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12 Actions That Help Improve Your Google Keyword Rankings

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12 Actions That Help Improve Your Google Keyword Rankings

Right now, someone is doing a Google search to find a new product, service, or solution to their problem, something that your business is uniquely qualified to provide.

Will they end up on your website where they’ll see how you have exactly what they’re looking for?

If your website doesn’t show up on the first page of Google results, the answer is, unfortunately, probably not.  That’s for a few reasons.

Firstly, Google dominates the search engine market, with more than 85% of global traffic and 270 million unique visitors in the U.S. alone.

Secondly, 75% of internet users never go beyond the first page of results.

Now consider that 34.36% of all clicks go to the number one search result, and it becomes clear why search engine optimization (SEO) is so important.

But, you already knew that – it’s why you’re reading this article, after all.

You probably also realize that SEO is a marathon, not a sprint.

In Google’s unending quest to provide better results to searchers’ queries, its algorithm is updated thousands of times every year.

And while some of these are so minor most people will never notice them, Google occasionally rolls out an update that significantly impacts search engine results pages (SERPs).

What’s an SEO professional to do?

In the past, the answer was to jam keywords everywhere on your site, with the idea that more is better. Those days are gone.

Google’s algorithm has increased in complexity, which means it is now better able to understand the intent behind queries.

And, this means it values sites that provide better answers to those searches over those that are just packed with relevant words and phrases.

To ensure your website ranks highly, you can’t just focus on what search engines are looking for.

You also need to consider the experiences of visitors to your site. You need to take a holistic view of the value your website provides to users, then optimize your content so that it gets the results you need.

Let’s take a closer look at various ranking factors and discuss how you can more effectively use keywords to drive search traffic.

1. Measure Your Rankings

The first (and probably the most obvious) place to start is measuring your rankings.

Without a solid understanding of your baseline keyword performance, you won’t know how far you’ve come and how much you’ve improved.

I’d highly suggest exporting all of this valuable keyword data and keeping it on file for future reference. If nothing else, it will show you how much better you’ve gotten at SEO.

Some of us may have learned the hard way, but you never know when things will change with any given tool – whether it’s how data is reported, what information we have access to, etc.

Measure your rankings.

Export keyword data from Google Search Console and landing page traffic (organic and total) from Google Analytics.

Analyzing this data will give you a good idea of:

  • Your most valuable keywords/landing pages.
  • The most immediate opportunities for improvement.
  • Keywords/landing pages that are underperforming.

Focus on improving keywords that are ranking in positions five through 15 (where you’re teetering at the bottom of Page 1 or top of Page 2 on Google).

It’s easier to get these terms ranked at the top of the first page on Google, which will give you some quick wins to share with your client or boss.

2. Target The Right Keywords

To ensure your keyword targets are aligned with overarching business objectives and offer real value, it’s important that you understand both the search intent behind them and the difficulty of ranking.

While terms have a particular meaning to you, they could take on an entirely different meaning in Google and vice versa.

Knowing the intent, whether it’s informational/educational, transactional, or navigational, will help you understand which stage of the sales funnel users are at.

Doing a thorough SERP analysis is essential. Look at what’s currently ranking in the top search result for your core keyword targets including:

Target the right keywords.Screenshot from search for [search intent], Google, May 2022Target the right keywords.

Knowing what is required to rank for a particular keyword will help you draw conclusions about what content development efforts will be required, as well as come up with a plan for creation.

Semrush’s SEO Content Template is really great for this type of analysis.

You simply enter a keyword, and the tool will analyze what’s showing up in Google’s top results to provide recommendations for SEO-friendly content.

Semrush keyword research tool.Screenshot from Semrush, May 2022Semrush keyword research tool.

Cross-referencing your organic keyword research with paid advertising data can also help uncover new opportunities and fill gaps.

Don’t ignore long-tail queries. While they may have lower search volume, you could be missing out on extremely targeted audiences that are ready to buy.

3. Clean Up Your Site Structure

The structure of your website plays a big role in SEO. Set a solid foundation for yours by resolving any technical issues that may diminish your organic keyword visibility.

Site pages should be both easily found and navigated by search engines and users.

If your website is difficult for users to navigate and search engines to crawl, your keyword rankings will likely be negatively impacted.

