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Here: 7 Steps to Prepare for Google’s Page Experience Factor

Page experience will affect your rankings soon

There’s a new algorithm change at Google scheduled for next May, and it promises to be a big one. Google calls it the Page Experience factor and we introduced it in this blog a few months ago. Much of what’s involved in page experience used to be referred to as user experience, or UX.

Perhaps the most important thing to understand about page experience is that not only will it help you to rank better in search results, but it will also help retain visitors on your site. A good page experience encourages visitors to read more on your site and visit more pages. And that’s highly correlated with conversions of those visitors to paying customers.

How you can get ready

Let’s look at seven specific things you can do to make sure you have a healthy page experience and can demonstrate that to Google.

1 — Mobile Friendly

Yoiur web site MUST be mobile friendly.More than half of all website visits are happening on cell phones. As a result, Google’s index of website content is looking only at mobile friendly content. If your website isn’t mobile friendly, it’s awkward to use on a phone and people are likely to abandon you and look up a competitor instead. For that reason and others, Google is reluctant to rank highly websites that aren’t mobile friendly. In general, I recommend a responsive site rather than having a separate site for mobile users that’s at all different from your desktop version.

2 — Core Web Vitals

One of the most important page experience factors is your page download experience, and core web vitals grade you on that. Google scores this based on three things:

It's important to pay attention to your page speed metrics.Loading

How quickly the page displays in your browser or on a phone — in technical terms, “largest contentful paint” (LCP), or how long it takes before you have a full screen displayed. If your page displays a temporary splash screen or a loading indicator, that doesn’t count. This measures how long it takes before you have a meaningful screen. To be acceptable, this should be no more than 2.5 seconds.

Interactivity

First input delay (FID) measures how long it takes before it’s interactive (meaning responsive to your actions on the page). A page is not always usable immediately upon being displayed; for example, buttons may not work until additional code has been loaded. To be acceptable, this should be no more than 0.1 seconds.

Visual stability

This is measured as something called “cumulative layout shift” (CLS). In some websites, you may be ready to press a button when all of a sudden things move on the screen and that button is no longer where it used to be. Sometimes after the page loads, pop-ups may show up that interfere with using the page. Instability of objects on the screen is a negative experience factor. This is measured by the relative size of the unstable element and how much it moves. To be acceptable, this score should be no more than 0.1.

Google's core web vitals metrics are an important part of its evaluation of your Page ExperienceSome of this is a function of your website itself, but some may also be a function of your web hosting company. For most of us, this is the technical stuff that we leave up to our web designer or web host. To check how your own website stands up to these, there are a number of tools you can use. Google offers six ways to check your core web vitals.

Are you inclined to dig into the details? If so, here’s a good overview.

If you’re not a technical person, I suggest asking your web developer to let you know how you stack up. And if your site needs work, I encourage you to have them deal with it because this may be the single most important part of Google’s new page experience score.

3 — Readability

Poor readability is an important reason for users to abandon your page and look elsewhere for what they need. When someone finds your page in search results and immediately bounces back to the search results to choose something else, the search engines understand that to mean that your page was not a good match for that search. And it’s less likely to be shown for that search in the future.

A sample of text with poor readability.A key measure of readability is the reading level, usually expressed as a grade level. Unless you’re writing a technical thesis, you don’t want your writing to be at a grade level 13 or higher. In general you should target a grade level of no higher than eighth grade. A quick and easy test for your web pages is available at WebFX.

Unfortunately, this is not usually something you can delegate to your web team. It requires your subject knowledge, and often the assistance of a professional copywriter can be invaluable.

4 — Clarity

Make sure your website content is both readable and clear.Beyond the reading level of your content, it also needs clarity. Is it easy for the reader to determine the point you’re trying to make? People typically scan content first to decide whether to read it carefully. A web page that’s set up for quick and easy scanning makes that easy.

The use of headings and subheadings can help a user quickly scan down the page to get to where they need to read carefully. Having short, punchy paragraphs, enough white space around it, and supportive images makes content easier to digest than long, dense paragraphs. You don’t want to have someone look at your page and conclude TL:DR — “too long, didn’t read”.

