April 22, 2021

primariasabiertas

All The Technology

SEO in 2021: Following Google Recommendations

“We can outsmart Google.” The famous last words of any junior SEO marketer, or person who embodies the “outsmart the authority” mindset so much that they are blind to a certain cold, hard fact: that today, sometimes it pays to play along with Google.

For years, the SEO community tried to find the ultimate search engine optimization secret to major ranking. These signals were thought of as a secret, and anyone who guessed or reversed engineered the Google algorithm seemed to hold the key to a type of digital gold mine.

The irony is that if you seek out SEO tips from Google, they basically spell out their ranking signals for you. Some examples:

  • recent announcement introduced Google’s Core Web Vitals, a set of official factors that influence your website’s ranking and its position in the Google search result.
  • YMYL factor, another announcement by Google: one that made websites responsible for potentially harmful content, and pay for their bad practices with lower ranking.
  • E-A-T guidelines, a lengthy document detailing hundreds of features that a respectable website should have for a legitimate claim to the first page of Google search results.

Keep reading to learn how to stay on top of the search results page by following Google’s recommendations for 2021. From the technical side to content, we’ve got you covered.

Google’s Core Web Vitals in Brief

Site speed and website usability make up the bulk of Core Web Vitals.

This means that the faster your site loads, the better its chances are of ranking high on Google. If your site is new AND slow, it’ll be tough to rank for organic traffic.

Additional web vitals are mobile-friendliness and security. Starting Spring of 2021, Google will begin to ignore sites made for desktops and configure rankings exclusively based on mobile versions.

Here is a snapshot from Google’s documentation on Core Web Vitals

As you can see, lots of weight has been given to site loading speed and improved usability. Let’s go over the criteria that Google takes into account to measure your website speed and usability.

Loading — measured by LCP (Largest Contentful Paint). This metric tells how long it takes for the main content (video, image, or text block) to load and display on the screen. Only the largest piece of content within the user viewport (a visible part of the webpage) is considered.

Anything that extends beyond the screen doesn’t count towards this metric. Keeping your site’s LCP below 2.5 seconds is good; 4 seconds or more is bad.

Interactivity — FID (First Input Delay). FID measures how fast your website can respond to a user’s reaction and reflexes. It analyzes things like clicks, taps, keypresses, and any delays in executing a command (not running the command itself). And it only applies to loading the page.

For example, imagine you enter an online store and see a product you like (you know it’s there because you’ve been here before). You click the “Buy now” button. Now the timer for FID starts. But the store doesn’t take you to the next page immediately. It doesn’t even start loading right away. When it finally starts loading—that’s when the FID timer stops. The time it measures represents response latency.

If your store responds to customers’ actions within 100 ms (0.1 sec), it’s considered fast. But 300 ms? That’s a red flag, and will be marked as such by Google.

Visual stability — CLS (Cumulative Layout Shift). This metric watches the shifting of web page elements while a page is still loading. The elements that cause CLS are fonts, images, videos, contact forms, buttons, and other kinds of content. CLS measures the unexpected shift distance and the impact of this shift on the viewer’s experience of the page.

“Unexpected” means it appears above the existing (loaded previously) content. The font of the text link might resize after clicking, and the text may move to the next line, causing “unexpected” problems. For example: the “Cancel” button moves while a customer is clicking, causing them to press the “Buy” button instead. Another example is the images, forms, blocks, and banners that load after the main content and move it below the screen.

This metric calculation is pretty complicated, but you can learn all about it from the article linked below. The point here is to keep your content stable and predictable to avoid unexpected consequences for customers.

It’s not easy to understand Google’s thinking (and doing) in a short paragraph, so feel free to read more about Web Vitals on web.dev (highly recommended for casual web education!).

Just to make sure you have a map and compass for your exciting SEO journey, here’s a short refresher on terms like LCP, FID, and CLS thresholds.

LCP, FID and CLS thresholds 2021

Source: web.dev

How do I Fix Core Web Vitals for My Online Store?

Technical concepts like these can feel overwhelming. But basically, they come down to several simple things you can work on to improve your online store (or website) ranking.

1. Speeding up the load

You can speed up your site by taking simple steps, like getting rid of 3rd-party extensions (add-ons and plug-ins) that don’t help your profits, or fancy and heavy design elements. You can also compress images to make them load faster.

Try testing your site speed with these tools to get a better sense of any speed issues you have:

2. Speed up the code

It’s tough to do this with a cloud product (like Ecwid) unless you know how to code and customize your store. But even if you aren’t code literate, there’s a step you can take to get your speeds up to par. And we’ll take care of the rest.

Reduce the number of 3rd-party tags that you use simultaneously. For example, you can be using several tracking tags, live chat widgets, social media pixels, etc. Check out the Tracking & Analytics section of your store to count how many you use. A large number of tags running at once may impact network latency and reduce Interactivity metrics (FID).

Pro advice here: use only those that serve you well and bring the most profit.