And, vice versa – if your website is intuitive for both users and Google, your rankings are bound to see positive increases.

Make sure that your site has a solid website structure, fix any broken links, and resolve any duplicate content issues.

Conducting a thorough technical SEO audit is necessary to ensure all priority technical issues are addressed.

4. Pay Attention To User Experience Signals

User experience and brand equity are important when it comes to driving organic search visibility.

While user experience may not be a direct responsibility of a search engine marketer, it’s important that user experience and SEO work together – especially considering that Google’s algorithm has consistently taken UX into page rankings

To ensure web visitors are interacting with your website, you should use Google’s Core Web Vitals report.

This monitors the loading time of each page on your site and generates data to show you which pages are providing good experiences and which need work.

Another important UX area you need to consider is the responsiveness of your site.

Mobile web browsing first surpassed desktop in 2017 and now accounts for more than 54% of global traffic.

If your website is not responsive, you will have a higher bounce rate, which in turn will negatively affect your ranking.

Here are some other elements that present an opportunity to improve UX and SEO:

  • Keyword research: Confirm that you’re targeting keywords that have the right search intent and are aligned with the language that your target audiences use.
  • Page tagging: Ensure page tagging is engaging and encourages clicks to your website (title tags, meta descriptions, and main headings).
  • Content optimization: Keep users on the page and provide them with another logical destination or next step. This involves everything from the navigation to the copy, internal cross-linking, and calls-to-action on your site.
  • Page speed: Give users the content they are requesting quickly and seamlessly across devices. Compress images, be mobile-friendly, clean up your code, and speed up your server.

5. Optimize For Users & Search Engines

Many of us get so fixated on optimizing content for Google that we forget what the end game is – to reach a highly targeted set of humans.

While search engines and humans have different ways of reading and digesting content, there are certain commonalities that will help ensure we are creating content with both in mind.

Both robots and humans want us to be:

  • Be clear and concise.
  • Provide accurate information.
  • Avoid jargon.
  • Cover-related subtopics.

This is important to keep in mind from the start of your content creation process.

As we are thinking about ways to make our content easier to read for both users and search engines, header tags are key.

Not only will proper header tags improve the overall readability of your content, but they will also ensure search engines can follow the hierarchy of what is most important on the page.

Images should also be a consideration, as providing more engaging imagery can make all the difference for users.

This also presents the opportunity to further optimize for search engines through ALT text and file naming.

6. Create Eye-Catching & Engaging Titles

Dare I say that title tags are the most important SEO element of a webpage?

Not just because it’s an SEO best practice, but also because it’s the first thing users see in search results and on social media.

The title tag is your biggest opportunity to catch the eyes of a user and encourage them to click into the page.

Determine the page that you want to rank for each keyword target, and then figure out a way for your title to stand out from all the others.

Yes, the keyword target should be included towards the beginning of the title tag, but how else can you encourage users to click?

BuzzSumo analyzed 100 million headlines and learned that:

  • Emotional headlines drive interactions.
  • Curiosity and voyeurism gain engagement.
  • List posts and the number 10 in headlines are extremely powerful.

While meta descriptions don’t have a direct impact on rankings, they should work closely with your title tags. Incorporate the keyword if possible, as well as a clear call-to-action for users.

The goal of your title tag and meta description should be to explain the benefit to users, provoke emotion, and trigger engagement – all while applying SEO best practices.

7. Stay On Top Of Algorithm Updates

Why should you care about Google’s most recent algorithm updates?

Because good SEO professionals stay on top of that stuff.

Among many other reasons, it helps ensure your keyword rankings are not only steady, but they’re constantly improving.

Knowing when an algorithm update first hit and when it officially ended is useful for tracking purposes, and will allow you to trace keyword and traffic fluctuations back to the root cause.

This will help you uncover potential reasoning for how/why a site was hit by an update, or certain keyword rankings and pieces of content that may have been impacted by it.

When multiple algorithm updates happen over a short stretch of time, figuring out why certain site changes have occurred and analyzing the impact of a specific update is extremely difficult.

8. Provide Answers To The Questions People Are Asking

Google seeks to provide users with the best answers to their queries.

