Website Design Will Play a Bigger Role in SEO According to Google
Google recently announced upcoming changes that will increase the importance of website design and its influence on search engine optimization (SEO).
The article Evaluating page experience for a better web released on May 28th, 2020 announces one of Google’s more significant changes that could impact business websites. In a nutshell, page experience measures how users perceive the experience of interacting with a web page. Google will be adding three new measures called Core Web Vitals as a way to measure page experience.
Website Design and Core Web Vitals
According to Google, the metrics that make up Core Web Vitals will evolve over time. The current set focuses on three measures.
- Load Time
- Visual Stability
Load Time is measured in terms of the Largest Colorful Paint (LCP)—the amount of time it takes for a webpage to load enough information to be useful to the visitor.
Interactivity is measured by First Input Delay (FID)—how long before a visitor can interact with that webpage.
Visual Stability is measured by Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS), meaning does website content shift around as the page loads? How annoying is it to accidentally tap on a button that shifted under your finger as the page elements loaded?
Source: Google blog Evaluating page experience for a better web
Other Search Engine Optimization Announcements from Google
Google is continually looking for ways to improve the quality of the results that come from Google searches.
For businesses, the benefits of better search results are more website visitors and qualified leads. With the right landing pages and conversion tools, this results in better-educated prospects and more closed deals.
What is Google’s business motivation? The better the search results, the more people will use their search platform and, in turn, the more advertising they can sell. Advertising is the primary way Google makes money. And, Google dominates the competition, Bing, by a factor 4 or 5 times the search volume.
Other significant previous changes from Google include:
- Mobile-friendly design—a requirement that places websites rendering well on mobile devices higher in search results.
- Mobile-first—an addition to mobile-friendly. Google announced that it will rank websites based on the mobile version above the desktop version—further reinforcing the importance of mobile-friendliness.
- SSL or HTTPS—ensures that user data entered into a website is secure. Websites with an SSL certificate can be identified by the small padlock icon in the web browser address bar.
Core Web Vitals is the next step in a series of changes that have impacted website design and search engine optimization.
Do Core Web Vitals Replace Other SEO Requirements?
Yes, no, maybe. There is no rule book that says do XYZ and you are guaranteed to be on page one of a Google search. If anyone tells you otherwise then be very skeptical of their motives.
Instead, there are a set of principles that Google uses to differentiate a good website from a bad website. Accomplished SEO companies use this knowledge, their experience, and experimentation to evaluate what adjustments to a website deliver the best search engine optimization results. So…
Yes: Core Web Vitals will have greater importance and possibly replace some earlier SEO practices. Experimentation is needed to understand to what extent.
No: Core Web Vitals do not simply replace the previous search engine practices. There are 200+ ranking factors that can impact SEO. Many of those criteria will remain critical to the search engine results page (SERP) performance.
Maybe: Core Web Vitals will make some existing criteria redundant—we will have to wait and see.
Search Engine Optimization is a Balancing Act
Optimizing a website is a constant balancing act. For example, a fast page load speed has a positive impact, but images and videos slow load time down. The extrapolation of this one piece of information could lead us to the conclusion that websites with no pictures or videos are better—right?
We also know that images and videos directly contribute to the user experience, so there has to be a compromise. The trick is to add an appropriate number of images/videos and properly optimize them to minimize the negative impact on load speed.
There are dozens of these compromises that SEO companies make for each website they manage. This has some interesting implications.
- Cookie-cutter SEO doesn’t work. The objectives of the website owner, their products, services, and target markets all need to be considered. After all, a company with highly visual products is not going to market without images!
- Any website may have a deficiency at any point in time. Since compromise is necessary, a single deficiency is almost inevitable. The true test of SEO is whether it is attracting the right organic traffic for the website owner.
To get a report of the SEO performance of your website, use our online SEO audit tool.
SEO Scare Mongers—a Side Note
Do you, or your clients, get emails from SEO companies promising almost immediate page one search results? These emails may even give an example of how your website is lacking in one specific area.
IMHO, using scare tactics to influence an uninformed prospect or client is less than ethical marketing. Look out for the following shady practices:
- Presenting one example of SEO weakness and no willingness to provide a full audit report.
