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This week’s #searchdrop looks at the recent ‘Google Glitch’, recommendations on how to get your site through the core vitals assessment (which less than 15% of sites meet the criteria for) and covers the top 5 Google ads tools you should be using right now.

'Google Glitch' impacts sites rankings and ruins search results

Earlier this week a number of SEOs woke up to lost (or gained) rankings. Normally this is the usual unannounced Google update that many SEOs have grown accustomed to, pivoting to meet any new guidelines, tidying up and dodgy backlinks etc. Frustratingly this wasn’t an update at all but an indexing issue from Google.

The issue itself was related to the indexing system (called Caffeine) with little information given out about what the error actually was. Instead, Gary Illyes treated us to a tweet outlining everything this very complex indexing system has to do:

“The indexing system, Caffeine, does multiple things:

1. ingests fetchlogs,
2. renders and converts fetched data,
3. extracts links, meta and structured data,
4. extracts and computes some signals,
5. schedules new crawls,
6. and builds the index that is pushed to serving.”

This is a fascinating insight into the way Google indexes our content in real-time.

In short, there’s nothing you need to do to fix any lost rankings as Google has put out on Twitter that the issue is now fixed. So expect any lost rankings to return and – unfortunately – expect gained rankings to go back to where they were.

These sort of issues seem to be happening much more regularly, likely a result of the sheer number of tests Google runs and the way updates to the algorithm work now. Updates are much more regular than they historically were, so teething problems are likely to happen. This, however, doesn’t account for the lost revenue for businesses affected by this.

So what can you do to protect yourself from these issues in the future:

  • Ensure your approach is holistic – don’t just rely on Google. Although they’re a vast part of most markets, they’re not the only channel. Ensure you’re verified on Bing’s Webmaster Tool, looking to forums to engage with users, utilising social / paid social (if it’s relevant for your business) and considering paid search if budgets allow.
  • Avoid knee jerk reactions – it often feels like you need to ‘fix’ the issue, but you should always take a step back whenever something happens in search. Work out whether it’s an ‘update’ or an ‘issue’ from Google, as this will dictate your approach.

Looking through a host of our clients we can see recovery has been swift, but it’s certainly worth reviewing your rankings and traffic levels etcetera and ensuring your site has recovered.

How to pass the Core Vitals assessment

The Core Vitals assessment criteria are set to become ranking factors in 2021 and with this year flying by it’s something a lot of sites are starting to think about. That’s why it’s interesting to hear, thanks to research from Screaming Frog, that so many sites (less than 15%) are not passing the assessment.

The three criteria for the Core Vitals assessments (mentioned in a previous Searchdrop) are LCP (largest contentful paint) which measures the largest loading aspect of the page, FID (first input delay) which looks at the first point in which users can engage with your site’s content following an action and CLS (Cumulative Layout Shift) which is a measure of the amount the initial layout shifts following loading.

The research from Screaming Frog suggests that FID generally for both desktop and mobile is okay, with high percentages passing this metric. Where improvement is needed is in LCP and CLS.

How to improve LCP

This essentially boils down to page speed, load size and time. Page speed is a clear ranking factor and should be part of your ongoing site maintenance. One way of prioritising this work would be to look at the biggest element of the page e.g. a video, image and compress that. Then work down from there until nothing can be improved on. After this, you get into a ‘maintenance mode’ where you should ensure anything new added to the site is compressed ahead of upload.

How to improve CLS

Minimise the amount your page layout changes after the user loads the site. For example, if following the load of your site you then have a big block of ads appear or there is an additional load of something else that moves a lot of page elements then it’s worth considering how to stop this or at least build it into the initial load.

The aim with CLS is to ensure the user receives a clear layout to the site they’re using without the interruption of a new aspect of the page displacing another established element.

5 must have Google Ads Tools

Google Ads is one of the platforms which evolves constantly. This complex tool allows us to create and implement new Google Ads campaigns, as well as giving a wide overview of the data, whether our ads are successful or not.
Google Ads tend to be overwhelming for new users, but sometimes even advanced users might miss the great opportunities hidden in the vast range of features. Susan Wenograd, who is a Paid Media Reporter at SEJ, mentioned 5 features which you might want to start using now.

Ad Variations

Creating new ad variations used to be a long and frustrating process for most PPC specialists. However, as the Google Ads evolve, the ad types evolved too.

For instance, standard text ads initially were replaced with expanded text ads, and then new responsive search ads were added. Currently, you can use the Ads Variation Tool which you can find in the Experiments & Draft section. This tool will allow you to test a vast range of ads across the account, campaign or ad group (depending on your needs).

Starting from standard text ads which have been then replaced with expanded text ads and then adding new responsive search ads. But currently, you can use the Ads Variation Tool which you can find in the Experiments & Draft section. This tool will allow you to test a vast range of ads across the account, campaign or ad group (depending on your needs).

Once the new ads are launched, the results can be seen in the Ad Variations area of the Google Ads.

Audience Observation

Finding your ideal audience used to be tricky with Google Ads, especially when you tried to target one particular demographic or interest group.

Currently, Google Ads provide us with a great ‘Audience’ feature where we can specify to observe one or more groups of people depending on who they are, what they are looking for and what their hobbies are.

Responsive Search Ads

RSAs are a great way to test many headlines and descriptions at the same time. In this type of ad, you can provide up to 15 headlines & 4 descriptions which are then mixed and matched by Google depending on the search phrase used by Google users.

These ads are a great solution when you want to test a new ad copy, however you should always think through your headings and descriptions well, as they all must work well with each other.

Discovery Campaigns

Discovery ads are a great way to generate interest on a product. These ads look like a mix of the search and display ads, where headlines and images are used. Discovery ads can appear in the Google Discovery Feed, Youtube home feed and Gmail.

This type of ad is highly automated by Google and advertisers are very limited when it comes to making changes.

Explanation Feature

Google now provides a BETA version of the explanation feature which aims to provide as much information about why the performance of the ads might have changed as possible.

Data which you can compare includes clicks, impressions, costs and conversions for up to the 90 days period of time.