SEO Market Updates: April 2022

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

AI Generated Content Is Against Google Guidelines

In a recent Google Search Central SEO office-hours hangout, Search Advocate John Mueller weighed in on the widely discussed topic of GPT-3 AI writing tools and, more broadly, the nature of automatically generated content.

Mueller says that any content written by AI is considered as automatically-generated, which is against Google guidelines and could lead to a manual penalty. Here is the full response given:

If you’re using machine learning tools to generate your content, it’s essentially the same as if you’re just shuffling words around, or looking up synonyms, or doing the translation tricks that people used to do.

My suspicion is maybe the quality of content is a little bit better than the really old school tools, but for us it’s still automatically generated content, and that means for us it’s still against the Webmaster Guidelines. So we would consider that to be spam.”

Soon after this conversation, the Webmaster Guidelines were updated to provide more clarity on this subject. Within the Quality Guidelines section, “Automatically generated content intended to manipulate search rankings” is now listed as a technique to avoid:

It is not clear if Google’s algorithm has the ability to detect auto-generated content, however, Mueller did say that “If we see that something is automatically generated, then the webspam team can definitely take action on that”.

Google Rolls Out Conversions Migration Tool For GA4

Google has rolled out a conversion migration tool allowing you to import your existing goals from Universal Analytics to Google Analytics 4. This can be accessed within the GA4 settings screen, in the Setup Assistant tab, under the Conversions section.

In short, the migration tool allows you to quickly recreate goals from a connected Universal Analytics property as conversion events within a GA4 property.

Charles Farina provided a good post about this on Twitter, along with screenshots of where to find it and what to expect:

A step-by-step guide on how to use the tool is below:

  1. In Google Analytics, click Admin.
  2. In the Account column, make sure that your desired account is selected. (If you only have one Google Analytics account, it will already be selected.)
  3. In the Property column, select the Google Analytics 4 property that currently collects data for your website.
  4. In the Property column, click Setup Assistant.
  5. Under Conversions, go to Import existing goals from your connected Universal Analytics property, and click Get started.
  6. In the Import existing goals from your connected property panel, select which goals you’d like to recreate as conversion events in your new Google Analytics 4 property.
  7. Click Import selected conversions in the top right.

Data Studio Now Supports Discover & Google News Traffic

The Google Search Console connector for Data Studio can now retrieve traffic data for Google Discover and Google News. Within the data source connection settings, here’s how this can be added:

More information on how to monitor search traffic in Data Studio – including detail on the new connectors – can be found in this Google Search Central Blog titled ‘Monitoring Search traffic (and more!) with Data Studio’.

March 2022 Product Reviews Update Finished Rolling Out

The third version of the product reviews update which began rolling out on the 23rd of March, has now officially completed. Google announced on the 11th of April that the March 2022 Product Reviews Update had finished rolling out, taking 19 days to complete.

As previously mentioned in last month’s blog – this set of algorithm updates aims to improve how Google Search ranks product reviews; prioritising in-depth, authentic content based on feedback, internal testing, and an evaluation process.

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: March 2022

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

Google to Sunset Universal Analytics in 2023

Google has announced plans to sunset the standard version of Google Analytics called Universal Analytics. Google Analytics 4 (GA4) will therefore replace UA as the new standard.

From the 1st July 2023, standard universal analytics properties will stop processing data. 360 properties will receive an extra three months of data processing, ending on the 1st October 2023.

The move to GA4 comes from a wide variety of factors, however Google says this is largely down to the fact that the new even-based data model can operate across multiple platforms, making it a more future-proof solution.

Speaking on other reasons for discontinuing Universal Analytics, Google said:

Universal Analytics was built for a generation of online measurement that was anchored in the desktop web, independent sessions, and more easily observable data from cookies. This measurement methodology is quickly becoming obsolete.

March 2022 Product Reviews Update Rollout

On Wednesday the 23rd of March, Google began the rollout of the third version of the product reviews update, inventively named the March 2022 Product Reviews Update.

These set of algorithm updates aim to improve how Google Search ranks product reviews, prioritising in-depth authentic content based on feedback, internal testing, and an evaluation process.

Google say this latest version “builds on that work to enhance our ability to identify high-quality product reviews. This will make it easier for us to get sound purchasing advice in front of users, and to reward creators who are earnest in being helpful”. Currently, this may only impact the rankings of English-language product reviews.

Google to Remove the URL Parameters Tool in Search Console

The URL parameters tool that sites within the legacy Google Search Console will be killed off on Tuesday the 26th of April 2022.

In the announcement just last month, Google said “Over the years, Google became much better at guessing which parameters are useful on a site and which are —plainly put— useless. In fact, only about 1% of the parameter configurations currently specified in the URL Parameters tool are useful for crawling. Due to the low value of the tool both for Google and Search Console users, we’re deprecating the URL Parameters tool in 1 month.”

Going forward, there is no specific action for site owners to take in order to specify the function of URL parameters on their site, Google’s crawlers will automatically learn how best to deal with them.

