Core Web Vitals scores improving for top-ranked sites

Organizations have been investing resources into improving their Core Web Vitals scores, according to new research. 

Enterprise SEO platform BrightEdge has compared the top rankings for 500 keywords, from this year to last, in four markets: education, B2B technology, finance and retail. 

Core Web Vitals, one year later. It’s been just over a year since Google’s page experience update started rolling out June 15, 2021. It was completed Sept. 2

The three Core Web Vitals website performance metrics were a subset of the overall Page Experience Update. Those metrics are:

Largest Contentful Paint (LCP) – loading, target 2.5 seconds.First Input Delay (FID) – interactivity, target 100 milliseconds. (Note: Google announced in May that it might replace FID with a new metric called INP – Interaction to Next Paint).Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS) – visual stability, target 0.1.

Page experiences are improving. Here’s the data from BrightEdge:

Source: BrightEdge

On average:

Retail scores improved by 58%. BrightEdge noted that retail giants have made significant strides in improving poor experiences – last year, top-ranked retail sites failed to meet Core Web Vitals metrics.B2B tech scores improved by 30%. Publishers and resources from SaaS platforms have made good gains.Education scores improved by 28%. More .gov sites are ranking and have good Core Web Vitals scores.Finance scores improved by 27%. This sector was best prepared last year and perhaps due to that saw the least amount of performance gains.

Why we care. SEOs weren’t sold on Core Web Vitals. However, this research shows that companies have been taking Core Web Vitals seriously. It is impossible to point to Core Web Vitals as the sole reason for any ranking boosts or declines. But smart SEO requires driving incremental gains. And every possible positive signal you can give Google (such as good Core Web Vitals scores) is a potential way to positively influence your ranking and visibility.

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New research looks at the top rankings for 500 keywords in Education, B2B Tech, Finance, and Retail.
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Why SEO must start with strategy, planning

SEO is ongoing. It isn’t a one-time thing.

Achieving the results you desire requires disciplined thinking and focus.

If you dive into the weeds too quickly, you may find that hours or days have passed and you’ve invested time into areas that may not have any real impact in the end.

While agility is key on an ongoing basis in SEO, it is equally important to have a solid strategy and plan upfront.

A strategy and plan, with a clear direction and baseline, allows for:

Meaningful objectives to be set.Expectations to be managed.Adjustments to be made along the way.

Being both proactive and reactive (within a moment) is important, whether you’re working for yourself, your boss, or your clients.

Here’s why.

Goal setting

“What are your goals?”

This is the first question you should ask when someone reaches out for SEO help.

Define them. Document them.

Knowing what you need SEO to produce is critical. Goals are a critical filter for all strategic and tactical plans.

Goals could be:

E-commerce sales.Leads.Pageviews.Specific types of engagement.Some other conversion or metric.

When you don’t know what the end goals are – and how to reach them – you can waste a lot of time and resources guessing or floating from SEO tactic to tactic.

Defining target audiences

You need to define who you’re trying to reach and how they search and behave online.

Once you do that, you can map out conversion paths, funnels, and ways to target and engage them.

In addition to knowing who you want to reach, it’s also critical to know the size of the net that you’re casting.

Sometimes, goals can be too big for the opportunity that SEO presents. Reaching a certain audience could be too ambitious. Or perhaps the competition is simply too great to get meaningful results.

Keyword research tools, industry/market research and sources within your industry can help you research and define your target audience, as well as with persona development.

Competitor research

When you know who your audience is and what topics and keywords map out to your conversion goals, you have a narrowed competitor landscape to review.

Dive deep into who owns the SERP real estate for terms and topics that you want to drive traffic to your site.

Use SEO tools to identify, set up monitoring and an ongoing plan to track the competitors. This will give you a reference point and can help you understand why they are ranking.

KPI definition

Goals and KPIs are not the same. Yes, you might have a single KPI that is tied to an end goal, but you can measure several data points that may be close to, or far away from, a conversion goal.

Don’t jump into your action plan before you define the KPIs that matter based on your goals, target audience, and funnels.

While average position and impressions might not be close to the end goal of a lead submission or e-commerce transaction, they are necessary to get there.

Define all the KPIs that matter. Put emphasis and priority on the ones that will be indicators and progress metrics versus those that are tied directly to the end goals.

