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Google’s Priority Hints Improves CWV

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Google published an article encouraging developers and publishers to use the new (and experimental) “importance” priority hint attribute which can help improve Core Web Vitals and the user experience.

The Chrome browser team shared an example where a background image loaded with the Priority Hint HTML attribute saved 1.9 seconds in download time, just in that one image.

The Problem that Priority Hints Solves

Publishers can speed up the discovery of web page resources using <link rel=preload> and can also direct how and when scripts are downloaded and executed with the use of the “async” and “defer” attributes.

But publishers cannot send a signal to tell the browser which resources are important and which are not.

Google provides these examples of the problems Priority Hints solves:

“Hero images inside the viewport start at a low priority. After the layout is complete, Chrome discovers they are in the viewport and boosts their priority (unfortunately, dev tools only shows the final priority – WebPageTest will show both).

This usually adds a significant delay to loading the image. Providing the priority hint in markup lets the image start at a high priority and start loading much earlier.

The browser assigns CSS and fonts a high priority, but all such resources may not be equally important or required for LCP. You can use priority hints to lower the priority of some of these resources.”

The Importance Attribute Resource Hint

In HTML, the parts that make up a web page are called Elements. That would be the div, headings, paragraph tags, image tags, the link element, etc.

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I’m pretty sure everything that’s called an HTML tag is actually an HTML element, that’s an easy way to remember what an element is.
Every element can be modified with what’s called an Attribute. Remember the nofollow attribute? The nofollow attribute modifies the <a> element.

The importance attribute modifies web page elements by giving the web browser a hint about whether a web page element is important, not important or to just let the browser decide.

The importance attribute is called a Priority Hint. The attribute gives the browser a hint that a specified element is important (or not important) and to give it a higher (or lower) priority.

The values that the “importance” attribute can communicate are:

  • High
  • Low
  • Auto

The importance attribute resource hint is applicable to the following elements:

  • link
  • img
  • script
  • iframe

How the Resource Hints Improve Core Web Vitals

Browsers automatically compute priority levels for downloading resources.

Current tools like the “preload” attribute help give resource hints to the download of important resources like, for example fonts and images.

Other resource hints are async and defer.

All of those help speed up the download of the total document and make the document viewable and interactive faster.

But the browser still has to decide which one is more important.

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According to Web.dev, a preloaded image will download but will still be assigned a low priority by the browser and delayed.

This is the explanation:

“Take a Largest Contentful Paint image, which, when preloaded, will still get a low priority.

If it is pushed back by other early low-priority resources, using Priority Hints can still help how soon the image gets loaded.”

An example of how the importance attribute is helpful is when a web page has an image carousel at the top of the viewport (the part of the browser that the site visitor currently sees).

If the carousel contains five images, all of them can be preloaded. But if the first one is assigned the “high” importance attribute and the others given the “low” attribute, the web page will display faster because the browser will now know to give a high priority to the first image.

Another example given by Google is the featured image at the top of the web page. Browser give the image a low priority and only renders it after the rest of the web page layout is completed.

Google explains:

“Providing the priority hint in markup lets the image start at a high priority and start loading much earlier.

Note that preload is still required for the early discovery of LCP images included as CSS backgrounds and can be combined with priority hints by including the importance=’high’ on the preload, otherwise it will still start with the default “Low” priority for images.”

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The same thing happens with scripts that are downloaded as async or defer, they are both assigned a low priority.

By adding a Priority Hint to the important scripts the browser will be able to render the page faster and provide a better user experience.

Faster Loading Will Be Experienced by Site Visitors

The Priority Hints is undergoing what Google calls an Origin Trial. Chrome ran a trial two years ago but it didn’t get much attention.

Chrome is rolling this out in Chrome 96, which is scheduled for release on November 21, 2021. Priority hints is already available on Chrome Canary, which is the testing version of Chrome.

These features can be enabled in current versions of Chrome by typing the following in the address bar:

chrome://flags/

and then scrolling down and enabling the section labeled: Experimental Web Platform features

Screenshot: Experimental Web Platform Features

Screenshot of Chrome Experimental Web Platform Features

Screenshot of Chrome Experimental Web Platform Features

How to Review Resource Priority Level

Priority levels of resources are available for review in any version of Chrome, in the Dev Tools under the Network tab.