More Context Given in Structured Data Error Reporting

From Monday the 28th March 2022, structured data error reporting within the Google Search Console rich results status reports, the Google Search Console URL inspection tool, and the Rich Results test gained more specific, descriptive, and contextual names for issues to help site owners find and fix the problem.

Within the announcement, Google added that:

  • All your open issues that refer to nested properties will be automatically closed (for example, the Missing field “name” issue in the example above).
  • You’ll see new open issues with more context about what’s missing (for example, the issue will say Missing field “name” (in “author”). To avoid overloading Search Console users with emails, we won’t send notifications on the creation of these new issues.

Here’s a before and after example of a structured data error:

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: February 2022

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

Desktop Page Experience Algorithm Now Rolling Out

As of Tuesday 22nd February, the Google Page Experience update began rolling out across desktop search results, this is expected to complete by the end of March 2022:

As previously touched on, the desktop algorithm includes the same factors as the mobile page experience update, other than the obvious mobile friendliness, illustrated below:

It is unlikely that sites will see any immediate or at all change in rankings from this update. During the rollout on mobile, Google said “While this update is designed to highlight pages that offer great user experiences, page experience remains one of many factors our systems take into account… Given this, sites generally should not expect drastic changes”, we expect this to also apply to desktop.

Multiple Data Losses Within Google Search Console

Google Search Console experienced data losses on two separate occasions throughout February. Firstly, between the 1st and 3rd of February, Google reported a data logging issue within the performance report, relating to Google Search, Google Discover, and Google News.

As a result, site owners may spot some discrepancies in performance data during this period, however, Google says “this is only a logging issue; it does not reflect a change in either user behaviour or search results on Google”. The performance report displays an annotation icon to document this.

The second instance of data loss within Google Search Console last month refers to the crawl stats report, site owners are reporting crawl data missing from either one or both of the 8th and 9th February, looking like this:

John Mueller from Google later confirmed on Twitter that this missing crawl data is of no concern:

Google Search Console Snapshot Now Supports Domain Properties

First launched in 2018, the Google Search Console snapshot displays insights from Google Search Console data directly in the search results, for example:

This now supports and will display for all verification methods, after Google announced “we are happy to share that starting today Search Console in Search results feature will also support domain properties”.

It is worth remembering that the snapshot will only appear if you are either the full owner or the full user of the site in Google Search Console, you must also be signed in with the correct Google account whilst searching for queries that your site ranks for.

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: January 2022

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

Google Launches URL Inspection API

On the 31st of January 2022, Google announced the new Google Search Console URL Inspection API, letting you programmatically access the URL level data from Google Search Console properties through external software, as with other APIs.

Google says “we’re providing a new tool for developers to debug and optimize their pages. You can request the data Search Console has about the indexed version of a URL; the API will return the indexed information currently available in the URL Inspection tool.”

Here’s an example of the API response:

URL Inspection API Code

Many SEO tool providers are already publishing updates with the new API integration, for example, Screaming Frog:

New Google Robots Tag: indexifembedded

Google announced the rollout of a new robots tag, giving sites more control over what content can be indexed in search results. The new tag named indexifembedded lets you tell Google if you’d still like your content indexed when it’s embedded through iframes and similar HTML tags in other pages, even when the content page has a noindex tag.

The new tag addresses a common issue faced by publishers, while they may want their content indexed when it’s embedded on third-party pages, they don’t necessarily want their media pages indexed on their own.

To enable content to be indexed only when it’s embedded on other pages, add indexifembedded in combination with the noindex tag. For example:

Google Search Console Adds Desktop Page Experience Report

With the Page Experience update expected to roll out across desktop search results imminently, Google has added a Desktop Page Experience report to Search Console:

The Google Search Console Page Experience report now looks like the following:

Breadcrumb & HowTo Error Reporting Changed in Google Search Console

Towards the end of January, Google posted an update within the Help Centre stating the way it evaluates and reports errors in Breadcrumbs and HowTo structured data within Search Console has changed.

As a result, Google says “you may see changes in the number of Breadcrumbs and HowTo entities and issues reported for your property, as well as a change in severity of some issues from errors to warnings.”

It is worth noting that any changes are strictly in reporting, this will not affect the visibility of rich results within Google Search.

New “People Search Next” Google Mobile Search Feature

Google search has a new feature on mobile SERPs titled “People search next”, this has been spotted for multiple “near me” queries, displaying above the “Related searches” refinement.

An example of this for the search of “dentist near me” is shown below:

As with most new search features, this appears to only currently be showing in US SERPs.

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: November 2021

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

November 2021 Core Algorithm Update

On 17th November, Google announced the rollout of another core update, titled ‘November 2021 Core Update’. This came as a surprise to the wider SEO community, with the update rolling out across Black Friday weekend, one of the busiest online shopping periods of the year, eventually coming to completion on 30th November.

The following Google Search Central tweets confirmed those dates:

There are mixed reports regarding the severity of the update, however a Twitter poll by Marie Haynes provides some nice insight. With 48% of voters (632 total) not seeing much from the update on the sites that they handle:

Google Drops Mobile-First Indexing Deadline

In a Google Search Central blog post, John Mueller announced that Google is dropping the final deadline for sites moving over to mobile-first indexing. This comes from Google wanting to accommodate the timelines for sites facing unexpectedly difficult challenges.

