Technical Changes in Q2: Winners & Losers

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Episode Overview: Despite the economic slowdown, Google continues to push forward making innovative technical changes to its platform and tools that SEOs should keep an eye on. Join host Ben as he previews Searchmetrics’ upcoming webinar Q2 in Review with Searchmetrics’ VP of Client Services Tyson Stockton as they review some of the most important technical changes Google implemented in Q2.

Summary

  • Google updated Google Lighthouse, an open-source tool to measure the quality of webpages, from V5 to V6. The update changed how Google weighs certain attributes of a website.
  • Google changed the following: Decreased the importance of first contentful paint from 20% to 15% and adding total blocking time to Lighthouse scores, which accounts for 25% of total attribution for the score.
  • Google’s web vitals announcement gave webmasters a six-months notice that they’re prioritizing new ranking factors in 2021, marking increased transparency about technical improvements from the search engine giant.

GUESTS & RESOURCES

Ben:                  Welcome to the Voices of Search podcast. I’m your host, Benjamin Shapiro. And today we’re going to preview Searchmetrics’ upcoming Q2 in Review webinar. Joining us is Tyson Stockton, who is the vice president of client services at Searchmetrics. Tyson manages Searchmetrics’ SEO content and client success organizations. And outside of shepherding Searchmetrics’ largest and most strategic clients to SEO success, Tyson and I are going to discuss the Google update changes in Q2.

Ben:                 Yesterday, Tyson and I talked about some of the Q2 changes in terms of Google, their updates, and how they’ve handled the coronavirus. And today we’re going to talk about some of the technical changes that happened in SEO.

Ben:                 Okay. Here’s the second installment of Q2 in Review with Tyson Stockton, Searchmetrics’ vice president of client services. Tyson, welcome back to Q2 in Review on the Voices of Search podcast.

Tyson:            Thanks, Ben. I’m glad to be back once again.

Ben: So, yesterday we talked about the big G, about Google and how they handled Q2 despite the coronavirus. It was pretty much business as usual. We had a big core update. Let’s talk a little bit about some of the non-Google related changes. What were some of the technical changes that happened in SEO? What do we need to know?

Tyson:             I hate to be the ones to do this, but technical changes in Q2 brings us right back to Google.

Ben:                  But we didn’t want to have a 30-minute episode. We wanted to have two, 15-minute episodes. So, tell us about some of the technical changes.

Tyson:             Fair.

Ben:                 Yes. Everyone, Google rules the world and everything related to SEO is pretty much Google. Go on.

Tyson:             So anyways. So, I think one of the big ones is Lighthouse. And so, everyone’s aware of Lighthouse. It’s Google’s measurement of page speed and how they integrate that into their algorithms. And Google announced moving from V5 to V6. And typical fashion, these things evolve over time. And this one actually brings some rather significant changes to how Google is looking at page speed and what actually was in page speed or how you define page speed will have an impact on your website’s rankings.

Ben:                 So we have better measurements or are they actually better? Maybe that should be the question. Tell me the difference in terms of measurement. And do you think this is an improvement?

Tyson:            It’s a difference of weighting. So it’s like you had a few components within the score before. And so, now they’re saying that, “Hey, the weighting or the significance between each of the components is a little different. And we’re going to swap out a few different components and add new ones.”

Tyson:            So I think first there’s minor changes were they took significant factors like first contentful paint. And they changed that from it’s 20% to 15% weighting. And so, you have those moderate shifts of weights, but I’d say the most significant one is add a total blocking time, which was not previously part of the Lighthouse score. And now that’s taking up 25% of the total attribution for it.

Tyson:            So there are some significant changes with this. So I think it’s definitely something that SEOs need to revisit. If they check the box of saying, “Hey, we’re good on page speed before.” Now’s the time that you should revisit that and see with the new weightings and the new scoring, how does your website fare? Are you going to be at a deficit of this or is this something that you’re still kind of competitive at.

Ben:                So page speed is obviously one of, if not, the most important aspects of your technical SEO. Google has tried to provide more clarity and have updated how they think about page speed. What were some of the other technical changes that happened in this last quarter?

Tyson:           So another one which has been talked about on the podcast before core web vitals. This is a significant change for Google. And it also marks one of the few times that Google says in advance, “Hey, webmasters, SEOs be prepared. This change is happening. And this is your notice period for it.”

Tyson:           So I think that in itself is worth taking out of it’s kind of reminisced and to the mobile get in of “Hey, we’re moving to a mobile first index and that precursor.” But this is now something that Google is saying, “Hey, this is going to be a ranking factor. It’s coming into effect. You guys have basically six months runway.”

