enough data it will let you know.

 

Origin Summary shows an average of the site’s speed as a whole. This way you can have an idea on how your page compares to the site and how the site compares to other sites in the Chrome User Experience Report.

 

Lab data, although still useful, could be considered less important as it is collected from a controlled environment. This means that it’s tested through a single connection and it doesn’t aggregate data from multiple users.

 

The lab data is what actually generates the Google page speed score.

 

Due to the fact that Google doesn’t always have field data, it uses the lab data which is performed on the spot to analyze your site.

 

First Contentful Paint represents the moment when the users sees something on your web page for the first time. If you look at the series of images you can actually spot how it looks:

 

First Contentful Paint

 

As you can see, the page has not fully rendered, something has displayed there.

 

First Meaningful Paint is the second step, let’s say, if we take the results above as an example. It represents the point at which the user can actually understand the first piece of content. For example, some readable text or an image displays, instead of just colors and backgrounds.

 

Speed Index is a more complex metric. It measures how quickly elements on your website are visibly populated. The faster they start to appear, the better. You’re looking for a lower score here, as it’s also measured in seconds.

 

First CPU Idle represents the point at which the site has loaded enough of the information for it to be able to handle a user’s first input. For example, if the site has not loaded enough relevant information, the user might tap elements or scroll down but nothing will happen.

 

Time to Interactive is the next level, the one at which the website is fully interactive. This means that everything has loaded in the device’s memory and is now ready to be used.

 

Max Potential First Input Delay is the delay a user experiences from the point at which they interact with the browsers to the point at which the browser responds. This is the only performance metric which doesn’t affect the page speed score.

 

 

Opportunities & Diagnostics

 

The opportunities section provides information on what you can improve on your site. It also tells you an estimate of how much each issue affects your load time and how you should prioritize your tasks.

 

Going through each and everyone of them would be overkill. However, under each metric you’ll have a small arrow which you can use to expand the section.

 

PageSpeed Opportunities & Diagnostics

 

There you will find information about each and every recommendation and how to fix the issue to improve your site’s speed. You will notice that the elements which cause the biggest issues are, in general, images and 3rd party scripts.

 

The Passed Audits section is the list of things that you already do well on your web page. Basically, it will show elements from both the Opportunities and Diagnostics sections that fit within Google’s parameters.

 

The more you have in this list, the better!

 

How Is the PageSpeed Insights Score Calculated?

 

Although you might see so many things in the PageSpeed Insights Tool, the score is actually calculated using only the seconds in the Lab Data section. If you read closely, you’ll actually be able to see the message “These metrics don’t directly affect the Performance score.” under Opportunities & Diagnostics.

 

The metrics in the Lab Data are called performance metrics. There are 6 of them and we’ve presented them above. Each metric gets a score from 0 to 100. Each metric has a different weight in calculating the score.

 

3 – First contentful paint
1 – First meaningful paint
2 – First cpu idle
5 – Time to interactive
4 – Speed index
0 – Estimated input latency

 

By order of importance, they are listed as such: Time to Interactive, Speed Index, First Contentful Paint, First CPU Idle, First Meaningful Paint and Estimated Input Latency, which actually has no effect on the score.

 

The scores are based on Log-normal distribution algorithms so let’s not get too deep down the rabbit hole. If you want to learn more you can read this page.

 

Google has also put a Sheet file which you can use to see how the score is actually generated. If you know Excel functions, you can reverse engineer how everything works. You can download this file here, but you have to make your own copy (File -> Make your own copy) before you can edit it. There’s also a version for Lighthouse v5.

 

PageSpeed Score Calculator

 

To put it in simple terms, the First Contentful Paint impacts the score more than the First Meaningful Paint, and so on.

 

Why? Well, probably because if nothing displays on the screen, the user is more likely to leave your website. If you display… something, you’ll win some time to get the rest of the thing delivered.

 

The scores are ultimately divided into 3 categories, Slow (0-49), Average (50-89) and Good (90-100). Then an average is generated as a final score for your website.

 

Generally, if you’re under 50, you do have some issues that need fixing! But again, don’t sweat it if your site loads in about 3 seconds.

 

Key Points in Improving the PageSpeed Insights Score

 

Everything up there might be a little big hard to digest. We get it. Most probably, you won’t be able to solve everything! We’ve ruled out that it’s not important to get a 100% score. However, here are the key elements that will noticeably make your site load faster.

 

Warning: perform a backup of both your files and your database before engaging in these improvements. They can mess up your website and you have to make sure you can return to a previous version!

 

Server response time

 

The server is something you can’t really improve yourself. You either have a good one or a bad one. To improve it, you would either have to reduce load on it significantly, or improve its hardware, both of which you don’t have control over, unless you own the physical machine.

 

So it’s important to have a good server in the first place. But how do you choose a good server?

 

Well, any hosting company that ranks well on Google should provide decent services. However, it’s up to you to test. Best advice? If you’re mostly focused on local SEO, choose a local server. For example, if most of your audience lives in Italy, choose a server with the datacenter in Italy.

 

If the datacenter is all the way in the US, the information will have to travel a big distance before reaching your target audience.

 

You can always test the hosting provider’s own website with PageSpeed Insights and look for their TTFB (Time To First Byte) or Server Response Time. If it’s in the Passed Audits section, you know you have yourself a good hosting provider.

 

Fast Server TTFB

 

However, it’s better if you know someone that is an actual client of the hosting provider so you can test the speed there.

 

Realistically, the host’s own website will probably be on a dedicated server, while your site will be on a shared hosting package. This means that you will share the computer’s CPU and internet bandwidth with other websites.

 

If you can test a real site from a client, that’s great. You might be able to look through the reviews and find clients or ask the support team to provide one.

 

Image compression

 

In general, images are the biggest problem with websites. They are big and take up a lot to download. 

 

There are two types of issues with the images. The first one is the screen size vs. the actual image size in pixels and the second one is the disk size.

 

Disk Size: The more physical space an image takes on a hard disk or SSD, the more it will take to download. 100 KB will download a lot faster than 1000 KB (1MB). If you have 10 images like that on your blog post, expect your site to load very slow.

 

You can use WP Smush to optimize your images. It’s a plugin that will compress the images without losing any quality. This means that you can shrink a 1000×1000 pixels image from 200 KB to 150 KB without noticing the difference in quality, therefore making it load 25% faster.

 

WP Smush

 

Screen Size: Screen size is the size at which an image is displayed. For example, the image below is being displayed at 300×300 pixels.

 

300x300

 

To make images load faster, you first have to make sure you’re not using an image bigger than it’s going to be displayed. For example, if you have an HTML section that styled with CSS at 300×300 pixels, but you load an 1000×1000 pixels image in the source, you’re losing load time for that 700×700 pixels.

 

That’s because the Browser has to download the 1000×1000 pixels image and then shrink it to 300×300 pixels. This takes more time for both the download and the shrinking process. You can fix this by uploading your images with the same width and height that they will be displayed at.

 

WordPress does this automatically by creating multiple instances of the image when you upload it. That’s why you’ll see that 300×300 or 150×150 suffix at the end of an image file path. That’s why you can choose sizes (Large, Medium, Thumbnail). Although it’s not perfect, especially if you manually resize the image with click and drag, and it takes up more space on your server on the long run, it does help with load speed.