Be consistent with them and map them out in advance.

Baselines and benchmarks

Using what you know about audiences, competitors and the KPIs that matter to you, it’s important to understand your current performance.

You want to objectively measure the return on investment and outcome of your efforts over time.

Now is the time to capture baselines of your own performance and benchmarks of how they stack up against the industry. Plus, we can compare them to our ultimate goals and see how far we need to go.

This can range from visibility through rankings and average position to impressions to visits and conversions. There are engagement metrics that you can look at as well as to how visitors are moving through defined funnels.

To get this data, you can use SEO tools or Google Analytics’ benchmarking report.

Be sure to document benchmarks. These metrics will become your baseline and define your starting point so you can evaluate your efforts in meaningful intervals going forward.

Reporting setup

Now it’s time to set up your reporting infrastructure. Whether you’re configuring Google Analytics to be your data source, leveraging Google Data Studio, or third party software, you want to get everything in order now.

Don’t wait until you’re off and running. In many cases if you don’t have clean data, filters, and segments, you can’t fix the details later.

There’s nothing worse than over or under counting and not being able to go back and correct it once you’ve gotten deep into your work.

Also, configure your reporting to show the starting points and how you’re tracking toward goals. The reporting should help you tie back to your efforts and gain insights to adjust your strategy as you go.

Strategy development

By this point, you should be ready to do some final initial auditing and strategy work.

A quick technical audit will help you understand how much work is needed to get the technical house in order when you start planning out the work. It will also help you understand how big that effort will be in terms of IT, code and site performance.

At the same time, you’ll want to know what kind of effort and strategy is needed for content.

Doing a gap analysis, going back to audience and competitor research data, and factoring out how much effort is needed to match and exceed competitors will be critical while also delivering exactly what your audience wants.

Use the auditing and reviews to develop a strategy and overall assessment of needs that will go into your tactical plan.

Tactical plan and schedule

By this point, a big picture roadmap should have started to emerge. You’ve identified and defined your big needs.

But you can’t do it all at once. How quickly you can reach specific goals will depend on your resources and pacing.

Now you need to plan the work, measure it and control the resources in a prioritized way. Put together a phased schedule and plan. All the while knowing there will still be a lot of unknowns as you go through multiple tasks, such as:

Updating copy.Optimizing on-page elements.Digging deep into technical issues.Going through rounds of link building. 

You must be proactive, not reactive. Drive an organized strategy and the needed tactics to achieve your plans.

Resource planning and roles definition

This step can happen earlier and/or throughout your planning process. Be careful not to get too deep into crafting the perfect strategy and plan without making sure you have the resources to pull it off. 

Resources include:

An SEO team.IT.UX.Content creators.Those that will be approving the work.

Your stakeholders are important, too. 

Additionally, any hard costs in terms of vendors and tools shouldn’t be overlooked. These all factor into ROI and as well as how much they can enable or slow your plan and efforts.

Avoid overestimating. Also, make the case for more resources if you think your plan can’t deliver on the goals with your current resources.

Now is the time to have these conversations – not months or years into an effort.

The big idea

I would argue with anyone that SEO is best approached as an ongoing discipline that has proper balance between planned activities and the necessary agility that comes with constant search engine changes and fluidity of the web.

Yes, plans are subject to change – maybe even right after they are written and launched. However, the absence of a strategy and plan leads to a reactive approach and one that lacks efficiency, focus and prioritization.

Start with a strategy and plan. And revisit it on a regular basis.

Take this approach for every new initiative or client. It will make life easier!

The post Why SEO must start with strategy, planning appeared first on Search Engine Land.

Want to avoid spending a lot of time, resources and energy on SEO without results? Then you need an SEO strategy and plan.
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Virtual environment optimization (VEO) is coming. Ready for it?

Virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) will impact the future of marketing.

Optimizing for the future of virtual marketing demands a name, which I am calling virtual environment optimization (VEO).

Today, we’re already starting to see the building blocks – and optimization potential – for this new technological world with the metaverse.

What is Virtual Environment Optimization (VEO)?

VEO is the task of working within a virtual environment and utilizing the resources available to best position the clients’ products and services within an alternative reality.

