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Yelp SEO: How to Improve Your Yelp Reviews

Consider this: 90% of all consumers used the Internet to find a local business within the last year. Of that group, 82% read through online reviews in order to learn more about a business. With the average consumer reading about 10 customer reviews online before they trust in a brand, it is all too clear that online reviews play a big part in either converting or deterring potential customers.

In short, good reviews have the ability to make or break any small business. Google won’t rank local businesses without good reviews, and this is why it is so important to invest time and money into making your online reviews one of your most powerful search engine optimization (SEO) weapons.

In the ideal digital marketing scenario, your online reviews will work for you, not against you. But how can you invest time and money into something that you may feel is out of your control? This is where Yelp SEO can come in and bring your business to new heights. 

Here’s everything you need to know about how to improve your Yelp reviews. This effort will not only bring more happy customers to your door, it will also help your website earn keyword rankings that generate consistent website traffic.

Online Reviews and Yelp SEO

While Google doesn’t give specific information about it’s engine optimization and algorithm updates, the experts agree that Google’s primary mission is to bring consumers the most relevant information they can find and from brands they can trust.

What’s a better signal of trust than multiple real reviews from past and present customers? If you’re online review profiles are populated with hundreds of positive reviews, Google will understand your website as providing valuable content that can be trusted. It’s why reputation management specialists focus on closely monitoring online review sites, because Google relies on these platforms to understand the reputation of domains and businesses.

So, what’s the impact of online reviews and SEO?

1. Online Reviews Make up 10% of how Google Displays Search Results

According to BrightLocal, the average consumer will read a business’s reviews for a full 13 minutes and 45 seconds before they make a purchasing decision. This can be a mix of five-star reviews, negative Yelp reviews, or social media comments. Moz tells us that all of these positive and negative reviews work together to make up about 10% of the ranking factors for how Google displays search results.

Positive reviews don’t always mean you’ll show up on page 1 of the search engine result pages (SERPs). In order for SEO to work, it has to be comprehensive and cover on-page and off-site efforts. But Yelp is one of the third-party review sites that Google crawls and looks to when ranking businesses in location-based searches. For local businesses in particular, your Yelp page will play a big part in whether or not you rank.

2. Google Trusts What Customers Say

It’s not that Google doesn’t trust you as a business owner, it’s that Google places much more authority on what a consumer says about their experience compared to what you have to say when promoting your business. 

Google uses reviews as a way to gauge whether or not your business is meeting the needs of the consumers. Multiple 5-star reviews show that customers are having positive interactions with your brand and their needs are being met. Consider positive reviews as a signal of blind trust in your business and brand.

3. Positive reviews lead to a positive online presence

Yelp SEO often works like this: positive reviews lead to positive conversions which leads to a positive online presence. Consumers trust good reviews, which cause them to click. More traffic lets Google know that your website is bringing positive experiences, which in turn results in an increase in your business’s position on the SERPs.

4. Customers may Find your Yelp Page Before your Web Page

Think back to the last time you searched for something specific like “best Chinese restaurant near me.” Chances are, the first or second url in the results was a review site like Yelp. If someone searches for your brand name and you have a Yelp page, that Yelp page will likely show up as one of the top-ranking SERP results, and possibly even higher than your website.

Yelp works by providing a specific space for consumers to write reviews about a specific business. Each business has a Yelp profile that compiles all reviews from consumers, and in turn, creates a star rating and rank system of your business compared to other competitors in your industry and area. The best part of Yelp is that this is a website that is trusted and recognized by millions of users worldwide, and this is why it often performs so well in search engines. If you have your ducks in a row on Yelp, you will likely be rewarded by Google as well.

So with these benefits in mind, why wouldn’t you use Yelp as an SEO tool?

How Google Crawls Yelp to Understand Your Authority and Reputation

Yelp’s algorithm works by ranking different business listings by the category of their offerings and the quality of their reviews. For this reason, earning positive reviews on Yelp can make a big difference in appearing as one of the first results when people use the review site to search for products or services.

But most internet users aren’t using Yelp to search — they are using Google. So what’s even more important than how Yelp sees your reviews is how Google crawls and indexes your Yelp page to determine whether to show your website or Yelp profile over your competitors’ pages.

