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Chrome Canary Features For Technical SEO

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Chrome Canary Features For Technical SEO

Building for the web is harder than ever. Better mobile technologies and web standards roll out every day.

So, how are websites keeping up?

Unlimited data plans are a luxury. But how much data gets downloaded when visiting a website, and what’s the environmental impact of our web today?

Google search engine’s mobile-first index prioritizes websites that deliver buttery-smooth page experiences. Does your business ship with search discoverability in mind?

Developers have a lot of influence on how successful a site’s performance is on Google – but do they always focus on search?

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Good developers strike a balance between aesthetics and website performance. Is your team setting web performance budgets with measurable goals?

In this piece, I explore ways to improve communication with your dev team. Chrome’s Developer Tools have the data that devs need to fix issues faster.

We’ll see how the Canary browser is a great place to start a technical SEO audit.

I’ll share new feature updates SEO pros should be testing today.

How Chrome Releases New Features

Canary is the early-release version of Google Chrome.

Google releases its features in four stages it calls release channels. The channels are Canary, Dev, Beta, and Stable. Chrome Canary, Beta, and Dev can install side-by-side on Android, Mac, Windows, and Linux.

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Chrome engineers test new features on real users to see if they run into any issues before releasing the feature to the next channel.

Screenshot from YouTube, Aug 2022Google Chrome Developers Chrome Release Channels Staged Rollouts Youtube Screenshot

Canary gets the updates first with nightly releases at 2 AM PST. You get the latest features, browser experiments, and web platform APIs. Updates also include bug fixes, browser improvements, code clean-up, safety, and security.

Features get iterated on over a six-week release cycle before going live to all 3.2B users.

Users get to test upcoming features on their websites, web apps, content management system (CMS), themes, and plugins. They report bugs and give feedback on new features.

Not all features make it past Canary. The experimental browser is used by browser enthusiasts, developers, enterprise users, and technical SEO pros.

Debugging SEO With Developer Tools

Chrome DevTools is a diagnostic browser toolkit for testing websites inside the browser. Developers test, build and maintain websites with instruments that measure page speed performance.

Browser tools test website performance in different conditions. It gives you a head start on getting websites fixed.

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For devs, the tools are almost as important as the browser itself.

No need to wait for a long and expensive crawl to finish; You can find technical SEO issues and file them right away with Canary.

Setting Up Chrome Canary For SEO

Websites need to perform well across different locations, devices, and networks. DevTools let you simulate browsing at different places and at slower speeds.

Set Canary up to browse as the Googlebot user agent in Chrome’s settings.

Take a look at what Google sees when it loads a site.

google chrome developers chrome canary setup devtools network conditions screenshotScreenshot from Chrome DevTools Network Conditions Panel, December 2022google chrome developers chrome canary setup devtools network conditions screenshot

Don’t let browser extensions interfere with the accuracy of your tests.

Download Canary as a separate browser dedicated to technical SEO auditing and debugging.

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Plug And Scan Technical SEO Troubleshooting In Canary

Chrome DevTools lets you look under the hood of a website.

It tests and prints detailed performance reports in seconds – but it can overwhelm you at first.

Technical SEO pros inspect the web in the same way that mechanics troubleshoot cars; We plug and scan sites into browser tools and analyze how they load and respond.

With Canary you can record and measure key moments like page loading, navigating, and user interactions. You can also get status codes, Core Web Vitals (CWV) readings, waterfall and timeline charts, and much more.

Google chrome developers chrome devtools lcp performance youtube screenshotScreenshot from YouTube, May 2021Google chrome developers chrome devtools lcp performance youtube screenshot

Sometimes troubleshooting in Canary only points toward a symptom instead of the problem. More capable tools offer advanced readings, yet the troubleshooting process remains the same.

Technical SEO Auditing With Google Chrome Canary

Google wants websites to load fast, but a page won’t rank well if Googlebot doesn’t understand the main content.

DevTools can measure and help debug website delivery and performance.

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Audit and debug Javascript, CSS, and CWV issues with Canary.

