Tag: seo

Freedom day: What this means for SEO

Freedom Day has officially arrived, marking the end of all Coronavirus restrictions in the UK.

Thousands of businesses have suffered at the hand of these stringent restrictions over the past 2 years, so many are now breathing a sigh of relief. However, the era of uncertainty is far from over.

The global pandemic directly impacted search trends, shopping habits and SEO and in a way that no one could predict. The eCommerce industry thrived whereas the hospitality sector was left to starve.

As we begin to traverse life after the pandemic, we must ask ourselves: what does the return to normality mean for SEO? Will pre-pandemic search trends return overnight? Or have our habits changed for good? We explore this in more detail in this article.

The impact of COVID on search

The global population was thrust into a world of lockdowns, curfews, Zoom quizzes and social distancing virtually overnight. So, it’s no surprise that online searches changed dramatically to reflect this new, unconventional lifestyle.

We’ve taken a closer look at the direct impact that the pandemic had on online search habits below…

Pre-pandemic search trends

If we take a look at some of the most popular UK searches in the year before the pandemic, we can see some clear differences.

Major sporting events such as the rugby and cricket world cups dominated search trends over the year. Whereas, in 2020, Coronavirus and Eat Out to Help Out were amongst the most-searched topics.

From this, it’s clear to see our searches reflected the UK populations’ daily life when things were normal. For example, large gatherings at sporting events were a regular occurrence. People could watch the latest blockbusters at the cinema and major TV shows were produced and aired as normal.

In terms of SEO, this meant that strategies focused on the here and now, rather than the future.

Search trends during COVID

The UK lockdown in March 2020 incited a huge shift in online search trends. This is reflected in Google’s Year in Search 2020.

Of course, Coronavirus dominated searches in the UK and worldwide. However, a wealth of other key themes emerged; reflecting the UK populations’ adjustment and adaptation to life indoors.

How-to and DIY queries soared:

In true British fashion, searches for afternoon tea deliveries peaked, as well as searches for many other delivery-related terms:

In addition, searches that reflected the nation’s uncertainty emerged:

All of these factors, and our inability to leave our homes, gave rise to a boost in online retail sales and the eCommerce sector in general. In 2020, online retail sales grew by 37% in the UK – this is triple the growth rate of 2019!

Some of the sectors that benefitted the most included:

  • Electricals e.g. hair clippers, home-office equipment
  • Home and garden e.g. garden furniture and DIY equipment
  • Health and beauty e.g. home beauty treatments, healthcare

However, online clothing sales suffered as the need for outerwear, formal clothing and occasionwear basically vanished.

SEO became more important than ever in 2020, as many businesses pivoted towards online channels in order to survive.

Shopify’s revenue skyrocketed in 2020 as sign-ups to the platform increased dramatically; the number of new stores created increased by 71% between the first and second quarter of 2020.

It’s essential that SEO strategies adapted to these changes in consumer habits, whilst tentatively preparing online businesses for the latest Coronavirus updates and the easing of restrictions.

Local SEO, whilst not totally redundant, was put on the back burner for many online businesses. However, for those that were fully operational, tools like Google My Business became essential for informing customers of new opening hours; contact-free pick-up/drop-off services; social distancing measures and proximity.

In terms of content marketing, more long-form, informational content pieces were needed to answer consumers how-tos and DIY queries, as well as COVID-related questions.

Post-COVID search trend predictions

As we emerge from the pandemic and restart life without COVID-restrictions, it’s only natural to wonder what the future holds for SEO.

Some of our predictions are as follows:

  • Nightlife, hospitality and events come back with a bang
  • Greater focus on health and wellness
  • Social distancing measures and mask mandates remain
  • Demand for international travel increases significantly
  • Remote working is here to stay

Which industries were affected the most?

We’ve taken a look at the events over the past year to see which industries were impacted the most by COVID.

eCommerce

The eCommerce industry offered a lifeline for consumers that couldn’t leave their homes. Online shopping and door-to-door deliveries soared giving the sector an unexpected boost.

Research from Ofcom found £113 billion was spent online by British consumers in 2020 – a 48% increase on the year before.

Travel and tourism

Global travel came to a complete halt in 2020, as countries around the world closed their borders to protect their citizens from the new virus.