Google crawls Yelp listings three different ways:

  1. Through keywords. Any business owner will want to include keywords and key phrases about their service and industry in their Yelp profile. Not only will this bring potential consumers the relevant information they are searching for, it will tell Google all they need to know about your business and brand and the extent of what you offer.
  2. Through backlinks. Backlinks are an incredibly important signal of authority for Google, and when other websites link to your Yelp listing, it shows Google you are a brand that is to be trusted. 
  3. Through images. Google is able to crawl pictures easily through something called alt text. Each picture has a specific alt text associated with it, and it is just another way to give Google the context of what your page is about.

When you work on including and improving these three details on your page, you won’t have trouble being crawled and identified by Google.

Yelp and Potential Customers: What your Yelp Profile Communicates About your Business

We all know that content is king when it comes to digital marketing and Yelp SEO is no different. Clear, concise information is incredibly important when it comes to connecting with consumers in all stages of the marketing funnel. 

Everything and anything you write in your Yelp profile will translate back to your business. There are many impactful and creative ways you can target potential customers, and here’s what your Yelp profile communicates about your business.

  1. Your current hours and location. You’ll want to make this information as easily accessible as you can. If your hours or location changes, updating this information is key. If your business has multiple locations, make sure your current addresses are accurate and properly attributed to the right brick-and-mortar locations.
  2. Your services. Not only will your Yelp profile explain what a Yelper needs to know in terms of your business offerings, it will show additional service information that is pivotal to converting a customer. Do you offer takeout? What about curbside, contactless pickup? Do you require reservations? Are you going virtual? Details like these are important to showcase!
  3. Health and safety protocols. It is no secret that your customers’ health and safety concerns have changed drastically within the past year. Customers now want to know about the additional safety and sanitary measures you are enforcing, so they have peace of mind that they will be safe.
  4. Deals and discounts. Are you offering a special sale for the holidays or a special coupon to entice new customers? Showcasing your deals and discounts proudly on your Yelp page is the way to go,
  5. You are a person behind the screen. As consumers, it can be easy to forget that a living, breathing, human runs your business, so use your Yelp listing to show some details about yourself! Take time to post pictures of you and your employees to personalize and stand out from your competitors.

Now that you know what to include, how do you properly optimize your listings?

4 Ways to Optimize your Yelp Listing

Just like we optimize landing pages for SEO, you can optimize your Yelp listing as well, or any other profile on a third-party review site that your business has the ability to create and edit.

 1. Build links with all of your NAP information

We all know that backlinks are a powerful signal of authority to Google. But many small business owners don’t realize that you are able to build backlinks onto your Yelp page. An easy way to do this is by linking your NAP information – your name, address, and phone number. Use this space to include your website URL, blog posts, and social media sites, and you’ll be able to hit a SEO double-whammy.

Remember, there’s no such thing as sharing too many social profiles, websites, or contact information. The more places a potential customer can find you, the better.

2. Build Links to your Yelp Page

We all know that backlinks are a powerful signal of authority to Google. But many small business owners don’t realize that you are able to build backlinks to their Yelp page. And plain and simple, backlinks bring authority to your brand.

3. Optimize for Keywords

Like any other search engine, you’ll want to optimize for relevant keywords about your business and industry. You don’t have to add a lot of keywords, but it’s important to incorporate a few keywords and phrases that you want to pop up when people search for businesses similar to yours. You can use our copy optimizer to identify the focus terms to include in your Yelp profile that will improve your SERP appearances.

4. Optimize your Images

Additionally, you’ll want to optimize your images for keywords as well. It is common for Yelp users to want to look at pictures of your products and services, and yelp actually makes it easy for you by including a special area on your page for pictures and videos.

Customers can take pictures at your business and upload those pictures to Yelp, but it’s important to invest in quality photography and make sure that you have optimized images that you upload into your Yelp profile. Remember to include alt text so Google can read the pictures properly. 

Once your business page is properly optimized, you will get a yelp rating on the authority of your Yelp account. A higher star rating will make a big difference between showing up on the top of the first page of Yelp and the bottom of the page, where no one will look.

How to Improve Yelp Reviews

Before you can use Yelp reviews to your advantage, you have to acquire those reviews from real customers. For newer businesses in particular, building up a base of reviews can feel out of your control, but this isn’t true. Here are some easy ways any business owner can work to improve their Yelp reviews with every customer they have.

Encourage Happy Customers to Leave Positive Reviews

Chances are, a happy customer would love to leave a positive review about your business, but they may just need a reminder! After the positive transaction, all you need to do is simply ask for them to leave you a review on your yelp page and social media sites. Consider adding on a simple reward as an incentive, whether it is a coupon for a percentage off of their next service, or a free item the next time they stop in.

