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Recent SEO Myths: July 2020

recent SEO myths July 2020

Recent SEO Myths: July 2020

Today I want to explore some recent myths in the SEO world including mobile-first indexation, how page-loading speeds factor into rankings and more

Myth 1: Mobile-First Indexation is Imminent & Will Change Everything Radically

So I always groan when I see posts like this:

Sometimes people produce media which makes it seem as if Google are about to take a single action which completely alters the way in which search results are ranked (the web will change in seconds). As more seasoned SEO veterans know; Google came out some time ago (try years ago) and stated that most of their updates would be progressive and would be gradually rolled out or integrated into their core ranking algorithm(s)

In essence, Google have been moving away from large one-off updates that completely change SERP results (e.g: Mayday, Florida, Panda 1, Penguin 1 – to name a few) and towards smaller, more frequent updates. This has been a pattern which we can observe over a number of years. This doesn’t mean that core updates don’t happen anymore, but most people act like these are still the norm (they aren’t)

The referenced images is an attempt to get people into a panic over something, which of course – didn’t happen in the end (at least, not in the way that the author of that media was stating it would happen)

Contradicting information can be found, directly sourced from Google here:

Firstly Google state that mobile-first indexation has been an ongoing effort for a number of years. Google also state that in actual fact, mobilefirst indexation has already been enabled for most sites on the web!

We can confirm this, loads of our sites have received such messages in Google Search Console:

This one dates back to 2018. This view that there’s a set date where Google will radically change how all sites are ranked, that people urgently need to prepare for – is false! In actual fact, most sites have already been moved over and the site owners may not have even noticed

If your site has already been shifted over and is doing fine, media which says that “there isn’t much time left” to make changes – is really just scaremongering at its finest. I won’t name the agency which sent out the referenced media, but obviously it’s not very moral to spread fear and uncertainty to make sales (shame on them!)

If none of that makes you think twice; notice that Google themselves shifted back the completion date and gave themselves more time to roll out changes in a smaller, more progressive way. This idea that there’s a flip-switch moment and if you aren’t prepared for it, terrible things will happen – is usually false

If your have a plan for your site’s SEO and you’re getting on with it and seeing strong results; don’t pause everything you need to be doing so that you can give a knee-jerk response to inaccurate fear-factor media pieces. Keep strong, keep focused, keep moving! Eyes on the prize

Myth 2: Page-Speed is All-Important / Page-Speed Doesn’t Matter

This is a really good one, and Google have just recently released a video clearing a lot of things up. Basically people at Google get a bit frustrated with the SEO community, because many people in the SEO community fall into one of two categories

  • People who think page-speed is all-important for Google rankings
  • People who think page-speed doesn’t affect Google rankings at all, and that it has basically no commercial benefit

Both of these viewpoints are false!

This is a great new video from Google:

Firstly, we know we have made some pretty strong page-speed recommendations in some recent technical SEO audits. In this video it may at first appear as if Google are contradicting us, that isn’t actually true! Google aren’t saying that page-speed is completely unimportant, moreso that there’s very little difference at the high-end of their rating scale (so if you invest a load of effort to move from 92/100 to 95/100 on Google Page-Speed Insights, you probably won’t see much if any return on that investment)

When we recommend page-speed work, it’s because we’re seeing scores more akin to 10/100 or 20/100 at the very low end (ratings bucketed as very poor). In the linked Google Webmasters video, Google actually explicitly state that moving up performance buckets (e.g: from poor to medium, or from average to good) can be beneficial:

Like if you have two results that are basically doing fine content wise, we would probably get the one that is faster, more prominence in the search results. And also, I think it’s important to understand that we’re not doing it [ranking pages] by Score or Lighthouse or something like that. It is more we’re bucketing pages into like; this is a programmatically slow one, this is an OK one, and this is a fast one. You see that [speed categorisation, e.g: slow vs fast] in the speed report as well, in the Search Console. So I think people need to just like – figure out if they have really slows pages, how to make them faster. And probably, if they’re in the middle bit [medium speed rating], you also want to go to the fast bit. But it doesn’t matter if you have a Lighthouse score of 90 or 95” (Martin Splitt, 13:43)

When we have made page-speed recommendations in our own audits, it’s because the page-loading ratings are so poor that there are actual SEO concerns. Unlike many agencies we don’t push for the vanity 90/100 ratings, just for ratings which may practically help SEO results in some instances. In addition to this, regardless of ranking boosts – you don’t want your page to be so poor that Google refuses to rank it

To be clear, for that to happen a webpage would have to be diabolically slow. As Google state, for most sites – improvements can and should be made, but content is still king. Please note that if we have included page-loading speed issues at the top of one of your technical SEO audits, it’s likely because page-speed performance is just really bad on your site. Page-speed may not be the largest or most major ranking factor, but any item in an audit can raise up (in terms of priority) if that item is performing poorly enough to cause active ranking problems

Although page-loading speeds can be an SEO and conversion-rate issue for some sites, for other websites there isn’t a good reason to invest so heavily. As long as your page-loading speeds aren’t so dire that Google becomes wary about ranking your pages, average scores do seem to be good enough. At the end of the day, content seems to matter much more to Google than page-loading speeds. This is somewhat of a u-turn from Google, who have historically pushed page-loading speeds as being very important (for the web, in general)

If someone tries to convince you that page-loading speeds are the most important ranking factor, that’s completely false. If someone tries to convince you that on your particular site, page-loading speeds are the next thing you need to tackle – that could easily be true!

Written by

SEO & digital marketing specialist of nearly 10 years. A master of Google Data Studio, XPath and more. Applied data-driven analysis, to increase revenue and on-site conversions. Architecting information, to bring you closer to your online audience!

james@wild-fire.co.uk

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