Posted on April 15, 2021
May 4, 2021 update: Google’s algorithm update is now expected in mid-June 2021.
If you’ve ever wondered how your website performs on a Google search, and how likely prospects are to find you, now is the time to take an even closer look at this issue. Google has announced a major update to their search engine optimization (SEO) algorithm for May 2021, which may have a direct effect on your company’s website. To discuss the impact of this change, we consulted our own SEO expert, Peter Kang.
In this interview Peter identifies the changes we can expect, key steps to address and what Warm Thoughts is doing about it. Spoiler alert: Google’s best practices are also ours so we’re not expecting our clients to be adversely affected. Even so, we want to let you know what you can expect to happen in the next few weeks.
WARM THOUGHTS COMMUNICATIONS: Tell us about the upcoming Google update.
PETER KANG: In the coming algorithm update, Google will prioritize user experience. They’re already using signals to determine what kinds of websites are user friendly. For example, is your website mobile friendly? Is it secure? Is the text relevant?
With this new update, they’ll be adding more factors created to determine whether your website provides a good experience to users. The updates they’re planning can affect organic search results—particularly for companies that aren’t already following Google’s best practices.
When can we expect this update to take effect?
The industry is expecting this update to happen in May. There’s no exact date—yet—for when it will start rolling out.
Has Google identified what factors it’ll be changing with this upcoming update?
Yes, they’re calling them core web vitals. It can get kind of techie but to simplify it, they’re going to be adding new ways to judge a website. One of those ways is how fast your website loads content. Google expects websites to load within 2.5 seconds, but the basic idea is “the faster the better.” For people who are building websites, this may affect how that’s done. For example, template websites, which we never use at Warm Thoughts, often have extra features that aren’t customizable, so whether you use them or not, they will still be running on the backend and can slow down your website. With this update, websites that can’t be customized to load content faster may see a drop in their organic search results.
Secondly, Google is going to look at the interactivity of your website. If a user clicks on a button, how long does your website take to get them to that next page? A clear example of how this impacts the user experience is with e-commerce websites. If a customer clicks “add to cart” or “place order” and there’s a lag between when the person clicks on the button and the next action that’s taken by the website, it can lead to some very unhappy customers. Another problem is when orders are placed multiple times or multiple products that the customer didn’t want are added to the cart. This isn’t a good user experience.
Similarly, when a potential customer clicks contact us, or become a customer, the page or form should load immediately without any delay. Google wants customers to have a good user experience, so their update is going to recommend better-performing websites over weaker ones.
And the third element Google is judging harshly cumulative layout shifts. This is the visual part. Let’s say a user is looking for propane companies in their area, they click on the website of a company they like, and then click on the “contact us” form. If that form doesn’t load properly, Google won’t like that. Examples of this include the user having to scroll down to see the form or buttons shifting away, or the website text shifting, to name a few. Again, it goes back to the user experience and making things as easy as possible for customers. From a design perspective this means no huge menus, and also making sure elements on the website are consistent from page to page. You don’t want to complicate your website. Keep it simple.
So to summarize, the three elements the new algorithm is assessing are how fast your website loads, the input delay of elements on your website, and whether or not elements on your website have unexpected movement. Google wants everyone to have a better experience on the internet, so they will now consider these factors when they rank websites.
Will these changes affect what websites the average customer sees in their Google search results?
Yes. How your website displays to Google will always impact your ability to show up on a
Google search. Further, Google has confirmed that with this update, in addition to assessing the factors I mentioned, they’re also going
to experiment with visual labels on search results. We’re not sure exactly what that will look like yet, but in the past, they’ve experimented with labeling, so the industry is expecting something similar. So, as shown in the example here, a slow-loading website might have a label on its search results that says “slow loading.” Now if your competitor’s website doesn’t have that label but your website does, which website do you think the customer will click on? If your website has a warning label issued by Google, it can affect the clickthrough rate of your organic search results, which means it can affect your leads.
Google may also label good websites, with notes like “mobile friendly,” so a customer will know they can expect a well-optimized experience on that website if they’re browsing from their phone. We don’t know exactly how Google will implement these labels yet, but it looks like they’ll be incorporating them into this upcoming May update.
It sounds like this is bad news for companies that don’t prioritize user experience on their websites.
Yes, definitely. Google’s objective is to help people avoid bad websites. Often, it’s good businesses with poorly built sites that are impacted, but keep in mind, there are a ton of scam websites out there that Google is trying to help its customers avoid. This Google update is further trying to push websites to put their users’ experience first, and it’s going to be important for your fuel business to not get lumped in with these problematic sites.
What does this update mean for fuel or HVAC service companies’ websites?
It’s important for fuel companies to know that there isn’t one factor to help you get on the first page of Google results. Many little things, collectively, will help you increase your rankings: the expertise of your website content, the relevance of the information you provide, clear and concise communication, website load times and mobile friendliness, among others. There are a lot of little factors that, when combined, will help customers find you and ultimately grow your business.
How is Warm Thoughts addressing this new update?
We have been following Google trends and best practices for many years. Our team uses a process we’ve developed to identify these trends and to anticipate algorithm updates. We’ve already been doing what Google recommends and more, and we closely monitor the results.
For example, we created a tool to monitor keywords on a monthly basis for our clients, which helps us see how they’re showing up—or ranking—on search results in Google and other search engines as well. This helps us identify any month-to-month drops. If we notice a pattern, this is a sign for us to investigate and cross reference for any algorithm changes. At that point, we adjust the site to get our client’s websites to rank higher again.
We also have tools in place that allow us to check the average ranking for a keyword in your local area. For example, “propane delivery for X county or town” will show us how your website is performing against your local competitors. And we also have important industry partnerships that help us stay on top of search engine updates and news. These relationships keep us in the know when algorithm changes are coming. And of course, we’re members of SEO groups to collaborate with other professionals and stay updated.
So is it safe to say Warm Thoughts handles all these techy things like tracking Google’s preferences for their clients.?
Absolutely. What can I say? We live and breathe digital marketing here.