SEO Insights – May 2021 Report

SEO Insights - May 2021 Report

 

May is a big month for Google. Their annual developer conference, Google I/O, takes place in California.

Industry leaders around the world wait in anticipation for the latest Google updates. It is great to see how current products and services are evolving and what is up and coming over the next 12 months.

So, what did 2021 Google I/O have to offer?

Google Search announces AI updates

Let’s start with our favourite – Google Search. A consistent thread throughout the 2021 I/O conference is the ramping up of Artificial Intelligence into products and services.

Google has announced a new update for search called MUM (Multitask Unified Model).

“Today’s search engines aren’t quite sophisticated enough to answer the way an expert would. But with a new technology called Multitask Unified Model, or MUM, we’re getting closer to helping you with these types of complex needs. So in the future, you’ll need fewer searches to get things done.“

So, what can we expect?

MUM is claimed to be 1000 times more powerful than the previous update BERT, it is trained in 75 languages and is multimodal – meaning that it can understand information from text and images and potentially, video and audio in the future!

We might be asking Google if hiking boots in a photo are suitable for a planned hiking trip to Mt. Fuji – an example from the conference.

But what does this update mean for local businesses like yours?

We don’t yet know but the potential is vast and could impact the search landscape across all sectors. These could all be real live scenarios in the not too distant future:

House buyers could take photos of their grade 2 listed home to find a suitable survey for their property.

DIY enthusiasts could take pictures of their wood floor for advice on suitable maintenance products.

Fans of fashion might ask who designed an outfit in a photo or which website has it in stock.

MUM is a massive update that enables a combination of complex search terms, such as transactional and informative, to generate detailed results from trusted sources.

The pace of change may be overwhelming but Google was keen to emphasise that leaps forward are taken responsibly. They will continue to use human raters as part of their evaluation process which is great to know given that AI is now becoming a key pillar in google search.

Find out more about MUM over at the Google blog.

“About This Result” Update

About This Result gif

Google continues prioritising quality content from trusted sources.

A new “About This Result” feature provides details about a website before it is visited. This update is being rolled out to all English search results and will include information such as a description and when the website was first indexed.

Further updates are planned such as what other sources say about the website as well as related articles to check out.

Augmented Reality Update to Google Maps

The search results in Google Maps will now update based on the time of day as well as how busy an area is. Helpful for finding your nearest coffee shop on an early morning road trip!

Google Maps will introduce augmented reality updates to help navigate new areas and locations as well as discover information on local businesses. Reading street signs in a new city or getting restaurant reviews were examples from the I/O conference.

There are over 100 AI-powered improvements planned to be implemented by the end of the year.

These were just a few of the announcements and it is really interesting to see how AI and AR are starting to be used more and more in the products and services that we use each day.


SEO Insights – April 2021 Report

SEO Insights – April 2021 Report

SEO Insights – April 2021 Report

 

Search engine news in April was, yet again, mostly focused around the page experience update. Here’s what’s new…

Page Experience Update Delayed

After all the hype with the imminent launch of the Page Experience Update, the metrics for which are scheduled to be a (minor) ranking factor, Google announced that they would be delaying the launch until mid-June. From that point, it will roll out gradually until the end of August.

Google’s reasoning for the delay is to give webmasters more time to prepare their websites for the update. The reality is that the majority of websites are not ready for this update and it’s not going to be the significant factor that many are hoping it will be.

A gradual rollout also enables Google to monitor the effects of the update on rankings and adjust it accordingly during the rollout.

As a reminder, this is the original diagram from Google showing what’s included in the new update:

April 2021 google update image

Page Experience Report in Search Console

As part of the soon-to-be-released Page Experience Update, Google added a new report in Search Console showing an overview of the status of a website and how it meets the overall requirements of the update.

Here’s an example of the new report:

April 2021 google search console update image

As we stated in last month’s report, it’s important not to get too obsessed with these new metrics and this new data. This update is rolling out gradually and the best, most relevant and most authoritative content is still what will rank the highest, regardless of the overall page experience score that Google assigns to a page.