In search engine optimization (SEO), the focus is mainly on utilizing content, its best practices, and a slew of strategies to drive the clients’ website to the top of the search results. With the numerous changes in technology, it became necessary for SEO to adapt to areas such as voice search, map search, mobile search and much more.

Considering that there is another technology shift on the horizon with VR and AR, marketing will once again need to consider how clients’ products and services should be marketed in the metaverse or any virtual environment.

By coining the term VEO, we can start strategizing how to shift gears towards a more virtual environment for buying and selling products.

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Why you should consider virtual optimization (VEO) now

Statistics indicate how VR and AR has progressed (and will continue to progress) over the next several years.

Currently, in listing the industries where VR is the most useful, marketing and advertising are listed at the bottom, with only 16%. This indicates that there is plenty of room for growth and improvement.

According to Finances Online, the top workforce development benefits of VR are as follows:

Providing information in real-time.Facilitating training and mirroring in real-life experiences.Enhancing creativity in product design and development.Enabling a remote workforce to collaborate in real-time.Allowing users to live out someone else’s life experiences.Capturing novel user data like behavior and eye and gesture tracking.

In just 2020 alone, the combined markets of AR and VR were worth approximately $12 billion. By 2024, it is projected to jump with a large annual growth rate of 54%, resulting in a valuation of $72.8 billion.

Virtual reality is projected to change the shopping environment for consumers

Retail is the sector that is projected to deliver the largest commercial investment in AR/VR technology in 2024, with $7.3 billion, according to the International Data Corporation (IDC).

According to pymnts.com, the home try-on effect will be eliminated by 25% from the benefit of virtual store implementation. As of now, the average e-commerce rate is 2%.

With the help of VR, consumers can be influenced by their purchasing decisions. So much so that for 2022, VR statistics show that VR adoption in e-commerce can boost online shopping conversions by 17%.

Regarding shopping online, 61% of consumers would rather shop with AR experiences, and 40% would likely spend more on customizable items through AR.

Virtual products

When looking at how trends may be leaning toward using VR and AR to boost the clients’ visibility, Google is a perfect example. Already Google has worked towards virtual products as early as 2013, with the creation of the Google Glasses.

More recently, they have developed the Google Lens, a vision-based computing capability that allows you to “search what you see.” Using your camera, Google Lens will compare the object in the picture to other images and rank them on similarity or relevance. For instance, if you use Google Lens on a product such as jeans or sneakers, Google Lens can provide more information on the product, including the results available to purchase the product.

Consumer trends and how they have changed

As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, online shopping saw a massive increase and changed the way people shop.

The commerce platform Kibo surveyed both millennials and Gen Z about their shopping habits. Out of both age ranges, 28% have admitted that they plan to continue online shopping even after the pandemic, as they prefer it over shopping in a physical store.

Lisa Kalscheur, Kibo’s CMO, claims that their research proves that people have started to move towards digital channels:

“Retailers need to unify the customer experience online and off more than ever before. Consumer demand for convenience requires modern commerce and order management capabilities.”

Age is not necessarily a factor in the desire for online shopping.

For millennials, 53% of individuals between 25-34 would prefer to find out information about a store online rather than asking the in-store staff for help. The younger generation commonly referred to as “Gen Z,” is extremely focused on online shopping. Gen Z is sustainability-minded and wants to change and update its style constantly. This has led to more non-traditional shopping styles, such as renting clothes.

CEO of Rent the Runway, Jennifer Hyman, commented on the younger generation:

“Gen Z lives their life in the cloud—their content, entertainment and music all exist in the cloud with unlimited choice. We are offering them the exact same thing for their physical lives.”

Trends are shifting towards a world where we spend more time online and in VR than ever before. It’s only a matter of time before marketing and commerce penetrate this realm.

In some cases (Nike and Ikea), they have already ventured into this space.

We must consider these factors and prepare for the future ahead of time.

What might optimizing a virtual environment look like?

The Metaverse offers a great example of the future of VR and marketing.

Meta had already taken the initiative to help users monetize on products.

In Horizons World – the company’s social metaverse platform – it will start to test “in-world purchases,” allowing Horizon creators to sell virtual items to enhance the worlds they’ve created for users. In addition, Meta hopes to focus on ads in the future of Horizons Worlds.

