September 16, 2021

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SEO News You Can Use: Google Page Experience Update Is ‘More Than a Tiebreaker’

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, SEO, Wordpress Support & Insurance, Mortgage, Loans, Legal, Etc Blogs
, SEO, Wordpress Support & Insurance, Mortgage, Loans, Legal, Etc Blogs

Only one thing is certain about the Google Page Experience update: It will complete its rollout by the end of the month. Everything else is still a mystery. We don’t know how big an impact it will have on the rankings or if its effects will be as far-reaching as, say, the Panda update. The fact that Google gave more than a year-long warning for site owners to prepare for Page Experience would suggest that this is a big one – but then, back in May, Google’s Martin Splitt said that the boost provided by the Page Experience update would be more akin to a tiebreaker.

“Tiebreaker” is the terminology Google has been known to use to describe algorithm updates that may give one site an edge over another that’s considered equal by any other measure. This came as a welcome relief for many SEOs, who were quickly realizing that optimizing for Page Experience ranking factors is not so simple after all. But now, with mere days until the algorithm update has fully rolled out, the company is backtracking on its “tiebreaker” claims. 

Google’s John Mueller recently responded to a question posed by a Reddit user. The user was second-guessing the seriousness of the update, saying they were “not buying” Core Web Vitals and were finding it hard to believe that these metrics would affect rankings at all. The user also said they had not seen any significant shifts in the rankings, adding to the skepticism.

Mueller jumped in to clear things up, but in the process, busted the myth we were led to believe three months ago. He said,

“It is a ranking factor, and it’s more than a tiebreaker, but it also doesn’t replace relevance.

“Depending on the sites you work on, you might notice it more, or you might notice it less.”

Mueller added that the onus is on the site owner to take into account all of the possible means of optimization and determine those which are worth focusing on. He also said that Core Web Vitals are not “random” ranking factors – they affect your site’s usability. In other words, if your traffic is increasing because of your other SEO efforts, your conversion rate will still be low if your site’s user experience (UX) leaves much to be desired. And, as we know, Page Experience is all about UX. 

So, “tiebreaker” is the wrong term, and we’re back at the point where the Page Experience update should not be underestimated or ignored. It’s worth mentioning that Google has been actively changing benchmarks (even removing Safe Browsing as a Page Experience signal last week), and in a Core Web Vitals FAQ published a couple of weeks ago, said that relevance is still the most crucial SEO signal that trumps all others. So, with all this scrambling, it’s not surprising that the Reddit user was skeptical. 

But now we know that the Page Experience is, indeed, big – and that optimizing for the six new ranking signals is a must. If there’s one takeaway, it’s that the combination of high-quality content and optimized Page Experience ranking signals will be an unstoppable force on the search engine results pages (SERPs). We still have a few days left to do what we can, so it’s not too late to consult a thorough Google Page Experience guide and get to work. 

More SEO News You Can Use

Google Offers Tips on How To Check Page Experience Ranking Factors: Now that we know Page Experience is more than a tiebreaker, we appreciate extra insights from Google more than ever. Luckily, Google uploaded a brand-new video as part of its “Getting Started With Page Experience” series on YouTube. This one covers checking if your site meets the threshold for Page Experience ranking factors. This video specifically looks at the signals outside of Core Web Vitals – HTTPS, no intrusive interstitials and mobile-friendliness (R.I.P., Safe Browsing). The eight-minute video, hosted by Google’s Developer Advocate, Patrick Kettner, covers all the essential checks site owners should systematically work through to ensure Page Experience preparedness. If you’re scrambling to be ready by the end of August, be sure to check out the video for some quick and easy tips.

Page Speed Could Already Have Affected Your Rankings: There have been multiple updates over the past few months. In June and July alone, we were hit with a two-part core algorithm update as well as a spam update. And currently, the Page Experience update is rolling out. As we know too well, it can be difficult to pinpoint the root cause of ranking fluctuations when so many changes are happening at once. So when Mueller was asked during a Search Central office-hours hangout if the June and July algorithm updates were related to page speed, he knew it was an attempt to attribute ranking shifts to algorithm updates. Mueller started by noting that page speed and algorithm updates are separate. He did, however, confirm that page speed could be a reason for some ranking changes in June and July – but this would be more likely related to the early stages of the Page Experience update (which started rolling out in June) than the core updates. Since Google has announced new technology that enables it to roll out updates faster and more frequently, we can expect many more discussions like this.

No, Linking to a Lesser Website Won’t Affect Your SEO: Another SEO myth has been busted (but, as is common in the SEO world, we’ll probably be talking about this in a few months again as if it hasn’t already been debunked). Barry Schwartz of Search Engine Roundtable reported on a Twitter conversation between an SEO and John Mueller. The SEO asked if linking to a website with a low Domain Authority (DA) would affect her own DA. Bear in mind, marketers place great importance on a high DA score, even though Google has repeatedly said it does not consider DA at all. So it’s not surprising that Mueller said, no, a “lesser” website doesn’t automatically mean a result is less relevant – small fry can publish great content, too! What it comes down to is that the main purpose of chasing a high DA site is to get a dofollow link – and, let’s not forget, that still goes against Google’s guidelines.

Google Is Redirecting the Structured Data Testing Tool to a Landing Page: Early last week, Google announced that the URL to its structured data tool redirects to a landing page. What’s more, the new page actively pushes users to try Google’s Rich Results Page instead. It’s certainly looking like a promotional exercise, and a strange one, at that. Search Engine Journal’s (SEJ) Roger Montti does a deep dive we didn’t know we needed into whatever game Google is playing with this odd landing page that, among other things, calls the competing Schema.org structured data tool “generic.” It also says the Schema.org tool is “stabilizing” (an especially unflattering word choice for a tool that is out of beta and perfectly ready for use). And all this is on a page that’s claiming to help users select the right tool. Hmm. It sounds an awful lot like Google has already decided on the “right tool,” and, no surprise, it’s Google’s. Check out the landing page and make up your own mind about exactly what’s going on here.

Google Is Introducing New Measures To Protect Minors on the Internet: Taking a step in the right direction, Google announced a number of safeguards it will introduce in the coming months to safeguard minors online. This comes at a time when more under-18s are online than ever before, with online learning having become the norm. Google will be introducing a policy that allows minors (or their parents/guardians) to request the removal of their images from Google Image results. Additionally, the YouTube default upload mode for kids aged 13-17 will be private, and SafeSearch will be automatically enabled for under-18s using Google Search. Finally, Google Ads will be working to block ad targeting based on the age, gender or interests of minors, preventing age-sensitive ads from being shown to teens. Read the complete list of measures on Google’s blog.

Editor’s Note: “SEO News You Can Use” is a weekly blog post posted every Monday morning only on SEOblog.com, rounding up all the top SEO news from around the world. Our goal is to make SEOblog.com a one-stop-shop for everyone looking for SEO news, education and for hiring an SEO expert with our comprehensive SEO agency directory.

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