What you need to know about the 2021 Google Page Experience Algorithm Update

Whilst Google has declared it will not be rolling out any more core updates to its algorithm in 2020, it’s time to prepare for what stands to be a bit of a game changer to website rankings in 2021, with the introduction of the Page Experience core algorithm update.

 

In Google’s own words:

“The page experience signal measures aspects of how users perceive the experience of interacting with a web page. Optimizing for these factors makes the web more delightful for users across all web browsers and surfaces, and helps sites evolve towards user expectations on mobile. We believe this will contribute to business success on the web as users grow more engaged and can transact with less friction.”
Google

“Make the web more delightful” is what really stands out here and as with previous big core algorithm updates such as BERT, Penguin and E.A.T, again, Google is placing emphasis on understanding the user and delivering them not only what they want, but what they will seemingly ‘delight’ in. 

Google Algorith update - image of Google search in browser

 The page experience update was supposed to be pushed live in mid 2020 however, with the world pushed to the edge of sanity already, and with hundreds of businesses rushing to move their proposition online, they have decided to give us time to make sure we’re set. 

So it seems that after many years of speculation, Google does have a heart when it comes to releasing algorithm updates.

This is what they said:

“A note on timing: We recognize many site owners are rightfully placing their focus on responding to the effects of COVID-19. The ranking changes described in this post will not happen before next year, and we will provide at least six months' notice before they’re rolled out. We're providing the tools now to get you started (and because site owners have consistently requested to know about ranking changes as early as possible), but there is no immediate need to take action.”
Source: Google May 28 2020

Google has given us due notice:

 

“Today we’re announcing that the page experience signals in ranking will roll out in May 2021” (Nov 10 2020)

 

The clock is ticking and with this much lead time, you can bet that the penalties handed to websites that don’t meet the standards defined by Google, will be hit and hit hard. 

So, what is this page experience update all about?

 

In May 2020, Google Chrome announced the new ‘Core Web Vitals’ that many of us picked up on when it was pushed live in Google Search Console. This new set of metrics aims to give site owners insights into the user experience of their website by tracking metrics such as page speed, responsiveness and visual stability.

 

 

Here are the main metrics now highlighted in Google Search Console:

 

Largest Contentful Paint

 

As has long been the case, websites should aim to achieve an LCP (load time) of less than 2.5s

Google Pagespeed Insights tool has been around for a while and is the benchmark for checking your sites load speed. However there are many variables to take into account such as server and location, as well as the platform your website is hosted on.

It is important to bear in mind that different platforms have their limitations when it comes to page load times. For example, many custom sites will often score an average result in page speed insights, and this is fairly well documented and even the biggest brands out there (see Penguin below) who currently dominate search, struggle with poor site speed. There comes a point where a compromise is necessary because those custom sites that really do take into account user experience, often use several plugins and it is these plugins that will affect page load speeds. It will be interesting to see how these sites fare when the new update is rolled out.

 

Screenshot of Page Speed Insights - how to prepare for the Google Algorith Update

EXPERT TIP:

It is absolutely worth getting your site speed as quick as possible now. However, it is widely recognised that some platforms’ websites run slower than others. For example, using several plugins on Shopify can have a negative impact on page load times. But this may be the same for your competitors. It is worth benchmarking your page speed compared to that of your competitors around you in the results for specific keywords, as well as against those who are a few pages beneath you, or above. This will give you an idea of whether you need to do in order to defend your position from a site speed perspective, or you can continue as you are with caution. Once the algorithm rolls out, see how rankings have changed and which sites are ranking top – what is their site speed compared to yours? 

 

Interactivity (First Input Delay FID):

 

This is a metric to measure the load responsiveness of your web pages. It helps evaluate how a user will engage with pages that are unresponsive – a low FID shows that the page is usable. A low FID is considered anything less than 100ms.

 

Stability

 

Everyone has experienced websites that shift when you try and click a button and you end up checking out, or losing your basket, right at the crucial moment. The Cumulative Layout Shift check, assesses how much your content moves during load and as a user scrolls down a page, this is a direct check on the responsiveness of a website. The number to aim for is 0.1 or less.