Use Review Generation Software

You may not have time to constantly seek positive reviews, so use review generation software to your advantage. Review generation software will gather, filter, and promote reviews from your customers, all with little effort from you. Programs like BirdEye, TrustPilot, and others can help automate the review generation process and send your customers to the review sites like Yelp that matter the most in your industry.

Respond to Good and Bad Reviews on Your Yelp Page

Engaging with your customers is a surefire way to promote trust in your brand. It is a good business practice to respond to every single review – thank each customer for their business and for taking the time to leave a review.  

If what they posted was about a negative experience, there are a few strategies for how to respond to negative reviews. One way is to offer a solution and your phone number to talk it over in person. You will want to show to any potential customer that you are willing to offer incredible customer service, no matter the issue, and that you are open to coming up with a solution.

Display Yelp Reviews on Your Website

Users deserve to see good reviews about your business, even when they’re not on Yelp! Incorporate some of your favorite reviews in a prominent space on your website for all to see – there’s no such thing as too many humble brags when it comes to your own business!

Share Positive Yelp Reviews on Social Media

In the same vein, make sure to share all your positive Yelp reviews on your social media platforms. Positive reinforcement works when it comes to converting consumers!

Show off your Reviews with Schema.org

If you have earned a five-star rating on Yelp, why not benefit by having those yellow stars appear with search engine results? By adding the aggregateRating schema markup to your site, Google will pull data from multiple review sites — Yelp included — and display your average rating with your SERP result. If you have a lot of positive reviews, this can improve your click-through-rate and make your website stand out.

Fake Reviews: What to Look Out For

Unfortunately, there are some Internet bots out there with the sole purpose of creating fake reviews and jeopardizing the livelihoods of businesses. It is always important to keep an eye out for fake reviews, and here’s what to look out for.

  • Overusing the words “I” and “me.” Usually, when people are lying, they try to make themselves sound credible by using personal pronouns.
  • The timing of the reviews. If you have recently gained a ton of negative reviews in a small timeframe, chances are you could be a victim of a targeted smear campaign.
  • Generic names and profiles with no pictures. Typically, true consumers will have a photo to correspond with their profile and review. Too many reviews with names like “John Smith” and “Mary Johnston” can be a signal these are actually fake accounts.
  • Phrase repetition. Look for the same phrases and keywords repeated over and over in different reviews. 
  • Poor spelling and grammar. Sometimes fake reviews are outsourced to overseas content farms, which can result in the reviews being written in poor English. 

These clues can tell you a lot about whether or not a review is fake, but when in doubt, reach out and respond to the review itself! Fake reviewers will not respond to you, whereas a disgruntled customer will look forward to mending the situation. 

Negative Reviews: What they Might Tell You About Your Products or Business

As a business owner, you will always want to take time to reflect on your business and find opportunities for growth. Looking into your negative reviews can give you some positive insight on your products and businesses, and here’s what your negative reviews might be telling you. 

  • The quality of your product. While your product/services can work for you, they may not work for everybody. Take a look to see if there are any recurring themes about the quality of your product and you may have to go back to the drawing board and reinvent. 
  • The gaps in your customer service. This is especially true if you have a few employees and can’t be hands-on at all times. Negative reviews can tell you what you can’t see firsthand.
  • An opportunity to better yourself. As mentioned previously, as a business owner you should constantly try to fix negative experiences with your brand. So take this time and use it as an opportunity to better yourself. When you are genuine and offer an actual solution for a customer’s problem, you not only increase trust in your brand but you may even increase your conversions as that customer may soon change their mind.

Not all negative reviews have to result in a negative experience for both you and your customer! Use every negative review as an opportunity to grow.

Final thoughts on Yelp SEO

In the world of digital marketing, it is important to utilize all the resources available to you. This includes Yelp SEO, as why wouldn’t you want to bring you business to new heights by leveraging this free tool? With this guide in mind, you will know how to improve yelp reviews, so with a little hard work and effort, your business will thrive.

How to Increase Your Direct Traffic for Better Google Rankings

In the world of digital marketing and search engines, not all traffic is considered equal. It is easy to say that the overarching goal of any digital marketing effort is to simply increase traffic to your website, regardless of how it arrives, while also increasing brand awareness and recognition.

