Trinity Insight https://www.trinityinsight.com eCommerce Consulting & Optimization Wed, 07 Aug 2019 00:27:07 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://www.trinityinsight.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/06/cropped-favicon-32x32.png Trinity Insight https://www.trinityinsight.com 32 32 Your Guide to Page Speed Metrics – Learn What Matters https://www.trinityinsight.com/blog/seo/page-speed-metrics/ Wed, 07 Aug 2019 00:27:04 +0000 https://www.trinityinsight.com/?p=6157 Page speed is more complex than it looks. While you might think that this concept speaks to the health of your website, there are so many more moving pieces that determine why your website is fast or slow. Some of these metrics can really help you identify problems, while others are vanity metrics meant to […]

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Page speed is more complex than it looks. While you might think that this concept speaks to the health of your website, there are so many more moving pieces that determine why your website is fast or slow. Some of these metrics can really help you identify problems, while others are vanity metrics meant to make your site look fast.

We are going to look at two primary sources for page speed data: Google Analytics and Google PageSpeed Insights, along with a few other metrics, to show you how to effectively audit your pages to improve your overall speed. 

Metrics in Google Analytics

Google Analytics is a good place to start for beginners. If you have never tracked your site speed before, you can follow these metrics to get an idea for the rises and falls in your site performance. You can find these data points the Google Analytics path: Behavior > Site Speed > Overview.

Page Load Time 

Page Load Time measures how long it takes a page to fully load. However, most web users will see valuable information before this load time is complete. As we saw in last month’s post about progessive web images, the content can render in a few milliseconds, but then take another second or so to be fully loaded and clear. There are a lot more metrics that speak to the speed of your website and its SEO value.  

page speed analytics

Page Timings

The Page Timings report allows admins to see the average load times for individual pages. For example, if you have a few graphics-heavy pages, these might load slower. 

You can also see the distribution of the percent of pages that fall into different speed buckets (aka what percent of pages are slow and need work).

The Page Timings list really only tells you which pages are slow. They don’t go into detail to explain why they are. However, Google does have a Speed Suggestions tab in Analytics that you can refer to with improvements. 

Also, if you want to determine which slow pages to prioritize, you can compare Page Timings with the results of your search rankings tool to see which pages could most benefit from improvements. Improving site speed on a few key pages could boost your traffic significantly. 

Checking metrics like Page Load Time and Page Timings is kind of like a doctor checking a heartbeat on a patient. The heartbeat can give you an idea for the overall health of a person, but the doctor needs additional information before they can give a diagnosis. For our diagnosis on page speed, we need to dig a little deeper.

Google PageSpeed Insights

If Google Analytics tells you when there is something wrong with your page speed, then Google PageSpeed Insights provides context for which parts of your website are struggling. This tool gives you an overall score (from 0-100 where 100 is the best) for both mobile and desktop pages. It then breaks down your performance into various metrics and provides opportunities and diagnostics for maximum change. 

For example, here are the results of Trinity Insight’s website analysis:

Google page speed insights

Below is a clear breakdown of these metrics, so you can see how they affect not only your page speed and SEO but also your overall user experience.

First Paint (Contentful and Meaningful)

First Paint (FP) refers to the first time anything is rendered on your browser. Oftentimes this is a header image or simply a background color on the page. FP is a vanity metric. These backgrounds and colors can trigger immediately, making you think that your speed is fast. However, your user is still sitting there waiting for your page to actually load. Improving FP might have a nominal effect on your bounce rate, but nothing substantial. 

If you dig a little deeper into the FP metrics, you will come across FCP, or First Contentful Paint. This refers to the first viable content on your website (in the form of text, images, etc.). Essentially, FCP is the first time something shows up that your audience can actually use or gain information from. 

However, there is an additional level above that. First Meaningful Paint (FMP) was coined by Google and refers to the time it takes for the primary content to load on the page – or the time it takes to load the content that users arrived on your website to see. No matter how impressive your website is, no one came there just to see your background and navigation toolbar. This is why FCP and FMP are separate, but next to each other in Google’s Pagespeed Insights. 

Speed Index

Google defines Speed Index as “how quickly the contents of a page are visibly populated.” The search giant encourages users to optimize their pages so they load faster. This includes using less bulky images and simplifying code. Like the other metrics in this list, the lower the number, the better.

Time to Interactive

The Time to Interactive (TTI) metric takes FCP and FMP to the next level. Google defines interactivity in three steps:

  • The page has displayed useful content (has passed the FCP).
  • Event handlers are registered for most visible page elements.
  • The page responds to user interactions within 50 milliseconds.

This means that your user is able to navigate your page and the information presented without problems. It was previously called Consistently Interactive. For example, if an alcohol brand loads its site with a gatekeeping form to submit your birthday and confirm that you are older than 21, the TTI is the amount it takes for you to be able to click on the fields and submit the information. 

TTI and FMP are not as closely tied as you might think. “Some sites optimize content visibility at the expense of interactivity,” the developers at Google write. This creates a bad user experience as people are left trying to click and interact with the site to no avail as it continues to load. 

First CPU Idle

The datapoint First CPU Idle and TTI are closely correlated. It refers to the amount of time it takes for your page to be minimally interactive. The idea is that most, if not all, elements on the page should be useful to the user, so they can start engaging with your content even if it isn’t fully loaded. 

Like FP versus FCP, First CPU Idle is typically faster than TTI. 

Max Potential First Input Delay

First Input Delay (FID) refers to the time from when a user first interacts with your website to the time when the browser is able to respond to the reaction. 

For example, if you click a link on Facebook or Google, do you just sit there waiting for your page to load? This is because the browser is too busy (typically handling other elements of your app) to load the page. 

Philip Walton, an engineer at Google, does a good job of explaining FID and how it basically serves as the first impression for users. Your users aren’t going to give your slow page time to load.   

With this data, you can pinpoint where your pages are slowing down, from the first load to last interactive elements on your page.

Additional Data Points That Matter

As you can see, not all of these page speed metrics matter. Your Page Load Time is interesting from a high-level view but doesn’t provide concrete information on what is going wrong. Additionally, other metrics, like FCP, affect your bounce rate, but might not directly affect your SEO. Below are a few additional metrics to keep an eye on for your page speed that will affect your search and user experience. 

Time to First Byte

We recently discussed Time to First Byte (TTFB) on the Trinity Insight blog. It is defined as the time it takes to request information from the server and send the information that was requested. Google places a significant amount of value in TTFB for speed rankings. If you can improve this metric, you can improve your search rankings.  

Number of HTTP Requests

The Number of HTTP Requests refers to the amount of files a page has to request in order to fully load. As a page loads, it sends HTTP requests to the server. These requests basically ask for information for the webpage. Each file requires its own requests, and each request needs to be made sequentially. This means that the more files and content that you need to pull, the more HTTP requests you need to send. 

The fewer the HTTP requests, the sooner your page will be able to load all of the way, improving metrics like your FMP, TTI, and FID.

Improve Your Page Speed With Trinity Insight

Something that seems simple at first, like improving page speed, can quickly become more complex when you realize all of the data points that you are dealing with. Identifying exactly why your website is slow is complex, as there are multiple factors that influence the operations of your website. That is why you don’t have to manage it alone.

Trinity Insight specializes in SEO and user experience improvements from a technical perspective. We can review your site speed and recommend concrete improvements. Take advantage of our Free SEO Audit today to learn more about your website’s opportunities and challenges for improvement.