Of course, it’s important to provide a great experience for your users, but that’s just one part of an overall continuous process of refinement, relevance and freshness. And, as with the optimisation of pages, optimising for the user experience is also going to be part of the ongoing strategy for a website.


SEO Insights - March 2021 Report

SEO Insights – March 2021 Report

SEO Insights - March 2021 Report

 

March was a relatively quiet month for search engine news but there were a couple of interesting new developments which are worth digging into a little deeper.

Zero-Click Searches

Over the years we’ve seen an increase in what are known as “zero-click searches”. These are searches on Google where the user does not click through to a result presented in the search results.

There are many reasons why this might happen but a large one is that Google will very often provide the answer directly to the user in the search results in the form of a featured snippet or publishing a fact. For example…

Searches for the weather:

March 2021 Insights image 1

Searches for information:

March 2021 Insights image 2

Searches for information about a business:

March 2021 Insights image 3

In this case, a searcher on desktop may be looking for our phone number, which Google is displaying in the knowledge panel on the right. The user does not need to click through to our website to find it.

These are just some examples of Google providing a better search experience for users by displaying helpful information at a glance which then may not yield a click-through. The user can still click on any of the results should they want to find out more.

In March, the website SparkToro released a report stating that only 35% of searches actually resulted in a click. Although their methodology in coming to this conclusion can be easily challenged, Google released a response to these claims stating that they send more traffic to the open web every year:

Google Search sends billions of clicks to websites every day, and we’ve sent more traffic to the open web every year since Google was first created. And beyond just traffic, we also connect people with businesses in a wide variety of ways through Search, such as enabling a phone call to a business.

The reality is that as search as evolved, our interactions with search engines has also evolved. We expect Google to know everything and we want answers to our questions presented to us quickly. We expect to not waste time looking for answers and clicking through to 10 different websites to find what we are looking for.

If we need to delve into a topic deeper we are then more accepting of the need to click through to various websites to find the information that we are looking for or to compare different products or service providers.

Having information available instantly is something we have become used to and we all generally welcome this evolution in search.

Ultimately, it’s not about traffic numbers, it’s about qualified visitors landing on a website. If fewer people click through to a website but those visitors are more likely to take an action, that’s all that really matters.

Core Web Vitals FAQs

As we’ve mentioned over the past few months, Google will soon be releasing its “Page Experience Update” which will take website usability, security and speed into account as ranking factors.

Part of this update focuses on the Core Web Vitals metrics, the data for which can be found in Google Search Console.

There is a significant amount of chatter online about this new update with many expecting it to be the silver bullet for improved Google rankings. However, that really is not going to be the case.

Because of the number of questions that people are asking about this update, and in particular Core Web Vitals, Google released new FAQs to answer some of the more common questions being raised.

What’s interesting, and expected, is what they quite clearly have stated in the FAQs about the influence of this update on the search results:

March 2021 Insights image 4

The best, most authoritative and useful content will always outperform a page with a better page experience. This is, of course, completely as it should be. Users want to find information about what they need to know, even if the page it’s on isn’t absolutely perfect.

Where the page experience update may have an influence is when there are two pages with great content and authority and Google rates them at a very similar level. At that point, the page with the better page experience metrics may have a slight edge over the not-so-perfect one.

The rest of the time the impact will be minimal.

However, it’s still very important to create a great user experience as slow or confusing web pages can negatively impact conversions. Page load speed and usability have always been a key focus for us at Artemis and over the past few months we have begun working on all of our clients’ websites to bring their Core Web Vitals metrics in line with Google’s expectations for the new update, if they aren’t already there.

Google’s aim with this new update is to subtly force webmasters and businesses to really focus on their users. We welcome this new update with open arms as we all suffer the frustrations with websites when they don’t respond well, they are not mobile-friendly or they are not secure.


SEO Insights - February 2021 Report

SEO Insights – February 2021 Report

SEO Insights - February 2021 Report

February has been a fairly quiet month with no major updates from a SEO perspective. There is no rest however, as we have to continue constantly improving and adapting websites to better match user search intent and keep on top of Google’s constantly evolving algorithm.

In contrast, the big news of the UK’s roadmap out of lockdown has resulted in changes to the way users are searching and what they are searching for. This impacts traffic and enquiry volumes across many industries; a trend we’ve seen with many of the Government announcements around the tightening and easing of restrictions.