But when it comes to digital marketing strategy and analysis, it is important to accurately hone in on your traffic sources in order to use this data to propel your digital marketing efforts going forward. And while there are plenty of traffic sources that can be easily digested as cut and dry, like traffic from paid search and social media marketing channels, there is one traffic source that can get a bit murky – direct traffic.

Direct traffic is a very important analytical measurement for any small business. Here we explain the ins and outs of direct traffic, how it impacts your Google rankings, and strategies for increasing direct traffic to your website.

What is Direct Traffic?

The basic definition of direct traffic is a web traffic source that comes directly to your website’s landing page without first visiting another website. These consumers basically show up out of the blue, without a track of where they have been before.

With most marketing channels, it is easy to track how consumers land on your website. Search engines have very advanced website tools that can track a consumer’s movement across the Internet. 

If a consumer came to your website from paid search advertising or via social traffic, you can track it. If someone landed on your website’s homepage from an email marketing newsletter, you can track that as well. Same goes for when a buyer converted off your site because of a social media post. But all goes awry when it comes to tracking the amount of direct traffic.

While yes, all traffic is good traffic, it is incredibly important to track where your traffic comes from in order to ensure you’re doing everything you can to gain more visibility online and to boost your business. Luckily, that’s where Google Analytics comes in to help.

How Does Google Measure Direct Traffic?

Google Analytics (GA) is a powerful force for looking inside your website and its multiple traffic sources. When it comes to direct traffic, Google Analytics will report a traffic source as “direct” if it either has no data on how the session arrived on your website or if the web session has been configured in some way to be ignored by GA’s measurement tools.

Generally speaking, the label of direct traffic is usually given to a web session after following a sequence of checks given the information they know. The steps are as follows:

  1. First, they’ll check AdWords parameters to see if the session could in any way be related to a consumer converting from a paid search advertisement.
  2. Secondly, they’ll check if you, as the website user, has set up any campaign overrides to weed out any irrelevant known sources of traffic.
  3. Thirdly, GA looks at specific UTM campaign parameters set up by the owner of the site. A UTM is a small snippet of code that is attached to the end of a URL and is used to track the performance of campaigns.
  4. Next, GA looks into whether or not the traffic has been referred by a search engine, also known as organic traffic.
  5. Then, GA tracks if the user came to the website through the referral of another website, usually through the process of building links and backlinking.
  6. Lastly, GA determines if the user is returning to your site after a timeout period. A timeout period is defined as a customer who visits your website once, leaves, and then returns a week later due to their original organic search.

If all of these six steps cannot determine a traffic source, it will then be labeled as direct traffic.

Using Google Analytics to Understand Direct Traffic

So now that we know what direct traffic is not, how do we categorize it? Google Analytics has a whole host of direct traffic sources that it uses for classification. Here are some of the most common, explained.

Manual URL Entry

Simply put, this is when a consumer punches in your website url directly. Direct visitors come without referral traffic. This could be the homepage of your website, your domain name, or any landing page, it does not matter. Additionally, if you “bookmark” the specific URL, and go there as soon as you open your browser, this counts as a manual URL entry.

An HTTPS to HTTP Redirect

We all know that an HTTPS URL with a SSL certificate is more secure to use and will help to protect your personal information. But, what many people don’t know is that an HTTPS URL actually carries a lot of consumer data on it. Unfortunately, not all URLs on the Internet are HTTPS, so there may be times when a user follows a link from an HTTPS site and goes directly to an HTTP one, which means the data is lost as it is not secure anymore. So, if you are noticing a huge spike in your direct traffic, it could be that one of your established backlinks is not a secure website.

Additionally, if your website is not an HTTPS, then you are losing out on a ton of data. Migrating your website to a more secure user interface will ensure that all your traffic referrals from other secure sites can be accurately tracked.

Improper Redirects

Similar to the HTTPS to HTTP scenario, improper redirects are a big culprit behind direct traffic. This includes anything from meta refreshes – which is the practice of instructing a web browser to automatically refresh the current page after a certain amount of time on the site– to JavaScript redirects. Both options wipe important data, so it is important that you monitor and become meticulous with any side-server redirects you’re running.

Broken or Missing Code

This can easily happen if you have recently launched a few landing pages and forgot to use Google Analytics tracking code, which is also known as a UTM parameter. To make it easier to understand here’s an example of how GA would tabulate the traffic in this situation.