 

Deferring the images is another thing that you can do to improve the load time. This means that you can download them later as the user scrolls down on the web page. There will be a brief moment when the images won’t be visible but they will eventually show up, one after another.

 

This helps the Browsers focus on the important part, the one which the users is viewing at that point.

 

 

There are a multitude of plugins that can help you do that. However, many have bugs or only defer images in certain situations, for example if they are created by WordPress or WooCommerce, but not when created or inserted by less popular plugins.

 

There are certainly plugins for other CMS, such as Joomla or Magento. Just perform a Google search for them. If you’re not on a popular CMS, such as WordPress, deferring images can be done with jQuery, but you’ll most certainly need a developer for it, if you’re not one yourself.

 

Next gen image formats are recommended by Google. They are very useful, especially when loading a website from a mobile device. However, there’s a reason not many people use them yet.

 

Next gen image formats are not yet supported by all major browsers. This means that you’ll need to dynamically serve different formats for different browsers.

 

If you can use a plugin on your CMS that might be easy, but if you’re on a custom platform, you’ll need to develop everything from scratch, which costs a lot. Here’s a list of which browsers support the WebP format.

 

WebP Next Gen Image Format

 

If you size and optimize your images properly, the savings you’ll get by also converting them to next gen image formats such as JPEG2000 or WebP might not be worth the cost in time and money.

 

However, if you have the time and budget, by all means, go do it. You can use this tool to check if the browsers your users spend most time on are supported. Search for either WebP or JPEG2000.

 

HTML & CSS Structure

 

The HTML structure of your web page dictates the way it loads. Browsers read a page from the top to the bottom and they load the elements the same way. This means that if you want something to load first, you have to put it higher in your page.

 

Generally, the issues are not with HTML but with CSS. If you write your CSS chaotically, it will result in a slower loading time and a bad user experience.

 

Let’s take an example. Most websites, if not all, follow this HTML structure: head > body > footer.

 

If my CSS file styles the footer first, then the footer will receive the styling, although it is before the fold. Meanwhile, the header and body might remain plain.

 

It’s also a good idea to add your mobile styling first, as mobile devices are the slowest ones.

 

The same goes with renderblocking JavaScript. Postpone scripts that are not vital. Add them to the footer so that they will be loaded last.

 

However, if you have important scripts such as Analytics which should run as soon as possible, then by all means keep them in the header and make sure they fire and run properly, even though this might result in a lower PageSpeed score.

 

Minification & Script Compression

 

Minification is a process of making a file smaller by removing unnecessary information from it.

 

For example, when writing JavaScript and CSS, most, if not all coders, like to use spaces in order to keep their code clean and easy to read. However, those extra spaces add up, especially if you have a long piece of code.

 

CSS Minification

cssminifier.com

 

Another way of minifying code would be by combining similar elements.

 

For example, if my head and footer sections were identical, instead of writing them like this:

 

body {
font-size: 16px;
}
footer {
font-size: 16px;
}

 

I could write:

 

body, footer {
font-size: 16px;
}

 

Compression is the process of shrinking files by replacing recurring sequences of information with a single reference to that particular sequence.

 

So, for example, if I have the following code: 123 4 123 123 123 4 123 123, I could replace 123 with a 1 and get a compressed version like this one: 1 4 1 1 1 4 1 1. Of course, it’s far more complex than what I’ve presented.

 

This generally happens on the server side and the most common one is called Gzip compression. The server sends a compressed version. After the browser receives the compressed file, it decompresses it by reversing the process, to read its actual contents.

 

This works pretty much like WinRAR; we probably all know it, because we’ve been using it for free since forever!

 

If you’re on a popular CMS, you will definitely find a plugin for both compression and minification. For example, the W3 Total Cache plugin does a lot of things including both of these, if you set it up properly.

 

Remember that compression is dependent on server setup. If your server does not support Gzip, you won’t be able to compress files. If you have an Apache server, make sure you have mod_deflate installed.

 

You can ask your server provider if your hosting supports it. 99.9% of the time they will say yes. If it’s not already installed, they should do it free of charge, as it’s something pretty basic.

 

If you’re not on a popular CMS you can also enable Gzip compression via the .htaccess file (Apache servers) by adding the following code, as long as mod_deflate is installed.

 

<span class="token operator">&lt;</span>IfModule mod_deflate<span class="token punctuation">.</span>c<span class="token operator">&gt;</span>
  <span class="token shell-comment comment"># Compress HTML, CSS, JavaScript, Text, XML and fonts</span>
  AddOutputFilterByType <span class="token constant">DEFLATE</span> application<span class="token operator">/</span>javascript
  AddOutputFilterByType <span class="token constant">DEFLATE</span> application<span class="token operator">/</span>rss<span class="token operator">+</span>xml
  AddOutputFilterByType <span class="token constant">DEFLATE</span> application<span class="token operator">/</span>vnd<span class="token punctuation">.</span>ms<span class="token operator">-</span>fontobject
  AddOutputFilterByType <span class="token constant">DEFLATE</span> application<span class="token operator">/</span>x<span class="token operator">-</span>font
  AddOutputFilterByType <span class="token constant">DEFLATE</span> application<span class="token operator">/</span>x<span class="token operator">-</span>font<span class="token operator">-</span>opentype
  AddOutputFilterByType <span class="token constant">DEFLATE</span> application<span class="token operator">/</span>x<span class="token operator">-</span>font<span class="token operator">-</span>otf
  AddOutputFilterByType <span class="token constant">DEFLATE</span> application<span class="token operator">/</span>x<span class="token operator">-</span>font<span class="token operator">-</span>truetype
  AddOutputFilterByType <span class="token constant">DEFLATE</span> application<span class="token operator">/</span>x<span class="token operator">-</span>font<span class="token operator">-</span>ttf
  AddOutputFilterByType <span class="token constant">DEFLATE</span> application<span class="token operator">/</span>x<span class="token operator">-</span>javascript
  AddOutputFilterByType <span class="token constant">DEFLATE</span> application<span class="token operator">/</span>xhtml<span class="token operator">+</span>xml
  AddOutputFilterByType <span class="token constant">DEFLATE</span> application<span class="token operator">/</span>xml
  AddOutputFilterByType <span class="token constant">DEFLATE</span> font<span class="token operator">/</span>opentype
  AddOutputFilterByType <span class="token constant">DEFLATE</span> font<span class="token operator">/</span>otf
  AddOutputFilterByType <span class="token constant">DEFLATE</span> font<span class="token operator">/</span>ttf
  AddOutputFilterByType <span class="token constant">DEFLATE</span> image<span class="token operator">/</span>svg<span class="token operator">+</span>xml
  AddOutputFilterByType <span class="token constant">DEFLATE</span> image<span class="token operator">/</span>x<span class="token operator">-</span>icon
  AddOutputFilterByType <span class="token constant">DEFLATE</span> text<span class="token operator">/</span>css
  AddOutputFilterByType <span class="token constant">DEFLATE</span> text<span class="token operator">/</span>html
  AddOutputFilterByType <span class="token constant">DEFLATE</span> text<span class="token operator">/</span>javascript
  AddOutputFilterByType <span class="token constant">DEFLATE</span> text<span class="token operator">/</span>plain
  AddOutputFilterByType <span class="token constant">DEFLATE</span> text<span class="token operator">/</span>xml