Just look at all of the new and increased SERP features we have seen over the past few years:

Optimize for Featured Snippet results.Screenshot from search for [digital transformation], Google, May 2022Optimize for Featured Snippet results.

Optimizing for featured snippet results and rich snippets around your priority keyword targets is now becoming an essential part of SEO strategy.

While there is certainly a great deal of debate over the direct value that ranking in “position zero” of search results offers a business, ultimately, I pose this question:

Would you rather have your competitor rank in the Answer Box for that search query?

As far as we know, the featured snippet result isn’t going away anytime soon, and not ranking in it could mean lost visibility to your competitor, or even your “frenemy” Google.

9. Build Valuable Inbound Links

Start by looking for opportunities on your website to cross-link to assets from keyword-rich anchor text. This will help drive users to relevant content and build keyword associations.

Unfortunately, crafting a strong internal link strategy is only half of the battle.

The other half is generating highly authoritative and valuable inbound links from third-party websites.

This can seem overwhelming, but there are some key tactics to hone in on:

  • Create link-worthy content that is based on your keyword research and analysis of what is ranking in top search results to help generate inbound links and improve keyword rankings.
  • Monitor mentions of your brand for some quick-win opportunities to gain an inbound link from websites that are already talking about you.
  • If you want other websites to link to you, remember to link to other websites. You only get as much as you give.
  • Leverage social media to support link building. Interact with your targets beforehand to help build relationships prior to reaching out about a link building opportunity.

These are just a few tactics to get you started. However, there are certainly more advanced link building tactics to be successful in today’s extremely competitive landscape.

10. Promote Your Content Strategically

I mention this briefly above, but it’s also important to leverage non-SEO channels in an effort to drive visibility to your assets and support your link building efforts.

The more eyes that you get on your content, the more opportunity you have to:

Promote your content strategically.Screenshot by author, May 2022Promote your content strategically.

While different promotional tactics may apply to different types of content, creating a checklist is always helpful.

This way, when it comes time to promote an asset, you have a list of all possible tactics.

This could include:

  • Distributing across social media channels.
  • Pushing out an email to subscribers.
  • Encouraging shares from internal team members.
  • Reaching out to those mentioned in the asset.
  • Setting up Google Alerts to monitor conversations around the topic.
  • Sharing directly with certain experts or influencers.
  • Answering related questions on Quora or other forums.
  • Advertising on social media.
  • Identifying existing internal cross-link opportunities.
  • Creating a SlideShare presentation or repurposing the asset in other forms.

11. Continuously Optimize & Improve Content

While there are numerous other factors that are important to SEO, content is still king.

Quality content counts more than anything else when Google is determining how well your site answers a query.

In fact, if you only take one thing away from this piece (and hopefully you’ll take more than that), it should be the importance of high-quality content. Emphasis on “high quality.”

Google’s Search Quality Guidelines explicitly state the importance of E-A-T, that is expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness.

Your content should assert to both search engines and visitors that you are a reliable expert on the topics related to your keywords.

But because search engine results are constantly changing, you need to make continuous optimizations and improvements to your content.

For example, just because you’ve gained the Featured Snippet result for a particular keyword or phrase, does not mean that you will stay there.

Refreshing your content will ensure that you’re offering users the best (and most up-to-date) information and driving increased keyword visibility.

If the content is out of date, you will likely see the associated keyword rankings decline.

On the other hand, if you’re always looking for opportunities to refresh your content and provide users with the best material, you will likely see keyword ranking increases.

Content optimization should never be one-and-done, especially if you aren’t seeing the results that you want.

If an asset isn’t ranking, re-optimize it for relevance, search intent, engagement, and readability.

Your goal should be to offer users a piece of content that is better than everything else being displayed for the given query.

The concept, “If it’s not broken, don’t fix it.” certainly applies here.

For example, if you are ranking in the first position on Google for an extremely competitive and highly searched keyword, you don’t want to risk losing that.

In that case, I would not recommend changing the title tag or anything that could have a negative impact.

However, there could be opportunities to make the asset that is ranking more conversion-friendly and encourage users to stay on your site.

12. Setup & Optimize Your Google Business Profile

Local search has become another important part of SEO.

In addition to driving business to your physical location, it also has an impact on your website’s rankings.

In many cases, Google factors the searcher’s location into SERPs.