Use DevTools to check your pages and templates right away.

google-chrome-developers chrome devtools cwv metrics youtube screenshotScreenshot from YouTube, May 2022google-chrome-developers chrome devtools cwv metrics youtube screenshot

It helps to see how a site is guiding visitors and Google’s crawlers. Check for internal links, content duplication, broken links, missing images, and 404 pages.

Check your on-page metadata to see if it’s all there and optimized. Look for structured data problems, and investigate content Google didn’t index because of JavaScript rendering problems.

Throttle network settings to examine latency across different web conditions, and analyze the website run time performance to identify bottlenecks.

Look for opportunities to optimize your content delivery.

Check how a site’s resources load and render. Not all resources are equal – better resource delivery can improve the user experience.

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Using DevTools In Canary For Technical SEO Website Audits

The following are some of the popular use cases in DevTools for SEO pros:

Lighthouse

  • A score-based audit of performance, accessibility, best practices, SEO, and PWA.
  • Actionable insights to improve performance.

Network Panel

  • Search engine crawler emulation.
  • Network condition and speed simulation.
  • Network requests and connections information per frame.
  • Resource loading and rendering information.
  • Waterfall chart visual of website resources as they download.
  • Server responses.

Performance Panel

Other SEO DevTools Workflows

  • Disabling JS setting to debug Javascript SEO issues.
  • Mobile device testing.
  • Accessibility Checks.
  • Remote Headless Browser Testing.
  • Programmatic DevTools browser testing and automation.

Do You Need Help Making A Business Case For SEO?

Use data to prove the value of technical SEO.

Benchmark site performance and compare the content delivery against your competitors.

Competitor benchmarking LCP CRUX field dataScreenshot from Looker Studio, December 2022Competitor benchmarking LCP CRUX field data

Use Canary to keep up with your site as it changes.

Chrome Browser Development Ecosystem

Chrome’s software development strategy runs several rolling and side-by-side deployments. This method lets it run A/B and capacity testing.

Chrome’s engineers automate feature rollbacks and avoid cold starts, and downtimes. It’s a simplified process that gives granular browser version control.

Make sure to track features as they evolve across each channel. Read feature abstracts and understand what business problems they can solve.

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Join the conversation.

Chromestatus.com tracks features as they progress. Subscribe to the Chrome Developer’s blog to keep up to date with the Chrome tools and libraries.

Chrome platform status screenshotScreenshot from ChromeStatus.com, December 2022Chrome platform status screenshot

Experimental DevTools Features In Chrome Canary

New Performance Insights Panel In Chrome DevTools

Professional athletes watch gameplay films to understand their performance. In a similar vein, the Performance Insights panel lets you playback and share recordings of a webpage load.

chrome dev tools performance panel screenshot mobile device viewChrome DevTools Performance Panel, Dec 2022chrome dev tools performance panel screenshot mobile device view

The new panel shipped with Chrome 102. It’s a streamlined update of the Performance panel which gives insights without requiring a deep technical understanding of browser rendering.

The panel has a simple UI for measuring page load CWV performance. It gives actionable page insights, finds render-blocking requests, layout shifts, and more.

Future releases will expand use cases like testing interactivity.

new performance insights panel screenshot mobile device view

new performance insights panel screenshot mobile device view

Share network delays in your critical rendering path, and show GPU Activity for dropped frames that cause your site to lag.

Save your devs some time and attach Performance recordings when submitting tickets. Show them exactly what’s wrong with your pages to inspire action right away.

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New Recorder Panel Updates In Chrome DevTools

The Recorder panel is an experimental feature that gives user flow insights.

It records runtime performance for multi-step user flows via the Performance Panel.

Use this feature to audit your primary website user flows performance.

Most users interact with your site after it loads. So, it’s a good idea to record user interactions like clicking, scrolling, and navigating. Record and edit your user flows for simulated network conditions.

Also, record an eCommerce checkout flow, and measure checkout performance by setting up different add-to-cart steps.

You can also script a page load and button or link click interaction and measure its CWV.

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new-recorder-checkout flow amazon screenshot desktop viewScreenshot from Chrome DevTools Recorder Panel, Dec 2022new-recorder-checkout flow amazon screenshot desktop view

Google lists support for several user input properties.

