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Cumulative Layout Shift – Overview of 2021 Google Ranking Factor via @sejournal, @martinibuster

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Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS) is a Google metric that measures a user experience event and became a ranking factor in 2021.

That means it’s important to understand what CLS is and how to optimize for it.

Definition of Cumulative Layout Shift

What is Cumulative Layout Shift?

CLS is the unexpected shifting of webpage elements while the page is still downloading. The kinds of elements that tend to cause shift are fonts, images, videos, contact forms, buttons, and other kinds of content.

Minimizing CLS is important because pages that shift around can cause a poor user experience.

A poor CLS score is indicative of coding issues that can be solved.

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Why CLS Happens

According to Google, there are five reasons why Cumulative Layout Shift happens:

  1. Images without dimensions.
  2. Ads, embeds, and iframes without dimensions.
  3. Dynamically injected content.
  4. Web Fonts causing FOIT/FOUT.
  5. Actions waiting for a network response before updating DOM.

Images and videos need to have the height and width dimensions declared in the HTML. With regard to responsive images, make sure that the different images sizes for the different viewports use the same aspect ratio.

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Google recommends using AspectRatioCalculator.com to calculate the aspect ratios. It’s a good resource.

Ads Can Cause CLS

This one is a little tricky to deal with. One way to deal with ads that cause CLS is to style the element where the ad is going to show.

For example, if you style the div to have a specific height and width then the ad will be constrained to those.

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There are two solutions if there’s a lack of inventory and an ad doesn’t show up.

If an element containing an ad does not show an ad, you can set it so that an alternative banner ad or placeholder image is used to fill the space.

Alternatively, for some layouts where an ad fills an entire row on the top of perhaps a column on the right or left gutter of a webpage, if the page does not show up there won’t be a shift. It won’t make a difference either on mobile or desktop. But that depends on the theme layout.

You’ll have to test that out if ad inventory is an issue.

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Dynamically Injected Content

This is content that is injected into the webpage.

For example, in WordPress, you can link to a YouTube video or a Tweet and WordPress will display the video or tweet as an embedded object.

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Web-Based Fonts

Downloaded web fonts can cause what’s known as Flash of invisible text (FOIT) and Flash of Unstyled Text (FOUT).

A way to prevent that is to use rel=”preload” in the link for downloading that web font.

Lighthouse can help you diagnose what is causing CLS.

CLS Can Sneak in During Development

Cumulative layout shift can slip through during the development stage. What can happen is that many of the assets needed to render the page are loaded onto a browser’s cache.

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The next time a developer or publisher visits the page under development, they won’t notice a layout shift because the page elements are already downloaded.

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That’s why it’s useful to have a measurement in the lab or in the field.

How Cumulative Layout Shift is Calculated

The calculation involves two metrics/events. The first is called Impact Fraction.

Impact Fraction

Impact fraction is a measurement of how much space an unstable element takes up in the viewport.

A viewport is what you see on the mobile screen.

When an element downloads and then shifts, the total space that the element occupied, from the location that it occupied in the viewport when it’s first rendered to the final location when the page is rendered.

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The example that Google uses is an element that occupies 50% of the viewport and then drops down by another 25%.

When added together, the 75% value is called the Impact Fraction and it’s expressed as a score of 0.75.

Distance Fraction

The second measurement is called the Distance Fraction. The distance fraction is the amount of space that the page element has moved from the original position to the final position.

In the above example, the page element moved 25%.

So now the Cumulative Layout Score is calculated by multiplying the Impact Fraction by the Distance Fraction:

0.75 x 0.25 = 0.1875

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There’s some more math and other considerations that go into the calculation. What’s important to take away from this is that the score is one way to measure an important user experience factor.

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How to Measure CLS

There are two ways to measure CLS. Google calls the first way in the Lab. The second way is called in the Field.

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In the lab means simulating an actual user downloading a webpage. Google uses a simulated Moto G4 for generating the CLS score within the lab environment.

Lab tools are best for understanding how a layout may perform before pushing it live to users. It gives publishers the opportunity to test a layout for issues.

Lab tools consist of Chrome Dev Tools and Lighthouse.

Understand Cumulative Layout Shift

It’s important to understand Cumulative Layout Shift. It’s not necessary to understand how to do the calculations yourself.

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But understanding what it means and how it works is key as this has now become part of the Core Web Vitals ranking factor.


Featured image credit: Paulo Bobita

Searchenginejournal.com

SEO

7 Methods To Research & Analyze Your Audience For SEO

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7 Methods To Research & Analyze Your Audience For SEO

When I describe SEO, I explain that it is a mix of marketing, technical know-how, and psychology.

From a marketing perspective, you must have an overall understanding of your product, the problems it solves, and how to best communicate to your audience.

From a technical perspective, you must be able to create a foundation for your website that improves search performance.

Now, from a psychological perspective… that is where an SEO can really make a difference.

If you can learn how to not only identify your ideal website visitor but also determine who they are and what motivates them, your SEO work will really pay off. You’ll have the traffic numbers and also the ROI to support your efforts.

SEO isn’t just about the numbers (i.e., keyword ranking positions, number of backlinks, traffic, etc.). It is also about understanding the audience and building an SEO campaign around that information.

When SEO is centered around the right audience, targeted traffic increases, which leads to more conversions.

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There are several methods that will help you research and analyze your audience for SEO.

As you will see in the list below, there are tools weaved throughout each method to make things easier along the way.

1. Use Keywords To Gather Demographics Data

Keyword research is one of the core tasks of SEO. Keywords should be targeted and relevant to your products or services, which is something you likely already know.