The previous update claimed that mobile-first indexing would complete by the end of March 2021, and has since continued to be pushed back, with Google now saying:

After analyzing the sites that are not yet indexed mobile-first, we’ve determined that some of these sites are still not ready to be shifted over due to various, unexpected challenges that they’re facing. Because of these difficulties, we’ve decided to leave the timeline open for the last steps of mobile-first indexing.”

Page Experience Update Set for Desktop in February 2022

Back in May 2021, Google announced their plan to bring Page Experience ranking to desktop search results in the near future. A timeline has now been given for these changes – Page Experience ranking will begin rolling out across desktop in February 2022 and will complete by the end of March 2022.

This means that the same three Core Web Vitals metrics (LCP, FID & CLS), along with the other page experience signals such as HTTPS security and the absence of intrusive interstitials will now also apply to desktop pages. The one signal that will not be carried over is Mobile Friendliness, with it having no relevance to desktop ranking. A breakdown of all the Page Experience signals for mobile and desktop can be found below:

Updated Version of PageSpeed Insights Goes Live

As of 16th November, Google began to roll out a revamped version of PageSpeed Insights. This came with the following announcement:

While it is a critical element in our speed tooling suite, the PSI code base was ten years old, contained a lot of legacy code, and was due for a redesign. We used this as an opportunity to address interface-related issues in PSI which have sometimes made it difficult for users to navigate the report.”

The updated PSI tool has a host of new features, in short, these include:

  • Clear separation of field and lab data
  • Core Web Vitals assessment result now stands out as a separate subsection with a distinct icon.
  • Origin summary rehoused under new tab, labelled “Origin”
  • New “Expand view” feature that adds a drill-down function to the field data section
  • Page image and thumbnails now available in lab data section

A video posted by Addy Osmani visualises the changes to the PSI UI over time, whilst demonstrating some of those new features:

Google Say “A Mix of Positive and Negative Reviews Are More Trustworthy”

Google has updated the Google Business Profiles Get Reviews help document with a new line stating that a mix of positive and negative reviews can be more trustworthy, indicating that having some negative reviews rather than all positive may be beneficial to your site. Here’s the new addition to the best practice advice:

  • Value all reviews: Reviews are useful for potential customers when they’re honest and objective. Customers find a mix of positive and negative reviews more trustworthy. You can always respond to a review to show the customers that you care and provide additional context. If the review doesn’t follow our posting guidelines, you can request its removal.

Bolding Words or Paragraphs Does Help With SEO

In a Google Search Central SEO office-hours hangout recorded on 12th November, John Mueller was once again asked about the SEO benefits of using bolded text. In short, the following was said: “Does bolding important points on a paragraph help the SEO? Yes it does.”.

To provide some more context around this topic, John went on to say that when trying to figure out what a page is actually expressing, besides the usual tagging such as headings on a page, Google also look at “things like what is actually bolded or emphasized within the text on the page. So to some extent that does have a little bit of extra value there, in that it’s a clear sign that actually you think this page or this paragraph is about this topic here.”

It goes without saying that random sentence bolding is not the takeaway from these comments. Making sure that page content is high-quality, useful, unique, and compelling should be a priority.

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: October 2021

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

Google Updates Search Quality Rater Guidelines

A year on from the previous update, Google made several changes to the search quality raters’ guidelines. These come as a 172 page PDF that according to Google “help make sure Search is returning relevant results from the most reliable sources available”.

To summarise, the most recent update included the following changes:

  • Expanded the definition of the YMYL subcategory ‘Groups of people’
  • Refreshed guidance on how to research reputation information for websites and content creators
  • Restructured and updated ‘Lowest Page Quality’ section; reorganized and refreshed examples to reflect new structure
  • Simplified the definition of ‘Upsetting-Offensive’ to remove redundancy with Lowest Page Quality section
  • Minor changes throughout (updated screenshots and URLs, wording, and examples for consistency; removed outdated examples; fixed typos; etc.)

The ratings your site may receive from a search quality evaluator do not directly impact rankings, however it is worth reviewing the guidelines to better understand the type of page content that Google prefers to rank.

Continuous Scroll Rolling Out Across Mobile Google Search

As of the 14th October, Google began rolling out continuous scrolling for search results on mobile devices. Initially, this is for “most” English searches on the mobile in the U.S and is expected to be carried over to other international search results pages – including the UK – in the near future.

The change comes in to make browsing search results “more seamless and intuitive” and now means that when you get to the bottom of a search results page on your phone, the next set of results (previously page 2) will now automatically load.

For example:

Following the announcement, Google has stated that continuous scroll is not the widely known ‘infinite scroll’, as the new feature will only load up to a maximum of four pages when you will then be shown a “See more” button. Within the same set of tweets, Google also explained that this will not change how reporting works within Search Console:

Google Adds Granular Scores To Search Console Core Web Vitals Report

The Core Web Vitals report in Google Search Console is now showing more granular scoring data when you select a URL within the report to view more details.