  1. First, a user will arrive on the landing page that doesn’t have the updated UTM tag tracking.
  2. They click on a link to a deeper page of your website that has UTM set up. GA only counts a session from the second page visited; so now the second page is seen as the landing page.  This is classified as a “self-referral” and counts for traffic, but is not accurate as it misses the first step of the customer’s journey. 

However, simply adding UTM parameters to the new landing page is not the only thing you have to do to get more accurate results on your traffic referrals. You must do an Analytics report and audit, to ensure no URLs have fallen between the cracks.

A Click From a Document

Links in documents such as Microsoft Word, PowerPoint, or even PDFs do not pass referrer information. So GA will automatically classify these as direct traffic, and unfortunately, this is unavoidable to a certain degree. But since links embedded in documents aren’t always used, it is safe to say that if you are noticing a small percentage of direct traffic and can’t figure out why, it is most likely due to the small number of clicks from documents.

Traffic From Apps and Email

In the same vein, mobile apps and desktop apps don’t have tracking in them, unless it is made clear beforehand. Same goes with some email providers, such as Outlook, that simply doesn’t include any referral data.

Again, this is to be expected and can’t be changed, but we suggest looking at the bigger picture when analyzing your direct traffic – are you noticing a lot of direct traffic sources coming in right after an App launch or upgrade, or right after you send out an email campaign to personal emails? Chances are, it has to do with the embedded links there.

Dark Social Messaging Apps

Social media is something that is well-known and understood by most marketers. But, like the dark web, there are some sources of “dark social media” that can be quite confusing for experienced digital marketers to even understand. While it is not necessarily a bad thing, a dark social media practice refers to a method of social sharing that can’t be tracked. 

The multiple social channels tend to make it easy to track and see who shared what social media posts; a post from your business is shared by a consumer, which is then shared by a friend. But dark social media refers to links sent within messaging apps and private chats. And this trend is growing rapidly, recent studies show that a full 80% of consumers’ outbound sharing of different websites and links are through private messaging, like Facebook messenger, and LinkedIn that is unable to be tracked.

With all of these types of search traffic, it can be a bit confusing for website owners to figure out what to do when it comes to their marketing strategy. This is why it is very important to invest in your organic search efforts so you can analyze, strategize, and not miss a large marketing opportunity.

Direct Traffic and SEO

A strong amount of direct traffic is actually a quality indicator to Google that your site is reputable and well trusted. If internet users are typing your url directly into their internet browser, it likely means they are very familiar with your brand, and didn’t need to go to a search engine to find you. 

Although the goal is to get internet users to discover your website in search, having those same visitors return to your site again and again through direct traffic is very beneficial to your SEO in the long run. 

Search engine algorithms use branded and direct traffic as comparative metrics to your competitors. Unlike other SEO strategies like link building or online reviews, branded traffic is hard to fake. For this reason it is an effective way for Google to measure your site’s reputation and popularity among your industry peers. 

Beyond Google Analytics, Google can also measure direct traffic of those users who use Google Chrome for their internet browser. Google Chrome allows Google to measure people navigating to your site directly in the URL bar.

This doesn’t mean that you forget about your SEO efforts. It just means that once an internet user has already discovered your site through your digital marketing efforts — you want to leave a strong enough impression that they come directly to your url again without having to find you again through a search engine. If they do, it is a great sign that your website has the kind of content that builds brand awareness and loyalty.

How to Drive Direct Traffic to Your Site with High-Value Content Assets

If you’re wondering how to improve your direct traffic sources, the answer is simple: content assets. Content is quite useful from a technical and SEO standpoint, in that it is beneficial for keyword placement, backlinking, and to provide information to the prospective customer. But, it can be just as helpful when it comes to promoting brand awareness and recognition and bringing users directly to your site.

Think of it this way; when a customer sees something useful with your brand name on it, they are more likely to remember you, go directly to your website at a different time, and convert. Providing valuable content, in a world that is full of information, can build trust with people who don’t even know you. 

So why wouldn’t you take advantage of this? Gone are the days where word of mouth marketing is the best way to get a traffic referral. Use our digital world to your advantage by creating some (or all!) of these high-value content assets.

Resource Pages

A resource page is a simple page on your own site with helpful information and links about a particular topic. It is seen as a resource for your industry and as a knowledge base for both potential and returning customers. Typically, resource pages have content that links to a variety of sources that are relevant to the topic, like ebooks, blogs or articles, in-depth reviews, tutorial videos, and more. 