 

EXPERT TIP:

Interactivity and stability are both areas that need to be looked at by developers. If your website is built using a template on a well-known platform (Squarespace, WordPress, Shopify), most of these areas should be ticked off. However, if you’ve gone down a more custom approach, you may run into some issues and it is worth getting your developers to have a look if any problems are being flagged.

 

Alongside these innocent-sounding tracking metrics (hmm?), Google is also including mobile-friendliness, safe-browsing, HTTPS and non-intrusive interstitials as part of the latest ranking factor.

Mobile Friendly

This is an oldie but a goodie – is your website responsive? Check mobile-friendliness here

Increasingly users across all industries are using several sizes of screen a day to interact with content online and Google wants to ensure that websites are delivering their customers the best possible experience when they’re on the move, as well as when they’re at work or at home.

Safe-browsing

Google wants to drive users to websites that aren’t going to attack them, so it checks website to ensure that there are no potentially damaging downloadables or dangerous software. You can check your website to see if there are any suspected files in the Security Issues report.

HTTPS

Another factor that’s been on our minds for some time, but it remains equally important as it did when it was first introduced. Ensure your customers’ data is safe!

Interstitials

Hmm, this one is a topic for debate and whilst Google’s guidelines are clear, this can dramatically affect how people engage in websites. For example, many websites have country and language selector popups once you land on their website – this is within Google’s guidelines. What Google is trying to knuckle down on are those aggressive salesy ads and popups that frustrate users. The guidelines state that the size of the popup or interstitial is a key factor so this is one to watch. Read Google’s guidelines on interstitials for further clarification and we’ll be writing another article on this soon so sign up for update.

Expert Tip:

Don’t be too aggressive in pushing discounts and signups as soon as people land on your website. Give them time to browse and then move in with the more disruptive marketing tactics.

What’s more, as Google has done in the past, it suggests that it may even add icons in the search results that show what the experience of the page is like. As we know from previous trials they’ve run in the results, getting the nod from Google and having these icons displayed next to your listings will increase the click-through rates to your pages.

Covid has held the world in submission for the majority of 2020, and finding positives are few and far between. However, with the enforcement of national lockdowns, the shift to digital has accelerated and many businesses have been busy creating their digital platforms for the first time.

This is brilliant as even digital skeptics are reaping the benefits from their online offering and they will continue to do so once retail returns to normal.

As many are finding, the move to digital presents a steep learning curve and the competition to achieve visibility is often fierce, but people have been able to sustain their livelihoods and start generating incomes online in a year that is largely worth forgetting. Google has recognised this move to digital, and to speculate on Google’s feeling, they understand that many people are feeling slightly downtrodden owing to the current climate. As a result of this, or maybe by coincidence, this ‘grace period’ has given us all an opportunity to improve the way we sell online.

Feel free to get in touch with one of the Diffusion team if you have any questions about any of the above, we’re happy to help.

 

A List Of WordPress And WooCommerce Plugins For a Variety of Uses

WordPress came to life on May 2003 and few technological inventions in the internet age have become as ubiquitous as WordPress when it comes to website Content Management Systems (CMS).

 

This is what the WordPress home page looked like back then:

Old WordPress home page screen shot

 

And this is what it looks like now:

 

current wordpress home page screen shot

 

The rise of WordPress and WooCommerce as a CMS has mainly been due to 2 main factors: ease of use and scalability.

 

As a CMS, WordPress is an extremely versatile and easy to use CMS with a learning curve that is much less steep than say Joomla and esp. Magento.

 

Scalability has been made relatively easy due to the myriad number of plugins that have been built for it by WordPress and third parties around the world.

 

If you have a WordPress site there’s a good chance you have at least a few plugins installed already. However, the list of available plugins and their potential uses are almost too vast to count thus making WordPress even more functional and scalable.

 

In this post, Diffusion Digital will talk you through some of our favourite plugins for a shipping and SEO. Bookmark this page as we’ll be updating it with more plugins next month!