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What is Position Zero and How Can You Rank for It? https://www.trinityinsight.com/blog/seo/position-zero-featured-snippets/ Wed, 07 Aug 2019 00:25:22 +0000 https://www.trinityinsight.com/?p=6119 Just when you thought competition for the first position on Google couldn’t get any more fierce, Google threw a curveball. The search giant introduced “featured snippets” or boxes at the top of the SERPs that answer user questions without their having to click on a link. These snippets have become so popular that they show […]

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Just when you thought competition for the first position on Google couldn’t get any more fierce, Google threw a curveball. The search giant introduced “featured snippets” or boxes at the top of the SERPs that answer user questions without their having to click on a link. These snippets have become so popular that they show up in 20% of searches by some estimates. SEO specialists dubbed this featured box “position zero” as the next arms race in search begun.  

What does position zero mean for your brand? How can you adapt your SEO strategy to it? And why is it so important anyway? Trinity Insight’s SEO Manager Jessica Herbine recently discussed this opportunity in search rankings and how our clients can take advantage of it. 

What is Position Zero?

Position zero refers to Google results at the top of the page, above any of the traditional rankings. These boxes have a few sentences of information, with the keywords often highlighted. The information is pulled from the other listings on the SERPs, ensuring the information is concise, clear and accurate. 

Below is an example of a result in position zero for the search term “how many bones in the human body.” You can see that the featured snippet is from Wikipedia, but the first result is from Kevinmd. 

position zero example

There are a few characteristics to keep in mind when targeting these featured snippets, or position zero: 

  • Position zero is a promoted organic result, not a paid ad or a part of the text that you can flag to be featured. 
  • The majority of the results showcased in featured snippets are pulled from positions one through five. If you are already ranking highly for these terms, you are more likely to get the extra traffic from a snippet.  
  • Long-tail keywords are popular queries for featured snippets. It is easier for Google to know exactly what the user wants and to provide a clear answer.  
  • The featured snippet boxes are constantly changing, so don’t give up if you aren’t being featured right now!

Featured snippets are displayed in a variety of different formats. They can appear in bulleted or numbered lists, paragraphs, tables, videos, images or charts. The goal is to pull the exact information that the user needs without requiring them to scroll through results and determine which link is best. 

For example, someone making dinner may search for a substitute for basil because they’re out and need something fast. Below are the results:

position zero example

Google’s featured snippet pulls from a list of herb substitutes that would otherwise rank third in the SERPs. It bolds the keywords “basil” and “substitute.” The results in position zero also contain an image from The Spruce Eats, which is ranked in the first position. The goal is to pull as much information as possible to get the answer quickly to the user, and then let them decide what to click on.

Why is Position Zero Important?

There are several benefits to ranking in position zero for your brand. Primarily, the increased visibility can improve name recognition and drive more traffic to your website. According to a 2017 study by Ahrefs, results in the first position receive about 26% of all clicks. However, a featured snippet box will command 8.6% of those clicks, leaving brands that were previously in the first position with 19.6% of clicks.  

Image source: Ahrefs

If you already rank in the first position and your page is featured on position zero, this isn’t that big of a deal for you. However, if you don’t focus on position zero, a competitor could easily hop over you and take those 8.6% of clicks from the featured snippet box. 

Brands that have been struggling to push their competitors out of the way to reach the first position can instead leapfrog them and take advantage of position zero to earn some traffic, even if they are in the second or third position.  

Position zero is also important for voice search, which more than half of people use at home or with friends. The technology of Alexa, Siri and Google all lean heavily on position zero results. These smart assistants will read out the blurbs from position zero to get the answers they need for user queries. If you want your brand to be competitive in voice search, then your SEO strategy should also include plans for position zero.

SEO Best Practices for Position Zero

The first step to rank for position zero is to choose the right type of content to get featured. Opinion pieces are less likely to be featured than content with concrete, useful information. As a result, you can easily identify content types that have a chance to rank in this position:

  • Pieces that address the 5 Ws and H: who, what, when, where, why and how.
  • Instructional or how-to pieces with clear steps to complete a task.
  • Definitions breaking down complex terms and providing context for how they are used.
  • Comparisons between two similar items or products on the market.
  • Price lists and cost breakdowns for specific items or projects.
  • Top 10 lists and other “best lists” that guide users to products, tools, or best practices.
  • Frequently asked questions around a particular topic.

As you can see, the information in these content types is often objective and can often be summarized in a few sentences or a quick list. This is what makes the content ideal for position zero and voice search. 

Below is a featured video in position zero on changing a toilet flapper. This clip ranked higher than other YouTube videos which were shown below, followed by traditional text-based search results.

position zero video example

Along with creating valuable content, there are other steps you can take to rank for position zero for your brand. A few of these SEO best practices include:

  • Target queries that already have a page one ranking. It is easier to move your search terms up a few rankings than to get your content on the first page.
  • Structure the content to answer questions. If you create a subhead in the form of a question, answer the question within the first or second lines. 
  • Write a concise intro. Summarize the content in 40 – 60 words.
  • Create longer lists (greater than 8) whenever possible.
  • Use proper content structure and formatting (H1, H2, <p>, <ul>, <ol>, etc.).
  • Make sure your website is mobile-friendly. A good mobile experience will help your overall rankings and your chances of being in a featured snippet.

Like all things related to SEO, there is no guarantee that your brand will rank in position zero immediately. However, if you focus on your content structure and target keywords, you can improve your odds of getting featured.

Learn More About SEO from Jessica  

If you want us to evaluate your content to see if it could be featured in position zero, let us know! Sign up for a free SEO Audit by Trinity Insight to review your website’s opportunities and weaknesses. We can then work to develop a plan to improve your ranks and overall site experience.

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Time to First Byte (TTFB) – Easy to Understand, Difficult to Improve https://www.trinityinsight.com/blog/seo/time-to-first-byte-ttfb/ Wed, 07 Aug 2019 00:24:07 +0000 https://www.trinityinsight.com/?p=6106 Every basic SEO guide mentions site speed. You need to have a fast website, your users are impatient, your rankings will tumble, etc. While the importance of site speed is addressed almost constantly, few guides take the extra step of going into what improving site speed involves – or even what factors go into play […]

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Every basic SEO guide mentions site speed. You need to have a fast website, your users are impatient, your rankings will tumble, etc. While the importance of site speed is addressed almost constantly, few guides take the extra step of going into what improving site speed involves – or even what factors go into play when making your site faster.

If you need to improve your site speed to boost your SEO, start with looking at your time to first byte (TTFB). This metric significantly affects your rankings and user experience. It can also be one of the hardest to change if you don’t know what you’re doing. Fortunately, we’re here to help. 

What is Time to First Byte (TTFB)?

TTFB is the time it takes to request information from the server and send the information that was requested. (In layman’s terms, it is the time between when you navigate to a webpage and when it starts to render.) This time period includes:

  • The server request, which can vary based on location and internet connection
  • The time it takes to process a request, or generate a response
  • The time it takes to send information based on the question. 

Return time accounts for 40% of total TTFB. The slower the TTFB, the longer it takes for your users to see any content on your site.  

Here is Google’s official definition of TTFB:

time to first byte (ttfb)

Google heavily weighs TTFB in search rankings, and this metric is considerably different from your page load speed. In fact, many SEO professionals have seen how Google places significantly more value on TTFB than on page speed. 

Like most elements of SEO, TTFB ties closely to the user experience. Users that have to wait for your page to load (with no actual indication that the site is live and intending to load in the next few seconds) and are more likely to bounce because of a bad experience. The more you frustrate your users, the more Google will devalue your site.

What is a Good TTFB?

According to SearchEnginePeople and Google, your TTFB needs to be less than 200 milliseconds (ms). This number also differs by the type of content on your page. Static content should load at 100ms while dynamic content should load at a speed of 200 – 500ms. 

The 500ms mark is the maximum amount for both Google and your users to tolerate – especially because the rest of the page still needs to load after the first byte hits.