Avoid belaboring the point – don’t go off on tangents either. Mark Twain once said, “I didn’t have time to write you a short letter, so I wrote you a long one.” Take the time to write with clarity.

5 — Intrusive Interstitials

You want to avoid these. But it’s not immediately obvious what they are. Interstitials are usually screens that pop up in between pages as someone navigates through your website. Sometimes they pop up before the home page is displayed. Often they’re ads, but sometimes they’re something helpful like an offer to chat with a live person.

Examples of intrusive interstitial's that can generate a Google ranking penalty.Pop-ups are not necessarily bad if they’re small enough. The problem is intrusive interstitials that are so large that significant portions of the content are obliterated by them.

On a responsive website, pop-ups that aren’t intrusive in a desktop browser may be very intrusive on a phone. That’s something to keep in mind because Google’s index is based on the mobile version of your website.

6 — Safety

Danger warning icon.If your website gets hacked or contains malicious software, you can count on getting weeded out of Google’s search results. Make sure your website and your web host are safety conscious and have appropriate protective software in place.

If your website is designed in WordPerfect, I recommend the WordFence security plug-in to alert you whenever security updates are available for your website or any of the plug-ins it uses. Your web designer can make other recommendations about what’s appropriate for you.

7 — Security

Security has to do with encrypting data that travels between your website and the user’s computer or phone. A secure website has a Secure Socket Layer (SSL) certificate. It’s easy to tell because if it does, the address of your website starts with https://instead of just http://.

Originally most websites didn’t bother with an SSL certificate unless they were collecting personal data like credit card information. That’s changed now, and all websites should be secure.

Chrome will point out if a website is insecure for not having an SSL certificate.If your website doesn’t have an SSL certificate, when people look at it in Chrome they will see indicator that your site is “not secure”. Some users may infer that means your website is dangerous; you can lose potential customers that way!

Now’s the time to get ready for Google’s Page Experience algorithm update.

As of this writing, we all have about five months to get our websites ready for this significant change to Google’s ranking factors. Don’t put it off.

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Join the conversation with your thoughts or questions in the comments below.

The Importance of Inbound Link Anchor Text for Your SEO

Let’s talk about how important anchor text is on your inbound links from other websites.

First off, what is anchor text?

Links to websites or other pages are usually formatted differently from the rest of the text in a sentence or paragraph so they stand out. Anchor text is simply the word or words you can click on the follow the link.

An illustration of anchor text.

And it’s more important than you might think.

Two critical factors govern where you rank in search results

Where you rank in any search engine is essentially a function of two variables, relevance and reputation. Relevance has to do with how relevant your page is for the keyword being searched. This is what classic on-page SEO addresses: keyword relevance in your content. The other variable is reputation, which search engines essentially measure by your inbound link profile. This is often termed off-page SEO.

A link with a keyword in the anchor text helps on both accounts.

Inbound link reputation value

Authority is a term used to indicate the likelihood of a page ranking well in Google, irrespective of the search term. It’s a measure of the importance of a page. The most common metric is from Moz, called Page Authority and it’s designed to mimic Google’s internal PageRank.

Every page on the web has its own Page Authority, on a scale of 1-100. In simple terms, the more inbound links your page has, the higher its Page Authority. When a web page links to you, it gives your page a fraction of its own Page Authority. So a link from a high authority page is worth many times as much to you as a link from a low authority page.

Inbound link relevance value

Some have alleged that what other web sites say in their links to you matters more than what’s actually on your web site. I don’t believe that’s true, but a famous prank clearly illustrates the power of anchor text.A classic Google Bomb perpetrated against President George W. Bush.

During the administration of George W. Bush a technique called Google Bombing emerged. If you did a search for “miserable failure” or “worst president”, the #1 result in the search engines was the official WhiteHouse.gov biography of President George W. Bush.

 

If you had gone to President Bush’s biography and searched for the word “miserable” or the word “worst” you wouldn’t have found either one anywhere on the page. So why did Google think that page was really about those search terms?