It auto-detects ARIA and CSS selectors. You can also add custom data-* selectors used by popular JS and CSS frameworks. The latest Chrome 108 release expanded support to XPath and text selectors.

Pages can load fast but run slowly – and a poor user experience has an impact on the perception of your brand.

Make sure visitors aren’t abandoning a site because it froze when they clicked around.

Exporting Recorder Panel Scripts For Third-Party Playback

Export your main user-flow recordings into different formats for popular front-end testing tools.

Use the JSON exports to edit flows and import them back into Recorder and watch replays.

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Export custom scripts with Chrome extensions.

Support exists for exporting recordings into Google’s Node.js Puppeteer library. You can also use them with Cypress, Nightwatch, Sauce Labs, and TestCafe.

google chrome developers chrome devtools new recorder panel export youtube screenshotScreenshot from Chrome DevTools Recorder Panel, December 2022google chrome developers chrome devtools new recorder panel export youtube screenshot

Automate Headless Browser Testing With Puppeteer

Headless browsing is when you visit a website without the browser’s UI. You can launch Chrome in your computer’s background and operate browser tools.

Puppeteer Chrome is an API that runs over the DevTools protocol. Puppeteer can also run browser tests without using the Chrome UI via headless mode.

Set up automatic periodic CWV testing, and grab screenshots of your pages loading on different devices and networks. Devs automate form submissions and UI testing.

Automate your page speed performance reporting.

Chrome lets you work smarter, not harder. Devs save a lot of time, and so can you when performing technical SEO audits with Canary.

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Automate Timeline Traces For Synthetic Testing

Synthetic tests are timeline trace recordings from different browsers, devices, and networks.

Synthetic simulates performance testing for your user’s real-world experience.

Set up user flow recordings in the Recorder Panel and export the script into a WebPage test. You can export custom Recorder scripts via the WebPage Test Recorder extension.

Web Platform API Testing On Chrome Canary

The Chrome engineering team publishes experimental APIs.

Third-party tools and businesses depend on them for testing new features. Origin Trials are like Feature Flags – they toggle off and don’t always make it to Stable Chrome.

The feature proposal documentation gives context and explains how they can help users.

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Check the status of Chrome Feature Flags and APIs on chromestatus.com.

google chrome developers chrome variations telemetry metrics youtube screenshotScreenshot from YouTube, August 2022google chrome developers chrome variations telemetry metrics youtube screenshot

Developers use APIs for automated web performance testing. Real User Monitoring (RUM) analytics providers use Chrome’s APIs to track and report real users’ CWVs.

Chrome is built on the Chromium open-source project and bugs are tracked on the Chromium bug tracker.

Back/Forward Cache Testing For Smooth Page Navigation

Modern browsers recently added a feature that loads pages faster using a new type of cache.

The Back/Forward (bfcache) cache captures a snapshot of the page in the browser’s memory when you visit.

bfcache test devtools screenshot amazonScreenshot from Chrome DevTools bfcache test, December 2022bfcache test devtools screenshot amazon

It reloads pages without making a new network request to your server.

Users that navigate back to a previously visited page on your site get a quicker page load experience. Loading from the bfcache is faster than the traditional HTTP cache, as it saves your visitor from downloading extra data.

Chrome 96 Stable release shipped the bfcache test in the Application panel. It checks pages if the Back/Forward caching is being deployed.

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Fixing Analytics Underreporting From Bfcache Browser Feature

The bfcache browser optimization is automatic, but it does impact CWV. Analytics tools may underreport pageviews because a page gets loaded from its bfcache.

Is your analytics set up to detect when a page gets loaded from bfcache?

Test your website for bfcache to make sure your important pages are serving it.

Keep an eye on when your pages no longer serve from the bfcache.

New Update To The Back/Forward Cache Testing API

The new NotRestoredReason API feature improves error reporting for bfcache issues. It helps understand why a page isn’t serving the cache to returning visitors.

The API will ship with Stable Chrome 111.

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Identifying Render Blocking Resources With The Performance API

RUM tools did not have a simple way to check if a resource was blocking rendering.

Chrome 107 shipped a new feature for the Performance API that identifies render-blocking resources. This update helps RUM users save time and optimize rendering paths.

