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In this weeks #searchdrop, we look into Core Web Vitals and what they are, some best practices SEO for 2020 and finally some key notes on the recent release of free Google Ads credits for SME’s globally impacted by COVID-19.

Google launches it's Core Web Vitals

It wasn’t so long ago that Google added page speed metrics to Search Console and webmasters were given a new way to few slow, average and fast pages on their sites. But as is with everything in the SEO industry, things have moved on at pace and now webmasters are looking at a different set of metrics, Core Web Vitals.

What are Core Web Vitals?

Core Web Vitals are a collection of metrics deemed to be the most important for user experience. They are an extension upon the initial page speed metrics and includes more user experience related metrics.

What’s included in Core Web Vitals?

  • Largest Contentful Paint – measuring load, this metric measures the loading of the largest content element on the page (think video, images etc) and uses this. Google suggests that anything below 2.5 seconds is deemed a good score.
  • First Input Delay – measuring interactivity, FID measures the time between a user taking an action e.g. clicking, tapping something, and the time between that action and the browser responding. Google suggests that a good score for this metric is below 100 milliseconds.
  • Cumulative Layout Shift – measuring cumulative layout shift, this metric essentially scores your site on how much the layout changes during the user’s journey. This could the load of an advert or a hover state changing the structure of an element on the page. As this is a cumulative score, we’re looking at anything below 0.1.

What should I do about Core Web vitals?

The usual things apply with anything performance related, and Core Vitals is no different. Ensuring your site is quick and easy to navigate with clear layouts and an overall good user experience is a must.

Using tools like Google page speed, the inspect tool and Google lighthouse are key to understanding and improving on your scores across your Web Vitals and should be put front and centre of your technical SEO work moving forward.

For a further information see the Web Vitals site or this article.

Some Best Practice SEO for 2020

Although it may not seem this way, SEO never changes. The basic response when optimising your site should be to be useful and helpful to your user. That said there are best practices that should be adhered to and missing these means your site will miss out on opportunities to rank.

The below are some of the top SEO best practice elements to consider right now:

  • Align your content with search intent – what is the meaning or need behind the users search? For example, if the terms you’re trying to rank for contain the word ‘buy’, you know the users will be looking for a commercial content option.
  • Write a compelling title tag and meta description – meta data has and always will be important. But by just having your keyword in the page title, you might be missing opportunities to capture both real estate and engage users better.
  • Optimise your images – images and image search are big opportunities that are set to grow as search develops across the next few years. Ensuring you have high quality images with alt text, filenames and a good file size (well compressed) will become more important.
  • Optimise your page speed – with the changes outlined above, this recommendation seems a little bit basic but it’s still incredibly important for users to have a fast loading site that doesn’t use up all of their user’s mobile data! Compress all aspects of your site and ensure your infrastructure e.g. servers, are of high quality.
  • Use internal linking – as found in our Financial Services Landing Page Research, internal linking is integral to ranking and providing users with more information for other sources, so ensuring you’re linking to relevant pages.
  • Improve the user experience on your website – previously mentioned in Web Vitals, user experience is an important part of any site and its SEO. Google isn’t going to serve a site to users if they’re going to have a bad experience.
  • Include keywords in your URL – this is an old recommendation but still important as the URL is part of a host of on-page signals. Including your target keyword is important but most comes naturally if your site structure is good.
  • Focus on getting more authoritative backlinks – link building is and will likely be for some time one of the most important factors in getting a site to rank so ensuring that you are building quality links is vital for performance. However, consider looking at other broader link building tactics than just classic outreach.
  • Publish long-form content – another aspect highlighted in our research into financial services landing pages is that longer form content generally performs better. This is normally because this type of content covers more users needs by the nature of covering more of a chosen topic.

For more details on each of the above best practices, check out this article.

Google begins rolling out free credits to SMEs

Finally this week, a bit of good news for businesses affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Google has begun rolling out its free Google Ads credits to qualifying businesses. This means that, starting in New Zealand, businesses will be able to take advantage of some free paid advertising.

Some key information on the project:

  • It will be a phased rollout starting with New Zealand
  • To qualify advertisers should have run ad campaigns in 10 of the last 12 months of 2019 and at least January or February of 2020
  • Qualifying advertisers will get an average of their monthly spend across that time up to the value of $1000 US dollars (or respective local currency)

Hopefully this is just the beginning of the road to recovery for businesses globally. For more information on this, see the official Google statement and this blog on the topic.