Apparently, many bloggers had created links that pointed to President Bush’s biography and said “miserable failure” and “worst president” in the anchor text . Since those words weren’t on his bio page, the #1 result people found in Google was driven entirely by anchor text.

Here’s the moral of the story

Don’t request a link just for the authority value. Make sure you have keywords in the anchor text, too.

How to Improve Local Rankings in Google

Local search rankings are critical to local businesses

Increase your local search visibility on Google.

If you’re a local business, how you rank in local search can make or break your business. If you’re not showing up in Google when people search for what you do, your competitors are eating your lunch. That’s why it’s important to understand how to improve local rankings in Google and stay competitive.

It’s important to understand that there are two different local rankings in Google: the Local 3-Pack and the organic listings. The 3-Pack is the map with (typically) three local businesses beneath it corresponding to map pin icons on the map. The organic listings are typically beneath the Local 3-Pack and are the most common rankings customers consider.

These two parts of a local search result are determined by different factors. What’s most important to show up in the Local 3-Pack isn’t the same as what’s most important to show up in the local organic results. Let’s take them one at a time.

Google's Local 3-Pack for "near me" searches. To show up here, you need to improve local rankings in Google.

Google’s Local 3-Pack

Ranking factors for the Local 3-Pack

#1 Google My Business

This is the most important factor here. Critical to success here is making sure your category is correct, that your NAP (name, address, phone) is consistent with what’s on your your website, and that you’ve filled out as much information as possible. This may be the most important step you can take to improve local rankings in Google.

Related: Don’t Show Up Missing on Google My Business!

#2 Reviews and Citations

Positive online reviews are next in line. Make sure you have reviews on your Google My Business page. And not just review stars, but informational reviews; Google considers review comments important. 9 of 10 people trust online reviews. So does Google.Get reviews on a good number of other sites, too. Facebook, Yelp, DexKnows, SuperPages and CitySearch are good ones. Also any vertical directories you’re listed on.  You can suggest that delighted customers review at some of these places. You also need to monitor any reviews you get and respond to them whenever possible. A positive customer-focused response to a mediocre review can leave a very positive impression.

Related: How to Get Online Reviews

Citations that are consistent widely across the web gives Google confidence in your location and phone number. Consistency is critical because if a number of your listings have a previous address, some have a local number and others a toll-free number or fax number, Google isn’t confident which is right. If Google isn’t sure, it’s much less likely to rank you highly.

Related: Understand Common Citation Myths

#3 On-page SEO

This relates to making sure your website is secure, fast, and thoroughly Google-friendly. Make sure keyword placement is appropriate so that Google can tell clearly what each page is all about, and studiously avoid keyword stuffing.

Related: On-Page Optimization

The better your link profile, the higher your domain authority - and the higher you'll rank in Google results.#4 Domain Authority and your link profile

Your authority across the web informs Google about how important your website is. A commonly used measure of this is the Moz Domain Authority. It’s derived from a number of factors, the most important being your link profile: the number and quality of other websites linking to you.

Ranking factors for local organic listings

#1 On-page SEO

This is the same as #3 above for Local 3-Pack listings. It’s just more important for your organic ranking. It’s clearly indispensable for showing up in both parts of the search results.

#2 Domain Authority

See factor #4 above under the Local 3-Pack.

#3 Behavioral factors

A number of behavioral factors can affect your organic rankings in Google. They include the following.