Look at a resources page as a collection of assets that is continually updated on your site and provides tons of value to the user. For example, say you are a real estate agent. A resource page could include market analysis, recent news articles, links to trusted contractors, appraisers, and more. The more often you update the resource page, the more often users will want to come back to see what new information or resources have been added there. 

Resource pages are usually geared toward those who are more familiar with your industry and are seeking out additional information that enhances their knowledge of the products or services you offer. They are a great content asset that can bring direct traffic to your site for the long term.

Regularly Published Blog Content

It is incredibly important to publish regular content on your website. Blog content gives you the opportunity to do a variety of things: Target new keywords, internally link to your high-value landing pages, as well as show users your expertise. Popular blogs often have a new post every day, but once or twice a week is a realistic goal for any brand. If you earn a faithful readership, those users will likely return to your site via bookmarks or branded traffic — both of which are great for building your site authority. 

When it comes to SEO best practices, it is never enough to simply post content once in a while. Instead, you should make it a habit to regularly write blog posts and share it out with your social media channels. Once you have a regular readership and build up your site authority, you can open up your blog for guest posts as well. If you do this, other leaders in your space will want to contribute, and they will likely direct traffic to your site by sharing their post on their own website, emails, newsletters, or social media channels.

Engaging Visuals or Infographics

Internet users love visual content, which makes it even more important to make sure your website has visual assets. Video content, infographics, and more are all great visual tools that will make your website and brand name stand out. If you publish these types of visual content regularly, visitors will remember your website and type it directly into their search bar when they want to see what new visual content you’ve created.

Useful Tools

Does your company have something special about them, and can share it with the world in the form of a tool? A useful tool, especially in the digital marketing space, can work wonders with bringing direct traffic to your site and converting consumers. For example, LinkGraph’s SEO tools can help you monitor your website, analyze your data, and strategize on the next digital marketing tactic and best practice you can use. We have some users who utilize these tools daily. 

It’s important to remember that you don’t have to be a huge business like Google to offer valuable content to your users. The best part of creating valuable, high-quality content is that you will be using what makes your business special to help others. And in return, you’ll grow your brand to become one that can be trusted.

The Real Impact of Direct Traffic on Search Engine Rankings

At the end of the day, Google wants to make sure its users get the information they need, from brands they can trust, all with a simple Google search. With this in mind, they actually reward websites with strong direct traffic as they believe direct website traffic is one of the most influential signals of trust in a brand as it shows Google the domain has high authority and value. So in return, Google will place your domain higher in the Search Engine Result Pages, which is the ultimate goal behind SEO.

In closing, direct traffic is an incredibly useful tool to help increase your Google rankings and in turn, your brand awareness. If you need help understanding your direct traffic sources and where your website can level up your content assets, contact our professionals at LinkGraph.

The Page Experience Update: New SEO Ranking Factors for 2021

In their everlasting quest to provide users with the best results for search queries, Google recently announced that page experience metrics will soon be included in ranking algorithms.

Aptly referred to as the Google Page Experience Update, the revised algorithm will consider factors such as mobile-friendliness, web safety, and interstitials, in addition to a site’s overall UI/UX. Rolling out in early 2021, this is the first update to heavily focus on a user’s experience with each part of a web page.

Those websites that don’t prioritize creating a high-quality, engaging page experience for users will likely see a drop in their keyword rankings. However, site owners who focus their efforts on following proper user experiences best practices will be better situated to sail through the update without any negative impacts to their overall search visibility.

Google’s Updating Algorithm

While Google’s impending update might seem Earth-shattering, Google has a long and varied history of updating its algorithm. In 2018 alone, Google launched over 3,000 updates to how the browser produces search results. These types of updates range from large to small, and they usually include changes to indexation, data, search UI’s, webmaster tools, and ranking factors.

All of these updates play into the many algorithms that power every search. Google uses algorithms to help fulfill a specific function, grouped into one larger, core algorithm. Sound complex? We promise it’s not. Here is a breakdown of the different types of ranking factors used by Google:

  • Content: The most popular content algorithm is known as Panda, and it helps Google judge relevant content, penalizing and rewarding content based on specific parameters.
  • Backlinks: The Penguin update helps Google determine if a link is spammy and deserves to be factored in with the crawling and indexing process.
  • Organizing: All this information has to be stored somewhere, and there are specific algorithms to help with that.
  • User Experience: In addition to your great content, Google needs to see if your website brings valuable information to users. It does this by rating your website’s user experience (UX) and factoring it into the search engine organic results.