WooCommerce plugins for Shipping

 

Flexible Shipping for WooCommerce

 

Flexible Shipping for Woocommmerce

 

Download: 20,000+

 

First up, we have the Flexibility Shipping for WooCommerce which claims to be the most advanced shipping plugin for WooCommerce and whilst we’re not sure we believe in that claim, it does offer quite a wide range of features and customization options to choose from.

 

There isn’t much that the plugin can’t do and is an ideal solution for WooCommerce sites in the medium to high competition sectors where offering a wide range of delivery options is a must.

 

In addition to allowing the calculation of shipping costs based on cart total, you could also do so based on weight. Plus, it also offers COD (Cash On Delivery) shipping options which is something most other shipping plugins do not.

 

Additionally, you have options to integrate insurance options which again, could be a way to add a USP to your WooCommerce site.

 

The plugin comes in 2 flavours: the free version which gives you the tools that should be sufficient for most small retailer and a paid option for more advanced Ecommerce businesses.

 

For a full list of features and the differences between the free and paid version, check out their official site.

 

WooCommerce Delivery Time Picker for Shipping

 

WooCommerce Delivery Options

Next up, we have the WooCommerce Delivery Time Picker which is a good option to consider if your WooCommerce store offers shipping based on time slots.

 

Successful Ecommerce stores know that one of the ways you can increase sales is by reducing the amount of ‘friction’ between the user and the buying process and it is usually a good idea to offer as many shipping options as is possible.

 

This plugin is more like an ‘add-on’ to your existing setup, adding the functionality of allowing users to select when to receive their purchase, giving control to the user on both, the day as well as the time.

 

Of course, not all courier companies offer this feature so it’s a good idea to check that yours does.

WooCommerce Weight Based Shipping

 

Woocommerce-delivery-options-table

 

No. of downloads: 20,000+

 

Being able to calculate shipping charges based on weight isn’t exactly a unique feature by any means but the WooCommerce Weight Based Shipping does have a super-useful way of offering this option.

 

There’s a section for adding multiple shipping rules and you can set further conditions based on when certain rules should or shouldn’t apply.

You can also configure your shipping rates based on total order weight, price or a combination of the 2 and although most companies will probably end up using either one it’s a good feature to have.

 

WordPress Plugins for SEO

 

Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is to a website what the engine is to your car. Without it, no matter how amazing your product is, no one is going to see it.

 

The popularity of SEO has meant that this is area of plugin development is one of the most popular for WordPress which means there’s literally thousands of WordPress SEO plugins to choose from.

 

A thing to bear in mind is that no matter how good the plugin, they only offer you the tools to have the basic on-page SEO in place. If you’re hoping to attract a wide audience for your WordPress website, you will also need to undertake an off-page SEO campaign that encompasses important traffic-driving techniques such as link building and content marketing.

 

Yoast SEO

 

Yoast - SEO for everyone

 

No. of downloads: 5+ million

 

First up, we have the Yoast SEO plugin which is by far, the most popular SEO

plugin for WordPress around.

 

Yoast SEO comes in 2 flavours: the free option which offers you the basic functionality around keyword optimisation, page previews and duplicate content checks whilst the premium (paid) option offers you all of that and much more.

 

Here’s a snapshot of the comparison but for more on this head over to https://yoast.com/wordpress/plugins/seo/.

 

Yoast price guidelines

 

At the time of this writing, the paid plugin costs £79 plus VAT.

 

If you’re asking “is the premium (paid) Yoast plugin worth it?” then our answer is going to be annoying yet inevitable: it depends.

 

For small WordPress sites in non-competitive sectors and where you don’t need to drive a ton of traffic to the site, the free option might be just fine. Or, if you have a professional SEO company who is looking after your site, both on-page and off-page as well.

 

However, if you want to do it all yourself and don’t plan on a link building and content generation campaign or traffic isn’t all that important, you may find the paid plugin adds a little bit of value.

 

All In One SEO Pack

 

All in One SEO

 

No. of downloads: 3+ million

 

The All In One SEO Pack is another WordPress plugin for SEO and just about as useful as Yoast.

