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This week’s #searchdrop discusses two recent Google updates to the search results, the addition of useful mortgage information, and the potential for a paid Google My Business service for businesses looking to get the edge in the local map pack. We also look at a few different ways to improve the speed of your Shopify site.

Google adds mortgage information to SERPS

Launched in the US on the 22nd of July 2020, Google has redeveloped the way mortgage-related terms appear in the search results on mobile. They’ve done this by adding rich information, tools, and videos designed to support users in understanding the steps and processes of getting a mortgage and is a collaboration with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

What does this mean for Financial Services Clients trying to rank?

Currently in the UK, nothing. But as is with most things, they funnel through to other markets after testing in the US so should this new result be ‘useful’, expect it to go live elsewhere. This change in SERPS makes the journey a user may take to reach your organic listings that little bit longer and more difficult.

What should you do:

  • Look at the new SERPS features as they go live in your market and see how widespread the changes are. e.g. does a long-tail variant of your target phrase have this new mortgage information?
  • Reconsider your paid budget. You may have been running successfully on organic traffic alone (although if you’re trying to perform for ‘mortgages’, I doubt it) but now with the addition of this rich information, your user really has to want to go to the organic listings, otherwise they’ll fall into one of the 4 ads or the new search feature. Therefore, increasing your paid budget for mobile devices might be a way to keep traffic levels albeit at a cost
  • Watch the SERPS and mirror the content. Google will need to find the content for this new rich information from somewhere, so perhaps your site can support that. Enhance your onsite copy to mirror the information provided in the new rich snippet

There’s no guarantee that this sort of SERP will launch outside of the US given the collaboration with a US government body, but it’s certainly worth preparing for a shake-up of this lucrative and highly competitive area in search.

Here’s the official launch from Google.

Google My Business 'Guaranteed Program'

Google is constantly testing new ways to improve and monetise their products. The latest addition that has been spotted by SEO and GMB Product Expert Tom Waddington is the new upgraded Google My Business account. Google is offering this upgrade for $50 a month. Organisations who decide to take apart and test the new upgraded GMB account will get a special verified badge (‘Google Guaranteed’ badge) which is displayed within the local pack and Google My Business Listing. The $50 monthly fee will also cover a full organisation background & eligibility check.

Search Engine Land asked Google for an official update on this new feature and this was the answer they received:

“We’re always testing new ways to improve our experience for our advertisers, merchants, and users. This experiment will show the Google Guaranteed badge on the business profile. We don’t have anything additional to announce right now.”

What should you do:

  • Keep an eye out for correspondence from Google regarding this program. It’s still unconfirmed whether this program will happen (and happen in the UK) but if you’re the first in you’ll be the first to benefit
  • Consider your budgets. In the grand scheme of things, $50 (~£40) isn’t much for an edge over your search competitors
  • Watch your market. Similar to the two above points, if you aren’t taking advantage of this program (should it come to be) and your competitors are, you’ll be at a disadvantage

There is no official information on whether or not this upgraded GMB account will be available for tests outside the USA and Canada, but as SEO specialists we are excited to follow the information that relates to Verified Google My Business profiles.

How to speed up your Shopify site?

Shopify seems to be the platform that businesses looking to get online during the COVID-19 pandemic have rushed to. This is evidenced in the data from Built With which highlights not only a very healthy growth in their revenue but also that they’re the 3rd most popular hosted solution in the UK.

This rush to get online can sometimes lead to missed opportunities and one area that is often neglected, to the detriment of search performance, is speed. We’ve listed some of the best ways to improve the speed of your Shopify site to improve the experience for your users.

  • Compress your imagery – simple one but important for all sites, not just Shopify, but ensuring your compressing images is vital. Large file sizes for images are often unnecessary and cause extra weight on your page load. Alongside this ensuring you’re using the correct formats for your images can make a big difference. Recommended tool: TinyIMG SEO Image Optimizer
  • Use lazy loading functionality – Lazy loading is where content such as imagery doesn’t load until the user scrolls it into view, this means that there is less for the browser to load, thus improving speed. Implementing this will require developer support but will be worth it in the improvement in load times for your site. Recommended script: Lazysizes
  • Reconsider all your apps – This is a straight forward point, but as the old adage does ‘less is more’. Apps obviously deliver extra functionality to the site but ask yourself “is this app needed” or “can I get this functionality built into the site in a better way?”
  • Use a fast theme – ensuring your site is built on ‘quick’ foundations is important as the wrong theme can cause the rest of your page speed work to be somewhat in vain. Thankfully there are some speedier options for Shopify themes, complied by the guys are Go Fish Digital. Using the quicker of these themes will help set your site up for performance!
  • Use Page Speed Analysis tools – This seems obvious but there are a lot of great tools for reviewing and improving your site’s speed and they’re all relevant for your Shopify site. Google Page Speed Insights, GTMetrix & Pingdom will help you to highlight problems both sitewide and on a page level
  • Consider AMP for your pages – Implementing AMP on your Shopify site is easy! Through either Fireamp or Rocketamp you’re able to quickly establish AMP versions of your pages and benefit from increased speed and ranking benefits in mobile.
  • Reduce the HTTP Requests – it’s simple, the less there is to load the quicker the load will finish. Therefore reducing the number of requests made will improve your load speed. You can do this by compressing and merging CSS and JS, Using JS inline where it’s a small script, avoiding the use of ‘design’ images, and minimise the number of social buttons. Gift of Speed have a good tool for testing this
  • Undertake Site Hygiene – Ensuring there are no unnecessary redirects or broken links on-site will make loads easy and therefore quicker. Screaming Frog is a good tool to find broken links
  • Use tag manager to bring in tracking codes – collating your tracking codes into one place not only makes management of these things easier it also speeds up the process of loading them. To get Tag Manager on your Shopify site you can use this handy guide
  • Avoid sliders in the design of the site – Sliders have been a staple of website design for many years, but they don’t actually work for most users and according to research from the New Design Group, less than 1% of users actually engage with them. Therefore by focusing of ‘hero’ products and avoiding heavy slider scripts and additional imagery, you’ll not only be improving page speed you’ll also improve user experience.