Google Core Web Vitals Metrics for 2021 SEO

Google Announces Core Web Vitals. Start Planning.

Coming sometime in 2021, Google will be changing the way site speed affects search rankings. The new ranking signal will be lovingly titled the “page experience signal” and will be combined with Core Web Vitals per an announcement from Google. Google suggests you’ll be given notice six-months before rolling out the changes, so you don’t have to respond immediately. But it would be wise to start preparing now.

This looks like a positive change. And since this algorithm change is about a year away, and users have a tool to help optimize for it, you have time to take advantage of this site speed reporting change. Specifically, the new rankings deal with user experience are part of the Core Web Vitals introduced in May 2020. The signals will measure:

Google's Core Web Vitals Metrics for SEO

• Loading (Largest Contentful Paint): This is the time it takes for a page to load. An ideal measurement is 2.5 seconds or faster.
• Interactivity (First Input Delay): This covers how long it takes for a page to become interactive. An ideal measurement is less than 100 milliseconds.
• Visual stability (Cumulative Layout Shift): This covers the amount of unexpected layout shift of visual content. An ideal measurement here is less than 0.1.

While these changes will benefit organic search, it’s useful for all channels as they will clearly impact the user experience. For example, if you can get your load time under 2.5 seconds for every page in the user’s journey, conversion rate should increase and cost per conversion will likely decrease, too.

The metrics are based on the Chrome User Experience project, a monitoring function in the Chrome browser that sends data about page load speeds to Google. The company says its goal is to help website builders and owners create pages that users find useful and enjoyable.

Be aware that site speed is not replacing content as a primary ranking metric, it’s supporting it. As Google explains it, page experience will be especially important when there are multiple pages with similar content. In those cases, the pages with the best site speed and overall experience will earn a higher ranking. That means quality content plus optimized site speed equals better rankings for your site.

What should you do now?

Panic! Just kidding, don’t do that. Simply start getting ready. We recommend getting a complete understanding of where you sit now. Use one of the many evaluation tools to identify your LCP, FID, CLS metrics for each key template page on your site. For example, VereNorth will evaluate our unique pages such as our homepage, category pages, blog home, blog post template, and contact forms. Once we know how each key unique page measures up, we can then begin prioritizing what we need to fix.

Prioritize by knocking off common issues across each page, and then begin tuning the priority pages and easier wins. If you find you have a large-ish issue that is outside of your control, such as a slow hosting provider, you can start shopping for a new provider. It comes down to prioritizing what you can control and the impact. Start now and you have plenty of time.

If you have questions about Core Web Vitals, or about site performance in general, contact the Verenorth team today.

How to test title tags

How SERP Testing Can Improve Your Website Traffic

Do you want to increase traffic to your business website, boost click-through rate (CTR), and increase impressions and conversions? (Ok, those are rhetorical questions.) Assuming you do, then you may want to consider experimenting with your title tags.

If you consistently rank #1 on Google, trying different title tags may not help you much. But for the rest of us, testing various title tag options can deliver incremental improvements that add real business value. This is especially true if you’re in an aggressive space with a lot of competition, and where an increase of a percentage point or two in traffic may give you a measurable revenue increase.

How to Test Your Title Tags

Testing your title tags starts with a hypothesis. Since Google crawls the Web to add information to its search results, what you include in your tags should increase or decrease clicks based on the usefulness of your information. So you’ll need to decide what type of information you’d expect would boost engagement, attract eyeballs, and deliver clicks.

Once you have a word or phrase you expect would work, we suggest changing the title tags for about 10% of your pages at first to test your theory. You don’t want to apply changes to all pages and then find out it’s not working. You’ll then compare these new tags against a control page or pages with similar impressions and traffic levels.

Be aware that it could take a couple of weeks before you see any results since Google needs time to register the changes. (Though sites with high traffic may need just a few days for Google to notice.) You then carefully monitor the traffic to your test pages and measure total impressions, CTR, bounce rate, conversions, and other metrics.