 

All In One has a useful XML sitemap submission feature for those who don’t know how to work with Google Search Console or Bing (or simply aren’t inclined to).

 

AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages) is becoming increasingly common-place on the mobile web and All In One has integration and monitoring capabilities for those 2.

 

Which is better, Yoast SEO or All In One?

 

The differences between the 2 are subtle and in many cases, comes down to your personal preference.

 

For example, whereas the various functions of Yoast are laid out on different tabs, All In One has then all listed on a single page (think of a multi-step checkout process compared to one where you enter all your info on the same page).

 

Another example is Social Media – Yoast does tend to offer a few more options for Social Media monitoring and integration than All In One.

 

WordPress Plugins for Marketing

 

Welcome back to part 2 of our list of essential plugins for your WordPress or WooCommerce website.

 

This month, we’ll be taking a closer look at some of the best plugins around to help you super-charge your marketing efforts.

 

The popularity of WordPress has meant that there are thousands of developers around the world building plugins for it for pretty much anything you can think of.

 

From a marketing perspective, WordPress is designed for small to medium sized growing businesses which means no matter what your skill set when it comes to marketing, there’s sure to be a plugin that is right for you.

 

CAOS

https://wordpress.org/plugins/host-analyticsjs-local/

No. of downloads: 10,000+

 

First up on our list is the CAOS plugin built to make the task of Google Analytics integration easier.

 

If you’ve got a website, you’ve most likely have an analytics programme installed too which gives you data about how many people visit your website, where they come from, actions they take and so on.

 

Google Analytics (GA) is one such platform and perhaps the most popular one for most small to medium sized websites.

If you’re considering adding GA to your site, you should know that GA only works once you’ve added the GA code to all pages of the site and often you will need to get your web developer to do it.

 

This is where CAOS comes in. it is a plugin for Google Analytics which allows to you connect to it without the need for any outside help.

 

The plugin is natively compatible with WordPress which means that installing it on your site is going to be seamless and hassle-free.

 

What’s more, once you have this in place, it can also show you the basic info from GA right into your WordPress dashboard saving you a lot of time and clicks having to bounce around from once platform to another.

 

MailChimp for WordPress

https://wordpress.org/plugins/contact-form-7-mailchimp-extension/

No. of downloads: 100,000+

 

Mailchimp is for email newsletters what Google Analytics is for website analytics so it’s no wonder that we have a bespoke plugin for MailChimp available.

 

MailChimp is one of the most popular newsletter software around and until the arrival of this plugin, it wouldn’t be too uncommon to find your email subscriber data separate from the signups from your website which means each time you had someone signing up to your newsletter via your website, you will have to manually add them to your MailChimp database.

 

With the MailChimp for WordPress plugin however, all of that is history.

 

Once installed and connected, not only can you automatically sync your newsletter and website subscribers but you can also carry out some advanced functions such as offering the ability of people who make an enquiry via your site to sign up to your newsletter directly via opt-in checkboxes.

 

This is not only a great time saver but will also go a long way in enhancing the size and quality of your subscriber list.

 

OptinMonster

https://ps.w.org/optinmonster/assets/banner-772×250.png?rev=1145863

 

https://wordpress.org/plugins/optinmonster/

No. of downloads: 800,000+

 

Speaking of increasing your email subscriber list, another tool that is designed precisely for that is the OptinMonster plugin for WordPress.

 

Your website’s conversion rate is one of the most important Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) and offering multiple ways for a conversion (aka call-to-action) to occur is a must.

 

For example, even though your most important call-to-action is going to a sale if you’re selling something or an enquiry if you’re a service business, secondary call-to-action such as a newsletter signup or to download a white-paper or brochure can also be very valuable in the long run.

 

OptinMonster offers the ability to create several different types of forms such as popups and light boxes and even ‘exit-intent’ light boxes which can help you increase the number of page/views, increase conversions and ultimately make your website work better.

 

Drip Marketing Automation plugin for WordPress

https://wordpress.org/plugins/email-marketing/

 

No. of downloads: 9,000+

https://ps.w.org/email-marketing/assets/banner-772×250.png?rev=1817747

 

If your website’s subscriber count is in the triple digits, you need to have a marketing automation CRM in place if you don’t have one already and Drip is one such option.

