While Google is never going to reveal their “secret recipe” that is used to rank the billions and billions of web pages around, the company still wants to help you ensure your site is performing as well as possible.

To help with this, Google has launched a new tool designed to evaluate your website and rate how it follows the company’s SEO best practices and guidelines.

The tool is currently in open beta, but is available to all webmasters at web.dev.

According to the search engine, the tool is the end result of more than 10 years of learning and iteration.

“As the bar for high-quality experience continues to rise, users are quickly disappointed in a web experience that doesn’t deliver. And then they’re gone.

“We believe, however, the web now has the capabilities to overcome that challenge—to give all users the best possible experience wherever they are.”

The most useful part of the tool for most webmasters will be its SEO assessment, but it also includes audits for performance, accessibility, and more.

Specifically, web.dev can evaluate a website’s:

  • Performance: Audits for metrics like first paint and time to interactive to determine lag.
  • PWA: Assesses your page against the baseline Progressive Web App Checklist.
  • Best Practices: Looks for everything from HTTPS usage to correct image aspect ratios.
  • SEO: Checks for best practices to ensure your site is discoverable.
  • Accessibility: Checks for common issues that may prevent users from accessing your content.

All you have to do to evaluate your own site is enter the URL.

Along with some simple images rating your site’s performance, you will also be given a list of recommended improvements you can make, listed in order of how important they are. The recommendations at the top of the list will have the biggest impact on your site, while those at the bottom as more minute changes that will have little effect on your ranking – though they may improve your site’s overall performance.

Web.dev also provides detailed downloadable reports which can be printed or digitally shared with site owners, providing an easy-to-understand breakdown of your site’s performance on Google.

The tool generates an up-to-date report on a daily basis, so you can also quickly see how any changes you make affect your site’s performance.

Google My Business is now letting businesses specify their service area. This is particularly big news for companies that service a wide area or tend to work in an area aside from their physical location.

In the past, the search engine automatically specified a listing’s service area based on their physical location. That could be a major problem if your business was located out of your house or a building in a suburb but largely provided service in the nearby city (or vice-versa).

Starting this week, Google My Business is finally giving listings more control over their service location, with a new separate field. Now, your physical address and service area are entirely separate fields.

This also allows businesses who don’t provide services at their physical location to leave that information blank and just input their service area.

However, Google has created a small restriction on these settings. Businesses can no longer edit the radius of their service areas. In the past, the service area would be a controllable radius. Most businesses opted for a radius of 25 miles from their physical address. This is largely unnecessary now, as you can specify exactly what your service areas are.

If you have previously set a distance around your business as a service area, that setting will continue to stay in effect for now, but you won’t be able to change it in the future. It is likely this data will disappear once the majority of listings have updated their service area information.

Rather than using radius information, the new settings allow you to specify your service area at the region, city, or ZIP level.

To update your own service area information in your Google My Business listing, just follow these steps:

  • Sign in to Google My Business.
  • Select “Info” from the menu.
  • Select “Edit” from within the service area section.
  • Enter your business’s service area information based on region, city, or ZIP code.
  • Click “Apply”.

Not long ago, it seemed like every business website had a “Testimonials” page filled with reviews and references from either past-customers or fellow members of their industry. If you have a keen eye, though, you might have noticed these pages are slowly falling out of use in favor of posting your Google, Yelp, and other online reviews on your site.

The practice has led to some confusion, as many experts claimed putting your own online reviews from across the web on your site could be potentially dangerous for search engine optimization. There have even been suggestions it could lead to Google penalties.

Now, you can breathe easy and share your online reviews with pride, as Google webmaster trends analyst John Mueller has confirmed that it is totally fine to highlight your reviews on your company website – with one exception.

While posting your reviews on your website is acceptable, Mueller warns that you can not use review structured data on these reviews.

As Mueller explained on Twitter:

“From a Google SEO point of view, I don’t see a problem with that. I imagine the original is more likely to rank for that text, but if you use that to provide context, that’s fine (it shouldn’t be marked up with structured data though).”

Mueller then went on to explain that review structured data is intended for reviews “directly produced by your site” and using them on third-party reviews on your own site would go against Google’s guidelines.

Google is testing making Posts from Google My Business listings more prominent in search engines, with a unique tab that can appear directly within local search results.

The tab will appear when you either search for a specific business or keyword that includes businesses that have created Google Posts.

As many smaller businesses with Google My Business have yet to take advantage of Google Posts, the new tab gives those who are sharing Posts a spotlight to shine with engaging content and high-quality images.

Likewise, I expect Google is hoping for the inclusion of Posts within the search results will boost the number of listings who are creating and sharing posts through GMB.

