Posts

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.

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 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.

Google Lighthouse SEO Audit Tool

Google has announced a new set of tools for its Chrome Lighthouse developers extension that may finally make the tool relevant for both marketers and business owners

The Lighthouse extension is adding SEO audit metrics that make the tool an easy and fast way to see how Google perceives your website and what needs a tune-up.

The browser plugin already contains audits for things like performance, progressive web apps, accessibility, and Google best practices, but the inclusion of SEO metrics make it an all-in-one way to review your website’s performance.

A small (but revealing) look at your SEO

Of course, Google isn’t giving away everything with their tool. It only contains ten of the estimated hundreds of  ranking factors, which Google seems to view as most-essential for the average webmaster.

“The current list of SEO audits is not an exhaustive list, nor does it make any SEO guarantees for Google websearch or other search engines. The current list of audits was designed to validate and reflect the SEO basics that every site should get right, and provides detailed guidance to developers and SEO practitioners of all skill levels.”

Google notes that they expect to add more metrics in the future.

What is included?

The ten SEO ranking factors measured by Google Chrome’s lighthouse extension are:

  1. Meta Viewport Element
  2. Title Element
  3. Meta Description
  4. Page has successful HTTP status code
  5. Links have descriptive text
  6. Page isn’t blocked from indexing
  7. Document has a valid hreflang
  8. Document has a valid rel=canonical
  9. Document uses legible font sizes
  10. Document avoids browser plugins

Do you need it?

The Lighthouse extension’s SEO audit feature isn’t an elite-level tool that takes hours to learn and understand. It is a quick, brief overview of just a few of your site’s SEO signals that might reveal some of the basic things you’ve been overlooking or neglecting. If you haven’t used it, I strongly recommend giving it a try and checking out your site through Google’s eyes.

Well, it’s the time of year for wrap-up lists, yet again. For most industries, there aren’t too many big changes throughout a year. When discussing everything that happened in SEO however, there is certainly a lot to cover.

Tom Schmitz over at Search Engine Land has a detailed analysis of all of the important shift in Google SEO throughout 2012. There’s a lot there. Google has been very active in trying to fight webspam, and personalize search results for individuals. Panda alone has had 13 updates since November 18th, 2011.

If Google keeps this up, 2013 will be a busy year for SEO as well.