How to Check Your TTFB

There are several resources at your disposal to check your time to first byte and monitor your speed for various pages and content types:

  • Bytecheck is one of the most straightforward tools. It gives you a clear TTFB report and also shows other elements and data points that you might be interested in. Bytecheck will also rate your site out of five stars. 
  • WebPageTest offers more options. You can choose to run the test by location (like Chicago, Sydney, or Berlin) and by device. You can also run the test on different browsers to see if your TTFB changes dramatically between Chrome, Mozilla, etc. 
  • KeyCDN is an overall performance tester that checks several different elements related to your site health. You can sign up for a free trial or look at their various plans if you’re testing multiple sites over time.   

These are just a few of the options that are available to you to monitor your TTFB. You may find one on this list that you love, or need to keep looking to find a tool that meets your needs.

How to Improve Your TTFB

As we said earlier, understanding and tracking your time to first byte is the easy part. Improving your TTFB tends to be more complicated, especially as there are multiple factors involved – and many of them are out of your control. Within WordPress, factors that contribute to TTFB include:

  • Network latency: communication delays within the network.
  • High web traffic: the demand on the servers to pull information.  
  • Server configuration: the type of servers pulling information and their performance.
  • DNS response time: the time it takes for the server to recognize your domain name and translate it to an IP address. 
  • Dynamic content: blog posts, videos, and updates to your website that are added frequently. 

As you can see, elements like high web traffic are mostly out of your control. Additionally, you’re not going to stop creating dynamic content just because it has lower TTFB metrics. However, a few of these elements are in your control, and you can take steps to improve your TTFB even if you don’t consider yourself very tech-savvy.

A few best practices to keep in mind to improve your TTFB include:

  • Choose a fast web host: choosing a fast host for your site takes the burden off of you to have a fast TTFB. This is a great option for small businesses that just want a basic website.  
  • Keep your plug-ins and themes updated: old plug-ins and themes are clunky and slow. Many developers include performance improvements to their updates, so your TTFB can keep improving over time. 
  • Use a CDN: a CDN (content delivery network) uses global servers to deliver static content faster. This reduces network latency because users are getting the content from a server that is closer to them. A CDN is particularly useful for eCommerce sites or brands that receive traffic from large geographic areas.  
  • Find a Premium DNS services: when you choose your hosting service, see if you can upgrade to a premium DNS service if you need to. This is typically an add-on for many hosting options. If your other TTFB improvements aren’t driving the results you need, you can upgrade to a premium DNS service for your pages. 

There are many elements that factor into TTFB – and that’s a good thing. It means that there are multiple strings that you can pull to improve it. You can test a few of these options separately to see which ones have the biggest impact and then compound them onto each other.

Improve Your Site Speed and Other SEO Factors

Your time to first byte isn’t a silver bullet solution to fix your rankings and user experience. This is one element out of several that Google takes into consideration when interacting with your brand. If you want to see how your site stacks up, check out our free SEO analysis. You can input your website and receive a report on your site strengths, opportunities, and weaknesses. One of our team members is also happy to walk through your report with you. 

SEO is a process. You can’t expect to have high rankings overnight and to keep them there forever. Work on your TTFB and other SEO factors to stay on top and drive new customers to your brand.  

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What Are Progressive Images and Why Do They Matter? https://www.trinityinsight.com/blog/seo/progressive-images/ Thu, 18 Jul 2019 20:34:19 +0000 https://www.trinityinsight.com/?p=6079 Your images can make or break your website experience. Slow-loading jpegs can push your content down, while videos and gifs can make your page jump around unexpectedly. Someone who simply wants to scan the content can be driven away by your large and clunky images.  Despite the challenges that come with adding visual content, images […]

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Your images can make or break your website experience. Slow-loading jpegs can push your content down, while videos and gifs can make your page jump around unexpectedly. Someone who simply wants to scan the content can be driven away by your large and clunky images. 

Despite the challenges that come with adding visual content, images are still incredibly important to your website. Content that has images receives 94% more views than text-based pages and posts. Plus, 65% of the population is made up of visual learners, which means your customers are more likely to remember your brand message if it comes with compelling visuals. 

One solution that web developers are using to improve the page loading experience is progressive images. Learn more about this load option and why these images matter to your brand.

What Are Progressive Images?

Progressive images load immediately on your website at first with a low resolution and then increase their resolution as the website loads completely. You may notice a website uses progressive images when the content looks blurry at first and then sharpens within a few tenths of a second. This allows the user to immediately see what the content contains, rather than waiting until it is fully loaded to see if it contains any value. For example, if the slow-loading image is just a cat meme, you might spend less time waiting for it to load fully than if it’s a chart explaining the state of the American economy. Not all images share the same value.   

Progressive images are similar to the baseline JPEG loading system where the image loads from the top down and new lines of imagery load every few seconds. With progressive images, instead of seeing half of an image fully-loaded, users see the whole image partially-loaded. In an article for The Webmaster, Jonathan Griffin shared a great comparison of the two options (baseline on the left vs. progressive on the right) for images. Both images below are 70% loaded:

progressive images
Image Source: The Webmaster

Most people might not notice how the progressive image isn’t fully loaded – at least until it snaps into sharpness within a few tenths of a second. 

Switching to progressive images is also fairly easy and can be accomplished in Photoshop when you save your image type. When you select the progressive option, you can also select the number of scans or “passes” over your image that it will take to render it correctly. 

What Do Users Think About Progressive Images?

In an article for Smashing Magazine, web developer José Manuel Pérez looked at the user perception of progressive images. Namely, he asked whether this load style is actually preferred by users or if it makes any difference at all. One of the main points he makes in favor of progressive images is “perceived load time,” or how long users think it takes a page to load. When a page starts out blurry and slowly comes into focus, users perceive a faster load time than when it remains blank until the content is loaded. He summarizes this idea with the following visual:

Image Source: Smashing Magazine

While this diagram is purely hypothetical, you can see how a web user would think that the second strip on the bottom is a better experience, even if the two pages take the exact same time to load. 

Progressive images can also prevent high bounce rates in some websites. Users will believe that your page is going to load to its full value and will be more willing to wait – as opposed to thinking that your website is too slow to give their time to. 

Despite these positive attributes, Manuel Pérez also shared some comments from users who don’t like the progressive image loading option. These users complained that the blurry images messed with their eyes, and a few said they had to look away from the screen until the page was fully loaded.  

How Do Progressive Images Improve Your Website Experience? 

While some people still question the value of adding progressive images to your website from an immediate user standpoint, there are SEO and site experience benefits that you can’t ignore.

Your Site Will Have a Faster Load Speed

Progressive images can be up to 10% smaller than baseline JPEGs, which means your site has less information to load and can load all of the content faster. Simply switching to this option can increase your load speed a few one-thousandths of a second. This might not seem like much, but that time matters to users and your analytics will reflect it. 
Alternatively, you can use websites that will compress your JPEGs to make them smaller and increase your load time.

Progressive Images Create a Better Mobile Experience

Mobile users make up more than half of all traffic for the vast majority of brands – even some that might not have very “tech-savvy” audiences. This means that brands predominantly need to make decisions with their mobile users in mind. The implementation of progressive images reflects this. Progressive images are ideal for when the Wi-Fi is weak or when users need to rely on data – precisely the times when they are on their mobile phones. 

Optimizing your pages for mobile will increase your conversion rates and increase your rankings as a whole when more users have positive site experiences.

Better User Experiences Lead to Higher Rankings 

Your images are also important for ranking in Google Image Search. Users can find your website and pages through your visual content, which helps your traditional search rankings and provides a key audience of image searchers. Choosing valuable images that users engage with (along with text content that is also useful) is key to ranking on Image Search. 

Using progressive images, along with adding appropriate titles and alt tags can propel your overall SEO efforts through your visual content. 

As you can see, focusing on something simple like a slightly-faster image load speed can have ripple effects across your entire website and search efforts. Webmasters who are cognizant of these small details can make sure that their brand pages rank well and provide positive experiences for customers.