Displaying as:

The scores shown are not however for individual URLs – as you expect from other testing tools such as the PageSpeed report – they are for the URL group, meaning Google has assigned an issue “to a group of URLs that provide a similar user experience. This is because it is assumed that performance issues in similar pages are probably due to the same underlying problem, such as a common slow-loading feature in the pages.”

Google Search Results More Volatile In 2021

Mordy Oberstein, the head of communications at Semrush posted a series of tweets claiming that Google search results have been far more volatile through 2021 than in the previous year. Data pulled from the Semrush Sensor shows that SERP volatility is up 84% on mobile and 68% on desktop for 2021 YTD compared to 2020.

Mobile SERP volatility 2020 vs 2021:

Desktop SERP volatility 2020 vs 2021:

The Semrush Sensor tracks volatility of Google SERPs based on daily changes in rankings, although these daily changes cannot be directly attributed to algorithm updates, some believe it is a good indicator that of Google’s algorithm updates, meaning they may have been more sever this year.

Testing Tools In Google Search Console Now Match The URL Inspection Tool

To further help users find and fix issues in web pages, Google has updated three of its standalone public testing tools within Search Console to now provide a standardization of features and align with the URL Inspection Tool. Previously, the AMP, Mobile Friendly and Rich Results testing tools have all advanced separately at different paces, meaning there were multiple tools from Google each showing similar information in varied ways.

A blog post from Google titled “Aligning Search Console testing tools and the URL Inspection tool explains that “we’re making changes in their designs and improving features to be fully aligned with the URL Inspection tool”. More specifically, from now on the following fields will be displayed both on the public testing tools and on the URL Inspection Tool:

  • Page availability – Whether Google was able to crawl the page, when it was crawled, or any obstacles that it encountered when crawling the URL.
  • HTTP headers – The HTTP header response returned from the inspected URL.
  • Page screenshot – The rendered page as seen by Google.
  • Paired AMP inspection, Inspect both canonical and AMP URL.


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: September 2021

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

Google Further Refines How Title Tags Are Generated In Search

Following feedback on the new system introduced back in August for generating titles in web page results, Google has made further refinements to how titles are shown in SERPs. These changes now mean that title elements (title tags) “are now used around 87% of the time, rather than around 80% before”.

Within the Google Search Central Blog posted on 17th September, Google provided some examples of situations where they detect certain on-page issues and may choose to adjust the page title shown in search results accordingly:

  • Half-empty titles – Often occur when large sites use templates to generate titles and something is missed, meaning the title does not appropriately summarise the page contents.
  • Obsolete titles – Can occur when the same page is used year-after-year for recurring information, but the title element is not updated to reflect the latest year.
  • Inaccurate titles – Sometimes titles don’t accurately reflect what the page is about, for example the page may have dynamic content and not display the same products as described in the title.

The advice does however remain the same, site owners should focus on creating great HTML title elements, as those are “by far what we use the most”.

Search Console Performance Report Back To Normal After Significant Delays

Google Search Console once again experienced reporting issues last month, a separate problem to the previously discussed widespread data loss in late August. Within the SEO community it was widely reported that site owners were experiencing significant delays in the performance report data being shown, which was later confirmed on the Google Search Central Twitter account:

Two days later the bug was fixed, with all performance report data updated and back to normal:

New Google Help Docs On Best Practices For Ecommerce

Google has added a new multipage set of guides to help developers and SEOs better understand the best e-commerce practices for Google Search. These new help documents provide developers with the tools to ensure that the site works well with Google, which will ultimately help more shoppers discover your site and products.

Here’s a short description of what is covered in each of the topic areas:

Google Clarify That Intrusive Interstitials Don’t Impact Indexing But May Impact Ranking

As a response to a query on Twitter, asking if Google would not index a page because it triggers the mobile interstitial penalty, John Mueller said that “intrusive interstitial element has a ranking effect, it wouldn’t affect indexing”. Meaning a page would be indexed regardless of any intrusive interstitials, however, this may have an impact on ranking.

With that being said, it’s worth rehashing the guidelines around intrusive interstitials to help ensure your site doesn’t incur a penalty that would negatively impact rankings. Google deems an interstitial that makes content less accessible as intrusive, for example:

  • Showing a popup that covers the main content, either immediately after the user navigates to a page from the search results, or while they are looking through the page.
  • Displaying a standalone interstitial that the user has to dismiss before accessing the main content.
  • Using a layout where the above-the-fold portion of the page appears similar to a standalone interstitial, but the original content has been inlined underneath the fold.

There are, however, some examples of interstitials that would not provoke a penalty, for example:

  • Interstitials that appear to be in response to a legal obligation, such as for cookie usage or for age verification.
  • Login dialogs on sites where content is not publicly indexable. For example, this would include private content such as email or unindexable content that is behind a paywall.
  • Banners that use a reasonable amount of screen space and are easily dismissible. For example, the app install banners provided by Safari and Chrome are examples of banners that use a reasonable amount of screen space.


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: July 2021

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

July 2021 Core Algorithm Update Rollout

On 1st July, the second round of Google’s two-part core updates began rolling out, this was then “effectively” complete by the 12th of July.