According to ONS data, 96% fewer people visited the UK in Q2 of 2020, compared to the same period in 2019. As well as this, turnover in the travel and tourism sector fell to just 26% in May 2020. By contrast, all other industries achieved a turnover rate of 73.6% in the same period.

Construction

The construction sector was amongst one of the worst-hit by the pandemic. Almost a fifth of construction firms stated that the pandemic decreased their turnover by over 50%.

Unsurprisingly, over 80% of construction firms also had to cancel or postpone projects as a direct result of COVID.

Law

The legal industry covers many areas, some of which benefitted from the pandemic, whereas others suffered.

For example, employment law firms saw a significant increase in inquiries from employers and employees over COVID. Whereas, conveyancing and property law firms struggled following the temporary closure of the housing market.

Hospitality

The hospitality industry essentially became redundant over the course of the pandemic. Social gatherings were banned, social distancing measures were implemented and nightlife establishments closed completely.

The impact of this is likely to be felt for a significant amount of time after the pandemic subsides. Economic output in this sector was down 90% in April 2020, compared to the year before.

How does this impact SEO campaigns?

For those who weren’t previously trading online, the pandemic highlighted a need to go digital – fast. This increased demand for high-quality SEO content, conversion-friendly copy, website design and more.

In many cases, SEO strategies were also geared towards survival, damage control and bounce-back.

For hospitality, construction, legal and travel firms that ceased trading during the pandemic, the main focus of SEO was to prepare for society to re-open and protect rankings.

Going forward, SEO strategies should be more focused on getting back to pre-pandemic traffic levels and conversions – and maybe even exceed them!

Check out our guide to marketing in a post-pandemic world more information.

The (potential) solution

We can no longer afford to think short-term when it comes to digital marketing and SEO. As we’ve seen, this leaves businesses vulnerable to attack, when unexpected economic events occur.

Whilst we can’t predict the future, we can certainly put the right measures in place to ensure your online strategies aren’t hit hard like this again.

Future-proofing your SEO campaigns, amongst other things, is the key to improving the longevity of your business.

How CandidSky can help

Here at CandidSky, we adopt a long-term approach to all of our SEO strategies and campaigns. We’ll show you the right search terms to target to ensure your business thrives long after the pandemic. Get in touch with one of our SEO experts today to get started.

Why you should pay attention to Core Web Vitals

screenshot of google pagespeed insights results for the url google.com

Core Web Vitals have been a recurring topic of conversation ever since Google announced that they would be used as ranking signals in 2020.

Essentially, Core Web Vitals give Google an idea of how user-friendly your website is. These are used alongside ranking factors like mobile-friendliness, safe browsing, HTTPS and intrusive interstitials to assess your website’s page experience. So the better your UX, the better your website will rank.

Of course, other SEO ranking factors such as original content, BERT, backlinks and more will play a significant part in your website’s SERP rankings.

However, Google’s page experience algorithm update will start rolling out in June. So now’s the time to ensure your Core Web Vitals are fully optimised so your rankings and traffic aren’t negatively affected.

Core Web Vitals explained

There are three main components of Core Web Vitals. This includes:

  • Largest Contentful Paint
  • First Input Delay
  • Cumulative Layout Shift

Google has stated that it’s likely that these will evolve over time and will be changed or added to in the future. Currently, however, you’ll only need to get to know these three core concepts to improve your page experience.

Largest Contentful Paint (LCP)

LCP is concerned with loading performance. Specifically, it measures how long it takes for a pages’ main content to load.

It’s recommended that LCP should load in 2.5 seconds or faster. So if your LCP value is slower than this, you should implement measures to speed up your website before the algorithm update rolls out.

Optimising LCP

There are many different ways you can improve your Largest Contentful Paint speed. This includes:

  • Optimising website images
  • Optimising CSS
  • Optimising web fonts

It’s likely that you’ll need some web development experience to take on these tasks yourself. Alternatively, you can enlist the help of a web developer to improve your LCP score.

First Input Delay (FID)

First Input Delay is a measure of a page’s interactivity and load responsiveness. Google suggests that an FID score of 100ms or less is needed to provide a positive page experience.