Discover Additional Ways to Optimize Your Website

Your images are only one piece of your SEO puzzle. Even websites with the best images can have poor performance if the design and optimization are lacking. If you want to pack a bigger punch with your website presence, reach out to the experts for help. Request a Free SEO Assessment from Trinity Insight to learn how your website can improve and which search opportunities are just within reach.  

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Google Stopped Supporting Rel=Prev/Next Long Before Anyone Realized It https://www.trinityinsight.com/blog/seo/google-stopped-supporting-relprev-next/ Wed, 17 Jul 2019 13:21:28 +0000 https://www.trinityinsight.com/?p=6059 The SEO world can be overwhelming for marketers and small business owners alike. However, even top SEO professionals who work closely with Google sometimes miss information. This is what happened with the latest rel=prev/next announcement.  The search giant forgot to let SEO professionals know that the indexing signal was discontinued, and the change went unnoticed […]

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The SEO world can be overwhelming for marketers and small business owners alike. However, even top SEO professionals who work closely with Google sometimes miss information. This is what happened with the latest rel=prev/next announcement. 

The search giant forgot to let SEO professionals know that the indexing signal was discontinued, and the change went unnoticed for several years. As a result, something that had been considered a “best practice” since 2011 became irrelevant overnight, leaving everyone in the marketing world to pick up the pieces. 

What is rel=prev/next and how will this announcement affect your website? We’re breaking down the news from Google and how you can keep your pages optimized. 

What is Rel=Prev/Next?

Rel=prev/next is an indexing signal used to help search crawlers understand the layout of your content. Publishers use these lines to tell Google where content starts (where the main first page is) and how pages follow in a line. By using these commands, publishers could make sure that the first page ranked well (Google’s crawlers would give it the heaviest weight compared to the other pages) and that the following pages made sense to whatever bot was following them. 

For example, if a slideshow covers top exercises you can do at home, Google won’t try to see how a page ranks for the term “lunges”. It will focus on the main topic of at-home exercises and look at the content as a whole.

rel=prev/next

What is Changing About Rel=Prev/Next?

Technically? Nothing. Google says that it no longer supports rel=prev/next and that it hasn’t supported rel=prev/next for years. The search giant just never got around to letting SEO professionals know. In fact, the news broke when a few people noticed that Google had updated its webmaster blog to state that rel=prev/next is outdated and no longer used.

rel=prev/next

What Google means when it says rel=prev/next is no longer supported is that its system already knows how to connect pages and assemble them into a series. Marketers don’t need to leave breadcrumbs because the crawlers can figure it out. 

For this particular update, SEO professionals and marketers won’t notice any changes to rankings or user behavior, as Google’s system became smart enough to read page flow long before anyone noticed. 

Google isn’t saying exactly how long ago it stopped supporting rel=prev/next, leaving many search professionals to wonder how much time they wasted using this markup.

“We apologize for any confusion,” a Google spokesperson told Search Engine Land. “This was an oversight and something that we should have communicated proactively before taking down the documentation.” 

Within the same comment, the spokesperson promised that Google will try to improve communication about search and markup changes in the future. 

What Does This Announcement Mean for Brands? 

The announcement that rel=prev/next is longer supported was shocking enough, but then Google topped it with a tweet that was meant to calm marketers but actually had the opposite effect.

https://twitter.com/googlewmc/status/1108726443251519489?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw%7Ctwcamp%5Etweetembed%7Ctwterm%5E1108726443251519489&ref_url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.searchenginejournal.com%2Fgoogle-stopped-supporting-relprev-next-in-search-indexing-years-ago%2F299689%2F

Unfortunately, many people stopped reading after “studies show that users love single-page content, aim for that when possible.” This caused a fervor around whether webmasters need to undo content that has been paginated and lead to theories that pagination would be punished in the future. 

However, as you can see, this is simply not true. Know and do what is best for your users.

Ilya Grigorik, web performance engineer at Google, clarified the announcement by saying that just because Google’s bots are smart enough to understand the layout of various pages doesn’t mean brands shouldn’t use pagination. Remember, the crawlers are only one part of your SEO strategy, your readers are just as important to ensure high rankings.

Pagination vs Infinite Scrolling from a Marketing Standpoint

This discussion around pagination and infinite scrolling has brought back the hotly-contested debate, with many SEO professionals evaluating their options with 2019 eyes. Over the past few years, infinite scrolling has almost completely taken over the web. Its main benefits include:

  • Easier navigation for users. Readers don’t have to click and wait for a page to load, decreasing the chances that they bounce. 
  • Intuitive use. Social media channels have trained users to expect continuous scrolling.
  • Increased chance of conversions. While users will bounce if they can’t find what they want on a page, infinite scrolling allows them to keep looking until they find what they need. (Think about the popularity – or lack thereof – for the second page of Google search results.)

Despite these benefits, infinite scrolling does have its drawbacks. It can make some sites slower to load at a time when site speed is everything. It also means that users will only land on one page and are more likely to bounce instead of clicking deeper into your website. 

On the other hand, pagination gives users a sense of control. It allows them to more accurately gauge how much content they have consumed. It also makes it easier to return to content when they’re browsing, which can increase conversion rates for eCommerce sites

It is up to each webmaster to determine whether they prefer pagination or infinite scrolling depending on their brand goals, user behavior, and current layout. 

What Should You Do With This Information?

The vast majority of SMBs will be unaffected by Google’s announcement. You do not need to rethink your SEO strategy for the year because of a long-discontinued indexing signal. If Google stopped using rel=prev/next years ago then you can take a few months to figure out what to do. 

If you do want to change your content to move away from pagination, consider adding a View All button. This will allow users to load all of the content onto one page, giving them options for how they want to engage with your content. This is a particularly useful option if you have slideshow-based content where each slide is a new page. 

If you add a View All option, consider adding a rel=”canonical” link to your additional pages to let Google know that the main page should be indexed. This will prevent any confusion with duplicate content.

Contact Trinity Insight to Improve Your SEO

While this is a minor announcement from Google, there are plenty of other search changes made each year that can affect your rankings. Work with the professionals who follow these updates closely and immediately take action to protect their clients. Start with a Free SEO Assessment to see how your rankings could be improved, and let us create a plan for search growth in the future.

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Google Analytics Deep Dive: Understanding Google Signals https://www.trinityinsight.com/blog/data/google-signals/ Wed, 05 Jun 2019 04:00:00 +0000 https://www.trinityinsight.com/uncategorized/google-signals/ In July 2018, Google announced its top tool to improve cross-device tracking: Google Signals. This feature is found within Google Analytics and gives companies an idea for how much their audiences overlap and which campaigns need cross-device support the most. For the past year, the feature has largely been in beta. However, it is now […]

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In July 2018, Google announced its top tool to improve cross-device tracking: Google Signals. This feature is found within Google Analytics and gives companies an idea for how much their audiences overlap and which campaigns need cross-device support the most. For the past year, the feature has largely been in beta. However, it is now commonly found and used in many Analytics interfaces.

Let’s take a deep dive into Google Signals to learn how you can use it and apply its insights to your marketing campaigns.  

 

What Are the Capabilities of Google Signals?

Google Signals is meant to enhance your current analytics usage. Many of the benefits of Google Signals are already available within Google Analytics, but Signals improves upon the data and capabilities that you already have. The top four benefits, as explained by Google, include:

  • Remarketing with Google Analytics: brands that create remarketing campaigns can now launch cross-device promotions.
  • Advertising reporting features: Google Analytics will be able to collect more information from the behavior of users.
  • Demographics, and Interests reports: Google Analytics will be able to collect additional information on various demographics and interests of users.
  • Cross-device reports: Google can model the behavior of different user types to better help develop campaigns to target different audiences. These models are user-based rather than session-based.

