The Critical Link Between User Experience and SEO

A positive user experience impacts more than your conversion rate. It’s actually a ranking factor, and one you need to pay attention to.

User experience has always been crucial, both on the web and off. It influences everything about how users interact with your brand, from conversion rate to brand loyalty. And if your site is not designed with the end user in mind — if visiting is not a positive experience for your audience — then nothing else matters. 

In light of that, it should not come as any great surprise that it’s a ranking factor. Google has long been tweaking its algorithm with the user in mind. Everything from relevance to context to intent boils down to user experience. 

More recently, that culminated in Google’s Page Experience Update. 

What Is The Google Page Experience Update?

Currently, in the process of being rolled out and due to be completed at the end of this month, the page experience updates spins several new metrics into Google’s ranking algorithm, known as Core Web Vitals. These vitals are then measured alongside several other signals, which together are used to assign a page experience score, viewable through the Google Search Console. 

The factors measured as part of the page experience score are as follows: 

  • Core Web Vitals
    • Largest contentful paint. Essentially, this is a measurement of load time. The fast a page loads, the better, but ideally, this should occur within 2.5 seconds, per Google.
    • First input delay. How long after loading a user can interact with a page. Google recommends this score be less than 100 milliseconds. 
    • Cumulative layout shift. This measures a site’s visual stability. 
  • Use of HTTPS (required) 
  • No obvious security issues
  • Usability on mobile devices
  • Lack of intrusive content such as popups
  • Page safety/security

How To Take a UX-Focused Approach to SEO

More than anything else, the Google Page Experience Update provides a benchmark for optimizing the user experience on your website. By following the framework outlined by Google, there’s the opportunity to do more than improve your PageRank — you can potentially improve conversions, as well. So, with that in mind, let’s wrap things up with a bit of advice on what you can do specifically to improve your page experience score. 

  • Prioritize Performance.  Where possible, avoid using any content that could potentially impact performance, such as JavaScript, CSS, and rich media. 
  • Streamline Your Interface. Keep your site simple and easy to navigate, without any unnecessary visual elements. 
  • Make Sure Your Site is Mobile-Friendly. Self-explanatory. A mobile-friendly site is non-negotiable in 2021. 
  • Police your ad network. Or simply don’t use an ad network at all. 
  • Make sure you’re using HTTPS. Again, self-explanatory. Security, like mobile usability, is non-negotiable. 

User experience is crucial. It always has been. Just remember that while it’s essential to have a good page experience score, that’s still no substitute for quality content. 

How to Improve Page Speed for SEO

Even before page speed was a ranking factor, it was crucial. A slow website contributes to lost conversions and abandonment. Here’s how you can improve yours.

Page speed has been used as a ranking factor by Google for quite some time now. It’s not difficult to understand why, either. In recent years, every change made to the algorithm has been deployed with one goal in mind — a better user experience. A website that takes too long to load makes for a negative experience. 

These days, our time is at a premium. Our attention is being pulled in a thousand different directions at once. As a result, we’re hyper-sensitive to anything that we feel wastes our time.

And a slow-loading website does precisely that. Although common knowledge technically places the ideal load time at anywhere from two to five seconds, the truth is that faster is always better. As reported by Marketing Dive, even one extra second is enough to make more than half of mobile users abandon a site.  

Suffice it to say; you don’t want that to happen — so with that said, here’s some advice for improving your website’s performance and speed. 

Choose the Right Backend

First and foremost, you’ll want to make sure you choose a web host that provides you with enough bandwidth to host your site and the capacity to scale as necessary during periods of high demand. You may also want to use a content delivery network, which uses distributed proxy servers to ensure your visitors are always connected to a server that’s geographically nearby. Finally, if you’re using a platform like WordPress, only install plugins you absolutely need. 

The more unnecessary plugins you bog down your backend with, the greater the chance you’ll end up negatively impacting your site’s performance. 

Keep Things Light

Javascript and rich media have one thing in common. They both have the capacity to exponentially increase your load times if they’re used inexpertly. Avoid using them whenever possible, and stick to static content. 

For situations where you absolutely must use JavaScript or CSS, leverage asynchronous loading, which will allow the page to load and render side-by-side with the code. 