The feature is obviously in early testing as some have noticed changes to how the Posts can appear within the tab.

While Matt Southern from Search Engine Journal was able to view two separate carousels (one horizontal and one vertical) of images when viewing the Post tab, others (including myself) are only being shown a single vertical feed of Posts.

The tab is also currently limited to mobile searches and does not show up on desktop versions of Google.

Many think that B2B marketing requires a completely different approach than marketing from a business directly to consumers. There is the belief that they B2B audiences don’t use social media or Google the same way that other audiences do and that you have to use a more “old-school” approach.

However, a new survey from Clutch shows that B2B audiences are just as, if not more likely, to use search engines and social media to find business information as other demographics.

The survey of 384 consumers of online business content found that 87% frequently find business content using search engines, 85% use social media to find business content, and 75% encounter content most frequently on company websites.

The findings show that it is more important than ever for B2B-focused companies to modernize their marketing techniques and connect with clients through popular platforms like Google and Facebook.

As part of ensuring they are working with only the most reliable businesses, B2B customers extensively research the companies and products they need online as part of their purchasing process.

They also widely use the internet to keep up-to-date with the latest trends and news in their industry, providing ample opportunities for businesses to advertise and market themselves in their niche.

According to the survey, nearly half of B2B audiences primarily read business content online to stay aware of the latest happenings in their industry. The second most common reason was to inform their purchasing decisions.

The big takeaway here is that B2B marketing shouldn’t be stuck in the past. Purchasers are incorporating modern sources of business content and doing an increasing amount of their business purchasing online. Unless, you’re making your brand a part of those online conversations and research, you’re missing a chance to bring in customers looking for the products and services you offer.

Google Algorithm

After much ado, Google has rolled out its latest big algorithm update, called the “Speed Update.” And, once again, there has been little to no effect on the search results we see every day.

This is the latest in a pattern of big announcements of search algorithm updates that seem to fizzle out into nothing. It would be reasonable for many to stop caring and assume they don’t really need to worry about all these algorithm updates.

They would be wrong.

Why Google’s Algorithm Updates Matter

The other trend running through Google’s latest algorithm updates is that they have been almost universally focused on usability across devices. In other words, Google cares about how users perceive your website. Is it out of date? Slow? Impossible to read on a smartphone?

Of course, Google’s interest here isn’t entirely altruistic. They have made their name by delivering the best search results possible. If they allow low-quality sites to dominate the rankings, they wouldn’t be doing their job very well.

As a business, you also aren’t doing a very good job representing yourself if you aren’t living up to most of Google’s latest standards. People will be put off if your copy is outdated, or your site is too slow or buggy to use. This is the biggest reason you should really care. Google’s standards are (largely) the same as your potential customers’ standards.

Bringing It All Together

If you aren’t doing one of the things above, you might be able to get away with it. Some people may give you a pass for a sluggish website. It might not matter much if your copy is a year or two old if it is still relevant and accurate. Desktop users won’t even know if your site isn’t mobile-friendly. Taken together, though, it paints a really bad picture.

This is essentially how Google’s algorithm functions. There are literally hundreds of factors or signals that affect how sites are ranked. A single new search signal isn’t likely to have a big impact. Neglecting several search signals will likely have serious consequences for your rankings.

The best way to think of Google’s search algorithm is by comparing it to a test. Missing one or two answers is fine. But, the more questions you get wrong, the worse your score is. In the end, it is always best to strive to ensure your site isn’t just meeting basic standards, but is designed and optimized to perform as well as possible. This way, you’ll satisfy anyone who comes to your site, and you won’t have to worry about updating every time Google launches a new algorithm update.

After months of warnings, Google is officially rolling out its “Speed Update” for all users.

Google updated its original blog post to say the new ranking factor would be rolling out for all mobile search results throughout the day – though it is unclear exactly how long the Speed Update will take to fully go into effect.

What is Google’s Speed Update?

Essentially, Google’s Speed Update is just a mobile version of the speed-based algorithm used on desktop search results for years. Rather than rewarding the fastest sites, the update is better described as punishing the slowest sites online. This is particularly important for mobile-based search results because numerous studies have shown that people are likely to leave a webpage if it takes more than 3 seconds to load.

What this isn’t, is a large-scale algorithm shift. The majority of sites are likely to see little to no change after the roll-out. However, it is unclear just how harshly it will penalize the slowest sites out there.

Will you be affected?

Google refuses to give an exact estimate of just how many sites will be affected by the rollout, but they have said it will “only affect a small percentage of queries.”