The key to Google Signals lies in users who have turned on Ad Personalization. None of the Google Signals features are available for users who do not turn on Ad Personalization. This means that the data will only be collected from part of your audience. The users who do not turn on this feature cannot be remarketed to and you will not be able to better understand their demographics.

However, Google estimates that enough users have turned on Ad Personalization to the point where the sample size collected from this group reflects the entire body of web users. While you may not be able to reach your entire remarketing audiences, you can trust the reporting that Google Analytics presents to you.

 

How to Activate Google Signals

You can turn on Google Signals within the Analytics interface. The whole process can be completed in less than a minute.

  • Sign in to Google Analytics.
  • Click on the Admin cog.
  • Follow the navigation Property (middle column) > Tracking info > Data Collection.
  • Click on the section related to Google Signals (currently in a blue banner at the top).
  • Click Continue and then Activate to turn on this feature.

You can manually disable Google Signals easily. Google uses a toggle that you can click on or off to collect data from users. If you need to stop collecting data or pause the collection for a short period of time, you can do it in this section.

You can see a screenshot of the path to the Google Signals section of Analytics below. This is what your Analytics page will look like once you have turned this feature on.

Google Signals

 

What Insights Can You Take Away from Google Signals

Once you are familiar with the features and reports of Google Signals, you can apply these insights to your data analysis. Below are a few use cases for Google Signals that you can follow to improve your overall digital marketing efforts.

See Where Your Device Use Overlaps

What percentage of users access your content from multiple devices? This feature will provide immediate insight into how people engage with your brand. You can see the percent of users who access each device and the percentage that use multiple features.

For example, a brand like Indeed might have a high overlap rate because users like to search for jobs on their mobile devices and then apply for them on their desktops. This is because they have access to their resumes and can edit and attach their cover letters easier. With this information, Indeed can develop a plan to make saving jobs across devices easier or work on a campaign to encourage more people to apply for jobs on their smartphones.

See Which Campaigns Have the Most Overlap

One of the biggest issues that marketers have is tracking assisted conversions, or conversions that moved consumers to buy but weren’t necessarily the first or last touch. Cross-device reports can prevent brands from cutting certain marketing channels and losing an important part of the consumer journey just because they don’t drive immediate sales.    

Recapture Customers With Cross-Device Remarketing

Move customers deeper into the sales funnel with remarketing across different devices. For example, your user clicks on a paid ad to your website while on the bus. The scroll through your pages and consider your brand. Then they become distracted when the bus reaches their stop. Your remarketing ad brings them back to your website when they see it later on their desktop. At this time, your user is more focused and ready to make a purchase, turning a top or mid-funnel customer into a bottom-funnel converter.

Learn How Specific Personas Behave

Because the data collected from Google Signals is user-based rather than session-based, you can better understand how your audiences behave. This, paired with better demographics and interests reporting, allows you to line up different behavioral patterns with different profiles. Brands can better create campaigns for specific target audiences based on their behavior and change the campaigns based on audience response.   

For example, a brand might create a cross-device remarketing campaign for less tech-friendly audiences that prefer to use their desktops for purchases.

 

Discover Other Analytics Tools and Capabilities

While the Google Signals feature is a valuable tool for better exploring your audiences and their behavior, it is only one part of your data ecosystem. The vast majority of marketers have a disjointed data process. Each individual marketing channel has its own reporting and data.

At Trinity Insight, we want to take that a step further. We work to grow your data maturity so that all systems are connected together and centralized in one platform. If it sounds complex, it isn’t for you. You will benefit from looking at one centralized information source that you can base your decisions off of.

Start by taking our five-minute self-assessment to determine your organization’s data maturity to see how your company can improve.  

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Optimizing Images for Mobile – What You Need to Know https://www.trinityinsight.com/blog/seo/optimizing-images-for-mobile/ Mon, 03 Jun 2019 04:00:00 +0000 https://www.trinityinsight.com/uncategorized/optimizing-images-for-mobile/ For the past 10 years, consumers have demanded more visual content. Thousands of blog articles and think pieces have been published about the benefits of visual content, encouraging brands to use photos and videos in their digital efforts. However, visual content comes at a cost: more images and large videos create slow site experiences – […]

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For the past 10 years, consumers have demanded more visual content. Thousands of blog articles and think pieces have been published about the benefits of visual content, encouraging brands to use photos and videos in their digital efforts. However, visual content comes at a cost: more images and large videos create slow site experiences – particularly on mobile devices. Adding the very thing that your customers want ends up driving them away. Almost half of all consumers say they are less likely to buy from a slow-loading site and are less likely to return.

Site speed is only one issue with using visual content on mobile devices. Brands also need to optimize their images so they are better found in mobile search. While many of the principles of image optimization transfer from desktop, there are a few specific considerations that brands need to be aware of.

Follow this guide on optimizing images for mobile if you want to improve your organic rankings and mobile traffic. We will review the current industry best practices so you can make your visual content work for you.

 

The Role of Visual Content and SEO

Unless you are publishing a photo essay or basing the content around a specific photo, images are often considered an afterthought in the content creation process. They are something to add to the SEO checklist and are often added once everything has been written, edited, and approved. However, visual content still plays a valuable role in search.

Visual content is a traffic driver. A valuable chart or image can rank highly and bring organic traffic to your website through Google Image Search. Some websites reap the benefits of high traffic levels to certain pages for years because of clearly created charts or graphs. If you only pick the same five stock photos that everyone else in your industry uses, then you likely won’t see a big bump from Google Image Search.

As you can see below, the top ranking images are clear header images driving traffic to informative pages or infographics that answer the user’s question.

Optimizing images for mobile

Images also tell Google crawlers what they are looking at. Google is able to see how your visual content ties into your overall message. While Google’s system can’t actually see the image, it can pull information that you provide to determine its value. Plus, Google’s tools get more advanced every year. The crawlers are getting better at reading images and assigning value to them.

Finally, visual content impacts the user experience. Slow loading pages and bad images cause high bounce rates. Google notices these bounce rates and notes that your content is not providing valuable information. The result is lower rankings and less organic traffic, despite the fact that your written content may be useful. Users only have so much patience for poor images.

 

Make Sure Your Image is Clear at All Sizes

The first step toward optimizing images for mobile is ensuring clarity and sizing. Even if your images are ranking highly for various terms in Google Image search, your audiences likely won’t click on them if the content is vague, blurry, or weirdly-sized. From a user standpoint, you stand to isolate audiences by using images that look unprofessional or unclear. All of the hard work you put into developing a website on your Macbook can go to waste without considering the mobile ramifications.

Never assume that the devices or operating systems will be intuitive enough to load your images correctly. Something that looks stunning on the latest iPhone model could be cropped terribly on an Android device. You want to review your images across multiple devices and choose content that is clear and valuable regardless of how it is rendered.   

The shape isn’t the only part to consider with your visual content. You also need to consider the size. Will the images be legible on incredibly small screens? Make sure potentially small graphics (like avatars) are still clear once they’re shrunk down. If not, you need to simplify your visuals.

You can see that we use clear avatars for our profile photos that are recognizable across all image sizes.

trinity insight

 

Consider How the Image Will Impact the Content

Good images are meant to strengthen your content. They emphasize a point, break up ideas, and highlight the overall brand. Too often, content creators get caught up in stock photos and site requirements to really add images that are assets to the text. This makes the content unshareable on image-driven social channels (which is pretty much all of them) and can even turn audiences away with a poor image experience.  

Slow loading images can lead to blank screens. While you might think you’re creating a mobile-friendly experience by choosing a vertical image, audiences can grow annoyed when the text is loading but the image isn’t. Slow loading images also frustrate readers when their page starts skipping up and down as the images load.

When you are choosing your content, make sure you select images that actually benefit the reading experience. Each image should have a distinct purpose.

