Category Archives for Search Engine Optimization

Google Updates in 2021

Google’s Crazy Year of Updates

You never know what’s going to happen when it comes to SEO, but 2021 stands out. Compared to 2020, we had more than 6 confirmed Google Updates and even more unconfirmed updates. Google also made some refinements to rankings and to how the SERPs (search engine result pages) work.

“Summer of Updates”

Not only did we have the two back to back Core Updates in June and July, we got several Spam Updates, the Product Review Update, and the Page Experience rollout for Mobile for a busy 2021 “Summer of Updates”.

Per SEMrush, desktop results for January 2021 through October 2021 had 68% more high volatility days than in 2020. Mobile was even tumultuous with 84% more volatile days.

Google Search keeps evolving

2021 also saw Passages Ranking, the final phase of Mobile Indexing, and a change in how Google generates web titles.

The latter caused consternation among SEOs and a flurry of tweets showing examples of crappy web titles in the Google SERPs snippets. Below is an example where Google got it wrong even for its own web site.

Example of Google's web title generation having confusing results
Google Ads page a victim of the web title change in August

Fortunately Google adjusted the system in September and it has been performing better.

Google 2021 Updates

So much happened in 2021, I found myself losing track. Accordingly, I created this post as a reference for myself and others.

I realize that 2021 is not even done yet and we might be in for more change, (update: literally as I am pushing the Publish button on this post, there is another Core Update rolling out) however hopefully it will get quieter towards the end of the year.

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LCP is part of the Core Web Vitals

How to find the LCP (Largest Contentful Paint) HTML Element

So Google Search Console has told you you have pages with poor LCP. Or you have run Google Lighthouse on a page that complains of a LCP longer than 4 seconds.

LCP, Largest Contentful Paint, is one of the new Core Web Vitals, which include FID (First Input Delay) and CLS (Cumulative Layout Shift). The Core Web Vitals are part of Google’s new ranking factor: Page Experience that will be implemented in 2021.

But which element on your page is the LCP?

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HTML Title tag and SEO Guide

HTML Title Tag and SEO Resource Guide and Checklist

The HTML title tag is a HTML element that defines the title of a web page. HTML document titles are used in a number of ways, including by the search engines such as Google.

Title tags are significant for SEO because:

  1. They are used as a ranking signal by search engines 
  2. They appear in the search engine result pages as the clickable headline of a search listing (commonly called snippets). 

Title tags are different than, and should not be confused with the H1 tag which also sometimes is referred to as the title of a page.

Unlike a H1 tag, you won’t find the title tag appearing anywhere on the web page. Like HTML meta tags, the title tag is part of a collection of tags that convey information about the page rather than containing the text that is visible is on the web page. 

Also Known As

  • Page titles
  • SEO titles

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individual jet breaking through airplane smoke metaphor for rule breaker/disruptor

Keywords and Title Tags: When to Break the SEO Rules

How many times have you heard or read that it is critical for SEO to have keywords in your title tags? And that you want your keywords in the front of the tag?

There’s no shortage of advice out there about title tags and keywords, many advocating a “keyword first” title tag rule.

… “Having the keyword first means better rankings” …
… “inserting your keywords at the start of your title tag will enable search engines to crawl those words faster.” …
… “keywords closer to the beginning of your title tag may have more impact on search rankings” …

So after seeing this good advice, a site owner then pops into a keyword research tool and looks for the most relevant and highest volume keyword they can find that is a match for their page. And they create a title tag that looks something like this:

Home Workout Equipment – Sitename

I hope you agree, this is not a winning title tag that get clicks.

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Screaming Frog v10 force directed directory graph in purple

New Toy! Screaming Frog version 10 review

If you are a SEO you know of Screaming Frog, a tool used to analysis a website by crawling each page on the site as a search spider would. Screaming Frog just released version 10, a major enhancement that just may make it my new favorite toy.

Embracing the Concept of Indexable

One of my biggest beefs with Screaming Frog has been that it didn’t have the concept of indexability. Let me illustrate what I mean by this with an example.

When you crawl a website with Screaming Frog, it organizes the results into tabs that align with on page elements important for SEO. The titles tab lists the URLs and the title tags found on the page which then can be filtered for potential SEO issues such as duplicate title tags.

It’s frustrating to see a list of pages with duplicate titles only to investigate and find out they have been addressed with the canonical tag. If only Screaming Frog understood the concept of indexability and showed me only duplicate titles that have not been addressed. Other crawlers such as Deep Crawl and OnCrawl do this, why not Screaming Frog?