The Performance Panel helps identify render-blocking resources like CSS, which delay the loading of a site.

When a browser comes across a stylesheet it holds page loading up until it finishes reading the file. A browser needs to understand the layout and design of a page before it can render and paint a website.

Devs can help minimize re-calculation, styling, and repainting to prevent website slowdowns.

Improved HTTP Response Status Codes Reporting For The Resource Timing API

The Resource Timing API did not support failed response code reporting. Chrome 109 will be shipping with a new feature for the Performance API that captures HTTP response codes.

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Developers and SEOs can now segment their RUM analytics for page visits that result in 4XX and 5XX response codes.

Chromestatus http response status code in resource timing feature

Chromestatus http response status code in resource timing feature

The Future Of Core Web Vitals Is Here

Google owns 86% of the search engine market share, and Chrome commands 66% of the global browser market share.

Google launched its web performance Core Web Vitals (CWV) metrics in 2020 to help quantify the user experience on a webpage.

First Input Delay (FID) is a CWV that measures a page’s interactivity.

Since it was first launched as a metric, people have been improving the FID of their websites – and today, they are crushing it. 92% of websites now have a good FID score for mobile users, and 100% for desktop users.

But FID only tests for the first user interaction. It does not measure the user experience beyond the initial page load.

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According to Jeremey Wagner,

“Chrome usage shows that 90% of a user’s activity happens after the initial page load.”

Google recently launched the experimental Interaction to Next Paint (INP) metric at Google I/O 2022 – and it could soon replace FID as the CWV interactivity field metric.

INP paints a more accurate picture of the interactive user experience. It captures clicking, tapping, keyboard, and scrolled tabbing activity, and also measures the page’s average response time for any interaction that occurs.

js conf korea jeremy Wagner intreraction to next paint youtube screenshotScreenshot from YouTube, November 2022js conf korea jeremy Wagner intreraction to next paint youtube screenshot

The HTTP Archive reported a stronger Total Blocking Time (TBT) correlation with INP over FID.

Google continues to experiment on and refine INP.

INP-optimized sites will have a competitive advantage when Google evolves past FID.

Is your website ready for when INP becomes a CWV and affects ranking?

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Closing Thoughts On Using Chrome Canary For SEO

In order to perform well and score high on usability, a site must look, feel, navigate, and load fast – and also be accessible. Delightful design and fast browsing allow for better visibility on search.

We’re seeing better-looking websites now, but it can sometimes come at the cost of a good user experience. Dev teams need to consider the environmental cost of shipping bloated websites.

A website loads the way our developers build them.

Devs have to take into account design, content, performance, accessibility, frameworks, networks, and devices. They need to build sites while balancing priorities from marketing, management, and SEO.

SEO pros and devs can work together to drive better website performance. Google’s out-of-the-box tooling offers a great starting point for technical SEO auditing.

DevTools helps cut down time on debugging and troubleshooting, while Canary lets you streamline CWV reporting with browser automation.

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Find and share the data your devs need to get started fixing SEO issues right away.

More resources: 


Featured Image: Studio Cantath/Shutterstock

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Reddit Post Ranks On Google In 5 Minutes

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Google apparently ranks Reddit posts within minutes

Google’s Danny Sullivan disputed the assertions made in a Reddit discussion that Google is showing a preference for Reddit in the search results. But a Redditor’s example proves that it’s possible for a Reddit post to rank in the top ten of the search results within minutes and to actually improve rankings to position #2 a week later.

Discussion About Google Showing Preference To Reddit

A Redditor (gronetwork) complained that Google is sending so many visitors to Reddit that the server is struggling with the load and shared an example that proved that it can only take minutes for a Reddit post to rank in the top ten.

That post was part of a 79 post Reddit thread where many in the r/SEO subreddit were complaining about Google allegedly giving too much preference to Reddit over legit sites.

The person who did the test (gronetwork) wrote:

“…The website is already cracking (server down, double posts, comments not showing) because there are too many visitors.

…It only takes few minutes (you can test it) for a post on Reddit to appear in the top ten results of Google with keywords related to the post’s title… (while I have to wait months for an article on my site to be referenced). Do the math, the whole world is going to spam here. The loop is completed.”