What is UX?

Simply put, user experience is the study of how users interact with your website. User experience targets potential users at all steps of their journey and helps you get into your customer’s mind before they come to your website, during their time on the site, and after they leave.

To many business owners, a good user experience equates to a pretty website. While it is always a good idea to have an aesthetically pleasing website, a few pretty graphics won’t cause your customers to convert.

Instead, your website’s interface needs to be optimized with the consumers in mind. Here are some user experience statistics that drive home the sheer importance of creating a good page experience:

When it comes to your website, there are likely hundreds, if not thousands, of competitors offering products and services similar to yours. With this in mind, you can’t risk that your potential customer’s first impression of you is impacted by low-quality UX. Staying on top of user experience trends and best practices has always been important to earning new customers, but it will now be essential to showing up in search results.

What Is the Google 2021 Page Experience Update?

The thing about Google’s algorithm updates is that they don’t release all the information needed for webmasters to optimize their websites perfectly. Due to trade secrets and proprietary information, Google only releases minimal information about their upcoming algorithms. Then, it is up to every web developer and SEO expert to infer how to make optimizations to best match the new ranking factors.

It’s important to understand that if your website is not properly optimized for these algorithm changes, your rankings could drop significantly, thus losing visibility and potential customer conversions. Luckily, we’ve done the heavy lifting for you by outlining the key information you need to know to ensure your website provides the kind of page experience that will be most valued by Google.

What We Know So Far – New Core Web Vitals

In May, Google released a tool named Core Web Vitals, a set of metrics that measure a website’s speed/loading time, responsiveness and interactivity, and visual stability. These metrics will be the foundation of the 2021 algorithm update, as Google will use these three benchmarks, plus a new signal, to help site owners measure a website’s holistic user experience.

While we know that these new measures are subject to change and evolve over time, here’s the breakdown of the three basic metrics:

Largest Contentful Paint (LCP)
(measures site speed and loading time)

LCP reports the render time of the largest image or block of text visible within a web page’s viewport. Simply put, it relates the time it takes for your webpage to load the biggest piece of content on a page. An ideal LCP would be within 2.5 seconds of loading the page.

First Input Delay (FID)
(measures interactivity)

FID measures a consumer’s first impression of your website’s interactivity and responsiveness. It does so by monitoring how long it takes from when a user first interacts with a web page (i.e., clicking on a button) to how long it takes for the browser to respond to that action. Think of it as how long it takes for a user to press a button and for that information to appear. An ideal FID is under 100 milliseconds.

Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS)
(measures visual stability)

Have you ever been scrolling on a website and are just about to click on a button, when the layout moves and you are all of a sudden in a different portion of the page? That is a layout shift, and if your website has a lot of them, it can hamper your user experience.

Visual stability is exactly that—how stable the webpage is when it loads—and if the page stays steady throughout a consumer’s scroll. CLS measures how many times a user experiences unexpected layout shifts, with the ideal metric for this being less than 0.1.

As a best practice, to ensure that you are meeting the right target for each of these metrics, it is recommended you test and monitor about 75% of all pages on your website. It is important to understand that these Core Web Vital metrics are user-centered metrics that give real-world data to see and understand how users interact with your website.

What We Know So Far – Page Experience Signals

A better page experience leads to deeper engagement and allows consumers to get more done. There are already existing page experience metrics that Google uses to help webmasters monitor their performance, including:

  • Mobile Friendliness: Not all searches are created equal, meaning your website should perform on mobile phones at the same level it does on desktop. This new signal will factor more heavily into SEO.
  • Safe Browsing: This metric ensures the security and safety of your website, verifying there is not any harmful content on it.
  • HTTPS Security: Having an HTTPS tag on your website means it is safe and secure for users, and their information isn’t at risk of being stolen.
  • Intrusive Interstitial Guidelines: Many websites have a ton of intrusive pop-ups that get in the way of a user finding the information they need. Because of this, Google has created a set of guidelines on how to include pop-ups on a webpage without severely hampering the user’s experience as a whole.

When 2021 rolls around, Google will combine these existing page experience signals with the new and improved Core Web Vitals metrics to rank a website’s overall user experience.

How to Prepare for Google’s 2021 Page Experience Update

All this information on search engine functionality and algorithms may sound complicated, but don’t worry. There are many easy steps anyone can take to prepare their website for the newly important aspects of page experience. Here are a few of the steps you can take to maintain and improve your SEO.