  <span class="token shell-comment comment"># Remove browser bugs (only needed for really old browsers)</span>
  BrowserMatch <span class="token operator">^</span>Mozilla<span class="token operator">/</span><span class="token number">4</span> gzip<span class="token operator">-</span>only<span class="token operator">-</span>text<span class="token operator">/</span>html
  BrowserMatch <span class="token operator">^</span>Mozilla<span class="token operator">/</span><span class="token number">4</span><span class="token punctuation">.</span><span class="token number">0</span><span class="token punctuation">[</span><span class="token number">678</span><span class="token punctuation">]</span> no<span class="token operator">-</span>gzip
  BrowserMatch <span class="token package">bMSIE</span> <span class="token operator">!</span>no<span class="token operator">-</span>gzip <span class="token operator">!</span>gzip<span class="token operator">-</span>only<span class="token operator">-</span>text<span class="token operator">/</span>html
  Header append Vary User<span class="token operator">-</span>Agent
<span class="token operator">&lt;</span><span class="token operator">/</span>IfModule<span class="token operator">&gt;</span>

 

Sometimes, you can also combine the scripts. There are plugins that do this, such as Autoptimize, which I’ve presented before. Combining scripts is exactly what it says. Instead of having two files, you combine them into one. This way there’s only one request made to the server, instead of multiple ones.

 

However, combining scripts can many times causes bugs, so make sure you back up everything before.

 

Cache Policy

 

Caching is the process of storing files in a client’s browser in order to be able to quickly access them at a later time.

 

For example, if a user comes to your website for the first time, your logo will have to be downloaded. However, if you have an effective caching policy, that file will be stored in the user’s browser. When the user accesses your site a second time, it won’t have to download that file again as it will be instantly loaded from their computer.

 

Dynamic Elements (short cache policy): Dynamic elements are elements on your website that change frequently. For example, you might keep adding new posts in a slider on the Homepage.

 

In this case, the HTML is the dynamic element, so set a short caching policy if this fits you. 30 minutes might be enough, just in case the user returns to that page in the same session.

 

In some cases, you might not want to cache those elements at all, if promptitude is what matters for your users, such as on news websites.

 

Static Resources (long cache policy): Static resources are files that rarely change. These are usually images and CSS or JS files, but they can also be audio files, video files, etc.

 

You can set a longer cache time for images and CSS files since you know you will not be changing them very frequently. You can even go up to one year, but 3 months is usually enough.

 

Third Party Tools: You don’t really have control over 3rd party tools, so if you feel like a tool that is hosted elsewhere makes your website run very slow, better find an alternative or give up on it.

 

A solution would be to host the files on your own server and cache them. However, this might not be very productive and it’s not recommended, as you’ll have to constantly update those files as soon as new versions come out, otherwise the tool or app won’t work properly.

 

Cache Plugins: There are a lot of plugins that will properly handle the cache protocols required for a good user experience. If you’re on WordPress, one of these plugins is W3 Total Cache. However, if you want to go for a better option, WP Rocket is also pretty popular, but it will set you back a couple hundred bucks.

 

Just search for cache plugin / extension / module + your platform on Google to find what you need. Look at the reviews to pick the best one.

 

.htaccess file cache: You can also set a cache control header from your .htaccess file on an Apache server, if you don’t run your website on a popular CMS.

 

There are multiple ways:

 

## EXPIRES CACHING ##
<IfModule mod_expires.c>
ExpiresActive On
ExpiresByType image/jpg "access 1 year"
ExpiresByType image/jpeg "access 1 year"
ExpiresByType image/gif "access 1 year"
ExpiresByType image/png "access 1 year"
ExpiresByType text/css "access 1 month"
ExpiresByType text/html "access 1 hour"
ExpiresByType application/pdf "access 1 month"
ExpiresByType text/x-javascript "access 1 month"
ExpiresByType application/x-shockwave-flash "access 1 month"
ExpiresByType image/x-icon "access 1 year"
ExpiresDefault "access 1 month"
</IfModule>
## EXPIRES CACHING ##

 

Or you can also use this code:

 

# One year for image files
<filesMatch ".(jpg|jpeg|png|gif|ico)$">
Header set Cache-Control "max-age=31536000, public"
</filesMatch>

# One month for css and js
<filesMatch ".(css|js)$">
Header set Cache-Control "max-age=2628000, public"
</filesMatch>

 

The numbers in the max-age attribute are in seconds, so 3600 would mean one hour, 86400 one day and so on.

 

Resetting the cache: When you make modifications to a web page, you want to reset the cache if an older version has been cached previously. However, you can only reset the cache on your server.

 

This means that users who have downloaded a previous version of a certain file will still load that old version from their computer when they access the website again. The file will be refreshed after the set amount of time in your caching policy or if the user manually resets their browser cache.

 

If you have a critical error in your web design or code, you can change the filename of your file. This way you can be sure that the cache for that particular file will be reset.

 

Sometimes, Chrome’s cache can be difficult to reset. Sometimes, routers and datacenters between the client and the server might also cache files so, if you don’t see the modifications, give it a couple of hours.

 

Lightweight Theme & Plugins

 

The more you load your website with plugins, the heavier it gets and the slower it runs.

 

A website’s theme is the biggest ‘plugin’ the site has. Most themes out there come with heavy 3rd party builders and huge libraries of plugins which all make the site run slower.

 

Lightweight Theme & Plugin

 

For example, slider plugins generally add the slider JS code to all pages, although it will probably be used only on the homepage or a landing page. That’s some heavy code to be loading on every page! Not to mention that nobody likes them and they lower the conversion rate.

 

So when you’re looking for a theme, try to find one without too much animations, sliders, functions and so on. If you look at the big websites you’ll see that, in general, they’re pretty simple.

 

A good theme which I recommend is GeneratePress. It’s lightweight and will load very fast. You can enable or disable elements to keep your site as clean as possible.

 

Combining it with an optimization plugin such as WP Rocket (paid) or a combo of free plugins such as Autoptimize + Fastest Cache will make it blazing fast! You can also use W3 Total Cache, a plugin which does almost everything listed above pretty well.

 

When you install new plugins, think about how important they are to your website. After you install them, test your score and loading speed. Does the plugin make your site run slower? If yes, is it critical to keep the plugin? Maybe look for a better alternative or remove it completely.

 

How to Bulk Check the PageSpeed Insights Score

 

The annoying part about PageSpeed Insights is that it checks only one web page at a time. It would take an eternity to check all the pages on your website, depending on its size.

 

However, there’s a way of bulk checking the PageSpeed Insights Score. Have you guessed it yet?

 

It’s the CognitiveSEO Tool Site Audit. Once you set up the technical SEO analysis with the Site Audit, go to your Campaign -> Site Audit -> Performance -> PageSpeed.

 

Bulk Check Google PageSpeed Insights Score

 

Of course, you can do a lot more with the tool, from improving your technical SEO and content to monitoring your rankings and link building efforts.

 

There’s also a somewhat free alternative which is a Chrome Extension. However, what it will actually do is ask for a list of URLs and then just open them as new tabs in the online PageSpeed Insights tool.

 

Bulk Check PageSpeed Extension Chrome

 

This means that the process is OK for about 10-20 tabs, if you have a medium to high end computer CPU. Anymore than that and the browser could crash or you’ll grow old waiting. It’s still pretty inconvenient.