Optimising FID

Optimising First Input Delay can involve many different tasks. This includes:

  • Using a web worker
  • Reducing JavaScript execution time
  • Breaking up long tasks
  • Optimising pages for interaction readiness

Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS)

CLS measures how visually stable your website is. Frequent layout shifts and element changes can have a negative impact on your UX. So it’s important to make sure your website is as stable as possible to provide the best possible page experience. Google recommends that a ‘good’ CLS score is 0.1 or less.

Optimising CLS

To improve your CLS score, you can:

  • Include dimensions on images and videos
  • Reserve space for ad slots
  • Reserve space for embeds and iFrames

Where to find your Core Web Vitals report

Google offers a range of tools to help you monitor your Core Web Vitals over time. This will help you to stay on top of your page experience and adequately prepare for the algorithm update. These tools include the following…

PageSpeed Insights

screenshot of google pagespeed insights results for the url google.com

Chrome UX Report

 

screenshot of google chrome ux report for first contentful paint for the url developers.google.com

Source: Google

Search Console

screenshot of core web vitals report in google search console

Chrome DevTools

screenshot of core web vitals report in google developer tools

Lighthouse

screenshot of core web vitals in the google lighthouse tool

Web Vitals Extension

Screenshot of Google core web vitals chrome extension

How often should you carry out Core Web Vitals checks?

Regular Core Web Vitals checks should be a core component of your SEO strategy. This will help you to better serve your website users, as well as improve your SEO.

Working closely with your SEO agency will also help you to highlight any underlying page experience issues from early on.

How important are Core Web Vitals for SEO?

It’s important to remember that there are over 200 ranking factors and Core Web Vitals are a component of the overall user experience ranking factor. As such, improving them will play a part in your website’s SERP rankings, but may not have a major impact. But that doesn’t mean you should ignore them completely.

Core Web Vitals are concerned with improving UX. This can provide a wealth of benefits for your business, as well as your SEO. This includes:

  • Improving website conversions
  • Creating trust and credibility
  • Increasing engagement
  • Decreasing bounce rate
  • Saving money and time

As a result, it’s always a good idea to keep Core Web Vitals at the forefront of your mind when implementing any website changes.

How can we help?

Here at CandidSky, we conduct technical health checks on a monthly basis. These focus on Core Web Vitals, as well as other technical SEO factors to ensure your website is structurally sound at all times.

We take a holistic approach to SEO and can assist in creating a campaign strategy that best suits your business. Get in touch with a member of our team today to get started!

6 must-know SEO techniques for 2021

printed letters spelling out SEO on a white background

The world of SEO is ever-changing and evolving. That’s why it’s essential to stay up-to-date with the latest SEO practices, ranking factors, algorithm updates and more to ensure your website’s SEO is the strongest it can possibly be.

To help, we’ve put together this handy article to help you get to grips with the most important SEO concepts for 2021. This includes everything from Google’s E-A-T to machine learning and automation.

User experience

User experience has always been an important aspect of SEO, however, there’s been a bigger focus on UX this year as this is when Google’s page experience algorithm begins to roll out.

In 2020, Google announced that their page experience ranking signals will include Core Web Vitals. These are quantitative measures that assess website stability, interactivity, speed and more. This includes:

  • Large Contentful Paint (LCP)
  • First Input Delay (FID)
  • Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS)

Fortunately, there are many different tools you can use to monitor your Core Web Vitals and keep on top of your user experience. This includes Google Search Console, PageSpeed Insights, the Core Web Vitals Chrome extension and more.

We’ve also put together an in-depth article on Google’s page experience algorithm update to help you prepare for the change.

Mobile-friendliness

Google predominantly uses the mobile version of your website for ranking and indexing. Therefore, it’s essential that your mobile website is fully optimised in 2021 and beyond.

Mobile SEO encompasses many different tasks. However, there are key practices you should follow to ensure your mobile site is as strong as your desktop site.

1. Make sure your website content is the same on mobile and desktop

In many cases, your mobile site will show a responsive version of your desktop site and the content will be identical. However, if you use separate sites on desktop and mobile you’ll need to make sure all the content is exactly the same to improve mobile SEO.

2. Check structured data

You should also ensure that any structured data is present on both versions of your website and that they use the correct mobile URLs.