This month we explore some of the top conversations in focus including Google’s upcoming Page Experience Update, the importance of quality links and extra features on Google My Business.

Page Experience Update

Google has announced last year that the Page Experience update would begin its roll out in May 2021. As we draw closer to the date, we’ve been finalising our checks to help ensure your website delivers on the key areas of focus.

The update is going to re-focus on a number of features that have been important to Google for some time. These include the speed a page loads, the amount a page moves around as it loads, and the time it takes before a user can interact with it.

Additionally, the update appears to put more focus on ensuring sites are fully secure, mobile friendly and have no intrusive interstitials (basically a fancy phrase for bad popups).

As the name of the update implies, Google is attempting to create better page experience for users.

The importance of quality links

Another interesting comment came from Google’s John Mueller.

The announcement confirmed something that we have suspected for a long time: the total number of backlinks pointing at a website isn’t important. What matters is the quality and relevance of each individual link.

This means that getting one extremely high-quality link is more valuable to your site than getting a hundred low quality ones.

Our Content and Outreach teams have been working to this principle for a long time; focusing on achieving only the highest quality links for our clients’ sites.

Updates and changes to Google My Business

Google My Business (GMB) has become a vital tool in terms of Local SEO.

With shops, restaurants and other location-based businesses looking set to re-open in the coming months, it’s important as ever that your GMB listing is update accurate and provides helpful information.

This being the case, we’ll be making a great effort to ensure that our clients’ GMB profiles are updated with relevant information – especially regarding opening hours and other attributes influenced by Covid-19.

A new release is messaging via desktop. No longer restricted to the app, you can offer customers the ability to communicate through GMB online messaging from the comfort of your computer or laptop. Need help getting this setup? Please get in touch with us today by calling 01444 645018.


SEO Insights

SEO Insights – January 2021 Report

SEO Insights
Following the disruptive Core Update that Google rolled out in December, January was a relatively quiet month for search updates and if anything, we saw a slight rollback to the Core Update.

This is quite typical behaviour from Google that we’ve witnessed over the years; legitimately good websites and pages can often be adversely affected by updates. There always appears to be a correcting and “unwinding” of the intensity of an update as Google identifies these “errors” and the updates are fully rolled out.

Dynamic Search Intent

2020 was such a strange and unique year that it highlighted some of the intricacies of Google’s algorithm which perhaps weren’t so easy to witness previously. One of these areas is the evolution of how Google dynamically adapts its search results based on how it perceives the intent behind a search term.

It means that a page that at some point ranks for a given search term can quickly lose rankings and be replaced by other pages if Google deems that the intent behind that search term has now changed.

Google’s perception of the intent behind a search term can seem to change quite quickly and its algorithm is swiftly able to detect and adapt to these changes in search behaviour.

From an SEO perspective is means that we need to be constantly monitoring and adapting to what Google now expects the search results to be for a given search term. Static pages of content are, therefore, likely to lose rankings if they are not kept up to date with what a user ultimately expects to see when searching.

Keeping pages up to date, current and relevant has become more important than ever and is going to be a consistent and necessary SEO activity going forward.

Over-Optimisation

We have highlighted this in our previous monthly search updates but we are seeing again that pages which are seemingly over-optimised when compared to competing pages can rank much lower than they theoretically should do.

Over-optimisation of pages causes Google to lose trust in the pages for the terms which are mentioned too many times relative to other competing pages.

In these cases, less is very much more. Winding back the optimisation can often return pages to their actual and deserved ranking position.

Text Position Prioritisation

We are currently running an R&D project to assess the impact on rankings for search terms dependant on their positions on pages. With the move to mobile-first indexing, the prioritisation of where keywords appear on pages appears to be more important than before Google made this change.

Initial findings show that elevating the mention of keywords on pages can improve the rankings of those pages for related search terms.

This is a significant area of focus at the moment and it will mean that we will likely be changing the position of content elements on pages to further improve rankings for target search terms.