Aside from Meta, we can look at real-world sectors for optimizing virtual environments:

Groceries

Online grocery shopping has taken off, especially since the COVID-19 pandemic. A survey from eMeals indicated that 34% of individuals use delivery services to buy groceries online. CEO Forrest Collier said:

“With 97% of respondents to our survey saying that they plan to continue using online grocery in the future despite order delays or cancellations, it’s likely that one of the lasting effects of this pandemic will be to accelerate the widespread adoption of online grocery.” 

As a hypothetical example of VR grocery shopping, imagine virtually entering a Kroger’s. By putting on the VR headset and opening Kroger’s app, you would be transported into a virtual supermarket.

This virtual supermarket would be larger than any real physical store in the area and with much more inventory. As the user navigates through the store, they would be able to interact with the products –such as examining the packaging and nutrition panel and finally adding them to their cart.

Three students from UCLA conducted a study on VR and grocery stores. They attempted to draw as close of a parallel as possible to a traditional, in-store experience. They’ve imaged the following features using VR, with each step bringing the user to a more detailed viewing and interactive ability:

General carousel view: All items would be categorized by columns and represented by a selection of groceries from that category, likened to one’s view when first entering the virtual store and viewing multiple aisles.Detailed shelf view: As if the user had walked down a specific aisle in a physical store, now with the ability to view all of the items within it.Product detail page – As if the item were to be selected for further inspection, this part would highlight the item-specific information which would appear on the product.Sandbox – This mode would allow the ability to manipulate immersive 3D assets and retain the ability to add it to the person’s VR cart. For example, if someone wanted a watermelon halved or quartered. 

This then raises the question: how will marketers be able to compete for or determine who receives the “most visible” shelf space and placement of their product?

A virtual store equates to a much bigger inventory with more choices than ever before. The goal would be to ensure that the clients’ product gets more visibility rather than remaining “one in the crowd.”

Clothes and other product retailers

The future of VR and AR in clothing stores could result in each brand eventually creating its own unique virtual retail outlet.

In a virtual setting, consumers would be able to explore an incredibly large inventory, filtering based on style, season, brand, size, etc. There may even be a “virtual mirror” to utilize, similar to MTailor’s custom tailoring services using AR.

In terms of marketing, retailers moving towards the VR environment would mean figuring out how to compete for mannequins, maximum shelf visibility, placement of popular brands, popular items, etc.

Home goods

AR has already been implemented into the home goods sector. For example, an individual can use their phone to select items and test how they would appear in their home in real-time.

The benefit of VR marketing in a shopping environment is that groceries and all retailers will be able to save tremendous amounts of money by going virtual.

There will be the ability to cut down (or potentially even eliminate) the number of physical stores, necessary employees and all associated overhead.

In addition, there will be fewer brick-and-mortar stores, with large distribution centers for quick and easy delivery.

Virtual content will reign supreme

The phrase “content is king” has been used as a motivator for clients when planning content strategies for the creation of pages, blogs, videos, etc.

Now, as we start to enter a world of virtual reality, clients will have to shift to keep up with and produce virtual content where it is relevant.

Soon we will see Google begin indexing, crawling, and ranking web content based on the visual search results for AR-based content. As a result, SEOs will need to incorporate both augmented and virtual reality into their future content strategies.

Marketers will now need to devote more resources to visual content, such as infographics, videos and images. SEO-friendly content will make a client’s site more popular and help their visibility in the search results.

With augmented reality, customers would be able to go on a “virtual grocery store” shopping spree within a VR grocery retailer.

A virtual store is capable of housing more inventory than any brick-and-mortar location. It can be navigated and easily accessed by consumers.

Overall, enhancing your content with augmented reality and well-optimized content is a win-win for both the audience and search engines.

The benefit of AR is that both the brand and the customer provide content. This means consumers are more likely to participate in AR if they can add content in real-time.

As always, positive and engaging content is likely to have the greatest impact. As technology and trends continue to change over time, it is the responsibility of the marketing to shift their practices to stay up to date with the consumers’ needs.

VEO is coming. Will you be ready?

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Should you consider virtual optimization (VEO)? And what might optimizing a virtual environment look like? Find out here.
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