Much like the June 2021 Core Update, there were no specifics on what the broad update entailed – with the only given information explaining that a core algorithm update introduces changes across a wide range of indexing and ranking processes, implicating that core updates are not intended to target one specific factor.

Google has previously stated that sites which experience a drop after a core update may not actually have anything wrong to fix. The advice offered in this situation is to focus on “ensuring you’re offering the best content you can. That’s what our algorithms seek to reward”.

More information and advice on what site owners should know about core updates can be found in this Google Search Central Blog.  

Google Categorises Causes For Organic Traffic Drops

Off the back of two broad core updates, Google released a document titled “Analyzing Google Search traffic drops”, this provided site owners with illustrations of different drops in organic traffic that a site may experience, along with explanations to help identify and categorise the causes for each.

Examples of Google Search organic traffic drops

According to Google, there are five main causes for drops in organic traffic:

  • Technical issues: Errors that can prevent Google from crawling, indexing, or serving your pages to users – for example, server availability, robots.txt fetching, page not found, and others.
  • Security issues: If your site is affected by a security threat, Google may alert users before they reach your site with warnings or interstitial pages, which may decrease Search traffic.
  • Manual Actions: If your site does not comply with Google’s guidelines, some of your pages or the entire site may be omitted from Google Search results through a Manual Action.
  • Algorithmic changes: Google is always improving how it assesses content and updating its algorithm accordingly; core updates and other smaller updates may change how some pages perform in Google Search results.
  • Search interest disruption: Sometimes changes in user behaviour will change the demand for certain queries, either as a result of a new trend, or seasonality throughout the year.

This is the first time Google has openly shared information like this, and from the reaction across forums and social media it has been very much welcomed.

Google Now Showing Why A Specific Result Was Ranked

To provide further transparency, Google is now showing more information within the ‘About This Result’ section in search. There are now several factors that can be given as to why Google has ranked a specific result within SERPs, these will be listed as bullet points under “Your search & this result”.

Here’s what that looks like:

About This Result Example

This largely confirms what SEOs and marketers already knew as to why Google ranks specific sites for certain queries, but having all factors listed together could provide a useful tool when investigating an unexpected result.

Currently, this is only available for English results in the U.S, but it is expected to be rolled out across other counties (including the UK) in the coming months.

Google Says You Should Keep Redirects Live For At Least A Year

As a response to questions regarding how long you should keep redirections in place, Gary Illyes from Google took to Twitter to provide a “concrete answer”, saying redirects should remain in place for “at least 1 year”.

The Twitter thread goes on to explain that one year allows enough time for Google to pass any signals from the origin URL to the destination URL, any signals passed will then remain associated to the destination URL, even after the redirect has been removed.

It is also still worth noting that, if possible, site owners should strive to keep redirects live indefinitely for the user’s benefit.

SeekToAction Video Markup Now Supported In Google Search

Back in May 2021, Google pre-announced SeekToAction as one of two new video content structured data markups. At the time this was still in the developmental / testing phase, this is now officially supported within Google search, meaning video key moments can now be shown within Google Search.

Looking something like this:

SeekToAction Key Moments Rich Result

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.

Our Approach to Google’s Page Experience Algorithm Update

As of 15th June 2021 Google’s new Page Experience Algorithm is now rolling out. This new algorithm change measures a range of factors related to user experience, with sites offering good page experience favoured.

As indicated by Google before the release of the algorithm, the rollout period is gradual, with an expected completion date in late August. It’s also not expected that sites will see drastic changes to rankings as an immediate result of the update.

Back in 2020 Google announced new Core Web Vitals metrics, which now form a key part of the new algorithm change. These metrics cover a specific set of areas Google considers as important to the usability of a webpage, including Page speed, Interactivity and Visual Stability.

Other factors measured by the Page Experience algorithm are: 

  • Mobile friendliness
  • Safe browsing
  • HTTPS
  • Usage of intrusive interstitials

What You Need To Know

Page Experience is now included within Google’s wider set of ranking factors. It includes a blend of signals that Google considers impactful to user experience, and Core Web Vitals are an important part of that score.

It was initially believed that sites would receive a negative impact on ranking should they not pass all three Core Web Vital metrics. However, Google now says that you do not need all three “good” scores in order to get any boost in rankings. Additionally, some at Google have indicated that Page Experience could be treated as a lower weight “tie breaker” signal, giving one site an edge over others should scores against other ranking factors be very similar.

Google has also stated that once you do attain the “good” threshold, micro optimising for further improvements will not give you any additional boost in rankings. This confirms the importance of focusing on pages currently receiving “poor” or “needs improvement” CWV metric scores.

To help site owners measure performance against the new metrics, Google Search Console now has a Page Experience report. This includes the current site performance against each of the signals, as well as summarising the percentage of URLs with good page experience over time.

Google Search Console Page Experience Report

When collecting page experience data for a site, Google has confirmed that although they try to be as granular as possible in order to deal with page experience on a page-by-page basis, this isn’t always possible. As such, for some sites page experience data is aggregated.