3. Avoid visual modifications (or injections)

Uh oh, more working with code and its modifications. Still with us? Hopefully, this simple explanation will help make things clear: maybe you have apps or customizations that add (inject) functional blocks to your existing page structure. These might be in the form of a sign-up form, “Recently bought block,” GDPR notice, or a number of other things. These blocks don’t belong to the Ecwid core engine, so they load after the main content, and can significantly move it.

Further explanation from web.dev:

Google won’t penalize you for slow blocks (or content), but it will consider this content behavior as a part of a “bad user experience.” At Ecwid, we do our best to comply with Google’s requirements and guidelines, but as far as you have access to the code, apps, and custom modifications, you should know that any change to our basic code comes with pros and cons.

The point here is not that you have to delete all your apps or that you can’t ever modify your store. The point is that you have to measure the profit of every change you make to your store. If it’s profitable, then it’s worth the risk. For example, if a “You may also like” block generates additional revenue, why would you get rid of it? After all, increasing revenue is your shop’s ultimate goal. SEO is just a tool to get you there.

Use the Google Search Console to find Core Vital gaps

Remember: Google wants you to prioritize your Core Web Vitals. So much so that they provide you with tools that report on your current site speed at any given time. Many of these reports are housed in a free tool called Google Search Console. Search Console has detailed information about all that’s going on with your website (or online store) in Google, as well as Core Web Vitals report.

Using this tool is a great learning opportunity for anyone interested in growing their traffic with SEO.

Want us to publish a detailed blog post specifically about Search Console and how you can make the most out of it? Let us know in the comments!

Google YMYL Explained

The folks at Google believe that some websites or specific website pages may impact people’s lives more significantly than others. That’s why they created YMYL criteria: to find and filter out the content that might be harmful to Internet surfers. It stands for “Your Money or Your Life” and it means that you are responsible for what you publish online.

According to Google, websites that can critically affect someone’s life and fall under YMYL regulation belong to the following categories:

  • Shopping or financial transactions (e-commerce!)
  • Financial information pages
  • Medical information pages
  • Legal information pages
  • News articles or public/official information
  • Safety of any kind
  • Insurance
  • Banking information
  • Accounting and taxes
  • Parenting, etc.

This is not a complete list of categories, and it is subject to change. But what’s important is that e-commerce is on the list. The websites and pages that allow purchases or money transfers are now VERY responsible for what they publish.

For example, there are tons of online stores that sell health products. It can be a struggle to separate real supplements from snake oil selling sites for consumers who aren’t health experts.

To make matters worse, misinformation is abundant on online health resources. So before Google ranks a website selling health supplements for a term like “health supplements,” it will make sure that the website in question has a legitimate claim to its health advice and sells trustworthy products.

Finding out if content that belongs to some of the categories mentioned above and falls under YMYL check is not a problem for Google algorithms. But how can they tell if their content is good or bad?

This takes us to…

Google’s quality evaluators (a.k.a. quality raters)

Many people don’t know that Google has over 10,000 people worldwide whose job is specifically to perform different searches in different languages to ensure that their search results are accurate.

They are called “quality evaluators” or “quality raters.”

In addition to automatic systems, Google employs quality raters to manually check out the content that can potentially harm people and give it a rating. Google considers these ratings in the search ranking process.

Quality raters don’t judge websites based on personal opinion. They follow strict instructions which are publicly accessible in Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines. This access allows website owners to adjust their digital assets for better ranking in advance.

You can learn a lot about website building and user experience best practices from this document. Still, if you want to save time, you can always take a course on Udemy to walk you through the most critical pieces of the SEO puzzle, including how Google raters fit into the equation.

Whether or not you dive deep into all the details, there’s one thing you should definitely know about how Google ranks websites if you want to boost your rankings in 2021. One of the essential rules for quality raters when they qualify YMYL content. It’s mentioned 137 times in the Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines, so it must be very important.

Drumroll, please:

Google E-A-T for Dummies

E-A-T is a set of rules that measures the level of three key qualities of the content you display in front of your visitors or customers. Specifically:

  • (E) Expertise — if you are creating content, are you an expert on the subject?
  • (A) Authoritativeness — are you authoritative on your chosen subject matter?
  • (T) Trustworthiness — are you and your site trustworthy?

Google’s algorithms are continually looking for signs of E-A-T being implemented. And if you want to rank higher, you have to adhere to these guidelines.

But before moving to optimization for E-A-T demands, let’s sort out how Google evaluates each of the qualities.

Expertise

To Google, if you are a real expert in a field, the level of insight in your writing is very likely higher than most articles out there on the subject. Because of that, readers will probably stay on your page longer to read them. Google uses this as a signal to determine which content is the most relevant to readers, and therefore, which content should rank the highest on their page.

Your professional recognition will also be taken into account: awards, certifications, professional degrees, even the story of your brand on the “About us” page. If you don’t have these items on your website, Google won’t be able to rate it objectively.