Things like photos, reviews, and phone numbers are more likely to include answers to queries than text-only links.

The best way to get in on local searches is to create and optimize your Google Business Profile.

This free service allows you to manage how your business shows up across Google properties, including Maps, Reviews, and Local Pack Listings.

A Google Business Profile improves your visibility and gives users information about you at a glance. It also allows people to review your business on Google.

Not only do these increase your credibility and allow you to control the narrative around your business, but they are also thought to have a significant impact on rankings.

Further, your profile will provide you with insights into your audience that may help you uncover new opportunities and keywords to target.

You get information on which queries are directing searchers to your website, how they are interacting with your posts and how many clicks your website link is generating.

Final Thoughts 

An SEO professional’s work is never done.

And, even if Google someday decides, “You know what? We’ve finally got this algorithm perfect.” (which they never will), your results on SERPs will constantly change as others targeting the same keywords tweak and adjust their own strategies and content.

This means you need to keep working on your website. Just remember, SEO is a marathon, not a sprint.

Just because you don’t see the results you want right away doesn’t mean you’re not on the right track.

And vice versa – don’t assume because you’re highly ranked today that you’ll stay there.

SEO takes a lot of testing. Don’t be afraid to experiment.

You may not always get the top spot, but if you put in the work and follow these SEO best practices, you should see your site climb the rankings.

And that will bring with it the traffic you want.


Featured Image: Jirsak/Shutterstock

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No Algorithmic Actions For Site Reputation Abuse Yet

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Looking up at an angle at the Google sign on the Head Office for Canada

Google’s Search Liaison, Danny Sullivan, has confirmed that the search engine hasn’t launched algorithmic actions targeting site reputation abuse.

This clarification addresses speculation within the SEO community that recent traffic drops are related to Google’s previously announced policy update.

Sullivan Says No Update Rolled Out

Lily Ray, an SEO professional, shared a screenshot on Twitter showing a significant drop in traffic for the website Groupon starting on May 6.

Ray suggested this was evidence that Google had begun rolling out algorithmic penalties for sites violating the company’s site reputation abuse policy.

However, Sullivan quickly stepped in, stating:

“We have not gone live with algorithmic actions on site reputation abuse. I well imagine when we do, we’ll be very clear about that. Publishers seeing changes and thinking it’s this — it’s not — results change all the time for all types of reasons.”

Sullivan added that when the actions are rolled out, they will only impact specific content, not entire websites.

This is an important distinction, as it suggests that even if a site has some pages manually penalized, the rest of the domain can rank normally.

Background On Google’s Site Reputation Abuse Policy

Earlier this year, Google announced a new policy to combat what it calls “site reputation abuse.”

This refers to situations where third-party content is published on authoritative domains with little oversight or involvement from the host site.

Examples include sponsored posts, advertorials, and partner content that is loosely related to or unrelated to a site’s primary purpose.

Under the new policy, Google is taking manual action against offending pages and plans to incorporate algorithmic detection.

What This Means For Publishers & SEOs

While Google hasn’t launched any algorithmic updates related to site reputation abuse, the manual actions have publishers on high alert.

Those who rely heavily on sponsored content or partner posts to drive traffic should audit their sites and remove any potential policy violations.

Sullivan’s confirmation that algorithmic changes haven’t occurred may provide temporary relief.

Additionally, his statements also serve as a reminder that significant ranking fluctuations can happen at any time due to various factors, not just specific policy rollouts.


FAQ

Will Google’s future algorithmic actions impact entire websites or specific content?

When Google eventually rolls out algorithmic actions for site reputation abuse, these actions will target specific content rather than the entire website.

This means that if certain pages are found to be in violation, only those pages will be affected, allowing other parts of the site to continue ranking normally.

What should publishers and SEOs do in light of Google’s site reputation abuse policy?

Publishers and SEO professionals should audit their sites to identify and remove any content that may violate Google’s site reputation abuse policy.

This includes sponsored posts and partner content that doesn’t align with the site’s primary purpose. Taking these steps can mitigate the risk of manual penalties from Google.

What is the context of the recent traffic drops seen in the SEO community?

Google claims the recent drops for coupon sites aren’t linked to any algorithmic actions for site reputation abuse. Traffic fluctuations can occur for various reasons and aren’t always linked to a specific algorithm update.