Although the current release is only designed to measure performance on mobile devices, Google has confirmed that Page Experience will eventually become a ranking factor for desktop. In an announcement at Google I/O, Jeffrey Jose said “we believe page experience is critical no matter the surface the user is browsing the web. This is why we’re working hard on bringing page experience ranking to desktop”. A rollout date for desktop page experience is expected nearer the time of release.

Google was seen to be testing a visual indication within search results for sites that pass the page experience criteria. Should this be implemented, it could provide an incentive for users to click through to sites that have been confirmed to provide a good user experience. This adds another level of motivation for sites to ensure they meet good page experience criteria.

How Can We Measure ‘Page Experience’?

Google’s page experience criteria consists of the following:

Core Web Vitals

These consist of three metrics that are used to measure the user experience of a page.

First Input Delay (FID)

Measures from when a user interacts with a page, to the time the browser can process the event. Due to not being available in simulated environments, we use Maximum Potential First Input Delay and Total Blocking Time to measure this.

Largest Contentful Paint (LCP)

This metric reports the render time of the largest image or text block visible within the viewport. Can also be seen as the loading speed of a page.

Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS)

CLS measures the sum total of all individual layout shift scores for every unexpected layout shift that occurs during the entire lifespan of the page.  A layout shift occurs any time a visible element changes its position from one rendered frame to the next.

 The new ranking signals will involve a combination of Core Web Vitals and the other four existing user experience considerations.

Mobile Friendliness

This is a measurement of how usable a website is on a mobile device. Issues can occur when elements of a page do not load correctly, or if parts of a page are not correctly optimised towards mobile users.

Safe Browsing

The security issues report within Google Search Console alerts us to any issues on a site which compromise safe browsing, which can include the following issues:

  • Hacked content: This is any content placed on your site without your permission because of security vulnerabilities in your site. In order to protect our users, Google tries its best to keep hacked content out of our search results.
  • Malware and unwanted software: This is software that is designed to harm a device or its users, that engages in deceptive or unexpected practices, or that negatively affects the user. Malware can be either installed by a hacker or the site owner.
  • Social engineering: This is content that tricks visitors into doing something dangerous, such as revealing confidential information or downloading software.

Any security issues raised by Google should be resolved as a priority.

HTTPS

HTTPS is an internet standard form of encryption. Sites without HTTPS encryption subject their users to HTTP request-response attacks, putting their sensitive information at risk.

Browsers such as Google Chrome and Apple Safari will also warn users who access a page without HTTPS encryption, making users less likely to follow through with providing sensitive information such as log-in or payment details.

No Intrusive Interstitials

As part of Google’s mobile-friendly initiative, if there are any interstitials on a page that Google deems to be intrusive this can have a negative impact on organic rankings. This can include the following: 

  • Showing a popup that covers the main content, either immediately after the user navigates to a page from the search results, or while they are looking through the page. 
  • Displaying a standalone interstitial that the user has to dismiss before accessing the main content.
  • Using a layout where the above-the-fold portion of the page appears similar to a standalone interstitial, but the original content has been inlined underneath the fold.

Fusion’s Page Experience Auditing Process

We recommend focusing on improving all Page Experience signals as part of a wider technical SEO strategy. As part of our reporting & audit process, we identify any under-performing areas and illustrate how you can address these, by utilising proprietary tools which can pull core web vital metrics across a site.

We mark any poorly performing areas as an immediate target to improve in order to boost your site’s user experience and meet the expectations set out by the new ranking factor.

How Do We Do This?

We combine Google’s CrUX (Chrome User Experience Report) data with our own core web vitals data in order to provide a full picture of the performance of your site. 

Google CrUX – Publicly available data. Provides a top-line view on core web vitals data for any site within the database. Data is sorted by site experiences (amount of users experiencing a site) and if their experience passed, failed, or required improvement, based on Google’s criteria.

Fusion Unlimited’s Core Web Vitals – Core Web Vitals data retrieved via a proprietary tool. Our proprietary tool can be tailored for any site in order to pull core web vitals data for all URLs within a site, giving us control over the data that we have access to and allowing us to analyse site performance at a much more granular level.

We also include all other metrics included within Google’s Page Experience criteria.

What Goes Into Each Report?

Summary

We provide an overall site summary on how the site performs across all Page Experience factors, along with recommendations on how to prioritise any metrics which require optimisation. 

We also provide a breakdown of how each metric is currently performing on the site for each Page Experience factor.

Core Web Vitals Pages

We have pages within our report dedicated to providing a deep-dive into each of the Core Web Vitals metrics (FID, LCP, CLS). Within these pages, we will provide the performance of each page that has been tested and display the pages which are currently receiving the poorest performance. 

Want to See For Yourself?

Since Google announced back in May 2020 that page experience would become a ranking factor, we’ve been working with brands from a wide range of sectors throughout the country to ensure they’re aware of their own performance and what they need to do to benefit from the update.

If you’d like to stay ahead of the game, get in touch with the team today to request your own free report at hello@fusionunlimited.co.uk.