As for media content, tone down on animation-heavy interfaces, and compress all images and files. This is especially important for mobile users, who are often on devices and connections with less processing power than many desktop browsers. Finally, do not, under any circumstances, use autoplay video.

Seriously, just don’t do it.

Reuse Page Elements

The more HTTP requests each page on your website requires, the longer it takes for that page to load. As such, especially in the early design phase for your site, you should constantly look for opportunities to streamline things. This may include loading an interface as a single image, using a static background that persists across your website, or even serving the site as a single page. 

Ensure You’re Using Browser Caching

Browser caching is particularly important for repeat visitors to your site. How it works is simple. Previously-loaded static elements are stored in the user’s browser when they visit. When they return to the site, it queries their browser to load those elements near-instantaneously. 

As you might expect, this has a huge (and hugely positive) impact on performance, and significantly improves page response time, particularly if you’re reusing static elements across your site, as we recommended in our previous point. 

Test With Google PageSpeed Insights

Finally, once you’re confident you’ve incorporated all the performance enhancements you can, test your website with Google’s PageSpeed Insights tool. This will analyze your website’s overall performance, identify any potential bottlenecks, and provide you with suggestions for things you might improve. This is your bread and butter for performance optimization — expect to visit and revisit this page a lot. 

The faster your website loads, the better. Follow the tips outlined here, and keep looking for opportunities to improve. Optimization, after all, is a process — there’s always some new improvement to be made. 

Are SEO Certifications Actually Worth It?

There’s no shortage of search engine optimization certifications online. But are any of them actually worth pursuing?

As with any field that requires some level of expertise, the search engine optimization (SEO) space is filled with self-proclaimed experts looking to profit from their knowledge — and not from applying it. As a result, you can learn everything you need to know about SEO for a nominal fee and come out of it with a shiny certificate that lets you show off your knowledge. It sounds like a pretty good deal, right? 


If you’re a marketing professional, SEO certifications aren’t going to win you any clients. They care about what you can do, not about whether you have a piece of paper that says you do keywords well. And if you’re looking to learn SEO on your own, there are better ways than paying out the nose for a course that offers nothing beyond what can be found in Moz’s Beginner’s Guide to SEO

“I run an online education company that has taught SEO to over 3,000 students around the world,” writes SEO expert Brian Dean. “Despite the fact that we offer several different SEO programs, we don’t offer SEO certifications…An SEO training course is a great way to learn, [but] most programs don’t allow you to put your knowledge into practice.” 

In other words, a certification or training program can be helpful if you’re feeling overwhelmed and have no idea where to begin teaching yourself SEO. By working within a structured learning environment, you can learn at your own pace and with the help of someone who verifiably knows what they’re doing. There’s less risk of being led astray by a snake oil salesperson or following bad advice. 

Specific advanced certification programs can also be quite helpful, as they break down complex concepts and ideas into something that’s more easily digestible. Take Schema Markup, for instance. And some of the certifications offered by Google, such as Analytics Academy, Google Marketing Platform, and Search can be a great way to brush up on your skills. 

Better yet, Google’s certifications have a characteristic the other programs don’t. They’re free. So long as you have a valid Google account, you don’t need to pay a cent — all you need to do is complete an assessment on Skillshop, and you can start learning. 

It seems like that’s a bit more valuable than shelling out to a third-party vendor, no? 

SEO certifications and training programs aren’t without merit. They can be an excellent way to learn as a beginner, provide a good refresher if you’re feeling shaky on certain things, and help you understand advanced concepts. Ultimately, though? 

Most certification programs are quite simply a waste of money. They don’t teach you anything that isn’t already freely available online. And unless they feature guided instruction from an educator, they don’t provide a better experience, either.

Save yourself the time, money, and effort — practice your SEO in the wild instead. 

The Crucial Role of SEO in Fighting Fake News

Fake News may be a phrase coined by a former presidential administration, but misinformation has run rampant for years. SEO has a vital role in fighting it.

“Fake News” is more than a buzzword invented by Donald Trump. For all that it’s a powerful tool for research, communication, and collaboration, the Internet is also a pervasive source of misinformation. The problem is that one can publish whatever they want online, and aside from sites like Snopes, there’s really no way to hold people to any real standard of truthfulness or factuality.