If you see an increase in traffic to the pages with the new title tags compared with the control, you can then roll out the changes to a higher percentage of your pages. Whether that percentage is 30, 50, or higher will depend on multiple factors including whether this is a busier time of year for your business, the type of business you have, and even your tolerance level for stress since it’s possible that testing could temporarily reduce your traffic.

Testing in Action: A Case Study

Using a case study as an example, here’s an outline of an effective way to test, and hopefully improve, the performance of your title tags.

Verenorth has a client in the healthcare industry that delivers timely medical training materials. Since these materials change each year, we know people search for the latest version because it’s most relevant to them. So our theory was that adding the year 2020 to title tags would boost CTR to the site (our tests were done in 2019 for the 2020 versions of the testing material).

We then took it a step further and tested the visual appearance of the information. We changed some tags to have 2020 in brackets while others used bullet points and then compared the two. We wanted to learn whether adding the year improved CTR, and if so, which format worked best.

After measuring traffic, total impressions, CTR, bounce rate, and several other indicators on the test pages, we learned that the year in the title tag did in fact improve CTR and that the brackets format performed best. Based on this information, we then rolled out the changes to about 40% of the website and tested again before eventually rolling out to the majority of the pages on the site.

Again, we don’t recommend testing at the beginning of your busiest time, especially in your business is seasonal. Instead, try a slower time so you don’t risk as much. You don’t want to potentially decrease traffic during your peak time. But by starting with a sound hypothesis and testing it gradually, you may find the business boost you’re looking for.

If you have questions about testing title tags, get in touch with us to discuss this and other ways to increase traffic to your website.

Does your copy pass the skim test?

Does Your Copy Pass the Skim Test?

You did it. You researched your topic, wrote multiple drafts, revised and edited, and finally polished it up. Now your article or blog post is ready for the world.

But wait! Before you click the publish button, there’s one final important step: content layout. Give your copy the best chance for success by making it as reader-friendly as possible.

Because even if your content is useful, well written, and relevant to readers it may still be overlooked if the format makes it difficult to scan for the main points. Think about what you like in an online article. Do you want dense paragraph blocks with little space between them? Or a clean presentation that effortlessly guides your eye through the text?

And since most people will use a mobile device to read your content, it needs to look as clean and friendly on a smartphone or tablet as it does on a desktop screen. To achieve this, make sure your copy passes the skim test. Here’s how.

Headlines (Like this One) Matter

Of course, you want people to read the content you spent time, money, and mental energy creating. But first, you want them to be able to skim it. Why? Because it allows visitors to quickly scan your article to make sure it contains the information they’re looking for before they commit to it. Once they determine you’re sharing something valuable, they are more likely to settle in and read your work more closely. It also makes you a more trustworthy source of information.

So Do Subheads — Give Your Headline the Support it Deserves

No matter how clever or well-crafted your headline is, it can’t cover everything. So think of it this way: the headline reveals the main topic and grabs the reader’s attention, while the subhead offers the critical supporting information that helps you maintain their interest.

Ideally, your subhead should be about 10-20 words long and reveal just enough detail to engage the reader. You don’t need to answer all their questions in the subhead, you just want to entice them to read on.

And when the headline and subhead are followed by a clear call to action or ask, then you truly have a winning combination. Here’s an example:

How to Teach Your Dog to Read

10 Simple Steps to Making Your Dog Literate — Whatever the Breed

Sign up for your FREE dog training booklet today.

See how the headline, subhead, and call to action all work together to give the article context and meaning?

Don’t Forget the Bullet Points

Using bullet points is a proven way to make your content easier to skim and absorb. Along with breaking up copy blocks and creating white space for a cleaner look, bullet points work especially well when offering instructions, sharing a list of options or main ideas, or other important details you want your readers to grasp in a glance.

For example:

  • Take these bullet points.
  • Your eye instinctively goes here.
  • This helps you read and skim easier.
  • See what we mean?
  • Bonus tip: putting some copy in bold face can work wonders.

To ensure your bullets (or numbers) are as helpful as possible to readers, consider the following three tips.