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WP Rocket WordPress Plugin Now Optimizes LCP Core Web Vitals Metric

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WP Rocket WordPress Plugin Now Optimizes LCP Core Web Vitals Metric

WP Rocket, the WordPress page speed performance plugin, just announced the release of a new version that will help publishers optimize for Largest Contentful Paint (LCP), an important Core Web Vitals metric.

Large Contentful Paint (LCP)

LCP is a page speed metric that’s designed to show how fast it takes for a user to perceive that the page is loaded and read to be interacted with. This metric measures the time it takes for the main content elements has fully loaded. This gives an idea of how usable a webpage is. The faster the LCP the better the user experience will be.

WP Rocket 3.16

WP Rocket is a caching plugin that helps a site perform faster. The way page caching generally works is that the website will store frequently accessed webpages and resources so that when someone visits the page the website doesn’t have to fetch the data from the database, which takes time, but instead will serve the webpage from the cache. This is super important when a website has a lot of site visitors because that can use a lot of server resources to fetch and build the same website over and over for every visitor.

The lastest version of WP Rocket (3.16) now contains Automatic LCP optimization, which means that it will optimize the on-page elements from the main content so that they are served first thereby raising the LCP scores and providing a better user experience.

Because it’s automatic there’s really nothing to fiddle around with or fine tune.

According to WP Rocket:

  • Automatic LCP Optimization: Optimizes the Largest Contentful Paint, a critical metric for website speed, automatically enhancing overall PageSpeed scores.
  • Smart Management of Above-the-Fold Images: Automatically detects and prioritizes critical above-the-fold images, loading them immediately to improve user experience and performance metrics.

All new functionalities operate seamlessly in the background, requiring no direct intervention from the user. Upon installing or upgrading to WP Rocket 3.16, these optimizations are automatically enabled, though customization options remain accessible for those who prefer manual control.”

Read the official announcement:

WP Rocket 3.16: Improving LCP and PageSpeed Score Automatically

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Optimizing Interaction To Next Paint: A Step-By-Step Guide

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Optimizing Interaction To Next Paint: A Step-By-Step Guide

This post was sponsored by DebugBear. The opinions expressed in this article are the sponsor’s own.

Keeping your website fast is important for user experience and SEO.

The Core Web Vitals initiative by Google provides a set of metrics to help you understand the performance of your website.

The three Core Web Vitals metrics are:

This post focuses on the recently introduced INP metric and what you can do to improve it.

How Is Interaction To Next Paint Measured?

INP measures how quickly your website responds to user interactions – for example, a click on a button. More specifically, INP measures the time in milliseconds between the user input and when the browser has finished processing the interaction and is ready to display any visual updates on the page.

Your website needs to complete this process in under 200 milliseconds to get a “Good” score. Values over half a second are considered “Poor”. A poor score in a Core Web Vitals metric can negatively impact your search engine rankings.

Google collects INP data from real visitors on your website as part of the Chrome User Experience Report (CrUX). This CrUX data is what ultimately impacts rankings.

Image created by DebugBear, May 2024

How To Identify & Fix Slow INP Times

The factors causing poor Interaction to Next Paint can often be complex and hard to figure out. Follow this step-by-step guide to understand slow interactions on your website and find potential optimizations.

1. How To Identify A Page With Slow INP Times

Different pages on your website will have different Core Web Vitals scores. So you need to identify a slow page and then investigate what’s causing it to be slow.

Using Google Search Console

One easy way to check your INP scores is using the Core Web Vitals section in Google Search Console, which reports data based on the Google CrUX data we’ve discussed before.

By default, page URLs are grouped into URL groups that cover many different pages. Be careful here – not all pages might have the problem that Google is reporting. Instead, click on each URL group to see if URL-specific data is available for some pages and then focus on those.

1716368164 358 Optimizing Interaction To Next Paint A Step By Step GuideScreenshot of Google Search Console, May 2024

Using A Real-User Monitoring (RUM) Service

Google won’t report Core Web Vitals data for every page on your website, and it only provides the raw measurements without any details to help you understand and fix the issues. To get that you can use a real-user monitoring tool like DebugBear.

