Googlebot to start crawling with HTTP/2

Google has announced an update to Googlebot, set to be released in November. This new update will now allow Googlebot to crawl selected sites over HTTP/2.

HTTP/2 is the successor of both the HTTP/1 and SPDY protocols. Due to the limitations of HTTP/1.1, SPDY was created by Google engineers in 2009 with the aims of reducing web page latency speeds and improving web security. HTTP/2 was based on Google’s SPDY protocol but was able to provide a large improvement on performance. After its release in 2015, HTTP/2 was embraced by all browsers, with Microsoft dropping any support for SPDY quickly after HTTP/2’s release and Google Chrome dropping SPDY support in 2016.

The benefits of this update are centred around making crawling more efficient, in terms of server resource usage. Google are now looking to start with crawling a smaller number of sites over HTTP/2 and expanding this out over time.

There is no discernible reason as to why a site would need to opt out of this update, however Google have noted that should a site wish to opt out, this can be done by instructing the server to respond with a 421 HTTP status code when Googlebot attempts to crawl your site over HTTP/2. Failing this, sites can also contact the Googlebot team (however, this solution is only temporary).

 

Instagram Reels: Dud or Diamond?

As the dust settles around the newly founded Instagram ‘Reels’, we discuss definitions, developments and the general discourse to see if it could be a worthy new addition to your own social strategy.

Instagram Reels: ‘Dud’ or Diamond?

Announced a little over a month ago, Instagram coined Reels as ‘a new way to create and discover short, entertaining videos on Instagram’. The in-app feature allows you to share videos with your followers and (depending on your privacy settings) the Instagram community, through the explore page. Once the video is shared, it can then be found on a separate Reels tab on your profile, and your main profile grid.

The explore tab, which is the current home of Reels, is where you will find the latest trends on Instagram made by anyone – not just those you follow. Explore hosts a variety of different content, including regular posts, reels, videos, and shopping. You may also notice ‘featured’ content which is selected by Instagram to help you to discover original content.

Later postulates that ‘While the Reels algorithm hasn’t been locked down yet, it feels similar to the TikTok For You page. It’s likely influenced by who you already follow, what content you interact with, and where you’re located’. To give Reels a greater sense of autonomy, Instagram are currently trialling a dedicated Reel button in the control panel for Android users in India.

Instagram Reels in action

Reels for Brands & Businesses

Reels is an in-app feature of Instagram, meaning their 1 billion active users automatically have access to the feature, unlike competitor TikTok which is an app requiring a download. This means that users are more likely to give it a try with it being less of a commitment than a download. Businesses will find this useful as, if they already have a following on Instagram, they won’t need to build another on a different platform.

What’s more, due to Reels being on the Explore page, users who don’t follow you will see your content. This is a great exposure opportunity to gain awareness and followers for your brand.

One of the main criticisms of Instagram is that the content tends to be structured and ‘fake’. Reels poses as an opportunity to allow brands to have fun with their creative expression and show personality. An example of a brand who are already successfully embracing Reels is Louis Vuitton. The Louis Vuitton channel is already averaging on 8 million views and has stirred a stylistic trend following their recent videos.

An issue brands may encounter, is that the only analytics available at present are view count, likes and comments. This is problematic in seeing the all-important social conversion point. Vox reported that as a user one of the biggest issues is ‘Almost all the content is from blue checks’ meaning its ‘the same résumé-approved content that makes Instagram boring in the first place’.

Whereas TikTok is crammed full of creators, thus far Reels’ creative space feels dominated by the brands and influencer. This makes the space feel commercialised, contrived, and inauthentic.

Reels vs. TikTok

The New York Times labelled Instagram Reels a ‘TikTok clone’ and a ‘dud’, but to finally address the elephant in the room, how does Reels really compare to TikTok?

Starting with the points of likeness, foundationally both allow users to create, edit and share videos. From here things begin to differ – firstly – TikTok is a standalone app, whereas Reels is a feature on the Instagram app.

Whilst TikTok has the illustrious algorithm-driven ‘for you’ page, Reels’ home is currently the explore page, which the New York Times describes as ‘a mishmash of photos, sponsored posts and long-form videos’. The ‘For You’ page is also an easy way to go viral, while with Reels, your exposure is generally limited to a minimal SoV of the explore page.

Reels also lacks a space to post ‘friends only’ content, it can either be posted for the world on the explore page or your entire follower list on private accounts.

Reels’ explore page

Then there’s the simplicity of TikTok, you can upload videos in bulk and the platform will create a slick compilation video in under 10 seconds. Reels is noticeably more difficult to navigate and the result doesn’t have the same smooth feel.

Another benefit of TikTok is the ability to download the videos (watermarked with the TikTok emblem) and then upload to different platforms. With Reels when you download videos, due to copyright issues, the music is stripped from the video.

Finally one of the most used features on TikTok is ‘duet’, this allows users to ‘reply to video content’ and thousands of these videos have gone viral. This is just one more feature that Reels doesn’t possess.