Click the three dots (ellipsis menu) in the top right hand corner, > More tools > Developer tools (then select the Network tab).

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From there you load up a web page, right click one of the columns (like Time or Waterfall) and select Priority and you can view the priority levels.

When registered for the Priority Hints trial you can use Chrome Canary to view the updated priority for the resources and also in Chrome version 96 when it rolls out.

When you participate in this trial the priority hints will be shown to your site visitor browsers and any improvements to Core Web Vitals will be reflected from that.

However, it’s important to note that these are priority hints and not a directive.

That means that the browser does not have to strictly follow the priority hints. The browser may choose to ignore the hints and assign and computer its own order.

This can be checked in Chrome Dev Tools under the Network tab as described above.

How to Sign Up for Priority Hints Trial

Publishers need to register with Chrome to participate in the origin trials for priority hints.

The Priority Hints registration form is here:

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https://developer.chrome.com/origintrials/#/view_trial/365917469723852801

Priority Hints Origin Trial

This is the second version of this origin trial. The first time it was tested there wasn’t much response. But this time could be different because of Core Web vitals.

The trial is open for registration now and it runs until March 22, 2022. The purpose of the trial is to measure developer interest and to see if it results in meaningful improvements.

Whether the feature continues after that date depends on your feedback. This is a great opportunity to improve the user experience and to be one of the first to use this new feature.

Citations

Read the Announcement of the New Priority Hints Origin Trial

Optimizing resource loading with Priority Hints

Register to Participate in the Origin Trial

Priority Hints Registration Page

Follow the Chrome Priority Hints Progress

Chrome Priority Hints Status Page

Read the Priority Hints Explainer in GitHub

Priority Hints

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Download Chrome Canary for Developers With Newest Features

Chrome Canary

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GOOGLE

How to Write For Google

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How to Write For Google


Are you writing your SEO content based on the latest best practice tips?

I originally wrote this SEO copywriting checklist in 2012—my, how things have changed. Today, Google stresses quality content even more than before, conversational copy is critical, and there are revised SEO writing “rules.” 

I’ve updated the list to reflect these changes and to provide additional information.

As a side note, I would argue that there’s no such thing as “writing for Google.” Yes, there are certain things you should do to make the Google gods happy. However, your most important goal should be writing clear, compelling, standout copy that tells a story. 

I’m keeping the old headline in the hopes that I can convert some of the “write for Google” people to do things the right way.

Whether you’re an in-house SEO content writer, a DIY business owner, or a freelance SEO copywriter, this 27-point checklist will help you write engaging, Google-happy content—every time.

Items to review before you start your SEO writing project

 

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– Do you have enough information about your target reader?

Your copy will pack a powerful one-two punch if your content is laser-focused on your target reader. Ask your client or supervisor for a customer/reader persona document outlining your target readers’ specific characteristics. If the client doesn’t have a customer persona document, be prepared to spend an hour or more asking detailed questions. 

Here’s more information on customer personas.

 

– Writing a sales page? Did you interview the client?

It’s essential to interview new clients and to learn more about their company, USP, and competition. Don’t forget to ask about industry buzzwords that should appear in the content.

Not sure what questions to ask to get the copywriting ball rolling? Here’s a list of 56 questions you can start with today. 

 

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– Writing a blog post? Get topic ideas from smart sources

When you’re blogging, it’s tempting to write about whatever strikes your fancy. The challenge is, what interests you may not interest your readers. If you want to make sure you’re writing must-read content, sites like Quora, LinkedIn, Google Trends, and BuzzSumo can help spark some ideas.

 

– Did you use Google for competitive intelligence ideas?

Check out the sites positioning in the top-10 and look for common characteristics. How long are competing articles? Do the articles link out to authoritative sources? Are there videos or infographics? Do the articles include quotes from industry experts? Your job is to write an essay that’s better than what’s already appearing in the top-10 — so let the competition be your guide.

