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Ecommerce SEO In 2021: Google’s Algorithm Update


Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is a key factor for ecommerce websites looking to beat out the competition, as ranking highly in search results allows more people to discover your brand organically. With the right SEO tools under your belt as new Google updates are announced, you can transform an outdated website or develop a brand new site that will rank competitively in search results.

User experience is an emerging player in the field of SEO, meaning that sites with easy-to-use interfaces, compelling and relevant content, and mobile-friendly designs will reign in the land of search engine results. Additionally, page load speed proves to be a key factor in future SEO success. 

Here, we’ll guide you through the elements of this ranking process to revitalize your ecommerce site.

Influence of Page Usability on Ranking

According to Google’s latest Page Experience Algorithm Update, the site’s usability and user experience will impact SEO and ranking positions. However, page experience is a relatively new set of signals that Google still works on. Moreover, it largely intersects with other, existing core ranking factors. So where do you start when adjusting page experience using Core Web Vitals and other UX factors? Here’s how page usability matches up with other ranking metrics: 

Which metrics are important for ranking?

The SEO community actively discusses page experience and Core Web Vitals even in the absence of new core updates. However, there are at least 200 other signals in Google algorithms that directly affect the position in the ranking list. They can be conditionally divided into seven main groups.

  1. Content optimization covers content quality and how it’s optimized for keywords and the search intent. Since Google ranks the most useful result for the particular query, ensure you produce high-quality content directly related to your keywords. 
  2. Backlinks are the basis of Google’s PageRank ranking algorithm. They are evaluated by the relevance and authority (DA/TF) of the referring domains. Google’s algorithm includes a number and quality of linking pages, backlink anchor text, diversity of link types, etc. 
  3. Domain Age is considered to influence ranking. Data from an Ahrefs study showed that SERP is dominated by old pages (three years and more). So older websites with higher authority are more likely to rank higher than websites created within one year.
  4. User Experience is another important factor that search engines analyze to determine which pages to rank higher. This includes organic click-through rate, dwell time, direct and repeat traffic, and other metrics. Google suggests providing a good user experience with easy-to-read and helpful content, a well-organized site, a responsive design with no intrusive ads, and user-centric website navigation.
  5. Technical optimization is a part of core on-page Google ranking factors. This refers to using proper headings, metadata like titles and descriptions, and site structure.
  6. Speed and mobile-friendliness are among the main ranking factors according to mobile-first indexing. Since 2020, Google has primarily used the mobile version of a website for evaluating a page, not the desktop version. Therefore, every page on your site must pass a mobile-friendly test.
  7. Brand signals are among the most important local ranking factors because search engines refer business citations to the most credible, authoritative, and trustworthy sites. The basic setup for a business that operates in a particular area (city, district, etc.) includes a Google My Business page, business profiles on industry-related directory sites, optimized branded searches, and brand mentions. 

Focusing on user experience alongside other core ranking factors is vital because Google continues to prioritize websites that offer the most reliable and optimized information. Nevertheless, Google has been actively working on improving users’ experience over the last few years. The result of this work was the creation of the page experience algorithm and further work with a user-centric SEO approach.

Page Experience Update: Latest News

In May 2020, Google announced official search ranking changes associated with user page experience to measure page usability metrics. The update was gradually launched in mid-June, and a full rollout will be complete by August. 

While most SEO specialists emphasize it will have a minor effect on rankings, Google’s Martin Splitt says websites with improved Core Web Vitals have already increased in rankings. However, it is primarily caused by page speed as a ranking factor. Since it is a part of page experience, Martin believes load speed can impact rankings more than we think.

The new algorithm will reflect the quality of the actual user interaction with the site’s functionality. The essence of this algorithm is to prioritize those sites that care about their users’ experience. Therefore, the system will monitor:

  1. Optimization for mobile devices. The page’s layout must be optimized for mobile devices: compatible videos, smaller images, larger buttons, auto-fill forms, auto-detect location settings, and other mobile-oriented features.
  2. Safe browsing. The page must not contain anything that can be considered malware software, phishing, and deceptive sites. 
  3. HTTPS protocol. The presence of the HTTPS protocol means that the user’s connection to the site must be encrypted to provide a high degree of security.
  4. Absence of annoying interstitial ads. Provide visitors with access to content without irritating advertisements such as popups and standalone interstitials. 
  5. Core Web Vitals. New essential behavioral features will be included in search ranking factors. 

Google’s specialists confirmed that due to COVID-19, many website owners focused on addressing the impact of the pandemic. That’s why the described algorithm will be implemented in 2021 step-by-step. Website owners will be notified about the official launch dates of this algorithm at least six months in advance. 

Defining Core Web Vitals

One of the most important indicators of long-term success is the quality of user experience. To raise it, Google presented a new initiative called Core Web Vitals. Its primary purpose is to measure the core user experience based on real-world usage data and find opportunities to upgrade the website performance. 

In short, it is a set of specific factors that Google considers important in a web page’s overall user experience. 