Is it the Reel deal?

Forbes has found that ‘Almost nine in ten TikTok users who have used Instagram Reels say that Facebook’s TikTok competitor is basically the same as TikTok’. However, due to their similarities, Forbes found that ‘61% said they’ll be spending more time in Instagram’ – and unsurprisingly since – Instagram usage is up. This shows that the similarities, despite being obvious, could be beneficial in attracting users to a recognisable format.

Lest we forget the rise of Instagram Stories, once known as the Snapchat clone, it now dominates the ‘story’ scene. This proves Instagram’s ability to take an idea, build on it, and break their audience into it.

Also, a small reminder that Reels is in its infancy, a mere month and a half into its life, Instagram has plenty of time to amend and adapt the app to make it as streamlined as TikTok. Take the trial of the Reels button in India, this would solve the explore page issues discussed previously.

Perhaps Reels won’t be the new TikTok. But that doesn’t change the fact that as a feature, it could add a lot to your brand. Reels presents itself as less of a risk than TikTok, more of a means to have fun and continue to be supported by your fan base.

Take this opportunity to engage a different mass audience – those who prefer quick content that’s easy to digest — and do it quickly, before the market becomes over-saturated.

 

If you found this update useful, check out our latest blog posts for the latest news, and if you’re interested in finding out more about what we can do for your brand, get in touch with the team today.

SEO Market Updates: August 2020

Join Fusion’s technical SEO team as we round up last month’s major industry updates.

Search Console Insights Report Now In Beta

Following months of testing, Google has officially announced the release of its Google Search Console Insights report.

Google describes the Insights report as “a new experience tailored for content creators and publishers”, designed to help increase understanding of how users discover and engage with site content.

The report provides a combination of data from Google Analytics and Google Search Console from the previous 28 days, roughly showing:

  • An overview of all Page Views
  • A breakdown of Page Views by channel
  • Page Views & Avg. Page Duration for recently published & top performing content
  • Top clicked keywords
  • Top referral links
  • Top social channels

At the time of writing Insights is in closed Beta, and is only accessible to users by invitation. However, if don’t think you’ve received an invitation you may still be able to access data for some sites – just head to this link link whilst logged in from your GSC account to see if you have access.

As with all Beta releases, it’s unclear when or whether the feature will receive a full rollout, although it’s likely that an open Beta will be released in the coming months.

New Dev Tools & Lighthouse Features Coming to Chrome 86

Google has provided an outline of the new Dev Tools and Lighthouse report features that will be available in Chrome 86, which is currently expected to be released on October 6th 2020.

The updated Dev Tools will contain a number of new debugging and auditing features, including:

  • New Media panel: Updated to allow users to more efficiently view and debug video content
  • Capture Node Screenshots: Available via a dropdown within the elements, allowing for nodes to be selected and captured
  • Emulate Missing Local Fonts: Makes the browser act as if fonts are missing, providing greater insight into how fonts are fetched

Chrome 86 is also set to be released with a new version of the Lighthouse report. Alongside a bug fixes, Lighthouse 6.2 is also set to contain the below new capabilities:

  • Avoid non-composited animations: Reports on animations that shift during load, reducing CLS
  • Avoid long main thread tasks: Provides info on the longest main thread tasks
  • Unsized image elements: Reporting on whether image elements have a set height and width

Google “Glitch” Causes Ranking Anomalies

Around the 10th of August many within the SEO community reported widespread and sudden ranking fluctuations, leading most to assume an algorithm update was in process.

This would have been an unwelcome and unexpected surprise, as in recent years Google has largely warned in advance of updates. Google have also specifically stated that they are unlikely to make any significant algorithm changes within 2020, whilst the industry deals with the fallout from COVID-19.

However, fluctuations were soon followed by reports of stabilization, and it soon became apparent that the changes were the result of what Google has referred to as a “glitch”.

 

https://twitter.com/JohnMu/status/1293045032124059649

In typical fashion, the statement from Google on the exact causes of the glitch was fairly oblique, simply stating that the changes were a result of an “indexing issue”.

Server Side Tagging Now Available in GTM

Google Tag Manager and Tag Manager 360 have been updated with a new server side tagging feature.

 Server side tagging allows companies to host third party tags within a Google Cloud hosted server container, rather than directly on a website. This means that when a user visits a site with server side tagging in place, the tags will be loaded directly within the cloud rather than on a webpage.

Whilst primarily reported in PPC circles, the new feature should also open up benefits for those working in SEO. Third party tags are a common contributor to performance and site speed issues, and more often than not the solution to dealing with these issues isn’t entirely simple. However, if a client is using GTM to serve third party tags, the new feature provide offer SEO’s a relatively simple way to improve performance. 

 

If you found this update useful, check out our latest blog posts for the latest news, and if you’re interested in finding out more about what we can do for your brand, get in touch with the team today.