 

Other SEO Tools for Measuring & Improving Site Speed

 

Of course, Google’s PageSpeed Insights tool isn’t the only tool to check and improve page speed. For once, we don’t really know where the tests are being performed from. If your site is hosted on a server in Europe and Google performs its tests from the US, it’s natural that the site will be slower.

 

However, there are tools which specify where the test is being performed from.

 

Pingdom

 

Pingdom Speed Test is a great tool which measures the speed at which your web page loads. Once the test is done, you’ll get some results which are similar to the ones on Google’s tool, at least visually.

 

Pingdom Speed Test

 

What’s interesting about it is that you can select where the test is going to be performed from. Sure, the options are limited, but it’s still better than not even knowing it.

 

If you focus on local SEO, choose the location closest to your server. If you don’t know where it’s actually hosted, ask your hosting provider and you’ll find out.

 

Pingdom Data Center Location

 

It’s also a good idea to make multiple tests from different locations, just in case you have an international audience.

 

GT-Metrix

 

GT Metrix has been one of my favorite speed testing tools out there. Although it tests only from Vancouver, Canada, the insights it gives are very useful.

 

GT Metrix Speed Tool

 

Quick tip: If you create a free account with them, you won’t have to wait so much for the test to be performed. To reduce load on their servers, they add you in a queue when there are too many requests. However, registered users have priority.

 

mod_pagespeed

 

The mod_pagespeed is a server addon from Google. Its purpose is to fix any page speed related issues at a core level, directly on the server side. This means that even if you add unoptimized images, mod_pagespeed will automatically compress, optimize and convert them to next gen image formats.

 

However, installing mod_pagespeed is definitely more technical than just dealing with everything in WordPress.

 

If your server already has it or you know what you’re doing go ahead and install it. However, it’s always a better idea to have a fast site in the first place instead of trying to cover things up.

 

Any way, this mod will increase load on your server as every time you upload an unoptimized image, it will have to use processing power to convert it.

 

Google AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages)

 

If you want your site to be really fast on mobile searches, you can always implement Google AMP.

 

Google AMP or Accelerated Mobile Pages is a special type of HTML, stripped of heavy, slower loading elements.

 

More than that, AMP pages will preload in Chrome mobile browser as the user scrolls through the search results, resulting in an instant load of the page when the user taps the title.

 

Google AMP

 

There are also disadvantages, of course. You’re limited from every direction, although things are getting better and better every day. Also, your site’s design has to suffer and will pretty much look like any other site that uses AMP. Bummer.

 

The URL isn’t yours either, because Google loads a cached version of your site, on their URLs. However, Google developers have promised to bring native URLs into AMP.

 

On WordPress and other CMS, you can add AMP to your website through a plugin. For custom websites, you’ll need to get in touch with your developer and give them this link.

 

Conclusion

 

Improving your site speed is important for better search rankings. PageSpeed Insights provides a set of best practices and possible improvements, prioritized by their impact on your site’s speed.

 

While the score itself shouldn’t concern you too much, it’s a good idea to try and get it at least over 50. However, focus on load time, which is measured in seconds. A good website should load in about 3 seconds. A really, really fast one should load in about 1.

 

Having a good server, compressing images and keeping things clean and simple in your code will benefit you the most when it comes to website speed.

 

What’s your PageSpeed Insights Score? Have you seen better rankings after improving the loading speed of your website? Share your experience with us in the comments section below!

The post How Page Speed Affects SEO & Google Rankings | The 2019 Page Speed Guide appeared first on SEO Blog | cognitiveSEO Blog on SEO Tactics & Strategies.

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7 Awesome 404 Error Pages from The World’s Most Popular Websites

Is there any topic more exciting than 404 errors?

It’s brutally boring, BUT I’ve decided to spice things up a little.

In this article, I’m going to analyze 404 error page designs from the 100 most popular websites in the world.

I’ll also show you how to fix 404 errors at the end.

Let’s jump in.

What is a 404 Error Page?

A 404 error occurs when you land on a page that doesn’t exist on the host website.

Gotch SEO 404 Error

It can be frustrating when you’re a user and that’s why it’s important for SEO. What’s important for users is important for your SEO campaign.

This doesn’t mean you need to “fix” all the 404 pages on your website either.

More on this in a second. There is one universal truth that applies to every website:

Your 404 page design and UX needs to be effective.

Model the some of the terrific 404 pages I found from the most popular websites in the world. Take a look:

Model These 404 Pages

I’ve ranked these 404 error pages based on effectiveness. Not how clever they are. Here we go:

1. eBay

eBay’s 404 page is perfect. It’s helpful for users and it’s also built to convert.

Ebay 404 Error Page

2. Healthline

Healthline’s 404 page works well because it’s on-brand. It also directs users back to the important parts of their website.

healthline 404

3. RetailMeNot

RetailMeNot uses a nice conversion-focused 404 page. You should consider testing this model if you’re running a coupon site.

Retailmenot 404

4. Go.com (Disney)

Go.com combines creativity (which is on-brand for Disney) and effectiveness by offering a search function on their 404 pages. Great job!

Disney 404 error

5. CNET

CNET has a clever and effective 404 error page. It’s effective because of the display ads placed in strategic locations. I also love the “All-Time Favorites” content section.

CNET 404

This is an effective way to send users back into their website’s rabbit hole. They know more dwell time equals more ad revenue.

6. Facebook

Facebook’s 404 page design is on-brand and simple. It gives users enough options to find what they need. Well done.

Facebook 404 Page

7. YouTube

YouTube’s 404 error page is simple and effective. You only have one option and that’s to search.

YouTube 404 Page

It would make sense for Google.com to model YouTube’s 404 page. Not sure why they wouldn’t when search is their bread and butter.

404 Pages NOT to Model

1. Amazon

Amazon’s 404 page caught me off guard. Marketers study Amazon because of its conversion-focused mindset. So what’s going on here? Why are they pushing the “Meet the dogs of Amazon”? agenda on a 404 page?

Amazon 404 Page

I understand if they’re trying to make their company more relatable and “human” and that’s fine. The timing is a little strange.

Let’s step into the mind of the user for a second.

They were looking for something specific and now they’re presented with a distraction. A percentage of people will click to learn more about “the dogs of Amazon”. Then a small percentage of those people will forget what they were even doing on Amazon in the first place.

So, if we’re examining this from a pure conversion perspective, it’s an odd strategy.

The good news is Amazon still shows a prominent search function. It’s not a “bad” 404 error page. It’s just a weird strategy.

2. Google

Surprisingly, Google has a bad 404 page. The page isn’t helpful for users at all. It informs them that they tried to reach a page that doesn’t exist, but what happens next?

Google 404 Error Page

The only option is to hit the back button on their browser or exit. You would think the biggest search engine in the world would have a search function on their 404 error page.

The funny part is another division of their company (YouTube) has a better 404 page. See above.

3. Reddit

I don’t know if Reddit’s team is trying to be clever or this isn’t intentional. It’s a bad 404 error page regardless. It doesn’t direct users anywhere and it gives no guidance.

Reddit 404 Not Found Page

My only assumption is the Reddit team has concluded their user base is intelligent enough to find what they need on their own.

