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Everything You Need To Know

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The SEO field has no shortage of acronyms.

From SEO, to FID, to FCP (First Contentful Paint), to INP – these are some of the more common acronyms you will run into when it comes to page speed.

Google is currently in the process of changing Core Web Vitals.

It has added two new metrics to the mix: INP (Interaction To Next Paint) and TTFB (Time to First Byte).

INP refers to how the page responds to specific user interactions that are programmed into the overall INP metric measured by Google Chrome’s lab data and field data.

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TTFB measures the length of time that it takes for the first byte to be transferred by the server.

TTFB has long been suspected as a driver of significant performance gains, which means that it’s a priority that SEO professionals should be optimizing as part of their SEO process.

Google only recently decided to implement TTFB as a new metric so that SEO pros can measure how their site performs at the server level.

For the purposes of this discussion, we will be sticking with INP this round.

What, Exactly, Is INP?

INP is a new Core Web Vitals metric designed to provide a representation of the overall interaction delay of a page.

It does this by working from a sample of the single longest interactions that happen when a user visits the page.

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If a page has less than 50 total interactions, INP takes into consideration the interaction that has the absolute worst delay.

The measurement of INP is a representation of how long a user has to take in order to interact with the entire page.

This is a direct contrast to FID (First Input Delay).

FID simply measures only the first response of interaction by a particular user.

Here on SEJ, we reported that PageSpeed Insights added this new speed metric to the Google Lighthouse Chrome extension.

The Mechanics Of INP

JavaScript is typically the primary signal of any interaction made on a page.

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Other types of interactivity do exist, including radio buttons, check boxes, the HTML <details> element, and several others.

INP, however, is concerned with the following types of interactions:

  • Any mouse click of an interactive element.
  • Any tap of an interactive element on any device that includes a touchscreen.
  • The press of a key on a physical or onscreen keyboard.

There is more than one event that could be considered an interaction.

Keydown and keyup, for example, are both parts of a keystroke.

Any tap interaction could also include pointerup and pointerdown events.

These are all considered “logical user interactions.”

What Are The Parts Of INP?

Each interaction has a few phases: presentation time, processing time, and input delay.

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The callback of associated events contains the total time involved for all three phases to execute.

The longest duration of a logical user interaction is what will be recorded.

What Is A Good INP Value?

Google’s web.dev documentation explains that a good INP value is around 200 milliseconds or less.

It says the following:

An INP below or at 200 milliseconds means that your page has good responsiveness.

An INP above 200 milliseconds and below or at 500 milliseconds means that your page’s responsiveness needs improvement.

An INP above 500 milliseconds means that your page has poor responsiveness.

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Google also notes that INP is still experimental and that the guidance it recommends regarding this metric is likely to change.

How Is INP Different From First Input Delay?

The main difference between INP and FID is that FID considers only the first interaction on the page.

INP takes into consideration all page interactions.

FID measures the input delay metric only and doesn’t consider event handlers, and how long they take to process.

It also does not consider any delays in presenting the next frame of the interaction.

How To Identify INP Issues On Your Website

In order to find INP issues on a website, we must first consider the differences between lab data and field data.

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The only way to find realistic data on what your users are experiencing is to utilize data from the field.

Lab tools are items that are not going to fully interact with the page, and thus usually need manual input while measuring tasks are being performed.

Otherwise, using an automation tool such as Puppeteer can help you script manual interactions as they occur while you are utilizing lab tools for testing purposes.

About Lab Data

In the context of this kind of testing, lab data is a metric that’s determined through controlling page load using a predefined set of conditions, usually tailored to device and network.

Because these conditions are in a controlled environment, they are known as a lab environment, and this is where the term “lab data” comes from.

About Field Data

Field data, also known as RUM (Real User Monitoring) data, is obtained by monitoring users on a page.

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It measures the performance metrics of individual performances, often providing insight into these certain performance metrics.

Field data is based on real user visits – so this is something where your website may be represented on actual devices, user geographic locations, as well as network conditions of that device.

Putting It All Together

What’s the big deal about FID, INP, field data, and lab data anyway?

Well, field data is provided in Chrome tools that report data on Core Web vVtals.

You can obtain field data from the CrUX Report (or Chrome User Experience Report).

But, the CrUX report is only part of the picture.

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This is why it’s important to collect field data on your own.