- Not using a real business email address (they use Gmail, Outlook, AOL, or other generic domain email addresses to avoid detection).
- No website, no phone number or any other contact information that would make them accountable.
- Claims of magic solutions that deliver unusually rapid results. It doesn’t work that way—search engines expect SEO to build over time. Furthermore, these “black hat” tactics can get your website penalized or banned from search engines altogether.
Do not fall for these dodgy scare tactics!
How Does SEO Work?
Six Different Types of Search Engine optimization
There are many different ways to look at the things that drive SEO. This is how we look at it and we have added a new subsection to incorporate Core Web Vitals.
Search engine optimization breaks down into 6 major categories:
- On-Site Optimization
- Content Quality
- Local Search
- Link Building
- Mobile, Security & Intrusive Interstitials
- Core Web Vitals (new)
Due to the different nature of these categories, there are a wide variety of activities and skillsets required to be successful. A successful team of SEO experts includes web designers, web developers, strategists, content writers, and editors.
There are various technical tools that SEO professionals use to quickly identify opportunities for improvement. Then, the SEO strategist considers client objectives, target market, products, and coordinates the shift in focus for the team over time.
While many aspects of SEO builds over time, page experience ranking is directly impacted by design and development and should be considered at the start of any project. So, before you make significant changes to your website, make sure your website team understands the implications of their actions.
Changing themes, navigation, deleting pages, or taking content from one page and adding it to another all may seem fairly harmless. But these activities are just a few that could risk losing ground with Google and other search engines.
How SEO Develops Over Time
SEO takes skill, expertise, and most importantly time and effort. Even with an unlimited budget SEO work should morphs over time—beginning with the most impactful activities. The following spider diagram illustrates a typical time-phased approach as focus moves through the colored bands purple, green, blue, and orange. Note; The examples under each heading are not intended to be exhaustive—each category has its own checklist.
Changes in competitor activity or changes in Google’s algorithms can impact SEO results at any time. It’s the SEO strategist who adjusts focus—including revisiting/repeating past activities to adapt to new market conditions.
Measuring SEO Performance
Like most business OKRs (Objectives and Key Results) and KPIs (Key Performance Indicators), there are many layers of performance metrics.
At the highest level for most businesses, the measure of success is sales, profit, and return on investment. A successful SEO marketing strategy will result in more search traffic and better rankings. The assumption is that higher traffic will lead to more sales. However, it isn’t the full story. Landing pages need to optimized to both grab the visitor’s attention and then offer an opportunity to capture their contact information. Setting up conversion tracking and measurements are imperative.
There are dozens of sub-metrics that can be gleaned from analytics and Search Console for those interested in a deeper dive. But, just because you can (measure it) doesn’t mean you should.
You should establish a core set of macro-level metrics and monitor the overall performance of your campaign. You should also view your SEO results in context. Look at the metrics that correlate to your objectives at any given time.
For example, if the objective is to accelerate local search results (LSR), then direct your SEO resources and budget in that direction. Measure progress in local search results over the following period. Recognize that measuring an increase (or reduction) in backlinks is not an appropriate metric for this initiative.
The latest addition to the over 200 ranking factors that can impact SEO is Core Web Vitals—three additional measurements that further define page experience ranking. Core Web Vitals will evolve over time but are currently focused on web page load time, interactivity, and visual stability.
Proper SEO takes skill, expertise, and most importantly time and effort. Reputable SEO-focused companies driving successful results have a variety of technical tools, experience, and skillsets. They consider client objectives, target market, and products/services to create a strategy. They also put measurements in place to improve SEO results over time—using credible white hat techniques—to drive traffic, increase conversions, and ultimately increase revenue.
How Does Your Website Measure Up?
Free SEO Audit for Your Website
Ocean 5 provides website design, development, and search engine optimization services.
For an overview of your website’s current SEO performance use our online audit tool and get a report emailed directly to you!
For a more in-depth audit, contact one of our specialists using the form below.
Simon Turner is co-founder of Ocean 5 Strategies, providing continuous improvement of sales and marketing performance. The company implements programs built on proven strategies that deliver results and has a track record of helping customers grow their businesses.
You can connect with Simon on LinkedIn. Or send a message below.