SEO Insights - December 2020 Report image

SEO Insights – December 2020 Report

SEO Insights - December 2020 Report image

As we bid a fond farewell to 2020, there is much to reflect upon and even more to look forward to in 2021.

2020 was truly like nothing most of us have ever experienced and for most businesses, their positive plans at the beginning of the year will have taken a significant deviation.

However, here at Artemis we never spend much time looking back. Our focus is, and always has been, on looking ahead, planning and implementing what we have to do with our clients’ online presences to best position them going forward to stay ahead of the competition as algorithms evolve, shopping behaviours change and people adapt to a “new normal”.

Before we look at ahead to what’s in store for 2021 there are two key items of news to discuss from December 2020 first:

1 – Google Core Algorithm Update

It was a big one…and really quite bad of Google to launch it at such an important time for businesses when many might have already suffered a very tough year because of the pandemic.

Nevertheless, they rolled it out over two weeks and it generally changed a very high number of search results.

A core update is defined by Google as:

Several times a year, we make significant, broad changes to our search algorithms and systems. We refer to these as “core updates.” They’re designed to ensure that overall, we’re delivering on our mission to present relevant and authoritative content to searchers.

We have compiled our initial observations of this update and it appears to have impacted websites in different ways.  However, there are two main areas where we have witnessed significant impacts:

  1. Internationalisation
  2. Page keyword relevancy

We will send more details to all of our clients shortly on these findings and what it means in terms of the resultant focus over the coming weeks and months.

2 – “Request Indexing” Tool is Back

Google removed this useful tool a few months ago but reinstated it in Search Console in December.

This tool is very useful for getting new and updated pages indexed quickly and also for testing the effects of on-page changes.

It appears that Google engineers had not envisaged SEOs using the tool to try and reverse-engineer elements of Google’s algorithm and that’s ultimately why they removed it.

Although it has been reinstated it’s not quite the tool it was before. All submissions are no longer guaranteed to be reindexed immediately (if at all) and we are assuming at this early stage that they will also have updated it to only reindex pages that have had significant quality changes made to them and not just any minor changes.

We will be testing this during January and adapt our use of the tool accordingly.

Now, looking ahead and what’s in store for 2021, there are two milestones from Google’s perspective:

1 – Mobile-First Indexing – March 2021

Although Google has been transitioning indexing to the mobile version of most websites for some time now, for many websites that are still not mobile-friendly, Google has still been crawling their desktop version.

The original plan was for mobile-first indexing to be enabled for all websites from September 2020, but this was pushed back to March 2021 to give more businesses time to prepare their websites accordingly due to the pandemic.

Therefore, as of April, Google will index the entire internet from a mobile perspective. It’s quite a key milestone and a reflection of just how mobile search focused the internet has become.

2 – Page Experience Update – May 2021

This new update that is being rolled out by Google in May is part of their ongoing mission to make the web a fast, secure and pleasant experience for all users.

Whereas traditionally ranking factors have been based on on-page elements (titles, meta tags, content, etc.) and off-page signals (backlinks, citations, etc.), this new update also takes into account how friendly and easy to use pages are for users.

There are seven key areas that all play a part in the Page Experience Update of which three are recent metrics provided in Search Console called Core Web Vitals:

  1. Loading (time) – Core Web Vitals
  2. Interactivity – Core Web Vitals
  3. Visual Stability – Core Web Vitals
  4. Mobile Friendly
  5. Safe Browsing
  6. HTTPS
  7. No Intrusive Interstitials

As with what normally happens with the introduction of new ranking signals, such as the mobile page load speed ranking factor and the HTTPS boost, it’s likely that this update will not be a significant overall ranking factor initially. Over time it is likely to increase but ultimately, Google still needs to return the most relevant results for a search query, and that may still not be the fastest or smoothest loading page.

However, over the coming weeks we will be working with all of our clients to ensure that their websites are brilliantly prepared for when this update rolls out in May.

Looking Further Ahead

It is difficult to predict what other surprises Google will throw at us in 2021 but if there’s one thing that’s guaranteed is that there will be plenty of them.

It’s what we love about what we do. The uncertainty, the constant need to be testing new ideas, predicting the evolution of search and online user behaviour and working with our clients to anticipate the changes we need to make to keep them ahead of the competition.