 

– Did you conduct keyphrase research?

Yes, keyphrase research (and content optimization) is still a crucial SEO step. If you don’t give Google some keyphrase “cues,” your page probably won’t position the way you want.

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Use a keyphrase research tool and find possible keyphrases for your page or post. As a hint: if you are tightly focusing on a topic, long-tail keyphrases are your best bet. Here’s more information about why long-tail keyphrases are so important.

If you are researching B2B keyphrases, know that the “traditional” keyphrase research steps may not apply. Here’s more information about what to do if B2B keyphrase research doesn’t work.

See also  DuckDuckGo vs. Google: An In-Depth Search Engine Comparison

 

– What is your per-page keyphrase focus?

Writers are no longer forced to include the exact-match keyphrase over and over again. (Hurray!) Today, we can focus on a keyphrase theme that matches the search intent and weave in multiple related keyphrases.

 

– Did you expand your keyphrase research to include synonyms and close variants?

Don’t be afraid to include keyphrase synonyms and close variants on your page. Doing so opens up your positioning opportunities, makes your copy better, and is much easier to write!

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Are you wondering if you should include your keyphrases as you write the copy — or edit them in later? It’s up to you! Here are the pros and cons of both processes.

 

 — Do your keyphrases match the search intent?

Remember that Google is “the decider” when it comes to search intent. If you’re writing a sales page — and your desired keyphrase pulls up informational blog posts in Google – your sales page probably won’t position. 

 

— Writing a blog post? Does your Title/headline work for SEO, social, and your readers?

Yes, you want your headline to be compelling, but you also want it to be keyphrase rich. Always include your main page keyphrase (or a close variant) in your Title and work in other keyphrases if they “fit.”

Here’s some excellent information on how to write headlines that get noticed (and that are good for Google.) You can also use headline-analyzing tools to double-check your work.

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– Did you include keyphrase-rich subheadlines?

Subheadlines are an excellent way to visually break up your text, making it easy for readers to quick-scan your benefits and information. Additionally, just like with the H1 headline, adding a keyphrase to your subheadlines can (slightly) help reinforce keyphrase relevancy.

As a hint, sometimes, you can write a question-oriented subheadline and slip the keyphrase in more easily. Here’s more information about why answering questions is a powerful SEO content play.

 

Is your Title “clickable” and compelling?

Remember, the search engine results page is your first opportunity for conversion. Focusing too much on what you think Google “wants” may take away your Title’s conversion power. 

Consider how you can create an enticing Title that “gets the click” over the other search result listings. You have about 59 characters (with spaces) to work with, so writing tight is essential. 

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– Does the meta description fit the intent of the page?

Yes, writers should create a meta description for every page. Why? Because they tell the reader what the landing page is about and help increase SERP conversions. Try experimenting with different calls-to-actions at the end, such as “learn more” or “apply now.” You never know what will entice your readers to click!

 

– Is your content written in a conversational style?

With voice search gaining prominence, copy that’s written in a conversational style is even more critical.

Read your copy out loud and hear how it sounds. Does it flow? Or does it sound too formal? If you’re writing for a regulated industry, such as finance, legal, or healthcare, you may not be able to push the conversational envelope too much. Otherwise, write like you talk.

See also  Google Tests Interactive Search Results

Here’s how to explain why conversational content is so important.

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–Is your copy laser-focused on your audience?

A big mistake some writers make is creating copy that appeals to “everyone” rather than their specific target reader. Writing sales and blog pages that are laser-focused on your audience will boost your conversions and keep readers checking out your copy longer. Here’s how one company does it.

Plus, you don’t receive special “Google points” for writing long content. Even short copy can position if it fully answers the searcher’s query. Your readers don’t want to wade through 1,500 words to find something that can be explained in 300 words.

Items to review after you’ve written the page

 

– Did you use too many keyphrases?

Remember, there is no such thing as keyword density. If your content sounds keyphrase-heavy and stilted, reduce the keyphrase usage and focus more on your readers’ experience. Your page doesn’t receive bonus points for exact-matching your keyphrase multiple times. If your page sounds keyphrase stuffed when you read it out loud, dial back your keyphrase usage.