Using CrUX by itself cannot provide enough actionable insights to make a real difference in your site’s performance.

Google explains that the most important insight about field data is that it’s not just one number.

It’s actually a distribution of numbers.

This means that for a certain sample of users, it’s possible that your site is going to load very slowly.

For other users, it’s possible your site could load very fast.

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In other words: The field data is a total set of collected performance data from all of your users.

How Can You Measure INP?

While measuring INP is most effective when using combined lab and field data, there are some “easiest” ways to measure this Core Web Vitals metric.

You can use the Google Chrome Extension called Lighthouse, which has a timespan mode.

This mode allows you to more easily monitor exactly what is happening during the page load, which can further help you troubleshoot issues with INP.

You can also utilize theses other lab tools to help you collect your data:

How To Improve Your Own INP Values?

The best way to do this is to optimize your main thread work.

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This means making sure that things like third-party fonts are kept to a minimum (i.e., using system fonts only), and that you don’t use too many plugins that load on the page load.

For example, say that you have a WordPress site with 15 ad plugins that are dedicated to showing ads on your page – and perhaps you don’t necessarily use all of them.

Turning off 90% of these plugins should help improve your INP, and uncomplicate the main thread work – because this is delaying the page load.

Some INP issues arise because people do not optimize their main thread work enough to make sure that things are properly viable from a Core Web Vitals perspective.

Others can be caused by JavaScript files misfirings, and a lack of attention to how things load on the page – especially with larger images.

These are just some, but not all, of the factors that should be optimized for better, more effective INP numbers.

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As well as better overall Core Web Vitals numbers.

Improving Your INP Is Not A Silver Bullet

It’s important to note that improving your INP is not a silver bullet that is guaranteed to deliver instant SEO success.

Instead, it is but one item among many that may need to be completed as part of a batch of quality changes that can help make a difference in your overall SEO performance.

How do you plan on implementing repairing INP in your overall SEO strategy?

More resources:


Featured Image: BestForBest/Shutterstock

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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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Google Limits News Links In California Over Proposed ‘Link Tax’ Law

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A brown cardboard price tag with a twine string and a black dollar sign symbol, influenced by the Link Tax Law, set against a dark gray background.

Google announced that it plans to reduce access to California news websites for a portion of users in the state.

The decision comes as Google prepares for the potential passage of the California Journalism Preservation Act (CJPA), a bill requiring online platforms like Google to pay news publishers for linking to their content.

What Is The California Journalism Preservation Act?

The CJPA, introduced in the California State Legislature, aims to support local journalism by creating what Google refers to as a “link tax.”

If passed, the Act would force companies like Google to pay media outlets when sending readers to news articles.

However, Google believes this approach needs to be revised and could harm rather than help the news industry.

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Jaffer Zaidi, Google’s VP of Global News Partnerships, stated in a blog post:

“It would favor media conglomerates and hedge funds—who’ve been lobbying for this bill—and could use funds from CJPA to continue to buy up local California newspapers, strip them of journalists, and create more ghost papers that operate with a skeleton crew to produce only low-cost, and often low-quality, content.”

Google’s Response

To assess the potential impact of the CJPA on its services, Google is running a test with a percentage of California users.

During this test, Google will remove links to California news websites that the proposed legislation could cover.

Zaidi states:

“To prepare for possible CJPA implications, we are beginning a short-term test for a small percentage of California users. The testing process involves removing links to California news websites, potentially covered by CJPA, to measure the impact of the legislation on our product experience.”

Google Claims Only 2% of Search Queries Are News-Related

Zaidi highlighted peoples’ changing news consumption habits and its effect on Google search queries (emphasis mine):

“It’s well known that people are getting news from sources like short-form videos, topical newsletters, social media, and curated podcasts, and many are avoiding the news entirely. In line with those trends, just 2% of queries on Google Search are news-related.”

Despite the low percentage of news queries, Google wants to continue helping news publishers gain visibility on its platforms.

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However, the “CJPA as currently constructed would end these investments,” Zaidi says.

A Call For A Different Approach

In its current form, Google maintains that the CJPA undermines news in California and could leave all parties worse off.

The company urges lawmakers to consider alternative approaches supporting the news industry without harming smaller local outlets.