Here’s an interesting fact about my research:

13 of the 100 most popular websites have 404 error pages like Reddit.

4. Spotify

Spotify’s 404 page looks okay on the surface, but there are some issues with the links. It’s a common UX best practice to underline links initially or on a hover. Spotify doesn’t do either.

Spotify 404 page

This makes the links to their “FAQ” and “Community” pages almost invisible. The other issue is the “Go Back” link doesn’t work because they’re using Javascript. Not sure why.

Javascript

How to Fix 404 Errors

The best way to find and fix 404 errors is to use Screaming Frog SEO Spider.

But before you dig in, when should you fix a 404 error?

The answer is sometimes.

Here’s a simple criteria to follow:

  1. 301 redirect a 404 page if there’s a suitable alternative on your website.
  2. 301 redirect a 404 page if it has existing backlinks, traffic, sales, or any other positive KPIs. If you don’t have a relevant page to 301, then redirect it to the homepage.

If a 404 page doesn’t have any positive KPIs, then let it be a 404. Google will crawl it and remove it from the index. I recommend going into Google Search Console and marking the 404s as “fixed”.

It’s not necessary, but it doesn’t hurt.

How to Find 404 Error Pages

Open up Screaming Frog SEO Spider, enter your target domain and start the analysis.

Screaming Frog

Click on the “Response Codes” tab. Then click on the “Filter” dropdown and select “Client Error (4xx)”.

Screaming Frog 404s

Export all the 404 errors.

list of 404 errors

The next step is to take all of your 404 pages and analyze them using Ahrefs. Go to Ahrefs, click on “More” in the navigation and click “Batch analysis”.

Ahrefs Batch Analysis

Enter your URLs and start the analysis.

Ahrefs Bulk Analysis Tool

Click on the “Domains” column and you’ll see what 404 pages have existing backlinks.

Referring Domains Ahrefs

Now 301 redirect the 404 pages (with existing backlinks) to a relevant page.

5 Qualities of Perfect 404 Pages

Here are a few 404 page qualities to emulate based on my analysis of the top websites in the world:

1. Be user-focused

Landing on a 404 page can be frustrating. Help the user as much as you can.

2. Stay on-brand

The best 404 pages stayed on-brand and were creative. Especially Disney:

Disney 404 error

Attention to detail goes a long way.

3. Keep it simple

Don’t overwhelm the user more than they already are. Give them exactly they need to find what they were looking for.

4. Make links look like links

UX 101 right here. Your links should always look like links.

Ebay Help Pages

5. Try to drive conversions (if it makes sense)

Not every website can try to make sales on a 404 page. But if it makes sense in your situation, test it.

Ebay Trending Deals

That’s All!

Optimizing 404 pages won’t have a huge impact on SEO performance, but it can’t be overlooked. Design a quality 404 page and 301 redirect pages that are worth redirecting (based on KPIs and relevance).

Enjoy this post? Please share it. Thanks!

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How to Onboard Clients with Immersion Workshops – Whiteboard Friday

Posted by HeatherPhysioc

Spending quality time getting to know your client, their goals and capabilities, and getting them familiar with their team sets you up for a better client-agency relationship. Immersion workshops are the answer. Learn more about how to build a strong foundation with your clients in this week’s Whiteboard Friday presented by Heather Physioc.

Click on the whiteboard image above to open a high resolution version in a new tab!

Video Transcription

Hey, everybody, and welcome back to Whiteboard Friday. My name is Heather Physioc, and I’m Group Director of Discoverability at VMLY&R. So I learned that when you onboard clients properly, the rest of the relationship goes a lot smoother.

Through some hard knocks and bumps along the way, we’ve come up with this immersion workshop model that I want to share with you. So I actually conducted a survey of the search industry and found that we tend to onboard clients inconsistently from one to the next if we bother to do a proper onboarding with them at all. So to combat that problem, let’s talk through the immersion workshop.

Why do an immersion workshop with a client?

So why bother taking the time to pause, slow down, and do an immersion workshop with a client? 

1. Get knowledgeable fast

Well, first, it allows you to get a lot more knowledgeable about your client and their business a lot faster than you would if you were picking it up piecemeal over the first year of your partnership. 

2. Opens dialogue

Next it opens a dialogue from day one.

It creates the expectation that you will have a conversation and that the client is expected to participate in that process with you. 

3. Build relationships

You want to build a relationship where you know that you can communicate effectively with one another. It also starts to build relationships, so not only with your immediate, day-to-day client contact, but people like their bosses and their peers inside their organization who can either be blockers or advocates for the search work that your client is going to try to implement.

4. Align on purpose, roadmap, and measuring success

Naturally the immersion workshop is also a crucial time for you to align with your client on the purpose of your search program, to define the roadmap for how you’re going to deliver on that search program and agree on how you’re going to measure success, because if they’re measuring success one way and you’re measuring success a different way, you could end up at completely different places.

5. Understand the DNA of the brand

Ultimately, the purpose of a joint immersion workshop is to truly understand the DNA of the brand, what makes them tick, who are their customers, why should they care what this brand has to offer, which helps you, as a search professional, understand how you can help them and their clients. 

Setting

Do it live! (Or use video chats)

So the setting for this immersion workshop ideally should be live, in-person, face-to-face, same room, same time, same place, same mission.

But worst case scenario, if for some reason that’s not possible, you can also pull this off with video chats, but at least you’re getting that face-to-face communication. There’s going to be a lot of back-and-forth dialogue, so that’s really, really important. It’s also important to building the empathy, communication, and trust between people. Seeing each other’s faces makes a big difference. 

Over 1–3 days

Now the ideal setting for the immersion workshop is two days, in my opinion, so you can get a lot accomplished.

It’s a rigorous two days. But if you need to streamline it for smaller brands, you can totally pull it off with one. Or if you have the luxury of stretching it out and getting more time with them to continue building that relationship and digging deeper, by all means stretch it to three days. 

Customize the agenda

Finally, you should work with the client to customize the agenda. So I like to send them a base template of an immersion workshop agenda with sessions that I know are going to be important to my search work.

But I work side-by-side with that client to customize sessions that are going to be the right fit for their business and their needs. So right away we’ve got their buy-in to the workshop, because they have skin in the game. They know which departments are going to be tricky. They know what objectives they have in their heads. So this is your first point of communication to make this successful.

Types of sessions

So what types of sessions do we want to have in our immersion workshop? 

Vision

The first one is a vision session, and this is actually one that I ask the clients to bring to us. So we slot about 90 minutes for the client to give us a presentation on their brand, their overarching strategy for the year, their marketing strategy for the year.

We want to hear about their goals, revenue targets, objectives, problems they’re trying to solve, threats they see to the business. Whatever is on their mind or keeps them up at night or whatever they’re really excited about, that’s what we want to hear. This vision workshop sets the tone for the entire rest of the workshop and the partnership. 

Stakeholder

Next we want to have stakeholder sessions.

We usually do these on day one. We’re staying pretty high level on day one. So these will be with other departments that are going to integrate with search. So that could be the head of marketing, for example, like a CMO. It could be the sales team. If they have certain sales objectives they’re trying to hit, that would be really great for a search team to know. Or it could be global regions.

Maybe Latin America and Europe have different priorities. So we may want to understand how the brand works on the global scale as opposed to just at HQ. 