As we have been delving into the effects of Google’s December Core Update, it has only reinforced the strategy we’ve been implementing for our clients for years, and that’s to focus on the user (speed and structure), quality targeted content (on-page optimisation) and backed up by authoritative and relevant third-part references (off-page optimisation).

There are no shortcuts. SEO is becoming increasingly technical, complex and time-consuming, especially with so many more businesses focussing more of their efforts in 2020 on their websites, organic search rankings and their overall online presence as shopping behaviour has increased online as a result of the pandemic.

2021 brings with it huge opportunities for our clients who have a strong head start over a lot of their competition and they are in strategic positions to benefit from the increase in online search activity. There have been a lot of lessons learned in 2020 and these will be benefiting our clients in 2021.

We look forward to working with all of our clients this year to make it a very successful and positive experience despite the global uncertainties still ahead.


November 2020 SEO Report

SEO Insights – November 2020 Report

November 2020 SEO Report

 

November is generally a critical month for a lot of businesses that generate sales online, and last month was possibly even more vital than ever after what has been a very turbulent year for many businesses.

Initial feedback shows that online sales hit record levels in November, particularly around Black Friday when products are heavily discounted.  At the same time, it appears that in-person store visits are at an all-time low due to various restrictions and lockdowns in place.

As we write this the Arcadia group has announced that it is going into administration, as is Debenhams. This is sadly leading to huge job losses but these are examples of physical businesses which have not adapted well or quickly enough to the major shift to online shopping.

In contrast, Next has been heavily focused on their web presence as have M&S and even during these difficult times, they appear to still be performing well.

There has probably never been a more important time than now for businesses to ensure that they have an established and prominent online presence. It is extremely sad to see empty highstreets but the world has changed, online shopping is increasing by the day and the trend is likely to continue.

Now, in other (more Search related) news….

Crawl Stats Report

Google has released a new Crawl Stats Report in Search Console. This report gives an insight into how often, how quickly and how deep Google is crawling a website.

Understanding crawl behaviour (Google’s discovery of pages) can help to diagnose website issues that may be leading to ranking losses, such as server downtime or the inability for Google to fully download resources.

November 2020 image 1

 

There is a new element to this report now which is quite interesting.  It shows the stats for pages which are re-crawled (refreshed) and those which are newly discovered:

 

November 2020 2

 

This is particularly useful to understand how often pages are re-crawled and how long it takes pages to be discovered.

For example, an important page may only be re-crawled once per month because the content is quite static. If the content is updated on a regular basis this would lead Google to re-crawl it more often, which is important for freshness in the search results and to have new content indexed quickly. We can monitor these crawl rates in this new report.

New and Improved Link Disavow Tool

Google has now migrated the link disavow tool to the new Search Console interface.  This tool is used to tell Google to ignore certain links pointing to a website, such as spam links and paid links.

It now features a friendlier user interface, the ability to download the disavow file as a text file and there are error reports now showing more than 10 errors.

November 2020 3

 

As the warning says…this is an advanced tool and should be used with caution.

Google is really very good now at ignoring spam links pointing to a website. It’s mostly not necessary for any website to use this tool. In fact, you can inadvertently tell Google to ignore perfectly legitimate links to your website if you don’t realise that those links are actually helping your website to rank and not harming it. Disavowing good links can lead to ranking losses.

However, sometimes there can be an overwhelming number of spam links that could be causing an issue for the website, in which case it is fine to use the tool as it is when a website has a manual penalty when Google detects that a website has been buying links; a practice that goes against Google’s Webmaster Guidelines.

This is not a tool that we are ever likely to use for your website.

Both of these tools, as well as all of the others in Search Console are what we use and monitor for all clients on a regular basis to ensure their websites are performing at their best at all times.


SEO Insights – October 2020 Report

England is set to go into another month-long lockdown. It’s not the news anyone wanted to hear but things should be very different this time around.

We’re all much better set up for remote working, we know what a lockdown means to our businesses and we are better equipped to get through it. The extension of the furlough scheme until the end of the November is appreciated, particularly for those businesses which will struggle during this time.