Google argues that, over the past two decades, it’s done plenty to help news publishers innovate:

“We’ve rolled out Google News Showcase, which operates in 26 countries, including the U.S., and has more than 2,500 participating publications. Through the Google News Initiative we’ve partnered with more than 7,000 news publishers around the world, including 200 news organizations and 6,000 journalists in California alone.”

Zaidi suggested that a healthy news industry in California requires support from the state government and a broad base of private companies.

As the legislative process continues, Google is willing to cooperate with California publishers and lawmakers to explore alternative paths that would allow it to continue linking to news.

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The Best of Ahrefs’ Digest: March 2024

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The Best of Ahrefs’ Digest: March 2024

Every week, we share hot SEO news, interesting reads, and new posts in our newsletter, Ahrefs’ Digest.

If you’re not one of our 280,000 subscribers, you’ve missed out on some great reads!

Here’s a quick summary of my personal favorites from the last month:

Best of March 2024

How 16 Companies are Dominating the World’s Google Search Results

Author: Glen Allsopp

tl;dr

Glen’s research reveals that just 16 companies representing 588 brands get 3.5 billion (yes, billion!) monthly clicks from Google.

My takeaway

Glen pointed out some really actionable ideas in this report, such as the fact that many of the brands dominating search are adding mini-author bios.

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Example of mini-author bios on The VergeExample of mini-author bios on The Verge

This idea makes so much sense in terms of both UX and E-E-A-T. I’ve already pitched it to the team and we’re going to implement it on our blog.

How Google is Killing Independent Sites Like Ours

Authors: Gisele Navarro, Danny Ashton

tl;dr

Big publications have gotten into the affiliate game, publishing “best of” lists about everything under the sun. And despite often not testing products thoroughly, they’re dominating Google rankings. The result, Gisele and Danny argue, is that genuine review sites suffer and Google is fast losing content diversity.

My takeaway

I have a lot of sympathy for independent sites. Some of them are trying their best, but unfortunately, they’re lumped in with thousands of others who are more than happy to spam.

Estimated search traffic to Danny and Gisele's site fell off a cliff after Google's March updatesEstimated search traffic to Danny and Gisele's site fell off a cliff after Google's March updates
Estimated search traffic to Danny and Gisele’s site fell off a cliff after Google’s March updates 🙁 

I know it’s hard to hear, but the truth is Google benefits more from having big sites in the SERPs than from having diversity. That’s because results from big brands are likely what users actually want. By and large, people would rather shop at Walmart or ALDI than at a local store or farmer’s market.

That said, I agree with most people that Forbes (with its dubious contributor model contributing to scams and poor journalism) should not be rewarded so handsomely.

The Discussion Forums Dominating 10,000 Product Review Search Results

Author: Glen Allsopp

Tl;dr

Glen analyzed 10,000 “product review” keywords and found that:

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My takeaway

After Google’s heavy promotion of Reddit from last year’s Core Update, to no one’s surprise, unscrupulous SEOs and marketers have already started spamming Reddit. And as you may know, Reddit’s moderation is done by volunteers, and obviously, they can’t keep up.

I’m not sure how this second-order effect completely escaped the smart minds at Google, but from the outside, it feels like Google has capitulated to some extent.

John Mueller seemingly having too much faith in Reddit...John Mueller seemingly having too much faith in Reddit...

I’m not one to make predictions and I have no idea what will happen next, but I agree with Glen: Google’s results are the worst I’ve seen them. We can only hope Google sorts itself out.

Who Sends Traffic on the Web and How Much? New Research from Datos & SparkToro

Author: Rand Fishkin

tl;dr

63.41% of all U.S. web traffic referrals from the top 170 sites are initiated on Google.com.

Data from SparktoroData from Sparktoro

My takeaway

Despite all of our complaints, Google is still the main platform to acquire traffic from. That’s why we all want Google to sort itself out and do well.

But it would also be a mistake to look at this post and think Google is the only channel you should drive traffic from. As Rand’s later blog post clarifies, “be careful not to ascribe attribution or credit to Google when other investments drove the real value.”

I think many affiliate marketers learned this lesson well from the past few Core Updates: Relying on one single channel to drive all of your traffic is not a good idea. You should be using other platforms to build brand awareness, interest, and demand.

Want more?

Each week, our team handpicks the best SEO and marketing content from around the web for our newsletter. Sign up to get them directly in your inbox.

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