SEO Insights – February 2022 Report
February was, fortunately, a slow month in terms of Google updates and any significant major changes in the search results.
The main news was that Google has begun rolling out the Page Experience update for desktop (mobile version was released in 2021) and the rollout of this will be complete by the end of March. This update is focused on rewarding websites that are secure, fast loading and user friendly.
As with the Page Experience update for mobile, the desktop version focuses on the same factors apart from mobile friendliness, which is exclusive to mobile.
The main elements of the Page Experience update for desktop are:
- Core Web Vitals (LCP, CLS, FID)
- HTTPS Security
- Absence of intrusive interstitials
How will this impact rankings?
You may now be wondering why, knowing that since last year Google indexes the mobile version of a website, can this update have an impact on desktop rankings?
Indexing and ranking are two very separate parts of a search engine’s discovery of content and its inclusion in the search results. Indexing and ranking are mostly very separate processes.
Indexing is Google’s process of creating a copy of a web page (or image, PDF, etc.) that it discovers online, whilst ranking is the process of retrieving the best results for a searcher from that (enormous) index of pages based on a given search query.
Therefore, what the Page Experience for desktop update is likely showing is that Google is also at least crawling (not necessarily indexing) the desktop versions of web pages in order to be able to determine the status of the elements listed above. This information is then applied at the point of ranking web pages for desktop but based on the mobile indexed version.
It is likely that there will always be a difference in rankings between desktop and mobile as there are different signals that come into play for either device. For example, mobile searches can be highly influenced by the physical location of the searcher, whilst desktop searchers may be more likely to prefer to see images and videos relating to a specific search query.
Content: Less is more
Google’s Panda update celebrated its 11th birthday in February. Panda, named after the Google engineer that developed it, was an update that was designed to reward websites with high quality content and punish those with low quality content. When it was first unleashed to an unsuspecting SEO community, it dramatically changed the search results. There were many painful losses.
Google had become considerably cleverer at understanding the quality of a website. Words on a page were no longer just that, they now had to make sense, provide answers and be unique.
Panda was initially a separate algorithm that used to run periodically but was eventually incorporated into Google’s main ranking algorithms. Today it continues to be used for assessing page quality, although it’s likely to have evolved considerably over the last 11 years.
One of the key aspects of Panda was that an entire website could be deemed to be low quality even if only a section of the website was deemed to be low quality. Having low quality content on a website can impact the entire website.
Since the early days of Panda, we’ve always had a policy at Artemis of “Less is more”. We will, where necessary, remove ALL content from a website that does not meet the quality levels that users and search engines expect.
Low quality content is unlikely to be indexed
It was interesting to see this subject come up in a recent Google SEO Office Hours video session with Google engineer, John Mueller, confirming our content and site quality policy. The discussion centred around a question about content not getting indexed.
John Mueller was quick to say:
“…kind of making sure that it’s easy for us to recognize the important content on a website is really good, which sometimes means making less content and making better content. So having fewer pages that you want to have indexed.”
Google makes no guarantee that it will index all of the content on a website, in fact it rarely does. It is the job of the website to convince Google to index its pages. Focusing on the quality of all pages across a website is key to increasing the likelihood that they will be, and will continue to be, indexed. If they aren’t indexed then they can’t be ranked to appear in search results.
It is much more difficult to maintain consistent quality and freshness across a large website than it is to maintain a smaller, focused website.
Keep adding value
There was another additional interesting conversation with John Mueller last month. The topic focused on whether user comments on web pages can help the page to rank better. The answer was a swift yes as it’s extra content, although it can sometimes be difficult to manage comments for larger websites. John commented:
“What I think is really useful there with those comments is that oftentimes people will write about the page in their own words and that gives us a little bit more information on how we can show this page in the search results.”
User generated comments can increase the keywords on a page as they may mention words and terms which are not in the original content, giving the page an opportunity to rank for those additional search terms.
Most websites and clients do not want users adding random comments to pages, but there is a better way to increase the added value of pages.
Encouraging clients to leave feedback and reviews and include them on key pages is a great way to increase the value of a pages across a website. They add content, possibly increase the keyword visibility of pages and provide social proof, helping to increase the chance of converting traffic to enquiries and sales.
Building reviews and distributing those reviews across the website has multiple benefits. We work with clients with our Online Reputation Management product to help them build and manage reviews at scale. It’s a very important aspect of SEO in 2022.
Quality content, quality reviews and a great user experience; they all work together to increase the chances of content being indexed and ranked.
It all helps to keep the panda happy!