Still, if your business’s website is notoriously slow, you may be at risk for a loss in search ranking and traffic. If you’re afraid you may be on the chopping block, you can see how your site stacks up using a number of Google’s tools, such as the Chrome User Experience report, the Lighthouse tool, or the Page Insights tool.

As always, it is recommended that you take steps to make your website as fast as possible. This can be done a number of ways, including reducing image file sizes, finding faster hosting, or reducing the number of widgets or the amount of content on a single page. Even if your site is safe from the Speed Update, you don’t want to risk losing potential customers while they wait for your page to load.

Are you afraid typos or grammatical errors in your blogs might be hurting your Google ranking? According to Google Webmaster Trends Analyst John Mueller, worry no more.

The good news is typos won’t hurt your search rankings. The bad news is they may still hurt you in other ways.

Responding to a Twitter user who believed that errors in content can hurt your Google presence by getting content marked as low quality, Mueller explained that Google doesn’t actually care that much.

“It’s always good to fix known issues with a site, but Google’s not going to count your typsos (sic),” Mueller wrote.

While that might be a relief for many, there is still the obvious issue of how actual people perceive content with typos. People are prone to forgive a mistake here and there, but error-filled or poorly written content is going to be dismissed by most.

Poorly written content comes off as unprofessional and won’t help build your authority like well-edited, well-composed content. So, while you might be able to get away with some typos on Google, it always pays to take the time to edit and revise anything you are going to publish under your company name before the public ever gets to see it.

People have been proclaiming that organic reach on Facebook is dead for years, thanks to moves that increasingly prioritize paid ads over regular Page posts. However, now might really be the time to start grieving. Facebook has announced sweeping changes to its News Feed that will make organic Page content even less likely to be seen.

According to Facebook, the change is ostensibly to prioritize the “social” part of their platform by putting posts from friends and family at the top of the News Feed. As this happens, “public content” (or content shared by Pages, rather than individual accounts) will be removed or pushed deeper down the feed.

However, there is a caveat that Page content that “spark conversations” will also be prioritized.

It is unclear exactly how this will be measured or enacted, but it implies that brands or publishers will have a harder time reaching users unless their content regularly receives a large number of comments.

Facebook explains the changes in a blog post, saying:

“Because space in News Feed is limited, showing more posts from friends and family and updates that spark conversation means we’ll show less public content, including videos and other posts from publishers or businesses…Page posts that generate conversation between people will show higher in News Feed. For example, live videos often lead to discussion among viewers on Facebook – in fact, live videos on average get six times as many interactions as regular videos.”

Facebook is largely trying to downplay the impact on businesses or publishers, but Zuckerberg’s own blog post acknowledges that he expects “some measures of engagement will go down” for publishers and small businesses.

Unsurprisingly, this creates more incentive for brands to buy into Facebook’s ad platform to ensure their content actually reaches their audience.

Facebook’s Adam Mosseri recommended several steps small business or brands can take that rely heavily on video content – particularly Facebook Live.

“Page posts that generate conversation between people will show higher in News Feed. For example, live videos often lead to discussion among viewers on Facebook — in fact, live videos on average get six times as many interactions as regular videos. Many creators who post videos on Facebook prompt discussion among their followers, as do posts from celebrities. In Groups, people often interact around public content. Local businesses connect with their communities by posting relevant updates and creating events. And news can help start conversations on important issues.”

These changes and the continually decreasing organic reach across Facebook may make it tempting to try to manipulate or goad users into engaging, but Mosserri says this will get you in even worse trouble.

He says “using engagement-bait to goad people into commenting on posts is not a meaningful interaction, and we will continue to demote these posts in News Feed.”

Google is sending emails to webmasters that are being migrated to the search engine’s new mobile-first index. If your site gets indexed, Google will start choosing the mobile version of your site as the default choice – meaning your site is fast enough and optimized for mobile users.

The search engine first said they would start sending notifications to websites being migrated into the mobile-first index, but the emails have only started being actually seen in the wild over the past few days.

The notifications are coming a bit late, considering Google has confirmed that it began moving websites over to the mobile-first index months ago.

You can see a copy of the email as shared by The SEM Post or read the full text below:

”Mobile-first indexing enabled for <URL>

To owner of <URL>

This means that you may see more traffic in your logs from Googlebot Smartphone. You may also see that snippets in Google Search results are now generated from the mobile version of your content.

Background: Mobile-first indexing means that Googlebot will now use the mobile version of your site for indexing and ranking, to better help our (primarily mobile) users find what they’re looking for. Google’s crawling, indexing, and ranking systems have historically used the desktop version of your site’s content, which can cause issues for mobile searchers when the desktop version differs from the mobile version. Our analysis indicates that the mobile and desktop versions of your site are comparable.”