 

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– Did you edit your content?

Resist the urge to upload your content as soon as you write it. Put it away and come back to it after a few hours (or even the next day.) Discover why editing your Web writing is so very important. Also, don’t think that adding typos will help your page position. They won’t.

 

– Is the content interesting to read?

Yes, it’s OK if your copy has a little personality. Here’s more information about working with your page’s tone and feel and how to avoid the “yawn response.” Plus, know that even FAQ pages can help with conversions — and yes, even position.

 

– Are your sentences and paragraphs easy to read?

Vary your sentence structure so you have a combination of longer and shorter sentences. If you find your sentences creeping over 30 or so words, edit them down and make them punchier. Your writing will have more impact if you do.

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Plus, long paragraphs without much white space are hard to read off a computer monitor – and even harder to read on a smartphone. Split up your long paragraphs into shorter ones. Please.

 

– Are you forcing your reader onto a “dead end” page?

“Dead-end” pages (pages that don’t link out to related pages) can stop your readers dead in their tracks and hurt your conversion goals. 

Want to avoid this? Read more about “dead-end” Web pages.

 

– Does the content provide the reader with valuable information?

Google warns against sites with “thin,” low-quality content that’s poorly written. In fact, according to Google, spelling errors are a bigger boo-boo than broken HTML. Make sure your final draft is typo-free, written well, and thoroughly answers the searcher’s query.

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Want to know what Google considers quality content — directly from Google? Here are Google’s Quality Raters guidelines for more information.

 

– Did you use bullet points where appropriate?

See also  8 White Hat SEO Techniques To Double Your Search Traffic

If you find yourself writing a list-like sentence, use bullet points instead. Your readers will thank you, and the items will be much easier to read.

Plus, you can write your bullet points in a way that makes your benefit statements pop, front and center. Here’s how Nike does it.

 

– Is the primary CTA (call-to-action) clear–and is it easy to take action?

What action do you want your readers to take? Do you want them to contact you? Buy something? Sign up for your newsletter? Make sure you’re telling your reader what you want them to do, and make taking action easy. If you force people to answer multiple questions just to fill out a “contact us” form, you run the risk of people bailing out.

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Here’s a list of seven CTA techniques that work.

 

– Do you have a secondary CTA (such as a newsletter signup or downloading a white paper?)

Do you want readers to sign up for your newsletter or learn about related products? Don’t bury your “sign up for our newsletter” button in the footer text. Instead, test different CTA locations (for instance, try including a newsletter signup link at the bottom of every blog post) and see where you get the most conversions.

 

– Does the page include too many choices?

It’s important to keep your reader focused on your primary and secondary CTAs. If your page lists too many choices (for example, a large, scrolling page of products), consider eliminating all “unnecessary” options that don’t support your primary call-to-action. Too many choices may force your readers into not taking any action at all.

 

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– Did you include benefit statements?

People make purchase decisions based on what’s in it for them (yes, even your B2B buyers.) Highly specific benefit statements will help your page convert like crazy. Don’t forget to include a benefit statement in your Title (whenever possible) like “free shipping” or “sale.” Seeing this on the search results page will catch your readers’ eyes, tempting them to click the link and check out your site.

 

– Do you have vertical-specific testimonials?

It’s incredible how many great sales pages are testimonial-free. Testimonials are a must for any site, as they offer third-party proof that your product or service is superior. Plus, your testimonials can help you write better, more benefit-driven sales pages and fantastic comparison-review pages.

Here’s a way to make your testimonials more powerful. 

And finally — the most important question:

 

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– Does your content stand out and genuinely deserve a top position?

SEO writing is more than shoving keyphrases into the content. If you want to be rewarded by Google (and your readers), your content must stand out — not be a carbon copy of the current top-10 results. Take a hard look at your content and compare it against what’s currently positioning. Have you fully answered the searcher’s query? Did you weave in other value-added resources, such as expert quotes, links to external and internal resources (such as FAQ pages), videos, and graphics? 

If so, congratulations! You’ve done your job. 



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