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Reddit Post Ranked Within Minutes

Another Redditor asked if they had tested if it takes “a few minutes” to rank in the top ten and gronetwork answered that they had tested it with a post titled, Google SGE Review.

gronetwork posted:

“Yes, I have created for example a post named “Google SGE Review” previously. After less than 5 minutes it was ranked 8th for Google SGE Review (no quotes). Just after Washingtonpost.com, 6 authoritative SEO websites and Google.com’s overview page for SGE (Search Generative Experience). It is ranked third for SGE Review.”

It’s true, not only does that specific post (Google SGE Review) rank in the top 10, the post started out in position 8 and it actually improved ranking, currently listed beneath the number one result for the search query “SGE Review”.

Screenshot Of Reddit Post That Ranked Within Minutes

Anecdotes Versus Anecdotes

Okay, the above is just one anecdote. But it’s a heck of an anecdote because it proves that it’s possible for a Reddit post to rank within minutes and get stuck in the top of the search results over other possibly more authoritative websites.

hankschrader79 shared that Reddit posts outrank Toyota Tacoma forums for a phrase related to mods for that truck.

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Google’s Danny Sullivan responded to that post and the entire discussion to dispute that Reddit is not always prioritized over other forums.

Danny wrote:

“Reddit is not always prioritized over other forums. [super vhs to mac adapter] I did this week, it goes Apple Support Community, MacRumors Forum and further down, there’s Reddit. I also did [kumo cloud not working setup 5ghz] recently (it’s a nightmare) and it was the Netgear community, the SmartThings Community, GreenBuildingAdvisor before Reddit. Related to that was [disable 5g airport] which has Apple Support Community above Reddit. [how to open an 8 track tape] — really, it was the YouTube videos that helped me most, but it’s the Tapeheads community that comes before Reddit.

In your example for [toyota tacoma], I don’t even get Reddit in the top results. I get Toyota, Car & Driver, Wikipedia, Toyota again, three YouTube videos from different creators (not Toyota), Edmunds, a Top Stories unit. No Reddit, which doesn’t really support the notion of always wanting to drive traffic just to Reddit.

If I guess at the more specific query you might have done, maybe [overland mods for toyota tacoma], I get a YouTube video first, then Reddit, then Tacoma World at third — not near the bottom. So yes, Reddit is higher for that query — but it’s not first. It’s also not always first. And sometimes, it’s not even showing at all.”

hankschrader79 conceded that they were generalizing when they wrote that Google always prioritized Reddit. But they also insisted that that didn’t diminish what they said is a fact that Google’s “prioritization” forum content has benefitted Reddit more than actual forums.

Why Is The Reddit Post Ranked So High?

It’s possible that Google “tested” that Reddit post in position 8 within minutes and that user interaction signals indicated to Google’s algorithms that users prefer to see that Reddit post. If that’s the case then it’s not a matter of Google showing preference to Reddit post but rather it’s users that are showing the preference and the algorithm is responding to those preferences.

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Nevertheless, an argument can be made that user preferences for Reddit can be a manifestation of Familiarity Bias. Familiarity Bias is when people show a preference for things that are familiar to them. If a person is familiar with a brand because of all the advertising they were exposed to then they may show a bias for the brand products over unfamiliar brands.

Users who are familiar with Reddit may choose Reddit because they don’t know the other sites in the search results or because they have a bias that Google ranks spammy and optimized websites and feel safer reading Reddit.

Google may be picking up on those user interaction signals that indicate a preference and satisfaction with the Reddit results but those results may simply be biases and not an indication that Reddit is trustworthy and authoritative.

Is Reddit Benefiting From A Self-Reinforcing Feedback Loop?

It may very well be that Google’s decision to prioritize user generated content may have started a self-reinforcing pattern that draws users in to Reddit through the search results and because the answers seem plausible those users start to prefer Reddit results. When they’re exposed to more Reddit posts their familiarity bias kicks in and they start to show a preference for Reddit. So what could be happening is that the users and Google’s algorithm are creating a self-reinforcing feedback loop.