Another trick you can follow for optimal image selection is creative cropping. If you see an image you like, crop it to only get the information or visuals you need. This draws the reader’s eye and helps them focus on what is important.

 

Compress Images for Faster Loading

If there is an image that you love for your website but it is also massive, look up image compression tools. There are dozens of free options on the web to choose from. You can upload an image or PDF and software will remove as much unnecessary information as possible without affecting the visual experience. In many cases, these tools can remove up to 90% of the information, without you or your readers noticing a difference.

Also, in the age of mobile image optimization, it is still better to start with a large image and condense or compress it. Small, low-quality images can easily get stretched out or look blurry to the point where they need to be replaced.

 

Follow Traditional Image Optimization Best Practices

Once you have improved your sizing and image selection processes, make sure you are still following the traditional best practices for SEO image optimization. Use alt-tags and title tags to describe your images, add keywords to your tags to help search engines, and consider readers who are visually impaired or unable to access your content.

Optimizing images for mobile requires many of the same steps as optimizing images for desktop. However, brushing up on these best practices and checking to make sure your team knows what to do (and why it needs to be done) can help you present your content in a unified and effective manner. At the very least, it will prevent you from having to backtrack and clean up after a staff member who created content without factoring image SEO into the publishing process.

 

Optimizing Mobile Images for Ecommerce

The vast majority of this article has focused on image optimization for a lead-generation page or a blog. However, images are just as important (if not more) for eCommerce brands. Along with these best practices, check out our other guides for sharing valuable visual content on your eCommerce site. You can also read about sending feeds to Google and third-party shopping sites so your images sell your products and grow your eCommerce sales.

For example, TripAdvisor encourages reviewers to share photos, but they make sure their images are professional and easily viewed across all devices.

Develop Style Guide Standards for Site Images

As you go through the process of optimizing your images for mobile and reviewing the visual content on your website, develop standards for your visual content that your content team can follow when selecting and publishing photos moving forward. This ensures that all of your images maintain the same quality and have the best chance of helping (rather than hurting) your SEO.

Once you have a set of mobile SEO image guidelines in your style guide, you can run an audit with your previously uploaded images and work through your old content to make sure each image is up to code. Many SEO site audit tools will pull a list of images and their sizes to show you whether or not they are indexable. You can work through the list of past images, resizing them, replacing them, or updating them so they show up in Google image search and create a positive experience for your mobile users.

 

Get Your Gameplan

At Trinity Insight, we take a full-body approach to SEO. We look at page optimization as well as your content strategy to see how your technical SEO elements hurt or hinder your content creation efforts. You can’t have one without the other, otherwise, your SEO efforts will continue to flounder.

If you have a large backlog of images that are hurting your search efforts, contact our team or sign up for a free audit of your website. We can identify the scope of the project and the extent to which your images may be hurting your search efforts – among other things. You can take steps today to create a better image experience for site visitors which can lead to better leads and sales.

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How to Leverage AMP for Email to Drive Revenue https://www.trinityinsight.com/blog/marketing/amp-for-email/ Wed, 29 May 2019 04:00:00 +0000 https://www.trinityinsight.com/uncategorized/amp-for-email/ Google is making email more interactive. Instead of sending static emails where users can only click through to your website or download an app to get more information, Google wants to make it possible to access information, take actions, and receive updates all within one email body. These email improvements come as an extension of […]

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Google is making email more interactive. Instead of sending static emails where users can only click through to your website or download an app to get more information, Google wants to make it possible to access information, take actions, and receive updates all within one email body.

These email improvements come as an extension of Google’s accelerated mobile pages (AMP) program. Google initially debuted its AMP program in 2015 as a way to speed up mobile pages. Today, tens of millions of domains are AMP enabled and render mobile pages in a matter of seconds. Now, Google is applying its AMP to email, giving developers the power to create an email experience that we have never seen before.

How is AMP for Email Different?

There are two main benefits of AMP for email: interactive functions and immediate updates. With interactive functions, users can click within the email and complete tasks without having to leave the Gmail interface. This is significantly different from most email formats, where users click on any link and are immediately brought to a website.

For example, with the current email process, if a customer is asked to take a survey, a new window will open and reload as soon as they click on anything. A slow-loading page or the hassle of having a whole new window open can drive some customers away, decreasing engagement rates and lowering the number of completed surveys. With the new AMP email system, the responses that customers select will be submitted and the email will thank users for participating.

Google isn’t entirely altruistic in this feature, or anything else it does. This has the added benefit for Google of keeping users on a Google-based product, extending the amount of time they spend on Gmail. It also works to create a better Gmail experience over other providers.  

The second key benefit to AMP email is the immediate update option. One of the biggest challenges with email is that content quickly grows stale. Departure times change, locations of events are moved, and items run out of stock. The result is unhappy customers who either miss the memo on the new content or get annoyed when you send multiple follow-up emails with the right information. AMP for email will automatically update recipients, so they never have to worry about seeing incorrect or old information in their email bodies. 

For example, if the launch was scrubbed or the launch time and date was changed, the Kennedy Space Center would be able to update the email notification to reflect the latest information. 

AMP for email

How Can You Benefit from AMP for Email?

Almost any company in any industry can benefit from AMP email. An impressive 93% of B2B brands use email marketing to connect with customers. Furthermore, more than 59% of marketers say email communication is their biggest source of income. If you use email marketing for your brand, then this is a game changer. If you have stopped email communication and switched to alternative marketing options, then AMP for email might make you reconsider. Here are five ways AMP for email is changing the game.

Keep Your Sales Information Relevant

If you run timely sales with limited inventory for your eCommerce brand, then you need to consider AMP for email. Brands like Groupon, which only run sales for a few hours and have a limited number of items, can highlight disappearing items that are likely to sell out. When these items do sell out, they can change their emails to other items that are also popular.

Too often, brands like Groupon are wary of putting popular items in their email communications. It creates a bad experience when customers click on an advertised item only to discover that it is sold out.

Additionally, this feature has been energizing the hotel industry. When a specific hotel deal or room rate sells out, the email can change to reflect other options in the area. The customer isn’t disappointed.   

Allow People to Make Reservations Within the Email Body

If you run a service-based business, rather than a product-based company, you can still use the AMP for email feature. Users will be able to make reservations right within the email rather than leaving to visit a new page. They can select times and submit their appointments with only a few clicks.

Too often, users click to make a reservation and then are faced with a barrier to log in or register. It is easier to bounce than to try and remember various usernames and passwords.

Collect Survey Data Within the Email

We touched on this earlier, but the information is just as relevant. With AMP for email, you can collect survey information without asking customers to commit to a lengthy process. When customers click on a survey link, a new page loads. They are faced with the decision of whether they should close the window and keep checking their emails or commit to this new activity. It is not uncommon for users to bounce instead of moving forward.

Most feedback will also result in better feedback. User fatigue will be lessened because an AMP email survey is more dynamic and interactive.

Make Email Updates Instead of Sending Corrections

Everyone has made mistakes or had to change the information of an email. Maybe you put the wrong start time for an event or forgot to add information about parking. Instead of sending a follow-up email to your customers, you can update the existing email with relevant information. This way your users won’t have to toggle between emails in order to find out which one has the most accurate information.

Send Fewer Emails

Most people feel like companies send them too many emails. Half of consumers say they receive too many emails from brands and marketers, while 30 percent of consumers say they would prefer to hear from a brand about once a month or less.

Many marketers get nervous at the idea of sending fewer emails. When each email signifies revenue, then pulling back, in theory, means reduced profits. However, when you look at email trends over the past five years, the most effective email marketers have been the ones who are strategic and don’t mass blast their lists.

Segmentation has made it possible for marketers to send fewer emails to smaller lists and drive better results. This is the same goal as Google’s AMP for email. Google wants to make sure the emails in user inboxes are useful and relevant, driving customers to take action rather than tuning brands out.    