  • Click through rate reflects the number of searchers exposed to your listing on a search engine results page (SERP) who actually click on your listing. They have looked at your page title and description and concluded that it’s a good match for what they’re looking for.Google's Local 3-Pack for "near me" searches. To show up here, you need to improve local rankings in Google.
  • Mobile clicks to call are possible only for mobile searchers, since you can’t click to call on a computer. But when someone finds you in a search on their phone and clicks to call you, it’s a very concrete message to Google that your page is an excellent result for that search. The more that happens, the better.
  • Bounce rate is related to the click through rate. For either to happen, the searcher needs an impression – you need to show up on the SERP for their search. A bounce occurs when someone is on a SERP with your listing and clicks on you but immediately bounces back to the search results to pick someone else instead of exploring your site. That’s a negative ranking factor. They clearly did not like your page or determined it wasn’t a good match for what they were looking for. And Google understands that.
  • The longer someone spends on your site, the more Google assumes they liked what they found there.Time onsite is something that Google tracks and most people aren’t aware of it. When someone clicks on your site and stays there awhile, perhaps exploring additional pages on your website, that tells the search engines that your site was an excellent match for that search. The longer they spend on your site, the more good information they must’ve found there. That makes you look really good in Google’s eyes, and will help you rank higher in the future.

#4 Reviews and citations

See#2 under the Local 3-Pack above. These are important to your rankings in both the organic results and the Local 3-Pack.

To improve local rankings in Google, you really need to pay attention to every one of the above ranking factors.

Facing challenges with your local search rankings? Start or join a discussion below.

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How to Increase Domain Authority for SEO

What is Domain Authority?

We typically track the Page Authority for our clients’ home page as well as their overall Domain Authority.

Let’s start at the top and explain that Domain Authority is a metric developed by the folks at Moz that attempts to predict how well a given website will show up in search results. It’s based largely on the number and quality of other websites that link to the domain it’s reporting on.

What’s Page Authority?

There is a separate measure called Page Authority for each web page on your site to predict how well each page will show up in search results. Both authority measures use many factors and are tweaked by machine learning to approximate as closely as possible actual search results.

We track the number of inbound links you have grapohically and report it to you regularly. Link count him him him him hims is one of the factors that goes into your Domain Authority.

We track the growth of your inbound link counts and report it to our clients regularly.

Once your website has decent on-page optimization, it’s time to focus on your off-page optimization. we believe that your  Domain and Page Authority account for about 40-50% of where you show up in search results. so you should work to increase Domain Authority and Page Authority. You can check your Domain Authority here.

How many links do I have?

You can get an idea of how many other websites link to you with the Moz Domain Authority tool linked above. In terms of the actual number of links to your site, we subscribe to Moz and report to our clients monthly. But you should be able to find how many links you have in the Google Search Console.

What’s a good domain authority score?

Across the web, an average Domain Authority score is considered to be something in the 40-50 range. But understand that this “average” includes both small businesses and huge businesses. For your own purposes, I don’t recommend that you worry about what’s “average”. In order to show up on the first page of Google for your keyword phrases, you probably need a Domain Authority in the same ballpark as those sites that are currently showing up on the first page.

Moz logo. Moz is helpful in tracking domain authority.

Moz does excellent reporting of domain and page authority.

I recommend that you aim to achieve both Page Authority and Domain Authority higher than your direct competitors. For many of our small business clients, that may be as low as the mid-20s.

Tracking your Domain Authority

Links come, and links go. If you’re doing active link building well on your site, your Domain Authority should continue to improve. Be aware that if you add back links without regard to the quality, more links could conceivably cause your Domain Authority to drop.

If you have a new website or have just begun to work on increasing your authority, you might want to track it on a weekly basis. Once you have a good process in place, tracking your Domain Authority on a monthly basis should be adequate.

How to increase Domain Authority

Directories

Directories are a good place to get a bunch of inbound links quickly.

Directory links are relatively easy to get.

If you are just starting out, it might be easiest to submit a listing for yourself in a number of general-purpose directories. They’re not the most powerful links, but they are among the easiest to obtain. Generally I don’t recommend paying for featured listings in directories; the incremental value is not typically there.

But do be sure to fill out your listings as much as possible. The more explicit and robust the listing, the more value it provides. If it allows you to enter things like your logo, or your business hours, always do that.

For many businesses, vertical directories are useful. There are a number of directories that focus on listing specific niches like lawyers, doctors, dentists, plumbers, landscapers, and so forth. These usually require a one-time or ongoing fee, but many of these have high authority themselves, making them powerful sources of links for you.

Incentivise others to link to you and improve your Domain Authority

Explain the benefits of linking to your site when asking for a backlink.