Know the Tools Available to You

There are plenty of free tools available to you that will allow you to monitor these new ranking factors on your website. Using them to consistently monitor your own website will not only help your user experience metrics soar but bring more potential customers to convert. A few examples include:

Audit Your Site Across Devices

If you have both a smartphone and computer, then you likely know the way in which different devices load pages differently, both in terms of visuals and page speed. There are some tools that can help you audit your website without having to purchase a truckload of devices.

  • With Responsinator, you can test out how your website looks on a plethora of mobile devices, from phones to tablets. This is a great, free way to ensure that the actual rendering of your page is not lost in translation between different devices.
  • CrossBrowserTesting allows you to test out both the appearance and performance of your website on over 2,000 different browsers and devices. This is a great way to ensure that your site not only looks but also performs optimally across a range of formats.

Improving Your PSI Score

Google’s PageSpeed Insights tool lets you know how well your website performs for both desktop and mobile browsers. It also provides detailed information that can be used to deliver a faster user experience. If you find that your PSI is scoring less than ideal (anywhere below a 90), then you’ll want to take some measures to boost your page speed. Here are some ideas to consider:

  • Compress Your Images: Large image files are a significant contributor to longer load times. Luckily, there are many free tools available that can help you compress your files and diminish the time it takes to load them. If you host your page on WordPress, then Smush is a handy plugin to optimize and compress images, one you don’t need to be an SEO expert to understand.
  • Use a Browser Cache: Browser caching is another simple fix that significantly improves the speed of your page. Essentially, a browser cache allows a web browser to remember commonly occurring elements of your site, such as header and footer material. This way, users won’t have to reload this material every time they click on a new page on your site. For WordPress users, W3 Total Cache is a tool we’ve found useful.
  • Implement Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP): Originally used for news sites, AMP pages are essentially stripped-down versions of existing pages that can load up more quickly on mobile devices. While not necessary for pages loading optimally, AMP can be a boon to pages that are currently lagging. It’s likely you’ve already encountered AMP on your phone, noted by the little, encircled lightning bolt in the page’s corner.

Have a Benchmark

It is of the utmost importance to understand where your website stands before you make changes. We all know that having the top spot in the search engine result pages is our top goal, but, if anything, the announcement of this new algorithm means that it is time to shift focus to include a user’s experience.

So you need to test, test, and test! Use the free tools above on each page of your site and move slowly. Take note of what is working and what isn’t in order to be best prepared. This way, whenever you make changes, you’ll be able to track your results easily and won’t be sidelined with the introduction of Google’s search algorithm next year.

Optimize Your Content

Your website is nothing if not a place for your potential customers to gain information, so be sure to optimize your content, one of the most important Google ranking factors. Our landing page optimizer is the best way to improve your on-page content (you can access it by setting up a free account). Using this tool, you can target up to five keywords and take immediate steps to give your content more topical-depth and authority.

But you can’t just put the content on your page without any organization, as this is where header tags come in. The proper use of headers such as the title tags and header tags will not only segment out your information into easily digestible chunks, it will also make it easier for Google to crawl and index. And don’t forget—these subheadings are a great way to optimize your target keywords, as the more prominent they are on your page and your URL, the more Google will believe the information you are creating is valuable content.

Don’t Forget Images

Yes, it is important to have original content on your website. However, it is much more important to diversify the types of content you use, as images are a significant Google ranking factor, in addition to how they engage the searcher. The easiest way to use images is to put them at the top of the page, grabbing the user’s attention as soon as they get on a specific landing page. Make sure to optimize these images by incorporating relevant keywords in the alt text, so in case of a problem with loading the page, users can see what the photos are meant to be used for.

Stay Informed

Google’s power is that we don’t always know what to expect when they roll out a new change. The websites at the top of a Google search can always change, so you need to stay informed to stay ahead of the game.

New information regularly comes out on how to optimize your website with multiple ranking factors in mind; it’s essential to closely monitor your website, keeping tabs on ranking changes. Especially since it can take weeks (and sometimes months) for Google to register changes to a page, you’ll want to check up on the SERPs post-update to see which types of UX features are boosting your rankings.

As you can see, there isn’t just one answer on how to get to the top of the Google search results. That is why Linkgraph.io is here to help you and your website stay on top of the trends, as and when they happen, and make sure that you understand what these shifts mean for you. So when it comes to the new Google 2021 Page Experience Update, we have one thing to say to Google: Bring it on.