Practitioner

On day two is when we start to get a little bit more in the weeds, and we call these our practitioner sessions. So we want to work with our day-to-day SEO contacts inside the organization. But we also set up sessions with people like paid search if they need to integrate their search efforts.

We might set up time with analytics. So this will be where we demo our standard SEO reporting dashboards and then we work with the client to customize it for their needs. This is a time where we find out who they’re reporting up to and what kinds of metrics they’re measured on to determine success. We talk about the goals and conversions they’re measuring, how they’re captured, why they’re tracking those goals, and their existing baseline of performance information.

We also set up time with developers. Technology is essential to actually implementing our SEO recommendations. So we set up time with them to learn about their workflows and their decision-making process. I want to know if they have resource constraints or what makes a good project ticket in Jira to get our work done. Great time to start bonding with them and give them a say in how we execute search.

We also want to meet with content teams. Now content tends to be one of the trickiest areas for our clients. They don’t always have the resources, or maybe the search scope didn’t include content from day one. So we want to bring in whoever the content decision-makers or creators are. We want to understand how they think, their workflows and processes. Are they currently creating search-driven content, or is this going to be a shift in mentality?

So a lot of times we get together and talk about process, editorial calendaring, brand tone and voice, whatever it takes to get content done for search.

Summary and next steps

So after all of these, we always close with a summary and next steps discussion. So we work together to think about all the things that we’ve accomplished during this workshop and what our big takeaways and learnings are, and we take this time to align with our client on next steps.

When we leave that room, everybody should know exactly what they’re responsible for. Very powerful. You want to send a recap after the fact saying, “Here’s what we learned and here’s what we understand the next steps to be. Are we all aligned?” Heads nod. Great. 

Tools to use

So a couple of tools that we’ve created and we’ll make sure to link to these below.

Download all the tools

Onboarding checklist

We’ve created a standard onboarding checklist. The thing about search is when we’re onboarding a new client, we pretty commonly need the same things from one client to the next. We want to know things about their history with SEO. We need access and logins. Or maybe we need a list of their competitors. Whatever the case is, this is a completely repeatable process. So there’s no excuse for reinventing the wheel every single time.

So this standard onboarding checklist allows us to send this list over to the client so they can get started and get all the pieces in place that we need to be successful. It’s like mise en place when you’re cooking. 

Discussion guides

We’ve also created some really helpful session discussion guides. So we give our clients a little homework before these sessions to start thinking about their business in a different way.

We’ll ask them open-ended questions like: What kinds of problems are your business unit solving this year? Or what is one of the biggest obstacles that you’ve had to overcome? Or what’s some work that you’re really proud of? So we send that in advance of the workshop. Then in our business unit discussions, which are part of the stakeholder discussions, we’ll actually use a few of the questions from that discussion guide to start seeding the conversation.

But we don’t just go down the list of questions, checking them off one by one. We just start the conversation with a couple of them and then follow it organically wherever it takes us, open-ended, follow-up, and clarifying questions, because the conversations we are having in that room with our clients are far more powerful than any information you’re going to get from an email that you just threw over the fence.

Sticky note exercise

We also do a pretty awesome little sticky note exercise. It’s really simple. So we pass out sticky notes to all the stakeholders that have attended the sessions, and we ask two simple questions. 

  1. One, what would cause this program to succeed? What are all the factors that can make this work? 
  2. We also ask what will cause it to fail.

Before you know it, the client has revealed, in their own words, what their internal obstacles and blockers will be. What are the things that they’ve run into in the past that have made their search program struggle? By having that simple exercise, it gets everybody in the mind frame of what their role is in making this program a success. 

Search maturity assessment

The last tool, and this one is pretty awesome, is an assessment of the client’s organic search maturity.

Now this is not about how good they are at SEO. This is how well they incorporate SEO into their organization. Now we’ve actually done a separate Whiteboard Friday on the maturity assessment and how to implement that. So make sure to check that out. But a quick overview. So we have a survey that addresses five key areas of a client’s ability to integrate search with their organization.

  • It’s stuff like people. Do they have the right resources? 
  • Process. Do they have a process? Is it documented? Is it improving? 
  • Capacity. Do they have enough budget to actually make search possible? 
  • Knowledge. Are they knowledgeable about search, and are they committed to learning more? Stuff like that.

So we’ve actually created a five-part survey that has a number of different questions that the client can answer. We try to get as many people as possible on the client side to answer these questions as we can. Then we take the numerical answers and the open-ended answers and compile that into a maturity assessment for the brand after the workshop.

So we use that workshop time to actually execute the survey, and we have something that we can bring back to the client not long after to give them a picture of where they stand today and where we’re going to take them in the future and what the biggest obstacles are that we need to overcome to get them there. 

So this is my guide to creating an immersion workshop for your new clients. Be sure to check out the Whiteboard Friday on the maturity assessment as well.

We’d love to hear what you do to onboard your clients in the comments below. Thanks and we’ll see you on the next Whiteboard Friday.

Video transcription by Speechpad.com


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TripAdvisor says it blocked or removed nearly 1.5 million fake reviews in 2018

The majority of consumers (80%90%) routinely consult reviews before buying something, whether online or off. The powerful influence of reviews on purchase behavior has spawned a cottage industry of fake-reviews, a problem that is growing on major sites such as Amazon, Google and Yelp, among other places.

Just over 2% of reviews submitted were fake. TripAdvisor is one of those other places, where reviews form the core of the company’s content and the principle reason consumers visit. How much of the review activity on TripAdvisor is fraudulent? In its inaugural TripAdvisor Transparency Report the company says that 2.1% of all reviews submitted to the site in 2018 were fake. (A total of 4.7% of all review submissions were rejected or removed for violating TripAdvisor’s review guidelines, which extend beyond fraud.)

Source: TripAdvisor Review Transparency Report

73% blocked by machine detection. Given the volume of review submissions TripAdvisor receives – more than 66 million in 2018 – that translates into roughly 1.4 million fake reviews. TripAdvisor says that 73% of those fake reviews were blocked before being posted, while the remainder of fake reviews were later removed. The company also says that it has “stopped the activity of more than 75 websites that were caught trying to sell reviews” since 2015.

TripAdvisor defines “fake review” as one “written by someone who is trying to unfairly manipulate a business’ average rating or traveler ranking, such as a staff member or a business’ competitor. Reviews that give an account of a genuine customer’s experience, even if elements of that account are disputed by the business in question, are not categorized as fake.”

The company uses a mix of machine detection, human moderation and community flagging to catch fraudulent reviews. The bulk of inauthentic reviews (91%) are fake positive reviews TripAdvisor says.

Most of the fake reviews that are submitted to TripAdvisor (91%) are "biased positive reviews."
Source: TripAdvisor Review Transparency Report

TripAdvisor says that the review fraud problem is global, with fake reviews originating in most countries. However, it said there was a higher percentage than average of fake reviews “originating from Russia.” By contrast, China is the source of many fake reviews on Amazon.

Punishing fake reviews. TripAdvisor has a number of penalties and punishments for review fraud. In the first instance of a business being caught posting or buying fake reviews, TripAdvisor imposes a temporary ranking penalty.

Upon multiple infractions, the company will impose a content ban that prevents the individual or individuals in question from posting additional reviews and content on the site. It also prevents the involved parties from creating new accounts to circumvent the ban.