Existing relationships

Next, I typically encourage people to focus on other relationships. If you belong to any professional associations or networking organizations, make sure that they link to you.

Any vendors you use benefit from your success; that gives them an incentive to see you do well, and linking to you will help that. Perhaps customers of yours (if businesses) would be willing to link to you – especially if they’re delighted with your services.

Look for any other businesses that refer customers to you, and any other businesses that you refer customers to. Those businesses obviously value your connection and are more inclined to be willing to link to you.

Reciprocal links

Don’t be afraid of reciprocal links – those where you link to the person who links to you. While they’re not quite as powerful as one-way inbound links, they are often very natural. And the offer of a link from you which will help the other business rank better in search can provide just the necessary incentive for them to agree to link to you.

If you have a way with words, consider writing user-generated content.

Consider writing user-generated content for the sake of the backlink.

User generated content

If you have a flair for words, another source of inbound links can be “user generated content. Guest blogging is quite popular; you write a unique article for someone else’s blog and usually receive a link back from the “about the author” blurb at the end. This has been somewhat over utilized of late and it’s not quite as valuable as it once was.

Caution

DON’T use paid links, link farms, and other link schemes to increase domain authority because they violates Google’s rules and can sabotage your search rankings.

DON’T value quantity over quality. A single powerful link can help you more than many low quality links.

DO consider the authority of sites you seek links from. I suggest finding link partners that have at least an equal Domain Authority to you or better.

What’s been your experience? If you’ve been working on improving your Domain Authority, how happy are you with the investment of time and attention it takes? How successful have you been? Let us know in the comments below.

Is your site like a Billboard in the Woods? Take a simple test.  If you’re not happy with the results of that test, Rank Magic can help.

Google’s New Ranking Factor: Page Experience

Google to focus on user experience as a ranking factor.Google’s next big algorithm change for Page Experience is planned for launch next year. It will measure user enjoyment of web pages using both old and new specific ranking factors, grouped into a page experience score. Google explains it:

The page experience signal measures aspects of how users perceive the experience of interacting with a web page. Optimizing for these factors makes the web more delightful for users across all web browsers and surfaces, and helps sites evolve towards user expectations on mobile. We believe this will contribute to business success on the web as users grow more engaged and can transact with less friction.

So what are these page experience factors?

I’ve broken them down into nine discrete thing that a small business owner needs to address on your website.  Let’s hit them one at a time.

Your site needs to be responsive and mobile friendly

A responsive site is one that adapts to the device it’s showing up on. If you open up your site in a browser and change the width of the browser window, the display of the website should respond to that. If you make the browser window narrower, you shouldn’t see it cut off the right edge of paragraphs.

Bring mobile-friendly is no longe an option. Most searches are done from phones now.This is it really obvious on a phone. Your website should look  different on a phone than it does on a desktop computer. But you don’t want to have a separate mobile-only websites like some people did in the early days of the smart phone. You want the same information available on a phone that’s available on a computer, since Google is using a mobile-first index. If your mobile site is abbreviated and has less content in an effort to more easily fit on a phone, that’s the version of your site Google will index and rank. You want one website that can display differently on a computer and a phone. That way the same information is available regardless of how a customer is looking at it.

Also in terms of being mobile-friendly, it’s important that tap targets, links, buttons and so forth, are large enough and far enough apart to make it easy to tap them. If they’re too close together, your fingers are likely to hit two at once and that provides a poor user experience. The size of your text also may need to be different on a phone so that it’s easy to read.

Page speed

Page speed is important: all else being equal, a fast page will outrank a slow page.Page speed refers to how many seconds it takes for a page on your website to download into a user’s browser or phone. Google likes to see a web page that displays on your phone or in your computer within 2½  seconds. Fully displaying in 4 seconds is considered adequate, but any longer than that and Google considers it to offer a poor experience.

From a practical matter, we live in an age of impatience. If someone clicks on your listing in search results and drums their fingers while they’re waiting for to load, they may give up before it finishes loading and go back to the Google search results. They are there likely to click on another listing and that “bounce” tells Google that they didn’t like what they found on your site. Not only did you lose a potential customer, but it’s likely to hurt your rankings in the future.