Real-user monitoring works by installing an analytics snippet on your website that measures how fast your website is for your visitors. Once that’s set up you’ll have access to an Interaction to Next Paint dashboard like this:

1716368164 404 Optimizing Interaction To Next Paint A Step By Step GuideScreenshot of the DebugBear Interaction to Next Paint dashboard, May 2024

You can identify pages you want to optimize in the list, hover over the URL, and click the funnel icon to look at data for that specific page only.

1716368164 975 Optimizing Interaction To Next Paint A Step By Step GuideImage created by DebugBear, May 2024

2. Figure Out What Element Interactions Are Slow

Different visitors on the same page will have different experiences. A lot of that depends on how they interact with the page: if they click on a background image there’s no risk of the page suddenly freezing, but if they click on a button that starts some heavy processing then that’s more likely. And users in that second scenario will experience much higher INP.

To help with that, RUM data provides a breakdown of what page elements users interacted with and how big the interaction delays were.

1716368164 348 Optimizing Interaction To Next Paint A Step By Step GuideScreenshot of the DebugBear INP Elements view, May 2024

The screenshot above shows different INP interactions sorted by how frequent these user interactions are. To make optimizations as easy as possible you’ll want to focus on a slow interaction that affects many users.

In DebugBear, you can click on the page element to add it to your filters and continue your investigation.

3. Identify What INP Component Contributes The Most To Slow Interactions

INP delays can be broken down into three different components:

  • Input Delay: Background code that blocks the interaction from being processed.
  • Processing Time: The time spent directly handling the interaction.
  • Presentation Delay: Displaying the visual updates to the screen.

You should focus on which INP component is the biggest contributor to the slow INP time, and ensure you keep that in mind during your investigation.

1716368164 193 Optimizing Interaction To Next Paint A Step By Step GuideScreenshot of the DebugBear INP Components, May 2024

In this scenario, Processing Time is the biggest contributor to the slow INP time for the set of pages you’re looking at, but you need to dig deeper to understand why.

High processing time indicates that there is code intercepting the user interaction and running slow performing code. If instead you saw a high input delay, that suggests that there are background tasks blocking the interaction from being processed, for example due to third-party scripts.

4. Check Which Scripts Are Contributing To Slow INP

Sometimes browsers report specific scripts that are contributing to a slow interaction. Your website likely contains both first-party and third-party scripts, both of which can contribute to slow INP times.

A RUM tool like DebugBear can collect and surface this data. The main thing you want to look at is whether you mostly see your own website code or code from third parties.

1716368164 369 Optimizing Interaction To Next Paint A Step By Step GuideScreenshot of the INP Primary Script Domain Grouping in DebugBear, May 2024

Tip: When you see a script, or source code function marked as “N/A”, this can indicate that the script comes from a different origin and has additional security restrictions that prevent RUM tools from capturing more detailed information.

This now begins to tell a story: it appears that analytics/third-party scripts are the biggest contributors to the slow INP times.

5. Identify Why Those Scripts Are Running

At this point, you now have a strong suspicion that most of the INP delay, at least on the pages and elements you’re looking at, is due to third-party scripts. But how can you tell whether those are general tracking scripts or if they actually have a role in handling the interaction?

DebugBear offers a breakdown that helps see why the code is running, called the INP Primary Script Invoker breakdown. That’s a bit of a mouthful – multiple different scripts can be involved in slowing down an interaction, and here you just see the biggest contributor. The “Invoker” is just a value that the browser reports about what caused this code to run.

1716368165 263 Optimizing Interaction To Next Paint A Step By Step GuideScreenshot of the INP Primary Script Invoker Grouping in DebugBear, May 2024

The following invoker names are examples of page-wide event handlers:

  • onclick
  • onmousedown
  • onpointerup

You can see those a lot in the screenshot above, which tells you that the analytics script is tracking clicks anywhere on the page.

In contrast, if you saw invoker names like these that would indicate event handlers for a specific element on the page:

  • .load_more.onclick
  • #logo.onclick

6. Review Specific Page Views

A lot of the data you’ve seen so far is aggregated. It’s now time to look at the individual INP events, to form a definitive conclusion about what’s causing slow INP in this example.