In the most extreme cases, the company will apply a badge of shame (penalty badge) that warns consumers the business has repeatedly attempted to defraud them. This is effectively a kiss of death for the business. Yelp does something similar.

Why we should care. Consumer trust is eroding online. It’s incumbent upon major consumer destinations sites to police their reviews aggressively and prevent unscrupulous merchants from deceiving consumers. Yelp has been widely criticized for its “review filter” but credit the company for its long-standing efforts to protect the integrity of its content.

Google and Amazon, in particular, need to do much more to combat review spam and fraud. Hopefully TripAdvisor’s effort and others like it will inspire them to.

The post TripAdvisor says it blocked or removed nearly 1.5 million fake reviews in 2018 appeared first on Search Engine Land.

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Google’s New Link Building Guidelines

In case you missed it, Google has just changed up the rules for link building.

It used to be that when people link to you, the link would either be a dofollow link or a nofollow link.

Well, that’s now changed.

They are now introducing 2 more link types that will affect
SEOs.

Now before we get into the 2 new link types, make sure you read the whole post. Because not only will I explain Google’s requirements, but I will break down what this means for SEOs.

The current landscape

The current SEO landscape is simple… especially when it comes to link building.

The more dofollow (regular links) links you can get the better your search rankings.

If you are unsure of the number of links you have or the type, just go here and enter in your domain.

You’ll see a count of total backlinks along with the total amount of nofollow links pointing to your site.

Now, when you are link building, if you are paying for links or leveraging tactics like guest posting, Google wants you to nofollow those links because they don’t think you should be leveraging tactics like guest posting to manipulate rankings.

And as for buying links, you shouldn’t do that as it is a simple way to get penalized or banned from Google.

So don’t send emails like this if you are trying to build links… it’s a big no, no.

How does Google look
at links?

Google’s algorithm is smart. Sure, they ideally want you to nofollow links if they are bought or not naturally earned (such as from guest posts), but many SEOs break the rules.

They aren’t going to say it publicly but they do these things. And because Google isn’t dumb, they also know.

Google can easily
identify when a post on these big news sites aren’t earned because many of them
have signs all over them that Google can detect.

For example, here is
an example of a guest
post from me
.

Forbes, of course, uses nofollows links, but it wasn’t always that way.

Google can easily detect it is a guest post through verbiage on the page like “former contributor” or “guest contributor”.

And even if they didn’t label me as a guest contributor, Google can use other signals to figure out that this link shouldn’t be given much weight when it comes to SEO just by reading the URL structure of that article on Forbes.

Let’s take a closer
look at the URL

https://www.forbes.com/sites/neilpatel/2016/12/26/my-biggest-regret-in-life-going-to-college/#5f74f3a91ac7

Do you see the big
issue with the URL?

It’s clear that an author can have their own subsection on Forbes through the “site” folder structure. Now that doesn’t mean all “Forbes sites” are bad, but they clearly know which one is from staff writers because they are clearly marked.

Those signals (among others) that Google probably won’t disclose (nor should they) make it easy for Google to determine if a link is natural or earned.

If Google doesn’t want to count a link from a specific author, they can just ignore it on their end.

So, whether it is nofollowed or followed, on their end they can systematically control whether a link should help your rankings or if it shouldn’t.

As John Mueller from Google once said, in the context of bad links…

If we recognize them, we can just ignore them – no need to have you do anything in most cases.

Now keeping that in
mind, here are the changes Google wants webmasters to make.

Google’s new link
policy

If someone pays you
for a link or you are buying a link, Google now wants you to mark it as sponsored.
Not just in the text of the site, but more so through the link attribute:

Rel=”sponsored”

And if you build links through user-generated content, they want you to mark the links with the attribute:

Rel=”ugc”

The same goes for site owners. For example, if you have a forum on your site because the content is user generated, the links that people place should contain a rel=”ugc”.

You can still use the nofollow attribute or if you want you can use a combination of the above. For example, if you have a paid link you can use:

Rel=”nofollow sponsored”

So, what’s the
purpose of this change?

Well, here is how
Google puts it:

All the link attributes — sponsored, UGC and nofollow — are treated as hints about which links to consider or exclude within Search. We’ll use these hints — along with other signals — as a way to better understand how to appropriately analyze and use links within our systems.

Now if you are wondering what that means, Google is pretty much saying that adding these attributes will give them a better idea on if they should crawl the link or not. Or how they should analyze the link when it comes to indexing or SEO.

This change goes into effect March 1, 2020, and don’t worry because you don’t have to make modifications to your old links. The ones that were nofollow can just be left as nofollow.

And even in the future, if you decide to just use nofollow instead of “sponsored”, you’ll be fine.

What does all of this mean for SEOs?

As I mentioned
earlier, I would provide my own insights and opinions on why Google is doing this.

We all know their algorithm is sophisticated and hard to game. But, just like any other algorithm or computer, it isn’t perfect.

By webmasters and SEOs labeling the type of links they are building and the purpose of them, it will make it easier for Google to learn how we use different link types and it will help their algorithms more quickly and easily identify link types and the context they are used in.

For example, if thousands of people use rel=”ugc” for links generated through guest posts, it may help train Google’s algorithm that these links were actually created by random people instead of the webmaster and they should be discounted.

Of course, Google already can identify wikis, forum, and other types of user-generated content, but this helps them tighten things up and make things more accurate.

They can also decide to take a more relaxed stance on certain link types. For example, maybe they will decide to count UGC links when it comes to link building, but they may decide to only give it 1/3rd the weight of a naturally earned link.

In addition to that, this also provides them with more signals on if the URL linked to should be potentially crawled or ignored.

But in the long run, as their algorithm becomes more accurate, it’s safe to say that the real solution to winning is putting the user first.

Their goal isn’t to rank a site at the top that has “perfect SEO”. They want to rank the site that people love the most.

Hence, you’ll want to focus on creating an amazing user experience, building a great product/service, creating mindblowing content, and anything else your competition isn’t doing.

As for link building though, links will always be hard to come by, so they will be part of their algorithm for the foreseeable future. And as the data shows, there is a strong correlation between links and rankings.

So one thing I would recommend is that you build as many links as possible, even if they are user-generated links. As long as they are from relevant sites, the referral traffic can generate you sales or leads. And if Google starts placing some value on these user-generated links, it can help boost your rankings.

Now that doesn’t mean you should go out to forums and spam your link everywhere. It means you should go find all of the user-generated content sites, provide a ton of value, AND ONLY IF IT MAKES SENSE, add a link back to your site when it benefits the reader.

Conclusion

Over the next year or so you’ll see adjustments in how SEOs build links.

First off you’ll start seeing companies like Ahrefs and the SEMrush show you nofollow, dofollow, UGC, and sponsored backlinks. This one change will help SEOs build better links and spend their effort on the links that actually help with rankings.

Secondly, my hunch is UGC links will eventually carry some weight. Probably not a ton, but more than 0 as long as they are from relevant sites, the link is within context and it provides value to the end-user.

And lastly, most webmasters probably won’t use sponsored or UGC attributes anytime soon. It will probably take another year before they really catch on, which means for now you will just have to focus your efforts on dofollow links.

So, what do you
think about the new change?

The post Google’s New Link Building Guidelines appeared first on Neil Patel.