Visual stability

All across the web they are calling this “cumulative layout shift” or CLS. Let your web designer worry about those terms, but don’t  let this jargon intimidate you. What this refers to is things jumping around on your screen as a page loads. It can be very annoying, as you can see on the website Media Bias Fact Check. Google considers this a poor page experience and if it’s happening on your website, your rankings will suffer for it.

Avoid 404 errors

404-error-page-not-foundWhen a user tries to go to a page that isn’t where they think it is, they get a 404 Page Not Found error. If there are links on your site that point incorrectly to content on you’re website, your shooting yourself in the foot. It’s a poor user experience if you send your users to pages that aren’t there. It’s important to scan your website and make sure you clear up any of those.

Beyond that, though, there may be malformed links on other websites or links on those sites that point to pages you have since eliminated or moved. Those 404 errors are pretty much unavoidable. But you can improve the user experience of them with a custom 404 page. Unlike the default 404 error your browser provides, if you have a custom 404 page it’s formatted just like your website so users know that they haven’t been completely lost. Many websites treat this with a little bit of humor and offer to help the misled user to find what they’re looking for via a search option or a link to your site map.

Security is important

HTTPS padlock icon

Is your website secure? Google is on a mission to improve security across the web, and as a result it tends to give a ranking advantage to secure websites. If your website URL starts with HTTP:// then it’s not secure. Secure websites start with HTTPS:// and insecure websites are flagged when they show up in Chrome. Many people will see the “Not secure” indicator in the address bar of their browser and mistake it to mean that the site is dangerous. You certainly don’t want that for your own website.

If your website is insecure, our blog post from a couple of years ago may help. It’s entitled Make Your Small Business Website Secure with HTTPS.

Avoid intrusive interstitials

Boy, that’s a mouthful. Intrusive interstitials refers to those annoying pop-ups that block most or all of the page content when you arrive on the page. You may have run into them when loading certain websites with an ad blocking plug-in in your browser. Very often they pop up to ask you to subscribe to a newsletter, and so forth. They provide an annoying user interface, and Google doesn’t like them for that very reason.

Not all pop-ups are bad; just those that are intrusive, blocking too much content.

Readability

Writing readable text The Internet expression TL:DR has become popular lately. It means “Too Long: Didn’t Read”. If your web page is too long or too dense and intimidating, people may leave before they digest what you’re trying to say. That doesn’t mean you need to have short pages with little content on them. On the contrary. But you can reduce the density of the page with effective implementation of images and white space.

You also want to avoid sounding pedantic because it takes too much effort on the part of your reader. The Yoast SEO plug-in for WordPress has a very valuable feature in that it will assess the readability of your content and offer suggestions to make it more approachable.

Employ clear headings and subheadings

Clear headings and subheadings can go a long way toward making your material less intimidating. Users can scan the page to find the precise portion of the page they are most interested in. Odds are you scanned this page’s headings before deciding to read it. And by employing proper heading tags in the code of your page, you help Google more easily understand your page, and that can only help in your rankings.

Don’t forget CTAs

Include a Call To Action on your page for best reaults.A CTA is a Call to Action and is critical in getting your users to take the action you want them to. If you’ve ever ordered a burger at a fast food joint, the cashier almost certainly asked you “do you want fries with that?” They sell a hell of a lot more fries because they ask.

So if you want someone to call you or to sign up for your newsletter, or to buy something, you need to ask them to do just that. The easiest CTAs to see are buttons, but you can also employ text-only calls to action if that fits your purposes better.

Page experience is important in so many ways

A good page experience will entice more people to read what you have to say, will keep them  engaged and on your page longer, That will reduce your bounce rate and increase your time-on-page, and thus will increase conversions as more people click on your calls to action. Not only that, but Google will like your page better and rank it higher.

Get ready for Google’s upcoming Page Experience algorithm update by improving the user experience across your website now.

Facing challenges with your page experience? Start a discussion below.

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