Once you have a solid list of keywords, select the top five that represent your brand the best and find out the demographics associated with those words and phrases.

Google Trends will provide you with demographic information tied to the location and will show you how the keyword has trended over time.

Google Trends really came in handy during the pandemic when people’s online behaviors were quickly shifting.

One of my clients publishes recipes, and the question came up regarding the types of recipes people were searching for when they were stuck at home.

It was banana bread.

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Apparently, comfort food was the focus when we couldn’t leave our homes. You can see in the screenshot below how the trend for “banana bread” skyrocketed.

Screenshot from Google Trends, June 2022

But, what about the demographic data?

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Google Trends provides great data on the location, but there is also another tool I like to use for further demographic information, Demographics.io. This tool ties demographic data to keywords.

Using the same banana bread example, below is the data of people who were searching this keyword.

Demographics toolScreenshot from Demographics.io, June 2022

Tip: How To Apply This Information

Identifying demographic information, including age, gender, and location can help you in SEO in many ways.

You can look for local link opportunities in the geographic areas where queries occur.

In terms of age and gender, you can determine topics, interests, and other terminology that is relevant to those groups.

2. Identify Who Is Visiting Your Website

This method is kind of like painting the target around the arrow.

However, it is important to understand who is coming to your website and then you can determine if that is the correct audience.

One of the easiest ways to get this information is from Google Analytics.

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Under the Audience section, you are able to view a range of audience information, including age, gender, location, and interests, as shown below:

Analytics DemographicsScreenshot from Google Analytics, June 2022

Tip: How To Apply This Information

This data can give insight into the audience and will help you as you recommend content topics and target geographic areas.

On the other hand, you might look at this information and realize that it does not align with your organization’s target markets.

In that case, you need to take a close look at your keywords and content to make sure there is no misalignment.

3. Analyze Other Brands

To gather information about your target audience, you can look beyond your own website and analyze other brands and competitors.

You would be looking for demographics and psychographics – basically, you want to collect as many insights as possible. The following tools can help you with this type of analysis.

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Quantcast

Quantcast pulls together insights on purchase behaviors, occupations, device usage, demographics, domain affinity, and more. The example below is an analysis of Goodreads.com.

Analysis of Goodreads.comScreenshot from Quantcast, June 2022

 

Analysis of Goodreads.comScreenshot from Quantcast, June 2022

Audiense

Note: I love this tool and use it often.

According to Audiense.com, they build the audience using eight different criteria, “which can be combined together allowing the creation of highly targeted audiences: Demography, Relationships, Behavior (activity), Conversations, IBM Watson Personality Insights, Location, Interests, and Twitter profile.”

Audiense then creates audience segments by “clustering individuals based on ‘who knows who’ i.e., how these individuals are interconnected. We take into account who follows who and cluster them together – for instance, if person A follows person B then they’ll be clustered together.”

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The first screen of the report provides a snapshot of the audience data, as shown below.

Audiense InsightsScreenshot from Audiense, June 2022

What is so great about this tool is that you can drill down even more. Just check out the breakdown of information available (see the red box on the screenshot).

Audiense Insights GoodreadsScreenshot from Audiense, June 2022

Tip: How To Apply This Information

Similar to the last method, this data can give insight into the audience and will help you as you recommend content topics and target geographic areas.

You might also find some great link building ideas based on your interests.

4. Use Social Insights

Social platforms are one of the quickest ways to get information about an audience.

You can view follower/fan information directly on your company’s Facebook page, as shown below:

Facebook InsightsScreenshot from Facebook, June 2022

You can also view competitors’ and other brands’ audience information on Followerwonk.

What’s great about this tool is it also provides you with a word cloud to show you what users are talking about:

Followerwonk word cloudScreenshot from Followerwonk, June 2022

Tip: How To Apply This Information

Specifically, the word cloud in Followerwonk can help you identify other keywords you might have missed and can also present content marketing ideas.

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5. Send Out Surveys

This method is the most straightforward out of all of them on this list. If you want to understand your audience better, send out a survey.

To get a decent number of surveys returned, keep it short and sweet. Ask questions about basic demographics, overall interests, pain points, and needs.

Here is a great resource on how to create your survey: How To Create & Use Surveys For Content Marketing.

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Tip: How To Apply This Information

Use the information you gather in the survey to identify content opportunities, including images and videos, keyword targets, etc.

6. Identify Questions

With Google increasingly showing answers directly in SERPs, identifying common user questions has become that much more important.

Plus, we want to anticipate the long-tail queries of our potential audience, so we can get in front of them at the right time. There are many tools that provide common questions, including:

These tools pull from various data sources, so it is worthwhile to check out them all. Below is an example from AnswerThePublic.

Search listening tool AnswerThePublicScreenshot from AnswerThePublic, June 2022
Electric cars keyword from Answer The PublicScreenshot from AnswerThePublic, June 2022

Tip: How To Apply This Information

Create content around common questions to attract long-tail searches among your audience and to increase your odds of showing up as a direct answer in Google SERPs.

7. Research Secondary Data

Once you know age/interests/etc. of your audience, you can fill in the blanks through further research. Look for studies regarding one of the key aspects of your audience.

For example, if you determine that your audience is in the Baby Boomer generation, head to Google Scholar and look for published research on this group.

Tip: How To Apply This Information

Use this additional research to sketch your personas and get a better view of who it is you are trying to target via SEO.

Final Thoughts

It might seem like a lot of extra work to dive into your audience before getting into SEO tasks. However, it is well worth the time.

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You will be able to drive better traffic to your website and improve your ROI on SEO.

More Resources:


Featured Image: fizkes/Shutterstock

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