3. Monitor visual content

It’s important to optimise the images and videos on your mobile site to improve mobile SEO and overall user experience. As a result, images and videos should:

  • Be of a high-quality
  • Be a decent size (not too big or too small)
  • Have the same alt-text as the desktop site
  • Use a supported file format

4. Make sure that Googlebot can access your content

Your mobile site won’t rank well if Google can’t crawl its content. Therefore, it’s essential to make sure you aren’t blocking any mobile URLs and check your lazy-loaded content can be ‘seen’ by Googlebot to improve your mobile SEO.

5. Use the same metadata on mobile

You should ensure your mobile and desktop metadata is identical to improve SEO.

6. Check ad placements

Obstructive ads can negatively impact SEO because they affect the user experience. Therefore, you should make sure there is enough space for ads on your mobile site to avoid harming your mobile UX.

Machine learning

Machine learning is a core component of many search engines ranking factors. But what does this entail?

Essentially, it means that search engines are constantly responding to countless data inputs to improve answers to search queries. In theory, this means that SERPs will increase in accuracy and relevancy over time.

Google uses a machine-learning tool called RankBrain to identify search intent and provide the most valuable results for search engine users. However, machine learning can also help with other aspects of SEO and make digital marketers lives easier. Machine learning can help SEOs with tasks such as:

  • Content creation
  • SEO campaign reporting
  • Link-building and outreach
  • SEO audits

E-A-T

E-A-T is an acronym outlined by Google for some of the most important aspects of a web page. It stands for:

  • Expertise
  • Authoritativeness
  • Trustworthiness

But what does this mean for SEO? E-A-T is geared towards search queries like:

  • How to improve my credit score?
  • How much aspirin should I take for a headache?
  • How to take care of a puppy

This is because the answers to these queries should be provided by knowledgeable experts in the relevant fields, rather than sites with the best SEO. If not, the results could have serious, and potentially life-threatening, consequences.

In 2021, and beyond, it’s important to incorporate E-A-T in niches such as the legal, financial and medical fields. This includes incorporating semantic terms to provide context, linking to authoritative sources, providing useful up-to-date information and more. This will help you to make your website more SEO-friendly, whilst providing information that’s relevant and accurate for search engine users.

Search intent

Machine learning is helping search engines get ‘smarter.’ This means that they’re providing more accurate and relevant results as time goes on.

One of the ways search engines algorithms determine which results are most relevant to a particular query is by analysing search intent. This involves analysing semantic terms to better understand the context of a web page.

As a result, it’s important to keep search intent and semantic search at the forefront of your mind when creating website content in 2021. You can also utilise structured data and create content that answers search engine users’ specific questions.

Competitor analysis

Competitor analysis should always be a core component of your SEO strategy. Looking at your top-ranking competitors’ backlinks, content, UX and more can help you to understand what you need to do to improve your website and rankings.

Competitor backlink analysis

Looking at your competitor’s backlinks will help you to see if your off-page SEO requires some extra attention. For example, if your competitors have 100+ backlinks and rank on the first page and you have 20 and rank lower, this could be harming your website’s SEO.

It’s also important to consider the quality and relevancy of your competitor’s backlinks. Ask yourself:

  • Are they spammy?
  • Are they related to the website topic?
  • Are they safe?

Quality is just as important as quantity when it comes to link-building. So it’s important to take all of these factors into account when carrying out competitor backlink analysis.

Competitor content analysis

Looking at your competitors’ content can also help you to improve your own. When analysing competitor content it’s important to consider:

  • Content gaps – Do competitors mention any topics that you currently aren’t talking about?
  • Content quality – Is it written well?
  • Keywords – Have they included semantic keywords that you haven’t considered?

Ideally, you’ll want your website’s content to exceed the standard of your competitors. However, this can provide a basis to make your content more relevant and make improvements where needed.

Why is this important?

Competitor analysis in SEO is all about share of voice. Looking at your share of voice will help you to see how popular your brand is compared to competitors. As a result, consistently improving your website in line with industry standards will help you to grow your share of voice and remain competitive.

Need a helping hand with SEO?

We can help you stay up to date with the best SEO practices. Our team of SEO experts can assist with everything from technical SEO to content marketing, so your website and rankings remain as strong as possible.

Ready to get started? Get in touch with a member of our team today.