 

In addition to collating all your signups and subscriber info from a variety of signup sources, a software like Drip can also automate certain marketing tasks that you carry out on a routine basis.

 

For example, Drip will allow you to send out an automated email notification to a a visitor who signs up via your blog each time you publish a new blog post which is not only a great time saver but also helps you improve your return visit levels.

 

Or, you can create lead nurturing emails which are designed to gradually move your user from the ‘cold’ to ‘hot’ stage of the buying funnel. In the long run, this can mean more sales for relatively less effort.

Responsive Web Design – What Is It?

Different websites have different needs and therefore will require different features in order for them to be successful. The needs of an e-commerce site compared with that of an accounting firm are far and few between, for example, where a clothing brand is selling a range of T shirts, they need to have a feature to let customers know when a particular size or colour is out of stock. This necessity would be obsolete in an accounting firm where they are offering their services rather then a physical product. Regardless of a particular site’s needs, however, there is one feature that is critical to the success of all sites – mobile-friendliness and responsive design support.

 

What Are The Basics?

Responsive Web Design or RWD is the technique of designing and coding a website so that it provides an optimal viewing experience for the user – easy reading and navigation with as little resizing, panning and scrolling as possible – across a whole host of devices (ranging from desktop computer monitors to mobile phone screens).

The designer who is responsible for creating the Responsive Design has to ensure that the websites navigation elements, screen-layouts, text, images, audio/video players and all other UI (User Interface) elements readjust themselves on a variety of devices. This means that you do not have to waste time developing two separate sites – one for desktop and one of mobile – and can therefore save yourself a lot of money and hassle!

More people in the UK now use their phone to browse the Internet then with their computers or laptops. This shift in device usage outlines the importance of incorporating a Responsive Design in your plan. In fact, Mashable even dubbed 2013 the Year of Responsive Web Design. Pete Cashmore wrote,  “For those of us who create websites and services, all this leads to a singular conclusion: A million screens have bloomed, and we need to build for all of them.”

 

What Does Responsive Web Design Look Like?

The purpose of Responsive Design is to have one site, but with different elements that respond differently when viewed on different sized devices.

For example lets use a traditionally ‘fixed’ website. When viewed on a desktop computer, the website might show four columns, but when viewed on a tablet screen you might be forced to scroll horizontally through these – which is something that users aren’t too fond of. Other times elements might be hidden or images appear distorted. This is often complicated by the fact that mobile and tablet users can view websites in both landscape and portrait orientation.

On an even smaller smartphone screen, there are often even more challenges. Largely sized images may break the layout, and if the graphics are too heavy, the pages can take a long time to load.

With Responsive Design, however, the tablet version could automatically adjust to display just two columns – making the content readable and much easier to navigate. On a smaller smartphone screen, the content could appear in just a single column, stacked vertically – therefore having the same beneficial effects as the tablet. Previously distorted or cut off images would have automatically resized to the screens dimensions.

Basically the content on your website automatically adjusts to whatever device it is being viewed on!

 

How Does Responsive Web Design Work?

Responsive websites use something called fluid grids. All the elements on a page are sized by proportion rather then by pixels. For example, if you have three columns you wouldn’t say exactly how wide each should be, but rather how wide they should be in relation to the other columns. Column 1 should take up half the page, column 2 should take up 30%, and column 3 should take up 20%, for instance.

Media such as images is also resized relatively. That way an image can stay within its column or relative design element.

 

To Round Up

Got the basics of Responsive Web Design, or still a little lost? Every website, regardless of that particular site’s goals or the audience that it serves, will benefit from a display that works great across different screen sizes. As a consumer it is now expected that a website is responsive when they access it from a device other then their computers – when the website isn’t, they will immediately be aware of this factor, and ultimately it can and will affect how they engage with your business.

 

 

Diffusion Digital can help with your design needs. Read more about our responsive web design and development and how we can help optimise your website here.