SEO Market Updates: May 2021

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

Google Announces MUM – New Tech That’s “1,000x More Powerful Than BERT”

Google showcased a new AI technology called MUM (Multitask Unified Model) during Google I/O, this will help to better understand language and interpret queries for more complex tasks within search.

According to Google, MUM is built on a transformer architecture, similar to BERT, however, it is 1,000x more powerful and capable of multitasking to connect information for users in ways that present-day search engines cannot. MUM is trained across 75 different languages, allowing it to develop a more comprehensive understanding of information and world knowledge.

Here’s an example of how MUM can interpret a query to surface other helpful subtopics for deeper exploration:

Multitask Unified Model Example

It’s not live yet, and Google says they will announce once it is added to search. The only indication as to when this may be was given by Google saying, “We’ll bring MUM-powered features and improvements to our products in the coming months and years”.

Schema.org Launches New Schema Markup Validator Tool

A new schema markup validator tool has been launched as a subdomain on the official Schema.org website, this comes as a “refocused” replacement to Google’s Structured Data Testing Tool, which Google had originally planned to deprecate. However, after backlash, it was decided to improve and house this outside of Google’s direct property as a more “general purpose” schema validator.

The new tool allows for testing of structured data types outside of what Google uses to render rich results, which the Rich Results Test does not offer the ability to test for.

The new Schema Markup Validator has the following functionalities:

  • Extracts JSON-LD 1.0, RDFa 1.1, Microdata markup.
  • Displays a summary of the extracted structured data graph.
  • Identifies syntax mistakes in the markup.

Here’s what that looks like in practice:

Schema Markup Validator Tool

Page Experience Ranking Eventually Coming To Desktop

In an announcement at Google I/O, Jeffrey Jose, a Google Product Manager revealed that planning is in place for Page Experience to become a ranking factor for desktop, as well as the initial rollout for mobile pages commencing in the coming weeks.

I am happy to announce that we are bringing page experience ranking to desktop. While we’re launching page experience on mobile soon, we believe page experience is critical no matter the surface the user is browsing the web. This is why we’re working hard on bringing page experience ranking to desktop. As always we’ll be providing updated guidance, documentation and tools.”

More confirmation came later from this Tweet:

https://twitter.com/jeffjose/status/1394776921121067012?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw%7Ctwcamp%5Etweetembed%7Ctwterm%5E1394776921121067012%7Ctwgr%5E%7Ctwcon%5Es1_&ref_url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.seroundtable.com%2Fgoogle-page-experience-update-coming-to-desktop-31439.html

This announcement now means that the work being done across the industry to improve page experience on mobile pages, should now also be applied to desktop.

Two New Video Content Structured Data Markups

Another exciting announcement from Google I/O came when John Mueller, a Google Search Advocate, revealed two new schema markups for video content that can help to gain more visibility within search results.

The first being Clip markup, which is now live. This allows you to manually tell Google what timestamps and labels to show for key moments within the video.

Here’s an example of how that shows as a rich result in search:

Clip Markup Example

Seek markup is the other, this is not yet live and is currently still in the pilot phase, however, Google says it can “Use machine learning to analyze your video content and automatically determine relevant segments for you. All you have to do is tell us how to link to an arbitrary timestamp within the video hosted on your pages, and we’ll do the rest”.

Once both live and functioning, these new properties should be nested within the existing VideoObject schema on the page.

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: April 2021

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

New Page Experience Report in Google Search Console

Google has launched a new Page Experience report within Google Search Console to help site owners better prepare for the rollout of the upcoming page experience update. The report includes existing Core Web Vitals along with the other page experience signals, listed as Mobile Usability, Security Issues, HTTPS and Ad Experience.

Speaking about this new feature, Google has said “The Page Experience report offers valuable metrics, such as the percentage of URLs with good page experience and search impressions over time, enabling you to quickly evaluate performance”.

Here’s what the new report looks like:

Google Search Console Page Experience Report

More information on the report’s full capabilities can be found in the Page Experience Report Google help document.

Along with this, Google has also introduced the ability to filter pages by ‘Good Page Experience’ within the GSC Performance report, allowing site owners to easily keep track of how pages with “Good Page Experience” compare to others on the site.

Google Search Console Good Page Experience Filter

Google Postpone Page Experience Rollout and Provide More Insight

In a blog post providing “More time, tools, and details”, Google has stated that the Page Experience update will be a gradual rollout, beginning in mid-June 2021 and not playing a full role as part of their ranking systems until the end of August. Meaning the update will now finish much later than the original rollout schedule of May 2021.

Google gave the following reasoning for the update being rolled out gradually rather than in real time, “because we’re doing this as a gradual rollout, we will be able to monitor for any unexpected or unintended issues”.

Google Updated How Cumulative Layout Shift is Scored

Changes have been made to how Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS) is calculated, CLS is a measurement of a web page’s visual stability and is one of the Core Web Vital metrics. Google has updated how this is scored to make it more accurate and fair, stating they are “making the CLS metric more fair to pages that are open for a long time”.

Google now reviews CLS on each page in session windows, here’s a visual representation of this new approach:

Layout Shift Session Window Review Example

Layout shifts can occur sporadically over the time a user views a page, for this reason, Google has decided to group them into session windows. The CLS metric now follows this rule: “maximum session window with 1 second gap, capped at 5 seconds”.