In version 10 Screaming Frog has addressed this shortcoming. In most of the tabs you’ll find two new fields, Indexability and Indexability Status. The first field is set by the crawl to either “Indexable” or “Non-Indexable”, the second field will tell you why Screaming Frog considers the page Non-Indexable. For example the status field could be set to “Canonicalised” (Screaming Frog is a British company, hence the “s” instead of “z”) indicating that the page is not indexable because there is a pointer to a “canonical” (or representative) page of a group of pages.

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Forget Page Load Time, Say Hello to First Meaningful Paint

If I were to tell you that your homepage loads in 10 seconds, would you worry? After all there is study after study concluding that site visitors get impatient and leave if a site doesn’t load in 3 seconds.

So is a total page load time of 10 seconds a showstopper? It depends.

The challenge we have when it comes to page speed and websites today, is that web pages are getting more complex, more image rich, all which takes a toll on page load time.

A straight forward simple HTML page of text from the 90s will load much more quickly, but your user might just leave anyway out of boredom. So what do we do? We really can’t turn back the clock.

The answer is that you optimize your page speed for above the fold.

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Domain Management

Domain Forwarding and SEO

Updated March 5, 2018

Ever worked with a lead management marketing system? There are many out there, for a monthly fee, you get a website complete with a choice of landing pages, auto-responders (often prewritten for you) and a contact management system. They work well with online advertising; where your banner, PPC ads drive traffic directly to your pre-built landing pages, generating leads for you.

So what about setting up your own domain and pointing it to your marketing system? Not a problem, for $10 or so, you buy a domain and then forward it to your marketing system URL.

This won’t cause any SEO problems for my new domain, right? Well, “it depends”.

Little did I know that when I wrote those words in 2011 I would get a flood of questions about Domains, SEO and redirects! This expanded post will help answer them!

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Website Builder Components

Squarespace SEO Review

Since my SEO review of WiX attracted a lot of attention, today I’m doing another review of another popular website builder, Squarespace.

As with WiX, Squarespace also offers beautiful templates that makes it easy to create a professional looking website without paying big bucks to a developer to create it for you.

The flip side with any of these website builders is that you lose the ability to completely customize your site, including in some cases, the ability to fine tune certain on page SEO factors.

But when it comes to Squarespace, we aren’t talking about a big brand with an equally big budget looking to capitalize on every competitive SEO edge possible. The typical Squarespace user is a small business that needs “good enough” SEO.

So the question is, is Squarespace “good enough” and what are some of the “must knows” when it comes to SEO and Squarespace?

That’s what I’m going to cover in this post.

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Casual Conversation about SEO with Gary Illyes

A Conversation with Gary Illyes

I had the great privilege to have coffee with Gary Illyes (@methode), a Google webmaster trends analyst dedicated to creating a better search experience for users. Well known in the SEO industry, Gary often speaks at search conferences and is frequently interviewed and quoted in the major SEO blogs.

Most interviews with Gary focus on big changes at Google, such as mobile first indexing (which yes, is still coming). These are important but tend to be a higher level conversation. I wanted to ask Gary more tactical questions related to current issues I’m seeing in the daily work I do as a SEO. So the below dialog covers JavaScript, International SEO, GSC URL parameters, a potential change to robots.txt and more. If you have an interest in technical SEO, there should definitely be a nugget or two of interest. So keep reading!

The image above is the upper portion of a lovely painting titled “Casual Conversations” by Richard Rappaport (Own work) [license CC BY-SA 4.0], the full image can be found on the Wikimedia Commons

Speaking of Casual Conversations …..

One thing I do want to make clear is that the Q and A below is not an exact transcription. It was derived from the gist of our conversation and I’ve paraphased, but I’ve done my best to accurately reflect his comments.

Now that is out of the way, let’s dive in.

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New Google Search Console Performance Dashboard

New Google Search Console is here!

On January 8, 2018, Google announced that the new Google Search Console will be rolling out to all users. This new version has been in beta for a few months, soon it will be available to everyone.

One very exciting aspect of the new GSC is that keyword and ranking data will be available for up to 16 months! A big improvement over the old limited 90 days of data that we used to get.

Keep an eye out for an email from Google with the subject “Introducing the new Google Search Console” that will notify you when you have access.

Introducing the new Google Search Console

I have a client that has access so I took a tour and have screenshots to share with you in this post.

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