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How To Improve Content Readability And How It Affects Your SEO

how to improve readability and its impact on seo

How To Improve Content Readability And How That Will Affect Your SEO

When blogging, one factor that people often overlook is the readability of their content. Bloggers or content marketers will try to optimize their keyword density, keyword decorations, meta tags, image alt tags, and hundreds of other on-page SEO but they often overlook the readability of their content.

This is probably due to the fact that content readability isn’t accounted for in Google’s search ranking algorithm, at least not that anyone knows of or could confirm. But factors like content readability is one of the many indirect ranking factors that actually matters and has a big impact on your SEO.

What is Content Readability?

Content readability is the level of ease to understand a written text.

How Do You Measure Content Readability?

The scientific way of measuring readability is based on factors such as:

  • Speed of perception
  • Perceptibility at a distance
  • Perceptibility in peripheral vision
  • Visibility
  • Reflex blink technique
  • Rate of work (e.g., reading speed)
  • Eye movements
  • Fatigue in reading
  • Basically, if a written text is easy to read and understand, then it has a good readability. We usually measure content readability by approximately estimating students of which grade could understand the written text. A study has found that the average human could read a grade 9 text, but would prefer to read texts that are 2 grades lower for leisure reading.

    There are also plenty of algorithms that are designed to measure content readability and that is how robots or search engines measure them. One of the most popular algorithms for calculating content readability is the Flesch-Kincaid readability score. Other algorithms include Gunning-Fog, Coleman-Liau, SMOG index, etc…

    Below is the algorithm of Flesch-Kincaid readability score:

    flesch-kincaid-readability

    Flesch-Kincaid takes the amount of syllables in a word and amount of words in a sentence as a measurement for readability. This means that you should use short words and short sentences in your content if you want to have a good score on this.

    Of course, there are plenty of tools that could easily calculate your readability score. Here are some of them:

  • Our own SEOPressor Connect
  • Readability-score.com
  • The Readability Test Tool
  • The Writer Readability Checker
  • If you have SEOPressor Connect installed on your website, you’ll be able to see your content’s readability score instantly after SEOPressor Connect analyzes your content.

    seopressor connect content readability

    However, if you don’t have SEOPressor Connect installed, you could copy your text and paste them into the other websites on the list and you will get your readability score.

    Why Should I Make My Content Readable And What Is Its Impact On My SEO?

    There are plenty of reasons why you should make your content readable. Even though search engines do not take the score of your content’s readability into their search ranking algorithm.

    This is because many of the search engine’s ranking algorithm is based on human behavior on a page. And by improving your content readability, you improve their behavior on-page, for example, their page on time, exit rate, bounce rate, social signals will all improve and that tells search engines that people like your content.

    How many times have you exited a page after reading the first few sentences because the text is just too hard to read? Nobody likes to read a difficult text.

    People read stuff online to get the information they want, and they want it the fastest and simplest way possible. And it is our job to make information available to them as easily as possible.

    An article that has good content readability will make the readers stay longer on the page because they will have no problem reading through the whole text. Consequently, it will improve the bounce rate and exit rate which will be good for your SEO.

    How Do I Improve My Content Readability?

    1. Use Short and Simple Words

    This is the most direct way for improving your Flesch-Kincaid readability score. There is no reason for you to use long and complex words when there are short and simple words.

    People that go to an article are seeking information, not English lessons. The only reason for you to use difficult and complex words is to show off your vocabulary size and nobody likes a show-off.

    2. Use Short Sentences

    Don’t be afraid to break long sentences into several shorter sentences. Use contractions to shorten your sentences.

    3. Write conversationally

    This is not a rule but more like a general guideline. When writing your blog posts, just imagine that you’re talking to someone else in real life. You’ll notice that it’s a lot different from how we normally write.

    When you write in a conversational tone, you’ll naturally use shorter and simple words, along with shorter sentences.

    4. Typography

    Besides the vocabulary and syntax of your content, the visual aspect of it is also really important. Typography has a great impact on this. Everything from the font to the line height and line length can greatly impact the speed of your readers’ reading through your content.

    Font
    First of all, you’ll need to pick a font that is easy to read. Novelty fonts are okay for your header and subheader because they are short and it makes them stand out from your body text.

    The text on the right side is using a sans-serif fonts. It is obvious that sans-serif fonts are way easier to be read on screen.

    The text on the right side is using a sans-serif fonts. It is obvious that sans-serif fonts are way easier to be read on screen.

    However, your body text should be in standard sans-serif fonts because they are easier to read on the screen. Arial and Helvetica are always a good choice for body text. Serif fonts are more suitable for printed mediums such as newspaper.

    Font Size
    For the font size, make sure that the size is not too big or not too small. Fonts that are too small will be hard on the eyes, especially since reading on a screen is slightly more tiring than reading on paper.

    Fonts that are too big will take up too much space, requires the reader’s eye to move back and forth too often.

    Generally, body text should have a font size of around 16 pixels depending on the font. 16 pixels is the default font display size of most browsers and there are reasons behind it.

    Right now, the font size we are using is 14px and it is what most websites are using, but once you get used to reading the text at 16 pixels, you’ll realize how much easier it is to read the text at 16 pixels.

    Headers and subheaders should have slightly bigger font size to distinguish they are different and to distinguish hierarchy.

    subheaders

    Line Height

    line-height

    Besides font size, the line-height and line-length should also be taken in consideration. Make sure that there is enough white space between words and between lines.

    There is no such thing as having too much white space so make sure you don’t make the mistake of having too little white space in between lines. Having not enough white space will make the words stick together and make it difficult for the readers to read.

    Line-height should be at least 150% of the font size. For example, if the font size is 16px, your line-height should be 24px.

    Line Length

    line length

    For line length, the optimum number of words in a line for the best readability would be between 9 to 12 words or between 50 to 60 characters.

    5. Use Proper Formatting and Hierarchy

    Don’t be afraid of hitting the enter button every time you finish writing a sentence. As mentioned above, there is no such thing as too much white space. So make sure you separate your sentences into paragraphs as often as you could.

    header and subheaders

    Use headers and subheaders adequately to segment your content. You could even use tables, or bullet points to organize and present your data, use text decorations to give emphasis on different keywords.

    6. Use Images

    You might think that images have nothing to do with content readability but that’s not true. Images can help break the monotony of only text, segment your content into different parts and make your content interesting.

    The golden ratio of image to text is 1 image for every 100 words. There are many studies that have found that content with this ratio has the most amount of shares.

    text to image ratio

    When choosing images to include in your content, the best practice is to include images that will add value to your readers. The image should be relevant to your content, explains what you’re trying to say or at the very least entertain your audience.

    For more tips and guides on choosing images for your content, read “How To Choose The Perfect Images For Your Content”.

    Conclusion

    Whether content readability is a direct Google ranking factor or not remains to be seen, but one thing we can know for sure is that content readability does influence your search rankings in one way or another.

    So do make sure that your blog has the optimum readability to prevent your readers from exiting and leaving your page before they even read your content. Improving your content readability will not only improve your reader’s reading experience but prove to be beneficial to your overall SEO as well.


    Related articles:

  • Indirect Google Ranking Factors That You Shouldn’t Overlook
  • How To Choose The Perfect Images For Your Content
  • 10 Major Search Engine Ranking Factors That You Must Know
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