For most of the Internet’s history, reasonable people have been able to ignore the lunatic fringe handily. It’s not as if they were hurting everyone. As long as their conspiracy theories and sensationalist rhetoric weren’t actively hurting everyone, they’re free to believe what they want, right?

The onset of the coronavirus last year demonstrated the problem with that line of thinking. Fearmongering, sensationalism, and lies have run rampant throughout the pandemic, from anti-mask rhetoric to the controversy surrounding the recent presidential election. In stark and disturbing detail, we saw exactly how much damage a single false story can cause. 

It should come as no surprise, then, that as reported by CNet, even Google is making an effort to curb the spread of harmful misinformation with a new feature called About This Result. Unveiled in a keynote at the company’s I/O Developer’s Conference near the end of May, About This Result is a snippet that contains the following information: 

  • What a site says about itself.
  • What others say about the site
  • Details such as website security, when Google first indexed the site, etc. 

It’s easy to forget that in many ways, Google is the arbiter of what many of us see online. Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is simply the mechanism by which it categorizes and classifies content. About This Site is an important step in the right direction for the search engine.

But it’s not enough.

The biggest issue with Google from the perspective of curbing fake news is that SEO doesn’t care about whether or not something is true. While the argument could certainly be made that authenticity is a cornerstone of website quality, Google’s algorithms ultimately focus on providing people with what they want to see. And if that happens to be a website filled with conspiracy theories about masks, vaccines, and the election? 

Well, who’s Google to judge? The algorithms are simply doing what they were designed to do, disclaimers notwithstanding.

To address the spread of misinformation and ensure we don’t see events like the Capitol riots or anti-mask movement, Google needs to do more than throw up a few disclaimers. We need some metric by which we can measure accuracy. Perhaps more importantly, that metric needs to be treated as a ranking factor.

Because otherwise, fake news will only continue to spread, and Google will be helping.

3 Reasons Your Content May Have Been Removed From the Search Engine Results Page

If you’re SEO-focused, being removed from the search engine results page can be devastating. Here’s how to avoid it.

The search engine results page (SERP) is the core focus of search engine optimization (SEO). Pages that can make it to the coveted first page are incredibly well-positioned for higher traffic and an improved conversion rate. Similarly, pages that fall further down in the results often see their numbers plummet. 

This makes sense. After all, can you even remember the last time you looked past the first page of the SERP? We certainly can’t. 

As it turns out, there’s a third fate that can befall a site, something even worse than losing PageRank — de-indexing. 

It’s okay if you felt a momentary chill run up your spine. We did too. The idea of being removed from Google altogether is honestly chilling. 

If you plummet to the bottom of the SERP, you can feasibly recover in time. But if your de-indexed, that’s it. Exit, stage left. 

But as reported by The Search Engine Journal earlier this month, it mercifully isn’t something that happens often. According to Google Search Liaison Danny Sullivan, de-indexing is something Google takes extremely seriously. It’s something that’s only applied in the most extreme circumstances.

The first of these involves illegal content. In addition to content that may be actively harmful, Google makes it a point to fulfill the legal framework of each country in which it operates. Generally, its algorithms can detect this kind of thing on their own, but users can also manually submit a removal request if they see something they think breaks the law. 

The second involves personal or sensitive information. Generally, Google evaluates this on a case-by-case basis. However, certain categories of content tend to be frequently de-indexed. 

  • Financial, medical, or protected legal data. 
  • Government-issued IDs or other data that may be used to commit fraud. 
  • Intimate photos or videos published without consent. 
  • Information that was clearly published in an attempt to frighten or intimidate someone (or inspire others to do so). 

Believe it or not, there’s a third reason your page might be removed from the SERP. However, most of the time, it’s not due to direct action on Google’s part (the 2019 deindexing bug notwithstanding). Per Moz, it’s possible to deindex your entire site accidentally

So basically, you might be removed for illegal content, harmful content, or as a result of user error. It’s a somewhat surprising revelation, as common knowledge for the longest time maintained that black hat techniques could potentially lead to removal. More than anything else, this drives home an essential truth about SEO, one we would all do well to remember.

Ultimately, none of us know precisely how Google’s algorithms work. Everything we know about SEO is based on a combination of breadcrumbs and guesswork. It’s usually informed guesswork, mind you — but it’s also far from gospel. 

Exploring SEO in the Medical Field

Whether you’re a private practice or a larger medical clinic, implementing SEO isn’t something you can afford to ignore. Learn why you need SEO.

You might think search engine optimization isn’t something you’d need to worry about as a healthcare professional.

However, you’d be wrong. Whether you’re an optometrist, family physician, dentist, or another type of medical professional, you are still a business at the end of the day. And like any business, you need a means of standing out from your competitors — of bringing in new patients. 

But how exactly do you do that? 

First thing’s first, Google My Business. Given that most of your lead-generating traffic will be local, and given that your Google My Business page is crucial to local SEO, ensuring this is filled out in its entirety should be your first step. A patient should be able to tell, at a glance: 

  • What your practice does.
  • Where your practice is located.
  • Your practice’s website, if it has one (it should). 
  • Hours and location.
  • High-quality photos of your clinic/office, including the exterior/waiting room.

A side bonus of using Google My Business is that it also allows patients to leave reviews of your practice. Pay attention to these. Thank people for their positive reviews, and make an effort to reach out and rectify negative reviews. 

You should also consider establishing your practice on a site like WebMD, which allows patients to search and rate physicians of all stripes. 

Beyond that, you’ll want to ensure your website is modern, easy to navigate, and includes your name, address, and phone number (NAP) on every page. You might also consider optimizing your pages for local search by including references to certain areas of your city or location-specific landing pages. 

More importantly, make sure it works seamlessly on mobile devices. Most people now browse the web on their smartphones. There’s no excuse for a site that isn’t mobile friendly, and a doctor that can’t even be bothered with maintaining a professional website doesn’t exactly inspire confidence.

You might also consider leveraging some form of digital booking software or perhaps even a virtual care platform. With so many people sheltering in place of late, the ability to receive medical care without having to leave the house could be a substantial potential draw for patients. 

Last but certainly not least, let’s talk content marketing. As with SEO, it’s probably not something you’ve thought much about. But it’s an untapped market and one with a great deal of potential.

Again, it’s about inspiring confidence in your patients, establishing yourself as a trusted voice in your field, and providing your patients with valuable medical advice in the process. Given that there’s a very good chance you don’t have the time or energy to run a blog yourself — especially now, medical professionals are exhausted and overworked — you might consider hiring a marketing agency to take care of things for you.

After all, your time is valuable, and they can help ensure you use it efficiently, all while getting your name in front of as many new patients as possible. 

Apple’s App Tracking Transparency Feature Is Only a Bad Thing for Facebook

Apple is releasing an iOS update that will notify users when an app wants to track them. Facebook has spent months rallying against it. But most brands were doing personalization wrong to begin with.

“We believe users should have the choice over the data that is being collected about them and how it’s used,” wrote Apple CEO Tim Cook in a December 2020 Twitter post. “Facebook can continue to track users across apps and websites as before, App Tracking Transparency in iOS 14 will just require that they ask for your permission first.”

For those of you who haven’t been paying attention, that tweet was one recent shot in an ongoing feud between Apple and Facebook about a new feature coming to iOS. Known as App Tracking Transparency (ATT), it explicit consent from users before an app can track details about a user’s device or their activities outside the app. Understandably, Facebook was less than enthralled by this concept.

Per CNBC, the social network late last month launched a new ad campaign titled “Good Ideas Deserve to be Found.” Although company executives claimed the initiative was aimed at supporting small businesses during COVID-19, the real motive of the campaign was immediately clear. It’s another effort by Facebook to undermine Apple’s decision — another thinly-veiled attempt to make it seem like giving people ownership of their personal information is a bad thing. 

Facebook even launched a website on the topic, positioning itself as a champion and Apple as a villain. Because as we all know, if there’s one thing Facebook cares about, it’s small businesses. That’s why it blocked all Australian publications from its platform last month to protest a law it didn’t like

As pointed out by’s Jason Aten, Facebook is the only one that stands to lose anything from these changes

As for personalized, paid advertising, for most businesses, it’s utterly ineffective. Not because there’s something wrong with the format, mind you. Because most businesses have no idea how to target their ads.

“The effectiveness of digital ads is wildly oversold,” writes Sinan Aral, Director of the MIT Initiative on the Digital Economy. “Brands pay consultants big bucks to “target” their ads at the people most likely to buy their products. But unless the targeting is directed at customers who aren’t already prepped to buy the products, the conversion from click to cash will not generate any new revenue.” 

In other words, most advertising is targeted and personalized towards people who are already likely to purchase a brand’s products — they frequently even have prior awareness of the brand. 

Never mind the fact that, as noted by marketing expert Neil Patel, small businesses generally enjoy the most success from local search engine optimization, not from paid advertising as Facebook seems to suggest. Competing with big businesses on platforms like Adwords is generally a recipe for failure. Focusing on local SEO, creating Google My Business and Facebook Business pages, and uploading your name, address, and phone (NAP) information to relevant directories is a far superior recipe for success. 

Facebook has never cared about user privacy. It has never cared about supporting small business owners or ensuring their success. As the Cambridge Analytica scandal drove home, Facebook only cares about profiting off the backs of its users. 

All the shallow ad campaigns in the world won’t change that fact. 

The 3 Characteristics of an Effective Press Release

Press releases are an often-overlooked means of bringing more attention to your brand. But you have to make sure you’re managing them the right way. Here’s some advice to that end.

If your business has never written a press release, you might be missing out. They’re a powerful tool for brand awareness and maintaining your business’s public image. More importantly, they’re arguably among the best tools for addressing controversies with the potential to break your brand

Don’t just dive in and start writing, though. Press releases aren’t like other content. They require a very specific approach in order to be effective. 

Here are three of the most important characteristics in that regard.  

Newsworthy Content

First and most importantly, make sure you have something important and relevant to say. 

This could be one of your executives offering expert commentary on current events. It could be a newsworthy action by your company, such as the receipt of a major award, the launch of a new product, or the addition of new infrastructure. It could be a survey your company recently commissioned or your response to a controversial incident. 

Regardless of what route you choose to take, your content needs to be current. Basically, you need to make sure that you’re actually writing content that people will be interested in reading. Content that journalists, should they discover your press release, would be interested in covering. 

The most important thing to keep in mind here is that your press release is not marketing copy. Your language needs to be professional and concise. It needs to be focused on the facts, and avoid appeals to emotion or wild assertions. 

An Attention-Grabbing Hook

As with any other content, your header, subhead, and introduction are among the most important components of an effective press release. Write them to be attention-grabbing without being too sensationalist. Ask yourself what someone who reads this press release would be most interested in reading or hearing about, and focus on that. 

Note that you should also include a date and location within the first sentence of your press release, as well as a brief summary of your company and the event that’s taking place. 

Company Boilerplate

Last but certainly not least, a press release must conclude with a boilerplate description of your company, as well as information for anyone who wants to reach out to your media contact. 

As far as boilerplate is concerned, note that it is not an elevator pitch. As with the content itself, you want to avoid using any flashy marketing language or making any inaccurate assertions. Instead, this section should be a summary of the most important and relevant details about your organization, no longer than a paragraph. 

Spread the Word

Provided you’re able to write professional copy and an effective introduction, a press release can be a powerful tool in the right hands.  A mechanism for managing both awareness of your brand and your brand’s public image. As long as you have something to say, press releases are an excellent format in which to say it. 

What Does 2021 Look Like for SEO?

With 2020 finally behind us, let’s talk about the trends that might impact the SEO space in the coming months.

We finally made it. Somehow. Against all odds.

It’s no exaggeration to say that for many of us, 2020 felt more like an entire millennium than a single year. Nor would it be inaccurate to suggest that many of us are still exhausted from the ordeal, and likely will be for some months to come. Just as it had a marked impact on us, it also changed the course of multiple industries.

Search engine optimization (SEO) was no exception. There is not a single industry that was not disrupted or in some way impacted by the novel coronavirus. Like it or not, SEO felt the aftershocks of that disruption. 

We’re now a few weeks into 2021. As is the tradition in January, let’s take a look forward. Here are a few of the major trends that will define the SEO space this year. 

  • COVID-19 is still here.  It’s not as if someone flipped a switch on New Year’s Eve and eradicated the coronavirus pandemic. Although a vaccine has been developed, the virus is still very much present. That means all the shifts and disruptions it created in 2020 still exist, and your marketing and SEO need to take that into account. 
  • The importance of intent. We’ve known for a while that Google is very interested in helping its algorithms understand user intent. We’ll see that trend continue in the New Year, meaning you’ll need to pay attention to it as well. You need to not only know who your audience is, but what they want, why they want it, and how to give that to them. 
  • User experience takes center stage. As of November 2020, user experience metrics are officially ranking factors in Google’s algorithms. Load time and general performance were already metrics you’d needed to consider, but add interactivity and visual stability to the pot. Expect to see ranking penalties applied to websites that can’t quite get it right. 
  • The power of artificial intelligence. Google has made great strides by applying AI to its algorithms. It stands to reason, then, that SEO professionals can do the same thing. Through machine learning and automation, you can glean insights that allow you to create more compelling content and fully optimize your customer relationship management.  
  • Voice search and conversational queries. As with previous years, 2020 saw voice search continue its steady climb to prominence. Focusing on conversational queries with your research. 
  • Schema supreme. With Google’s intense focus on context, understanding, and user intent, it stands to reason that 2021 will see structured data become immensely more valuable from an SEO standpoint. Best familiarize yourself with it now, so you can prepare for that trend.   

The above represents only what we believe is likely to happen. If the last year taught us anything, it’s that we live in an era where it’s next to impossible to predict the future with any degree of accuracy. We’d still advise readying yourself with the above in mind, but above all, the best advice we can give you is to expect the unexpected. 

How To Protect Your Website From SEO Spam Attacks

Whether or not spamdexing actually works, it can cause serious problems for your website and audience. Here’s what you can do to protect yourself.

It’s a tactic that’s arguably as old as search engine optimization (SEO) itself.

SEO spam, often referred to as spamdexing, basically has the same core goal as any other black hat tactic. Rather than working to gradually build up one’s web presence and generate revenue organically, it attempts to take a fast-tracked shortcut to make money — using someone else’s website to promote content that wouldn’t appear on the search engine results page otherwise. 

As you might expect, this has the potential to destroy both your website and your brand. 

Don’t make the mistake of thinking that you’re safe from SEO spam injection if you’re a smaller business, either.  If anything, the fact that you’re a smaller entity makes you a more attractive target, as smaller organizations are likely to have a careless attitude or lack a proper security budget. To make matters worse, since attacks of this nature are difficult to detect, they can remain hidden in plain sight for a long time, causing exponentially more damage as time goes on.

First, by knowing the signs of spamdexing: 

  • A sudden, unexpected decrease or increase in user traffic with no clear source
  • Unexpected ads or unusual anchor text showing up on your website
  • New, spammy content appearing on your website
  • Spam being sent via your email server
  • Unexpected warnings or penalties in the Google Search Console
  • Crawl errors on your website

Note that in addition to looking for the above signs manually, you can use a tool such as Ahrefs to check your backlink profile, or a third-party scanner designed to detect the presence of SEO spam. Either way, once you’ve determined you’re the victim of spamdexing, the next step is to figure out how it happened. How did hackers gain access to your site? 

Generally speaking, it’s because of poor security. Failing to keep things updated, using weak passwords or credentials, and so on. The good news is that this means protecting yourself from SEO spam isn’t actually that difficult.

  • Audit your passwords. Ensure every user with administrative privileges uses strong login credentials. You might also consider adding brute force protection. 
  • Use a firewall. This is just basic cybersecurity. You should also use antimalware and antispam software on your website. 
  • Keep everything up to date. We cannot stress this enough. Do not slack on installing patches and updates. Failing to keep your website updated effectively means you’re leaving the door open to hackers.
  • Assign user permissions with care. No user should have permissions they don’t absolutely need. Otherwise, there’s the potential for a hacker to gain unfettered access to your site, at which point they can essentially go wild.

Maintaining your reputation and trust is more important than ever before. Spamdexing, although it’s not as dangerous a tactic as it was five years ago, can still damage both. It’s therefore critical that you’re proactive with your website’s security — because that is, and always will be the best way to keep yourself safe from SEO spam.