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Top 10 No Longer Tops with Google

Have you noticed that Google changed the first page of search results? Being one of the top ten for a search term no longer guarantees that you will be on the first page of Google search results. Argh.

Google evolves search results pages to provide the content they think searchers will find valuable. There are now question boxes, map results and more mixed in with the standard page titles and links.

Today’s Google Search Results Page

Paid ads still live at the top of the results pages. There are also often Google Business results to the right and a box with common questions related to the search topic.

So, the good news is that the slots for organic search results are replaced with some additional opportunities for you to be found.

There’s another change that affects every search: personalization. Over the past several years, Google has worked to personalize search results based on the user who is searching. This means that a search performed by two different people likely will get different results. This is based on factors like location and previous searches and clicks.

Monitor Your Google Rank

No one knows the magic algorithm that Google uses to determine search rank. Some factors are generally assumed to be effective, such as keyword use in page content and providing meta description and photo tags.

For the best insight into your search rank, monitor your Google Search Console to ensure there aren’t any notices about issues related to your website. Some items are easily addressed. Others may need the support of a developer. The rules and technical requirements change all the time.

Web Page Quality Wins Over Quantity

The site with the most web pages doesn’t automatically get the win when it comes to search engine rankings. Search algorithms award for web page quality over quantity.

Quality pages:

  • Get visits
  • Generally earn time spent on the page
  • Lead to return visits

To accomplish these things, your page needs to be found by people who are looking for the content you offer. That’s where search engines and SEO comes in. You need your page to be visible when people use search.

SEO is not just about using the right keyword a few times. Search engines look at many factors to determine what people are actually looking for. The best matches rise to the top of the rankings.

Determine Web Page Quality

Search crawlers pay attention to traffic. So, a quality page has to get visited. Google Analytics can help you understand which pages visitors access as well as get a general sense of the most valued content at your site.

Google Analytics tells you which pages are being visited most and how long people tend to stay on each page. All of this helps you determine the quality of your individual pages.

Any page that you think should get more visits and time than shown in your analytics needs attention to improve the page quality. You can’t argue with the numbers.

As you look at low-performing pages, consider these common issues:

  • Is the page slow to load? People are impatient.
  • Is the content unique? When the exact content can be found on different pages, that negatively affects search rank.
  • Does the page make sense? Does the title of your page – in the navigation, on the page and in links from other places – accurately portray the content of the page or is it misleading?
  • Is the page easy to read online, with text and images that convey the main point?
  • Is the page outdated or no longer needed?

How to Improve Page Quality

Your goal is for every web page to be worth visiting. Each needs to share content and information that the web visitor will value. Make each page worthwhile, or consider deleting the content. If you delete the content, be sure to set up a redirect to the most relevant remaining page and remove any links to the removed page.

When you want to improve the quality of a web page, make sure you understand why someone would visit the page. Then, make sure your content delivers what they need or want.

Hallmarks of the right content include:

  • Uses the keywords that people are currently likely to use when looking for the content.
  • Has valuable information, sharing content not found elsewhere or pulling content together in a useful way.
  • Offers your unique, insightful, useful look at the topic of the page.
  • Written in a way that is easy to read online.

Establish Your Expertise

There is a lot of content out there. Frankly, a lot of it is not worth reading. It is important to rise above the clutter and show readers and search engines that you are an authority in your field. This doesn’t just help your pages show up in the search results, it also helps users reach the level of trust they need to do business with you online. Share thoughtful details about your business and your expertise.

Focus on Site Performance

The best content will still fall flat if it is slow to load or access. People won’t wait in hopes of getting to great content. They will move on.

The speed of your website is a factor that impacts your Google rank. Google and other search engines know that users don’t like slow websites.

User experience, also called UX, is all about how users experience a site or product. Search engines want to provide their users with the best result for their question or search query. The best result doesn’t only mean the best answer, it also means the best experience. So even if you’ve written an excellent answer in a post, but your site is slow or has complicated navigation, Google won’t consider your post the best answer.

Your site also needs to function well on small screens. Mobile searches are growing, and many sites get more traffic from mobile devices than desktop computers.

How Google Ranks Page Experience

Google has defined a new set of metrics to measure the speed and user experience of websites. These metrics will be used in the Google search algorithm to rank sites based on the page experience they offer. This update is expected to happen in May 2021.

What Is Page Experience?

Google’s ideal is that users click a link in search results and the corresponding page appears instantly. Even with high speed internet connections and fast devices, loading a web page is still not that instantaneous.

Loading times are only part of page experience. According to Google, “Great page experiences enable people to get more done and engage more deeply; in contrast, a bad page experience could stand in the way of a person being able to find the valuable information on a page.”

Web Vitals Defined

Google Web Vitals are a set of metrics to help determine opportunities to improve the experience of sites. Within those new metrics is a subset of metrics called Core Web Vitals. These are intended to be real-world, user-centered metrics that quantify key aspects of the user experience.

Each Core Web Vital looks at a specific piece of the page experience to rate the perceived experience of a site. Core Web Vitals are available in all Google tools that measure page experience.

Core Web Vitals are:

  • Loading
  • Interactivity
  • Visual stability

These focal points correspond with three new metrics:

  • Largest Contentful Paint (LCP):  how long it takes for the largest visible content element to load.
  • First Input Delay (FID): how long it takes for a browser to respond to an interaction first triggered by the user (such as clicking a button)
  • Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS): the percentage of the screen affected by movement — i.e. do things jump around on screen?

Page Experience and Search Rank

Google is going to use these metrics combined with existing experience ranking factors to rank page. Other factors include:

  • Content quality
  • Mobile-friendliness: is your site optimized for mobile?
  • HTTPS: is your site using a secure connection?
  • Interstitial use: does your site stay away from pop-ups?