We are now approaching the Christmas trading period which is a very critical time for a lot of our clients. We expect that online shopping levels will be the highest ever and general requests for services delivered online will increase again.

Now is the time that we need to keep pushing and work together to extract the most from every website and thrive during this busy trading period. If you would like to discuss strategies for your website over this crucial time then do talk to us. We are, as always, here to help in any way we can.

To make the most of this potentially busy period for businesses online, it is important to understand what has been happening in the world of SEO this past month.

Google Analytics 4

In October Google launched its latest version of Google Analytics which it’s called “Google Analytics 4” or GA4 for short.

GA4 is a very major change in how Google presents and interprets user data. It’s designed to give businesses a much better overall understanding of what users (customers) are doing on their websites. These new insights are designed to help businesses make better and more data-driven marketing decisions.

GA4 uses advanced machine learning to analyse trends in the data and provides a greater level of customer-centric measurement as opposed to metrics derived from devices and platforms.

GA4 is now the default option for new analytics properties. We are excited to start digging into this data for our clients so that everyone can start benefiting from the new datasets available.

Microsoft Clarity

Not to be outshone by Google, Microsoft has launched its very own free analytics tool called Microsoft Clarity.

This is a very exciting development in the area of website analytics as Clarity introduces new features not available within Google Analytics.

Clarity is designed to be easy to use and easy on the website, meaning that it has a minimal impact on page load times.

It comes with in-built heatmap and click-tracking functionality to enable you to see what users are doing on each page of your website. It also records user sessions so that you can view what specific users are doing and how they navigate the website. These sorts of insights are normally only available through third-party tools such as Hotjar and Crazyegg.

 

With the recordings you can filter them to view some interesting new metrics such as “rage clicks”, “dead clicks” and “confused scrolling”:

 

“Rage clicks” are a behavioural pattern where a user clicks several times on a portion of your page that they think should link somewhere, but which doesn’t. This can be a good indicator of non-intuitive portions of your page or help you identify page elements which aren’t working how they should.

We’re excited to start testing and experimenting with Clarity and will be looking to introduce it across all client websites along with the new GA4.

Request Indexing Feature Disabled

The handy little “Request indexing” feature in Google Search Console has been temporarily disabled. This is quite unfortunate is it was a great way to get updated pages indexed very quickly and to immediately test the effects of on-page changes.

Google notified this on Twitter:

It doesn’t make sense to disable it like this. We can assume that they realised that it was a great way for SEOs to use to it to reverse-engineer elements of the Google ranking algorithm and have suspended it accordingly.

We’ll need to wait and see how it returns but we hope it returns soon!

Passage Indexing

Google released details of how it’s using AI to make search better and in the announcement, it mentioned that it can now index passages from pages as well as entire pages themselves.

It’s not quite that passages are indexed as separate items, it’s just that it can isolate a passage on its own regardless of the content on the rest of the page.

This helps Google to surface information for complex queries that previously would not be ranked because of the influence of the page as a whole.

According to Google, this will impact 7% of queries. This is just for English queries at the moment but will be rolled out to all languages globally. Here is an example of this new technology in action:

Passage Indexing

 

At Artemis, we stay ahead of changes in SEO, Google and digital marketing tools to ensure our clients are not only up-to-date but ahead of the game. If you are interested in having us work on the digital marketing for your business, get in contact with us today.


Easing of Lockdown

Lockdown Easing – Positive Signs for Many Businesses

Justin our Technical Director has recorded his most positive video since lockdown. After the recent lockdown easing, he talks about why many more businesses are starting gains in traffic compared to previous months but still nowhere near the level of pre-lockdown yet. He also mentions that more traditional businesses that have not invested in their websites previously are now seeing more opportunities to gain business in these areas, and are now investing in digital marketing.

Lockdown Easing – Positive Signs for Many Businesses


Google Algorithm Updates

Google ‘Core Algorithm’ & the new ‘Page User Experience’ updates

Justin our Technical Director has recorded his latest monthly video where he touches base on the latest Core Algothym update for May, as well as looking ahead to Google’s new ‘Page User Experience’ update, which will be launched in 2021. He also discusses how Artemis is responding and helping our clients adapt to the current climate.