Real user monitoring tools like DebugBear generally offer a way to review specific user experiences. For example, you can see what browser they used, how big their screen is, and what element led to the slowest interaction.

1716368165 545 Optimizing Interaction To Next Paint A Step By Step GuideScreenshot of a Page View in DebugBear Real User Monitoring, May 2024

As mentioned before, multiple scripts can contribute to overall slow INP. The INP Scripts section shows you the scripts that were run during the INP interaction:

1716368165 981 Optimizing Interaction To Next Paint A Step By Step GuideScreenshot of the DebugBear INP script breakdown, May 2024

You can review each of these scripts in more detail to understand why they run and what’s causing them to take longer to finish.

7. Use The DevTools Profiler For More Information

Real user monitoring tools have access to a lot of data, but for performance and security reasons they can access nowhere near all the available data. That’s why it’s a good idea to also use Chrome DevTools to measure your page performance.

To debug INP in DevTools you can measure how the browser processes one of the slow interactions you’ve identified before. DevTools then shows you exactly how the browser is spending its time handling the interaction.

1716368165 526 Optimizing Interaction To Next Paint A Step By Step GuideScreenshot of a performance profile in Chrome DevTools, May 2024

How You Might Resolve This Issue

In this example, you or your development team could resolve this issue by:

  • Working with the third-party script provider to optimize their script.
  • Removing the script if it is not essential to the website, or finding an alternative provider.
  • Adjusting how your own code interacts with the script

How To Investigate High Input Delay

In the previous example most of the INP time was spent running code in response to the interaction. But often the browser is already busy running other code when a user interaction happens. When investigating the INP components you’ll then see a high input delay value.

This can happen for various reasons, for example:

  • The user interacted with the website while it was still loading.
  • A scheduled task is running on the page, for example an ongoing animation.
  • The page is loading and rendering new content.

To understand what’s happening, you can review the invoker name and the INP scripts section of individual user experiences.

1716368165 86 Optimizing Interaction To Next Paint A Step By Step GuideScreenshot of the INP Component breakdown within DebugBear, May 2024

In this screenshot, you can see that a timer is running code that coincides with the start of a user interaction.

The script can be opened to reveal the exact code that is run:

1716368165 114 Optimizing Interaction To Next Paint A Step By Step GuideScreenshot of INP script details in DebugBear, May 2024

The source code shown in the previous screenshot comes from a third-party user tracking script that is running on the page.

At this stage, you and your development team can continue with the INP workflow presented earlier in this article. For example, debugging with browser DevTools or contacting the third-party provider for support.

How To Investigate High Presentation Delay

Presentation delay tends to be more difficult to debug than input delay or processing time. Often it’s caused by browser behavior rather than a specific script. But as before, you still start by identifying a specific page and a specific interaction.

You can see an example interaction with high presentation delay here:

1716368165 665 Optimizing Interaction To Next Paint A Step By Step GuideScreenshot of the an interaction with high presentation delay, May 2024

You see that this happens when the user enters text into a form field. In this example, many visitors pasted large amounts of text that the browser had to process.

Here the fix was to delay the processing, show a “Waiting…” message to the user, and then complete the processing later on. You can see how the INP score improves from May 3:

1716368165 845 Optimizing Interaction To Next Paint A Step By Step GuideScreenshot of an Interaction to Next Paint timeline in DebugBear, May 2024

Get The Data You Need To Improve Interaction To Next Paint

Setting up real user monitoring helps you understand how users experience your website and what you can do to improve it. Try DebugBear now by signing up for a free 14-day trial.

1716368165 494 Optimizing Interaction To Next Paint A Step By Step GuideScreenshot of the DebugBear Core Web Vitals dashboard, May 2024

Google’s CrUX data is aggregated over a 28-day period, which means that it’ll take a while before you notice a regression. With real-user monitoring you can see the impact of website changes right away and get alerted automatically when there’s a big change.

DebugBear monitors lab data, CrUX data, and real user data. That way you have all the data you need to optimize your Core Web Vitals in one place.

This article has been sponsored by DebugBear, and the views presented herein represent the sponsor’s perspective.

Ready to start optimizing your website? Sign up for DebugBear and get the data you need to deliver great user experiences.


Image Credits

Featured Image: Image by Redesign.co. Used with permission.

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