Site owners should not however worry about this change. Because the new update caps the CLS calculation window at 5 seconds, Google say “no page will have a worse score as a result of this”.

More Improvements To Google Search Console

Google has improved data filtering and comparison within the Google Search Console Performance report by introducing a regular expression (regex) filter and ‘revamping’ the comparison mode.

Google explained that the new regular expression filter will help “create more complex query and page based filters”. This new feature will allow Search Console users to catch abbreviated queries within a filtered search, for example when looking at performance for a particular query like ‘gin and tonic’, the new regex filter can be used to capture all similarly relates searches such as ‘gin & tonic’ or ‘g&t’.

Google Search Console Regular Expression Filter

The newly revamped comparison mode now permits users to select and compare multiple metrics by displaying results side-by-side, the table area is almost doubled in size and does now support the new regex filter.

Google Search Console Performance Comparison Mode

Google Rollout New Product Reviews Update

Google has released a new product reviews search algorithm update. This is not a core update affecting all search results, it is specifically targeted at rewarding more in-depth, informative product reviews within SERPs.

We know people appreciate product reviews that share in-depth research, rather than thin content that simply summarizes a bunch of products. That’s why we’re sharing an improvement to our ranking systems, which we call the product reviews update, that’s designed to better reward such content”.

Additional useful information on what creators should know about Google’s product reviews update has been provided within the Google Search Central Blog.

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: March 2021

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

Google Responds to “Misleading” Zero-Click Study

A study published by Rand Fishkin, founder of SparkToro (data courtesy of SimilarWeb) shows that 65% of Google searches from January to December 2020 ended up without the user clicking through to another web property from search results.

Google Zero-Click Study Pie Chart

Google felt the need to respond, writing in a blog post “this claim relies on flawed methodology that misunderstands how people use search”. They then went on to provide “important context about this misleading claim” in order to “set the record straight”. In short, this context included the following:

  • People reformulate their queries. Meaning users often refine their query with a new search. This initial query would inadvertently be considered as zero-click.
  • People look for quick facts. For example, searches for information on weather forecast, sports results, currency conversions and more, which all show directly on the results page.
  • People connect with a business directly. This refers to consumers accessing business information from the search results, which often does not require a traditional click. Including searches for opening hours, contact information, reservations or directions.
  • People navigate directly to apps. Some searches lead users directly to apps, rather than clicking through to a site. For example, searches for a TV program, where the user can follow a direct link to open a streaming app from the results page.

Despite this context, it is worth noting that there is an upwards trend in ‘zero-click’ searches when comparing to similar studies from previous years.

New Practice Problems and Math Solver Structured Data

Google have released new structured data markup which allows sites to display practice problems and math solver pages within Google Search as rich results.

Here’s an example of what practice problems looks like in mobile SERPs:

Example of Practice Problems Structured Data in Google Search

Whereas math solver should display like this:

Example of Math Solver Structured Data in Google Search

Google’s reasoning for this new introduction was “Practice content and math assistance have been some of the most requested information from learners. Practice material helps users gauge their mastery of a concept while a solver provides explanations to help a user get unstuck while doing math problems”.

This is now live, so sites with eligible content can start to implement these new schemas.

Google Adds More Detail To CWV & Page Experience FAQs

Google have expanded their Core Web Vitals & Page Experience FAQs, announcing in a Twitter post that “We are back with more answers to the questions we received”. A lot more detail has been added, a couple of key points include:

Our systems will continue to prioritize pages with the best information overall, even if some aspects of page experience are subpar. A good page experience doesn’t override having great, relevant content”. However, in a situation where multiple pages of similar quality and content go head to head, Google says that those with a superior page experience may perform better than those without.

With the upcoming change to Top Stories carousel, all web pages irrespective of their page experience status or Core Web Vitals score are eligible for Top Stories carousel”. Meaning a news page won’t need to meet all the Core Web Vitals requirements to be eligible for the Top Stories carousel.

New Resources For Video SEO

Google released two new resources to help site owners optimise their videos for Google Search. Firstly, a new ‘Search Central Lightning Talk’ covers the video best practices for Google Search & Discover, outlining five key tips for video optimisation.

Google also updated their Video best practices guide which provides clarification on the correct steps to be taken to help Google find, index, and understand a video.

SharedArrayBuffer Notification Explained

On 15th March Google sent out a notice to site owners through Search Console stating ‘New requirements for SharedArrayBuffers’, which caused lots of confusion.

Google promptly published a blog post to provide clarification on this. Explaining that site owners received this message because the JavaScript on their site was detected to be using the SharedArrayBuffer object. They then defined SharredArrayBuffer as “a JavaScript object to share a memory space across threads on a website. It was used by websites before the vulnerability called Spectre was found. However, because Spectre was a CPU level vulnerability and it’s unlikely to be fixed in the foreseeable future, browsers decided to disable the SharedArrayBuffer object”.

The blog post provides two options to help find the SharedArrayBuffer object usage on your site. It then recommends the following actions to be taken: