Few people were properly prepared for what happened last year, but when it comes to 2021, Google has made things much clearer. It has issued a strong warning for its highly anticipated algorithm update due to be rolled out in May. Including a new factor called Page Experience, the update is set to have a huge impact on search ranking and subsequent traffic to your site.
For both affiliates and operators working in the igaming space, understanding and keeping up with the signals Google will be looking for is vital for maintaining visibility and revenue streams. However, for those looking to take things one step further, the Page Experience update may serve as a fantastic opportunity to make gains in visibility and shake up the competitive landscape.
While we still have roughly two months to go, taking action now is crucial and should be made a priority. In this article we will cover what we know so far about the update and define what needs to be done to ensure there are no negative surprises in store when the update drops this May.
FIRST THINGS FIRST, WHAT IS PAGE EXPERIENCE?
Put simply, the update title – Page Experience – describes exactly what the update will assess: how users interact with and experience a web page.
According to Google, the page experience signal “measures aspects of how users perceive the experience of interacting with a web page. Optimising for these factors makes the web more delightful for users across all web browsers and surfaces, and helps sites evolve towards user expectations on mobile. We believe this will contribute to business success on the web as users grow more engaged and can transact with less friction.”
Taking that into account, it’s safe to say that the better the experience you offer your users, the better rankings you will achieve. But this isn’t really that surprising, is it? For years, Google has been conditioning us to think this way, with their algorithms already using search signals such as mobile-friendliness, page speed, safe browsing and intrusive interstitials, all of which arguably fall under the umbrella of “page experience”. But come May, these search signals will be expanded to include further elements of Google’s Core Web Vitals: loading, interactivity and visual stability.
Google has also confirmed that, much like mobile-friendly labels and AMP icons, this new update will include the testing of ‘visual indicators’ in the search results as a way of informing a user about the experience they’re about to receive.
PREPARING FOR THE UPDATE
Sure, the update sounds pretty hefty, but with roughly two working months to go, there’s still time to get your house in order! To help ease the tension, we’ve put together our Top Five SEO checkpoints that you should prioritise as part of your preparation.
1. Every second counts
As a key influence on page experience, site load speed will remain a huge part of the May update. Data shows that the average bounce rate for pages loading within two seconds is 6%, which increases to nearly 50% when load time hits six seconds. This means you run the risk of losing almost half of your customers in just four seconds. Google’s best practice guidelines suggest that page loading speed should be just three seconds – you can check your site speed here.
- Are your images larger than they need to be? If not, be sure to optimise your images, check they’re in the correct format and that they’re compressed for the web.
- Can you minimise HTTP requests? The more components on a page, the longer it takes to render.
2. The year of the mobile… again
We’ve known for quite some time the importance of providing a top-notch mobile-first experience and come May, there will be absolutely no excuse for not doing so. In September 2020, Google began rolling out mobile-first indexing across all websites, focusing heavily on measuring how well every site performs on a smartphone or mobile device.
This rollout means that Google now uses the mobile version of website content when assessing rankings, highlighting the importance of shifting priority away from your desktop site to your mobile site in an attempt to ensure it follows best practice guidelines.
To check if your web page is mobile-friendly, enter your URL on Google’s mobile-friendly test tool.
3. Quality content over quantity
When it comes to content, quality is always better than quantity. Google seems to give priority to content that is informative and original, and recommends following the three-pillar E-A-T methodology. To create content that Google actually wants, be sure you are:
- Demonstrating Expertise
- Becoming an Authority
- Building Trust
For igaming operators and affiliates, it’s important to consider whether there’s enough – or even too much – content on priority landing pages and what level of expertise it demonstrates. Since the 2020 May update, Google seems to be favouring informational pages for head terms, and with the advent of NLP and BERT, it’s now no longer enough to just create okay content.
One of our top tips for creating informed content is to make sure it’s well researched, well written, well optimised, referenced and created with clear user intent in mind. As always, an improved user experience should be paramount, meaning you’ll likely be rewarded if your content is informative and answers commonly searched questions.
4. Review your UX
If your site is well established, it’s likely you have a goldmine of valuable data and insights that can help influence how users interact with and experience it. Improving usability is usually a moderately inexpensive endeavour and ahead of the update, we suggest taking a moment to review what elements are driving the performance behind your most successful pages. This should be done alongside those that are performing poorly to help you get a good understanding of what’s doing well and what isn’t.
A main focus of UX, reviewing your main navigation can provide valuable insights. Are there ways you can simplify it or better optimise it for mobile use? Perhaps test keywords that better describe the content each page features or that users commonly look for? Additionally, does your navigation cater to both new players and seasoned veterans?
For both affiliates and operators, reviewing your call to actions (CTAs) is a great way to improve user experience and boost interaction on the site. Taking a look at which CTAs have the highest click-through rate and implementing similar methods to those with low engagement is simple but can go a long way. It’s also important to review the design of each CTA, especially given the image-heavy, colourful nature of gambling sites.
Are your CTAs clear enough? What does the colour and iconography imply, and what emotional feedback do they give?
Finally, be sure to review whether there are any barriers on the site that could take your users’ attention away from your content or cause unnecessary friction in the user journey. Keep an eye out for things like intrusive interstitials or pop-up ads – Google does not consider pages that include them to be mobile-friendly and users often view them as annoying and invasive.
5. Secure your site
In the gambling sector, it is no surprise that a positive user experience correlates with a secure online environment. Online users expect and rely on a highly secure environment when using gambling-related sites, and it’s absolutely crucial that both operators and affiliates ensure they’re implementing HTTPS (the official online protocol that “protects the integrity and confidentiality of data between the user’s computer and the site”) to guarantee the online security of their users.
If you haven’t already, the quickest way to ensure your website is secure is ensuring you have an SSL Certificate installed on your website. You can check this by simply looking in the top of your browser and checking if your URL is preceded by https:// or http://. If it’s the former, this indicates that your website has an SSL Certificate installed and is secure. Google Chrome will also provide a summary of how private Chrome thinks the connection is using the following icons:
Having announced this update last year, Google clearly intends to make it significant enough to warrant the need for plenty of notice and transparency. As of May 2021, there will simply be nowhere to hide, and if you aren’t already taking the new Page Experience metrics seriously, we suggest you start doing so now in order to avoid any disruption.
If you need help ensuring your site is well optimised to take on the Page Experience update, reach out to our senior team today to book a non-obligatory 1-to-1 session.
LARISSA GREEN is commercial director at Blueclaw. Backed by over 13 years of experience, Blueclaw’s award-winning SEO team have perfected their approach to search marketing in the igaming sector. Specialising in SEO, content marketing, PPC, digital PR and link building, the team work with leading operators and affiliates across the globe and are dedicated to providing exceptional search marketing campaigns and creative projects that drive growth and increase ROI.