Is it possible that Google’s decision to show more user generated content has kicked off a cycle where more users are exposed to Reddit which then feeds back into Google’s algorithm which in turn increases Reddit visibility, regardless of lack of expertise and authoritativeness?

Featured Image by Shutterstock/Kues

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WordPress Releases A Performance Plugin For “Near-Instant Load Times”

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WordPress speculative loading plugin

WordPress released an official plugin that adds support for a cutting edge technology called speculative loading that can help boost site performance and improve the user experience for site visitors.

Speculative Loading

Rendering means constructing the entire webpage so that it instantly displays (rendering). When your browser downloads the HTML, images, and other resources and puts it together into a webpage, that’s rendering. Prerendering is putting that webpage together (rendering it) in the background.

What this plugin does is to enable the browser to prerender the entire webpage that a user might navigate to next. The plugin does that by anticipating which webpage the user might navigate to based on where they are hovering.

Chrome lists a preference for only prerendering when there is an at least 80% probability of a user navigating to another webpage. The official Chrome support page for prerendering explains:

“Pages should only be prerendered when there is a high probability the page will be loaded by the user. This is why the Chrome address bar prerendering options only happen when there is such a high probability (greater than 80% of the time).

There is also a caveat in that same developer page that prerendering may not happen based on user settings, memory usage and other scenarios (more details below about how analytics handles prerendering).

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The Speculative Loading API solves a problem that previous solutions could not because in the past they were simply prefetching resources like JavaScript and CSS but not actually prerendering the entire webpage.

The official WordPress announcement explains it like this:

Introducing the Speculation Rules API
The Speculation Rules API is a new web API that solves the above problems. It allows defining rules to dynamically prefetch and/or prerender URLs of certain structure based on user interaction, in JSON syntax—or in other words, speculatively preload those URLs before the navigation. This API can be used, for example, to prerender any links on a page whenever the user hovers over them.”

The official WordPress page about this new functionality describes it:

“The Speculation Rules API is a new web API… It allows defining rules to dynamically prefetch and/or prerender URLs of certain structure based on user interaction, in JSON syntax—or in other words, speculatively preload those URLs before the navigation.

This API can be used, for example, to prerender any links on a page whenever the user hovers over them. Also, with the Speculation Rules API, “prerender” actually means to prerender the entire page, including running JavaScript. This can lead to near-instant load times once the user clicks on the link as the page would have most likely already been loaded in its entirety. However that is only one of the possible configurations.”

The new WordPress plugin adds support for the Speculation Rules API. The Mozilla developer pages, a great resource for HTML technical understanding describes it like this:

“The Speculation Rules API is designed to improve performance for future navigations. It targets document URLs rather than specific resource files, and so makes sense for multi-page applications (MPAs) rather than single-page applications (SPAs).

The Speculation Rules API provides an alternative to the widely-available <link rel=”prefetch”> feature and is designed to supersede the Chrome-only deprecated <link rel=”prerender”> feature. It provides many improvements over these technologies, along with a more expressive, configurable syntax for specifying which documents should be prefetched or prerendered.”

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See also: Are Websites Getting Faster? New Data Reveals Mixed Results

Performance Lab Plugin

The new plugin was developed by the official WordPress performance team which occasionally rolls out new plugins for users to test ahead of possible inclusion into the actual WordPress core. So it’s a good opportunity to be first to try out new performance technologies.

The new WordPress plugin is by default set to prerender “WordPress frontend URLs” which are pages, posts, and archive pages. How it works can be fine-tuned under the settings:

Settings > Reading > Speculative Loading

Browser Compatibility

The Speculative API is supported by Chrome 108 however the specific rules used by the new plugin require Chrome 121 or higher. Chrome 121 was released in early 2024.

Browsers that do not support will simply ignore the plugin and will have no effect on the user experience.

Check out the new Speculative Loading WordPress plugin developed by the official core WordPress performance team.

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How Analytics Handles Prerendering

A WordPress developer commented with a question asking how Analytics would handle prerendering and someone else answered that it’s up to the Analytics provider to detect a prerender and not count it as a page load or site visit.