  1. Be brief. Offer the main message and avoid copy clutter. If you need multiple sentences under a bullet point it might as well be its own paragraph.
  2. Be symmetrical. Group your bullet points by topic or theme, and use the same grammatical form throughout.
  3. Be clear. Bullet points are designed for clarity, not subtlety. Plus, offering straightforward information in bite-sized bits encourages people to keep reading.

Now you’re ready to try this in your next article or blog post. Apply the tips above and you’ll pass the skim test every time. And your readers will thank you for it.

Facebook is Pulling the Wrong Social Post Image. What should I do?

Facebook is Pulling the Wrong Social Post Image. What Should I Do?

It can be so frustrating. You’re creating a Facebook post and have the perfect image to go with it. But rather than show your image of choice, Facebook automatically pulls in the “social image” associated with the post and caches that instead. What gives?

The most likely reason is that your URL has been shared before, so Facebook pulls this cached image — whether it’s accurate or not. Or perhaps you didn’t add a featured image, or the featured image is wrong. Whatever the reason, your post will probably suffer without the most appropriate image. So what do you do? Don’t break your laptop! We got you covered.

Facebook is Pulling the Wrong Social Post Image. Here is how you can fix it.

We’ve used the following fix several hundred times over the past few years and it works like a charm.

• First, clear your cache using Facebook’s debugging tool. (And be sure to bookmark this URL because you’ll likely need it again.)
• Then click “scrape again.” Facebook should then re-fetch the information associated with the page.
• Finally, refresh the page by pressing the shift key and the F5 key at the same time.

You should now be able to choose the image you want to go with the post.

Image SEO: How To Optimize Images For Better Ranking

Image SEO: How To Optimize Images For Better Ranking

We hate to break it to you, but you may have an image problem. Here’s why:

In February 2018, Google made a big change when it removed the “view image” option. Now when you search for images, if you want to enlarge or copy it, you must click the “visit” button and go to the website where the image lives.

This means image SEO is more important than ever. But where do you start? Check out some of our top image tips below.

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Google My Business Posts For Small Businesses

Google My Business Posts For Small Businesses

For small business owners, any tool that you can use to help bring information about your company to potential customers is a good thing. The more you can do to reach new people and keep your name in the minds of existing customers is worth looking into. With that in mind, Google has created Google Posts, a new way of communicating with your customers from your Google My Business listing.

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How to get into the Google Answer Box

How To Get Into Google’s Answer Box – Simplified

Since 2013, when searchers have used Google to answer a question, or do a search about something that Google could infer as a question, at the very top of their results they have included an area that “answers” the question.  That little spot is Google’s Answer Box, and yeah, it’s a big deal.

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A Simple Way to Get More Likes on Facebook

Here’s a little known, or often forgotten, useful feature to get more likes on Facebook not a lot of people know about. It’s a way to capture Facebook likes from people that are already interacting with your brand. You’re not just asking people at random – these are people who have already liked at least one of your posts, so you know they are interested.

This new feature allows you to get these users fully engaged by inviting them to like your page as well.  Think about it – you often pay to reach a new audience on Facebook, which gets you lots of likes on your post(s). But that doesn’t always net you a true “like” or follower. This new feature fills that need. And it only takes a few minutes per day.

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What Google Panda does

What Google Panda does and why it matters to your website

Originally released in February 2011, Google Panda is an on-going upgrade of Google’s search results ranking algorithm. The purpose of Panda is to put higher-quality sites near the top of organic search results while pushing low-quality sites further down the list.

Panda does this by acting as a filter to eliminate search results that are not useful to users such as those created only to attract traffic in order to get impressions and display advertising. Low-quality websites are also referred to as “thin,” which often means there are a lot of ads yet relatively little quality content.

So what exactly does high quality mean to Google? In a word: content. You must have relevant, unique, and valuable content on your site or you will be penalized with lower search rankings. But since quality is a subjective term, below are some specific things to remember when creating content. Read our previous post to learn more about Google Panda 4.2.

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