How to Take Advantage of AMP Email

Google announced AMP for email in spring of 2018 and is just now starting to roll out this feature for mass use. Currently, Google lists a three-step process to add AMP features to your email content:

  1. Develop your emails to contain AMP features. Google cautions users to make sure to handle authentication requests appropriately.
  2. Test your emails to make sure the appearance and behavior match your strategy.
  3. Register with Google to approve your AMP emails and to start sending them out.

Because you need to register with Google and follow the company’s processes to add AMP email features, this is not going to be a feature that brands embrace overnight. Most businesses that use email providers like Constant Contact or MailChimp will likely continue to use static emails until AMP email becomes commonplace for most providers. However, if customers like the AMP features that pioneer email marketers add, then more brands might start using these options until they become commonplace.

Improve Your Email Response Rates

Are your email response rates flat or declining? You may not need Google’s AMP for email technology to make a difference. Talk to our email marketing specialists about how you can get more people to open, read, and take action from your emails. We can help you maximize your email marketing impact.

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10 Ecommerce Best Practices for Your Category Pages https://www.trinityinsight.com/blog/user-experience/ecommerce-best-practices-category-pages/ Tue, 28 May 2019 04:00:00 +0000 https://www.trinityinsight.com/uncategorized/ecommerce-best-practices-category-pages/ This is the next part in our Best Practices series for eCommerce usability. Over the past month, we have covered topics ranging from product pages to the shopping cart and checkout processes. It’s not uncommon for well-meaning web designers to hurt their eCommerce efforts by overdesigning pages or missing small details. We wanted to create […]

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This is the next part in our Best Practices series for eCommerce usability. Over the past month, we have covered topics ranging from product pages to the shopping cart and checkout processes. It’s not uncommon for well-meaning web designers to hurt their eCommerce efforts by overdesigning pages or missing small details. We wanted to create a guide for designing your site so that you can show off your products in their best light. When you take away barriers to buy, your customers will have no reason to bounce.

The final part of our Best Practices series covers category pages. These are the backbone of your eCommerce site and serve as a bridge between your homepage and product pages. Check out these 10 best practices for using category pages to move customers deeper into your sales funnel.

Make Parent and Child Categories Equally Selectable

You need category pages along with subcategory pages. You can see right here on how to make a positive e-commerce module, as generally some people want a high-level view of a category before they narrow down their search. Most customers use this as a solution for when they can’t find what they’re looking for or want to browse different options.

Let’s use the example of someone shopping for dresses online. A customer likely won’t know that they want an A-line dress or a maxi dress, they just want to see what products you have and if they look cute. By creating a clickable “dress” category page, your customers can look at all of your dress options and then filter down the information based on what they’re interested in.

For example, ModCloth has a diverse spread of dresses, and many customers add dozens of items to their wishlist. Their high-level category pages encourage browsing, not unlike looking at items in a brick-and-mortar location. Without this parent category, your customers will get annoyed and bounce rather than looking in each subcategory until they find what they need.

category pages

Give Customers the Ability to Filter

Your category pages give customers a high-level location of where they want to be, and your filters can help them narrow their options until their search results are more manageable. Let’s use the dress example again. When staring at hundreds of dresses in the high-level category page, a customer can narrow their search results to a few dozen by limiting the price, size, length, and even color. With just a few clicks, she can focus on the best dresses possible for her needs.  

Once again, you can around with ModCloth to see this in action. They have more than 300 dresses on their site, but that number drops to 99 when you filter by size. It drops again down to five if you filter by color. With these filters, it doesn’t matter what the dress category is because the customer found their best options with just a few clicks.  

category filter

Add Subcategories Multiple Times As Needed

This is one of the more contested tips when it comes to category pages. Some marketers argue that showing the same subcategories under your main categories will confuse customers, but studies have found that people actually find what they’re looking for faster.

For example, if you were looking to buy boys pants, would you go to the pants category first or the children’s clothes category? It’s unfair to assume that all of your customers think like you and will follow your same train of thought. By placing boys pants under both the pants and the children’s category, you increase the chances that customers will find what they are looking for.

Remember, your customers likely aren’t studying your categories like a map. As soon as they find what they want, they are going to click.  This is particularly important for brands with dozens of categories, subcategories, and even further child categories underneath that. 

It’s up to you to decide whether this creates unnecessary clutter, especially if you have multiple subcategories that can go to multiple places. However, it may be worth implementing usability testing for this to see how your customers react.

eCommerce Categories

Make Your Categories Obvious for Users

Don’t let your brand get in the way of usability. It’s all too common for eCommerce brands to create “cute” category names that they think are witty but really confuse customers. Your category pages should correlate to how new customers view your website.

There are certain pages that every website has that internet users expect to find. Pages like “contact us” or “about.” When customers can’t find what they’re looking for, or when it takes a few extra steps to get there, they are going to get annoyed with your site.

The same concept applies to the colors of your products. Is “cloudy sunrise,” supposed to be blue or orange? And if orange, what kind of orange? Clearer labels will sell better than overly-branded content.

Make Sure Your Product Images Are Consistent

We’ve touched on the importance of having unified branding on your photos in regard to product pages, but this advice bears repeating: if you have multiple photography styles for your products, your customers will think less of your brand. Plus, you’re setting your site up to sell certain products that are displayed well while putting other products at a disadvantage.

It’s worth the investment to take your own product photos instead of relying on your vendors to provide them for you. While you can use some vendor photos in your product pages, make sure the category image has your branding. Otherwise, your website will look like an eBay search results page.

product results

Display Product Reviews on Your Landing Pages

The goal of UX is to create a funnel for customers to move through your site to the products they want. While you can’t always predict what customers want, you can highlight the top options on your site. If you want to guide customer clicks, include the number of reviews and star rating for products on your category pages. People are more likely to trust items with several reviews and will click on your highest-quality items.

Consider this data: products that have 50 or more reviews convert at 4.6% higher rate than those that do not. However, customers only read one to three reviews before making a decision.

The travel site Viator highlights reviews in all of their tours. Few people are willing to take a risk on a new tour or low-rated tour, so the top tours get booked quickly and their reviews pile up.

search results

Display the Price   

Along with displaying reviews, display the price as well. Don’t force customers to click on products that might be out of their price range. If you’re going to let customers sort, make the price obvious. By displaying the price, you are actually bringing customers closer to the items they want to buy instead of requiring them to look at every product option on your site.

Make the Customer Path Clear

This is a small step you can take to make the customer navigation process easier, especially for people who aren’t sure about what they need or where to look for it. Adding a navigation path explaining how customers reached a certain place makes it easier for people to backtrack or get their bearings.

Turn to REI for examples on both the clear customer path and multiple options for accessing subcategories. First, you can clearly see the path to reach your narrowed search results: Columbia > Men’s Clothing > Rain Jackets. However, that isn’t necessarily the path most people will take to get there. You can get the same results by searching for Rain Jackets > Men’s Jackets > Columbia. It doesn’t matter how customers find the content, all roads lead to high-quality results.

subcategories

Promote Latest Arrivals to Loyal Customers

If you differentiate your results between new and returning customers, consider adding a feature to your category pages that display the latest arrivals to returning customers. These are people who already trust your brand. They wouldn’t have returned if they didn’t like what you have. Instead of trying to push your best sellers and highest-rated items, showcase some of your new and fresh arrivals. When your loyal customers buy these items and review them, they can turn into your best sellers that new customers love as well.

At the very least, you can add a New Arrivals filter to your product listings like Dillard’s. 

Make Sure Your Pages Load Quickly

Online stores for Amazon and Walmart have trained customers to expect hundreds of results immediately. Your customers don’t want to choose between two options, they want to see dozens of products and then filter them based on their needs. If you have a slow load speed, your page might load four results and then sit half-finished for the next five seconds while the remaining items load.