Fortunately both Google Analytics and Google Publisher Tags (GPT) both are able to handle prerenders. The Chrome developers support page has a note about how analytics handles prerendering:

“Google Analytics handles prerender by delaying until activation by default as of September 2023, and Google Publisher Tag (GPT) made a similar change to delay triggering advertisements until activation as of November 2023.”

Possible Conflict With Ad Blocker Extensions

There are a couple things to be aware of about this plugin, aside from the fact that it’s an experimental feature that requires Chrome 121 or higher.

A comment by a WordPress plugin developer that this feature may not work with browsers that are using the uBlock Origin ad blocking browser extension.

Download the plugin:
Speculative Loading Plugin by the WordPress Performance Team

Read the announcement at WordPress
Speculative Loading in WordPress

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See also: WordPress, Wix & Squarespace Show Best CWV Rate Of Improvement

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10 Paid Search & PPC Planning Best Practices

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10 Paid Search & PPC Planning Best Practices

Whether you are new to paid media or reevaluating your efforts, it’s critical to review your performance and best practices for your overall PPC marketing program, accounts, and campaigns.

Revisiting your paid media plan is an opportunity to ensure your strategy aligns with your current goals.

Reviewing best practices for pay-per-click is also a great way to keep up with trends and improve performance with newly released ad technologies.

As you review, you’ll find new strategies and features to incorporate into your paid search program, too.

Here are 10 PPC best practices to help you adjust and plan for the months ahead.

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1. Goals

When planning, it is best practice to define goals for the overall marketing program, ad platforms, and at the campaign level.

Defining primary and secondary goals guides the entire PPC program. For example, your primary conversion may be to generate leads from your ads.

You’ll also want to look at secondary goals, such as brand awareness that is higher in the sales funnel and can drive interest to ultimately get the sales lead-in.

2. Budget Review & Optimization

Some advertisers get stuck in a rut and forget to review and reevaluate the distribution of their paid media budgets.

To best utilize budgets, consider the following:

  • Reconcile your planned vs. spend for each account or campaign on a regular basis. Depending on the budget size, monthly, quarterly, or semiannually will work as long as you can hit budget numbers.
  • Determine if there are any campaigns that should be eliminated at this time to free up the budget for other campaigns.
  • Is there additional traffic available to capture and grow results for successful campaigns? The ad platforms often include a tool that will provide an estimated daily budget with clicks and costs. This is just an estimate to show more click potential if you are interested.
  • If other paid media channels perform mediocrely, does it make sense to shift those budgets to another?
  • For the overall paid search and paid social budget, can your company invest more in the positive campaign results?

3. Consider New Ad Platforms

If you can shift or increase your budgets, why not test out a new ad platform? Knowing your audience and where they spend time online will help inform your decision when choosing ad platforms.

Go beyond your comfort zone in Google, Microsoft, and Meta Ads.

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Here are a few other advertising platforms to consider testing:

  • LinkedIn: Most appropriate for professional and business targeting. LinkedIn audiences can also be reached through Microsoft Ads.
  • TikTok: Younger Gen Z audience (16 to 24), video.
  • Pinterest: Products, services, and consumer goods with a female-focused target.
  • Snapchat: Younger demographic (13 to 35), video ads, app installs, filters, lenses.

Need more detailed information and even more ideas? Read more about the 5 Best Google Ads Alternatives.

4. Top Topics in Google Ads & Microsoft Ads

Recently, trends in search and social ad platforms have presented opportunities to connect with prospects more precisely, creatively, and effectively.

Don’t overlook newer targeting and campaign types you may not have tried yet.

  • Video: Incorporating video into your PPC accounts takes some planning for the goals, ad creative, targeting, and ad types. There is a lot of opportunity here as you can simply include video in responsive display ads or get in-depth in YouTube targeting.
  • Performance Max: This automated campaign type serves across all of Google’s ad inventory. Microsoft Ads recently released PMAX so you can plan for consistency in campaign types across platforms. Do you want to allocate budget to PMax campaigns? Learn more about how PMax compares to search.
  • Automation: While AI can’t replace human strategy and creativity, it can help manage your campaigns more easily. During planning, identify which elements you want to automate, such as automatically created assets and/or how to successfully guide the AI in the Performance Max campaigns.