LCP (Largest Contentful Paint) 

LCP shows how long it takes for a page and its large visual elements (banners, video, or large text blocks) to load so that an actual user can see it. The critical value for loading is more than four seconds. The optimal speed is up to 2.5 seconds. 

It measures the loading of the main content that visitors see first, but not the entire content of the page. 

FID (First Input Delay) 

This metric estimates how long users first interact with the site page and get the first impression. For example, navigating via the search bar menu, clicking on a link, or using the subscription field. Acceptable First Input Delay is of 100 milliseconds or less.

This number refers to the delay in processing the event.

CLS (Cumulative Layout Shift)

CLS displays how stable the page is during loading. In other words, it shows if the elements on your page move around as it loads. Lately, Google changed the method of calculating CLS. Google evaluated multiple window sizes and concluded that the maximum session window is a 1-second gap, capped at 5 seconds.

Despite these essential factors, don’t forget additional factors that can imply those mentioned above. Among them 

  • Time to First Byte (TTFB) directly affects LCP
  • First Contentful Paint (FCP) directly influences LCP
  • Total Blocking Time (TBT) directly impacts FID
  • Time to Interactive (TTI) directly hits FID 

Measuring Core Web Vitals

Since Core Web Vitals help track your website’s performance, it’s crucial to measure them. There is no need to use special advanced tools, but here are the basic ones to measure a website’s performance. Google Search Console, PageSpeed Insights, and website audit tools work well for Web Vital measurements.

Google Search Console

Google Search Console is a web service that allows you to check the indexing status and optimize the visibility of websites. After the update, Google Search Console presented a Core Web Vitals report, replacing its previous speed report. It shows indexed URL performance evaluated by three metrics: LCP, FID, and CLS. By navigating “Poor,” “Needs Improvement,” or “Good” tabs, you can see the page performance numbers for mobile and desktop versions. And by clicking on rows, you can find out details about URL groups hit by a specific issue.

PageSpeed Insights

PageSpeed Insights (PSI) includes a performance score (on a scale of 0-100), indicating how fast a website is on mobile and desktop, with a detailed report of what influences this score. It is recommended to score 90 or above to pass the performance evaluation. PSI allows submitting a URL, pulls up field data, collects lab data by running Lightshot, and suggests improvements. By pulling up field data, you will see FCP, FID, LCP, and CLS.

SE Ranking

SE Ranking is an all-in-one SEO platform with a number of tools to analyze a website and improve its performance. We are interested here in an audit tool that includes Core Web Vitals metrics along with other 110 website parameters divided into 16 categories. Those are domain metrics, technical parameters, page indexation status, meta tags, images, CSS, JavaScript, internal and external links.

How to Improve Page Experience

Page load speed is massively important in retaining site visitors, as a long wait time can cause shoppers to bounce before even viewing your products. A site that loads quickly leads directly to higher conversion rates; just a 100 millisecond (that’s 100 thousandths of a second) delay in web site load time can lower conversion rates by 7%

Here are some key features of sites that get page load speed right to provide an ideal user experience that you can apply to your ecommerce website:

Asset Optimization

The quantity of data that needs to be loaded to render a page is a huge driver of load speed, which is why Pixlee uses advanced compression algorithms to reduce the physical size of on-site media without sacrificing its quality. 

HTML, CSS and JS should all be minified and compressed. Using CSS instead of static image files, and sprite sheets for icons or other small images lowers the number of requests made by the browser and decreases the overall size of your page.

Asynchronous Loading

Today’s online shopping experience consists of several different objects on one page that must be loaded. Tackle this challenge by staggering content loading so pages appear to load faster; in other words, choose which elements of your page can load asynchronously based on importance.

Many of Pixlee’s display widgets load asynchronously by default, as do Google Analytics, but this is not true of all assets. Tag managers and module loaders are helpful tools to control load orders and prioritize certain assets over others.

Self-Contained Code

Pixlee’s visual galleries are self-contained in an iframe, meaning you only need to insert a few lines of code to launch Pixlee’s widget code. Everything else happens on Pixlee servers instead of taking up space on your site’s servers to load. This setup benefits site performance, customization, security, and ease of deployment.

Flexibility is a major driver in self-contained code, as site editors can make real-time updates to on-site widgets without slowing down your own servers. TurnTo’s Speedflex™ Widget Architecture maintains this flexibility without using a third-party Javascript (JS) that can cause page slowdowns outside of webmaster control.

As a result, sites with TurnTo ratings and review widgets are a fraction the size of competitors, and load 2-3 times faster.

Building An Optimal Site with the User in Mind

Site ranking mechanisms change regularly, and algorithms are continuously refined. Tools and methods that worked a year ago may not only be ineffective today but be negative for your website’s success as well. Therefore, pay attention to news in the SEO sphere, and don’t forget that website optimization is a continuous process. 

Special thanks to our friends at Pixlee for their insights on this topic.
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