Prioritize site speed for a better UX, improved SEO, and higher conversion rates. Remember, 47% of customers expect your website to load in under two seconds. Hold your feet to the fire and keep your load speeds up.

Your category pages are just one part of the customer journey through your site, but they are easy to lose in the middle of the funnel. Without your category pages, there’s no way you would see the sales you currently have.

If your category pages need some TLC, you’re not alone. We work with eCommerce brands of all sizes to improve their user experience. Start with a 25-Point User Experience Checkup so you can see where your pages need improvement and how you can update your website to drive results.

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What SEO Professionals Need to Know from Google I/O 2019 https://www.trinityinsight.com/blog/seo/seo-need-to-know-from-google-i-o-2019/ Mon, 20 May 2019 04:00:00 +0000 https://www.trinityinsight.com/uncategorized/seo-need-to-know-from-google-i-o-2019/ Google I/O is the company’s annual developer conference held in Mountain View each year. The I/O stands for input/output, but is also a nod to the idea of “Innovation in the Open,” part of Google’s executive vision. This year marked the 12th I/O conference, and by now journalists, industry professionals, and tech fans hang on […]

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Google I/O is the company’s annual developer conference held in Mountain View each year. The I/O stands for input/output, but is also a nod to the idea of “Innovation in the Open,” part of Google’s executive vision. This year marked the 12th I/O conference, and by now journalists, industry professionals, and tech fans hang on bated breath to see what updates Google has in store for the year. There is a lot to sort through for everyone, but what is relevant for search professionals?

If you missed this year’s I/O, we have you covered, here are seven takeaways that you need to know from the Google I/O 2019.  

 

Google I/O 2019

Search Console has a New Speed Report

One of the most talked about SEO features discussed during the Google I/O 2019 conference is a new website speed report for the Google Search Console. Speed is the top factor that customers take into consideration on any given website. Three-quarters of users say speed has a significant impact on the user experience. Site speed beats out navigation (66%), screen fit (61%), and ease of use (58%) for customer demand. With that, it only makes sense that Google would adjust its Search Console to highlight the importance of a speedy website.

With the new speed measurement tool, webmasters will see the customer search experience sorted into three buckets: slow, average, and fast. The name of the game is simple. You want the vast majority of your experiences to be fast. This tool will allow you to click into your slow and average buckets to see what went wrong and what is slowing users down on specific pages. As you start to fix errors on these pages, you can watch your site speed improve and the number of poor experiences decreases.

Google currently has a form open here if you are interested in becoming a tester for this new tool.

 

PWAs Are Coming to Desktop

Progressive Web Apps (PWAs) were developed as an alternative to mobile websites or smartphone apps. They are meant for people who want to have an app-like experience on their phones without having to download something.

PWAs benefit brands because users enjoy the mobile experience more and there is less pressure to convert users with a download. The popularity of PWAs is such that all major browsers will now support PWA installation.

Brands like Twitter and Spotify have seen significant growth because of PWAs, and this move to the desktop will help brands create a more unified experience across all devices. Instead of creating different desktop, mobile app, and PWA interfaces, brands will be able to use PWAs for the vast majority of engagements.  

 

Google Lens Can Now Recognize Menu Items

Lens is a visual search tool that can recognize animals, text, celebrities, and shopping items. During this year’s Google I/O 2019 keynote, the company announced that Lens will now be able to “read” menus and pull up information on them. This makes it easy to read reviews and learn about specific foods.

For example, you can highlight a cheeseburger at your favorite diner to look at photos and read the reviews about people who enjoyed it. Alternatively, you can lower-rated menu items when you’re in an unfamiliar place.

This feature will drive restaurant owners to push customers to leave more reviews – and more specific reviews of what they ate. It’s not enough for a restaurant review to cover the cleanliness and service, people want to know specifically what is good to eat. This feature could also change search in helping specific items show up in search results. Even if you don’t run a dedicated burger joint, your restaurant name could rank highly for “best burgers in [city]” if your customers order the burger on your menu and rate it highly.

 

Customers Are Getting Greater Cookie Control

As part of the EU’s GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) law, websites are required to disclose what information they collect from customers, how they plan to use it, and if the information is saved. This is why so many websites from across the web are suddenly asking if you will accept their cookies. While Google acknowledges that this step toward consent is in the right direction, the vast majority of people still have no idea what cookies are and what it means to reject or accept them.

Cookies help track everything from email logins to ad preferences, so users really have no idea what is good for them. Per an announcement on the Chromium blog:

“To browsers, all of these different types of cookies look the same, which makes it difficult to tell how each cookie is being used — limiting the usefulness of cookie controls.”

Many people simply clear all of their cookies on a regular basis, which creates a clunky web experience when users try to do something simple like check their email. Google is working to improve cookie controls so users can clear certain types of cookies while keeping others.

This update will likely have the biggest impact on the paid advertising front, especially if people become motivated to clear their browsing cookies more often. However, until the features are public and exceptionally easy to access and understand, most people will continue to use cookies in the same way they always have.  

Google is also prohibiting the practice of fingerprinting, an underground tracking option that is nearly impossible to block.

 

Live Caption is Coming to Android Q

Google I/O 2019 introduced fans to the third beta incarnation of Android Q. While this announcement alone isn’t really enough to get SEO professional excited, the latest beta does come with an interesting new feature that makes Android devices more accessible while also boosting audience engagement: Live Caption.

Live Caption provides real-time continuous speech transcription for your phone. This includes phone calls and video calls, but also online videos, podcasts, and other recordings. Google intended this to help people who are deaf or hard of hearing, but the update also reflects our current state of smartphone use.

More than 85 percent of Facebook video is watched without sound. This is a statistic that has been echoed by other popular content creators like Mic and PopSugar. When companies add subtitles to their video content, the number of views and the length of the average view goes up. Oftentimes, viewers keep the sound off because they aren’t sure they actually want to watch the video yet or because they can’t turn the sound on in a public place (like employees watching videos at their desk or commuters watching on the train).

While Live Caption will definitely cut down on miscommunications and provide a service for the hard of hearing, it can also have a significant impact on the analytics of marketers and search professionals. More people will be interested in your content and tune in when you are speaking because subtitles are added automatically.   

 

Google Home is Now Part of Google Nest Hub

Another hardware addition that Google introduced is the Google Nest Hub Max, which will be the future of Google Home. This is a $229 smart display with a built-in speaker and camera, which has been upgraded to focus more on privacy and security settings. For example, the faces collected via camera will not be transferred across the web, limiting the hacking or abuse of facial recognition software.

Interestingly, Google used this space to introduce Face Match, a counter to Voice Match, which detects and recognizes specific household faces. This is an optional feature that will send you specific notifications from your Google account. For example, if you have a work meeting later in the afternoon, Google will only remind you of that, not your kids when they check the weather.

If Face Match grows in popularity, this could continue to make SEO even more personalized. One device could pull results based on the needs and interest of individual family members. Instead of one search experience fielding all queries from the family, each family could have its own experience from the same device and without having to log off and on again.

 

Javascript is Becoming More SEO-Friendly

For years, Javascript has been the scourge of programming languages for SEOs. It has been all but banished from websites that want to rank well, except for in essential situations. However, over the past few years, Google has taken steps to better crawl and read Javascript, with this latest update going further than ever to connect with this language.

This update is only a small step toward using more Javascript. Websites will still want to have a fallback plan for now (and are encouraged not to overdo it), but brands that need Javascript and want to use this option more will have more options to create an optimal design experience that drives customer engagement.    

It is easy to get so focused on the SEO updates that you start to ignore the non-marketing aspects of the Google I/O 2019 conference. However, something simple like Lens or Live Caption can have just as big of an impact on your search results as the new speed feature in the Search Console if you know how to take advantage of it.

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