Authoritativeness

Authoritativeness is not about skills and education, but rather about influence and leadership. One can be a self-educated expert without formal certificates or a trusted influencer with thousands of followers. Photographers, artists, and musicians are a good example of experts who often lack classical training or certifications.

To measure authoritativeness, Google’s algorithms look for the number and quality of relevant backlinks. For example, suppose other authoritative and established sites and individuals link to the site (for example, highly authoritative experts discuss an article on social media). In that case, this acts as a signal of trust, an understanding that real experts have given the brand their blessing.

Another signal of authority for Google also involves links, but from trusted brands. They might be your clients, or the website of the conference that you spoke at.

A long story short, authority is the number and quality of links to your website from other high-quality resources and individual experts.

Trustworthiness

To make sure your website is trustworthy, Google checks the accuracy of the facts you publish: stats, names, positions, dates, etc. The rankers will also check if you have all the legal documents required to maintain transparency, like a Privacy policy, Service agreement, etc.

The freshness of these facts is also important. Maybe your facts are accurate but no longer relevant, leading to wrong decisions and harming people. No dice! So keep all relevant info updated—yourE-A-T score can thank us later.

Google E-A-T Best Practises for Online Stores

Now let’s get practical.

You know that your online store is a YMYL website, and quality raters monitor it for E-A-T. But do you know how to improve it to make sure your ecommerce business is Google-friendly and avoids ranking penalties?

A few simple yet meaningful pieces of advice, below:

Improving expertise

Tell everyone who you are, what you do, and all about your experience. For example:

  • Add an “About us” page to your store to fill us in on the colorful story behind your brand.
  • Write your mission statement to reveal dreams, goals and the places you see your store going.
  • Feature yourself as a founder and add bios for your team. Use real names, roles, and professional titles (or degrees). Provide links to social media profiles to assure these are real people.
  • If you have a blog, invite professionals to contribute, and make sure your writers are well-versed in their subject matter.
  • Publish unique content that keeps readers engaged throughout the entire article.
  • Give actionable advice to make your knowledge usable.
  • Add certificates to your product image galleries (if applicable).
  • Provide detailed product descriptions to help customers make an informed decision.

Gaining authoritativeness

Make experts and influencers talk about your brand and products. Some ideas:

  • Start sharing your information for free.
  • Post news on your niche social media groups. Become a newsmaker!
  • Collaborate with professional influencers. Ask them to review your products.
  • Put social proof on your homepage: testimonials, quotes with images, logos of your partners, even the links to the articles that tell about your products or brand will do.
  • Find a local conference in your niche that you can speak at as a brand founder. Real businesses have the practical experience to share and should be on the lookout for opportunities to take the microphone.
  • Write and publish a short eBook about your business experience. Only experts write books, right?
  • Use HARO, a service to exchange experiences for links.

Building trustworthiness

Keep your content accurate, accessible, and up to date. You might try to:

  • Double-check all numeric data: dates, measurements, statistics. Find someone to keep an extra eye on this because two pairs of eyes is always better than one.
  • Provide links or references to the sources you take information from.
  • Write case studies or reviews on real customers that outline your products or services have made their life better.
  • Use reviews and ratings for your products.
  • Write a Privacy policy and add it to your footer navigation.
  • Update, update, update. Make sure every piece of your site is up to date.
  • And activate HTTPS if you haven’t done that yet (or else!).

What About The Old-School SEO Methods?

If you’ve been around the SEO block for a while, you’ve probably heard about faithful strategies like article spinning, building a private blog network, keyword stuffing, buying backlinks, blog commenting, and other “outdated” SEO strategies.

Well, they don’t really work anymore. Actually, these methods have been outdated for a long time. But even if they weren’t, why would you do them when Google is literally giving you the tools to implement the ideal SEO strategy?

Some of the old, proven methods do work to some extent and can be helpful if you are starting out or want to diversify your SEO game. You can read up on those in the article on A Highly Effective SEO Strategy To Increase Traffic.

Conclusion

If you want to see the Polar Star, you have to open your eyes. If you’re going to rank higher in Google, you have to listen to what they tell you to do.

So, to recap: SEO for 2021. It’s not so complicated. All you have to do is:

  • Speed up your online store (code and content).
  • Get rid of everything that slows you down (unprofitable extensions and overcomplicated design).
  • Make your store as user-friendly for shopping as possible.
  • Be transparent with your customers and website browsers.
  • Collaborate with experts and influencers.
  • Discuss topics in your niche with your customers and in public.
  • Share insights and news.
  • Help people to solve their problems with your products, and/or give expert advice in your field.
  • Take responsibility for your influence on someone’s life, and only produce accurate and high-quality content.
  • Keep your data fresh and your site updated.

Okay okay, this is all definitely easier said than done. But take heart, fearless ecommerce merchants! Rome wasn’t built in a day. Take your time with making these changes. After all, 2021 has just begun. And if you need any advice or help, write your questions below in the comments section, and we’ll be sure to lend support where we can.