Tyson:           So I think it’s something that definitely SEOs and companies need to take seriously for their efforts in the second half of the year.

Ben:              What I think is interesting is that Google actually started talking about what the ranking factors are this quarter. And my understanding is that ranking factors were something that was sort of invented by the SEO industry. And now Google is adopting that language and talking about what their ranking factors are. There was a big announcement around ranking factors. Why don’t you tell us a little bit about that?

Tyson:           That’s basically what we talked about. So it’s integrating this core web vitals into that. And largely those are the technical aspects. So you have this bleed over between the Lighthouse kind of updates. And then, also this heavy focus on how a page actually loads and that experience that the user has to it. So it’s always been kind of known that that is, but it is worth acknowledging that that is a shift Google doing the formal, “Yes, this is what exactly is going into it.”

Ben:               Yeah. Interesting to me that Google is basically acknowledging there are ranking factors. It’s not just an industry term now. And everything that they’re talking about related to ranking factors is very technical. And they did not address anything that would be in my mind considered a content ranking factor. They’re not talking about how they view content, about how to structure content, about anything related to the words on the page. It’s all about how the page loads, it looks like you have a comment.

Tyson:           No. I was going to say that’s true, but it’s also been so much of the narratives in the past in this very ambiguous, in a scripted way. And it’s before Google’s traditional comment of ranking was always focused on the user, focused on the content [inaudible] what does that mean? And so, I feel like they’ve made that establishment. And they’ve also … Whenever the core updates come out, that’s clearly a large focus, but I think it’s also Google saying, “Hey, don’t forget about this area as well.” And then also, “Hey, we’re opening up the tools and the line of sight to this by integrating it into Google Search Console, integrating and adding the web dot gov.” And so, they’re also being a little more transparent of “Here’s the tools also to measure that and to benchmark against other sites as well.”

Ben:               So I think the big technical change this quarter was a little bit more transparency by Google in terms of how they’re thinking about evaluating your pages. What were some of the other technical changes that happened this quarter?

Tyson:          Yeah. There’s two other smaller pieces that came out in the quarter. One was a scrolled text. Basically exactly what it sounds like. So it’s just a different way to jump users to a different portion or part of the page. That’s not necessarily like a jump link.

Tyson:          And then, the other one was guided recipes. So this is an additional expansion of structured data mark up that Google’s using. And then, it also integrates it into Google assistant. So I think this is something not necessarily new, but I’d say overall we’re still seeing the continued trend of Google implementing and leveraging structured data more. So the more descriptives and universally you can kind of give those signals so that the content of the page or components of it, the easier Google is able to integrate it into these other services, like voice and also serve up different elements on the actual search pages.

Ben:              Okay. Tyson, we’re going to be discussing this in more detail on the Q2 in Review webinar at Searchmetrics. Remind everybody again when the webinar is going to be if they’re interested in hearing more about this topic.

Tyson:          Yeah. So webinar again. July 22nd. 11:00 AM. Kathy Brown, and I will be going through the three categories. Google updates, what’s new in the tech corner, and then, also kind of some industry trends and shifts. Jump on. And we’ll definitely jump a little bit deeper into each of these topics.

Ben:              Yeah. So if you’re interested in connecting with Tyson and Kathy Brown, who’s a Senior SEO Strategist at Searchmetrics, you can go to searchmetrics.com/webinar to join the conversation. And that wraps up this episode of the Voices of Search podcast. Thanks for listening to my conversation with Tyson Stockton, who’s the vice president of client services at Searchmetrics. We’d love to continue the conversation with you so if you’re interested in contacting Tyson, you could find a link to his LinkedIn profile in our show notes. You can contact him on Twitter, where his handle is Tyson underscore Stockton. Or you could visit his company’s website, which is searchmetrics.com. Just one more link in our show notes that I’d like to tell you about. If you didn’t have a chance to take notes while you were listening to this podcast, just head over to Voicesofsearch.com, where we have summaries of all of our episodes and contact information for our guests.

Ben:              You can also send us your topic suggestions, your SEO questions. You can even apply to be a guest speaker on the Voices of Search podcast. Of course, you can always reach out on social media. Our handle is Voices of Search on Twitter. And my personal handle is Ben J. Shap. B- E-N-J-S-H-A-P. And if you haven’t subscribed yet, and you want a daily stream of SEO and content marketing insights in your podcast feed, we’re going to publish episodes every day during the work week. So hit that subscribe button in your podcast app. And we’ll be back in your feed tomorrow morning. All right. That’s it for today. But until next time, remember the answers are always in the data.

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