While exploring new features, check out some hidden PPC features you probably don’t know about.

5. Revisit Keywords

The role of keywords has evolved over the past several years with match types being less precise and loosening up to consider searcher intent.

For example, [exact match] keywords previously would literally match with the exact keyword search query. Now, ads can be triggered by search queries with the same meaning or intent.

A great planning exercise is to lay out keyword groups and evaluate if they are still accurately representing your brand and product/service.

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Review search term queries triggering ads to discover trends and behavior you may not have considered. It’s possible this has impacted performance and conversions over time.

Critical to your strategy:

  • Review the current keyword rules and determine if this may impact your account in terms of close variants or shifts in traffic volume.
  • Brush up on how keywords work in each platform because the differences really matter!
  • Review search term reports more frequently for irrelevant keywords that may pop up from match type changes. Incorporate these into match type changes or negative keywords lists as appropriate.

6. Revisit Your Audiences

Review the audiences you selected in the past, especially given so many campaign types that are intent-driven.

Automated features that expand your audience could be helpful, but keep an eye out for performance metrics and behavior on-site post-click.

Remember, an audience is simply a list of users who are grouped together by interests or behavior online.

Therefore, there are unlimited ways to mix and match those audiences and target per the sales funnel.

Here are a few opportunities to explore and test:

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  • LinkedIn user targeting: Besides LinkedIn, this can be found exclusively in Microsoft Ads.
  • Detailed Demographics: Marital status, parental status, home ownership, education, household income.
  • In-market and custom intent: Searches and online behavior signaling buying cues.
  • Remarketing: Advertisers website visitors, interactions with ads, and video/ YouTube.

Note: This varies per the campaign type and seems to be updated frequently, so make this a regular check-point in your campaign management for all platforms.

7. Organize Data Sources

You will likely be running campaigns on different platforms with combinations of search, display, video, etc.

Looking back at your goals, what is the important data, and which platforms will you use to review and report? Can you get the majority of data in one analytics platform to compare and share?

Millions of companies use Google Analytics, which is a good option for centralized viewing of advertising performance, website behavior, and conversions.

8. Reevaluate How You Report

Have you been using the same performance report for years?

It’s time to reevaluate your essential PPC key metrics and replace or add that data to your reports.

There are two great resources to kick off this exercise:

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Your objectives in reevaluating the reporting are:

  • Are we still using this data? Is it still relevant?
  • Is the data we are viewing actionable?
  • What new metrics should we consider adding we haven’t thought about?
  • How often do we need to see this data?
  • Do the stakeholders receiving the report understand what they are looking at (aka data visualization)?

Adding new data should be purposeful, actionable, and helpful in making decisions for the marketing plan. It’s also helpful to decide what type of data is good to see as “deep dives” as needed.

9. Consider Using Scripts

The current ad platforms have plenty of AI recommendations and automated rules, and there is no shortage of third-party tools that can help with optimizations.

Scripts is another method for advertisers with large accounts or some scripting skills to automate report generation and repetitive tasks in their Google Ads accounts.

Navigating the world of scripts can seem overwhelming, but a good place to start is a post here on Search Engine Journal that provides use cases and resources to get started with scripts.

Luckily, you don’t need a Ph.D. in computer science — there are plenty of resources online with free or templated scripts.

10. Seek Collaboration

Another effective planning tactic is to seek out friendly resources and second opinions.

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Much of the skill and science of PPC management is unique to the individual or agency, so there is no shortage of ideas to share between you.

You can visit the Paid Search Association, a resource for paid ad managers worldwide, to make new connections and find industry events.

Preparing For Paid Media Success

Strategies should be based on clear and measurable business goals. Then, you can evaluate the current status of your campaigns based on those new targets.

Your paid media strategy should also be built with an eye for both past performance and future opportunities. Look backward and reevaluate your existing assumptions and systems while investigating new platforms, topics, audiences, and technologies.

Also, stay current with trends and keep learning. Check out ebooks, social media experts, and industry publications for resources and motivational tips.

More resources: 

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Featured Image: Vanatchanan/Shutterstock

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