RebelMouse Q2 2021 Platform Performance Updates

Q2 of 2021 was a big quarter for the open web. Google delayed their release of SEO ranking by CrUX report, and they changed their method for Lighthouse scoring drastically. Our team was a few steps ahead of these changes, and we were able to update our platform so sites in our network had little, if any, performance interruptions.

We invested over 1,592 hours into our platform in Q2 2021 alone, and all of the sites on our platform received the benefits of these updates. To break it down into large buckets, we invested in the following key areas:

  • 538 hours dedicated to new features
  • 725 hours dedicated to improving existing features
  • 329 hours dedicated to performance and infrastructure updates

Here are the major updates that we've added to the RebelMouse platform in Q2.


Performance Improvements

Google updated how their PageSpeed Insights scores are calculated by releasing a new version of Lighthouse on June 1, 2021. Lighthouse is a tool built into Google Chrome that lets you know how well your site is performing against Google's standards for a better open web. At RebelMouse, our team keeps up with updates from Google closely, and reads all of their release notes and GitHub updates.

This latest upgrade to Lighthouse had a negative impact on one of our previous methods for loading JavaScript in the JavaScript element of our Layout & Design Tool. Performance scores dropped as much as 20–60 points for sites that were using the JavaScript element in its previous state. However, our team kept on top of Google's changes, and developed a new approach that we call the post Largest Contentful Paint (LCP) method. LCP is a metric in Google's Core Web Vitals that measures the time it takes to load the main content on a page. Our post-LCP method loads JavaScript immediately after the LCP event has completed. Thanks to this new approach, scores in our site network have largely stayed intact, and many of them significantly outperform the open web.

Tweets are a very popular embed for media sites. They can contain lots of information and drive lots of traffic, and we have worked very hard to make it super easy for writers and editors to embed them by simply dropping a link into our Add Media Bar.

But tweets are not all the same size, and because of the way Twitter has coded them, they dynamically change their height as their elements come through, i.e., a photo, video, or screenshot can all change the size. These size changes cause penalties for cumulative layout shift (CLS), one of Google's Core Web Vitals.

We are always introducing new updates to our platform, and we've recently rolled out a platform-wide update that optimizes tweets to dynamically set the height of the tweet embed. To solve this, we do a server-side call when a user embeds the tweet to find the exact height and set it in the embed code. So this new behavior will work for all tweets that get embedded using the URL upload technique described in this post. This update will affect new tweets embedded and moving forward, but not backwards to everything that you've embedded previously.

  • Optimization of the RebelMouse JavaScript Application

Our mantra for code follows the famous Mark Twain quote: "If I had more time, this letter would have been shorter." This quarter, we spent significant time further optimizing the main RebelMouse application codebase. Here's what we did:

  • Reduced the bundle size from 14 KB (which was good to start with) to 9 KB (which is phenomenal)
  • Upgraded from webpack to webpack 5
  • Added Preact to our main app
  • Optimized the follow and like buttons
  • Optimized slideshows
  • Reduce boilerplate from transport modules
  • Implemented the optimized codebase for logged-in users, making their experience roughly 10x faster

Big New Features

  • Automated Traffic Splits for A/B Testing

We now support automating traffic splits between different layouts. You can configure this in our Layout & Design Tool to designate what percent of traffic should flow to each layout. The results are tracked through custom dimensions in Google Analytics and our custom Google Data Studio dashboards to show key performance measures on each layout. If you are interested, please ask your account manager for more information.

Being able to track your site performance and users' behavior on your site can be very beneficial in understanding what's effective on a given page. Using Google Tag Manager in conjunction with Google Analytics and RebelMouse's Layout & Design Tool allows you to glean many insights into what's working and, just as importantly, what's not working on your site. Let's start with a common example.

Many sites send out newsletters, and some send out multiple varieties of their newsletters. Let's take this further and imagine a site with several geographic sections, or verticals, on the site. In this scenario, we might have U.S., Europe, and Asia as our general sections. We want to be able to promote specific newsletter pop-ups to our users depending on the section that they land on. If a user lands in the U.S. section, show the U.S.-based pop-up, if they land in the Asia section, show the Asia-based pop-up, and so on.

From within the Layout & Design Tool, you can create divs that follow a specific naming convention to aid in the tracking.

Platform Workflow Updates

  • Custom Fields Editable by Users
    • Custom fields are now easily editable by users in their profile.
  • Add Media Bar Now Supports More File Types
    • The Add Media Bar in our Entry Editor allows you to add rich media integrations to every post with just a few clicks. We're pleased to announce that Add Media Bar supports even more file types than before. Using the paperclip icon, you can now choose to upload Excel, PowerPoint, Word, PDF, and/or CSV files.
  • Customize Entry Editor Sections
    • You can now customize which sections are visible to particular users in Entry Editor. Click here for a full list of our Entry Editor customizations.
  • Pagination Support for Archives, Tag, and Section Pages
    • Many of the properties within our site network make use of infinite scroll. Google recently stopped supporting indexing of pages that use infinite scroll, so we now have an easy option to combine infinite scroll for users with pagination. This should help Google index your site more efficiently.
  • Image Alignment Control in Entry Editor
    • There is now the ability to control how your images align in Entry Editor. We released this feature as a test with a few clients, and it will soon be deployed to our full site network. If you are interested in getting early access to this feature, please let your account manager know.

Platform Infrastructure Updates

  • Dependabot Enabled for All Microservices
    • Dependabot is a tool that creates pull requests to keep dependencies secure and up to date.
    • Currently, Dependabot supports Bundler, Cargo, Composer, Docker, Hex, elm-package, git submodule, GitHub Actions, Go modules, Gradle, Maven, npm, yarn, NuGet, and pip. This helps our platform have even more efficiency and reliability.
  • Internal DNS Microservices
    • Internal DNS is a microservice that implements service discovery and resolves major flaws of hosts Ansible role.
  • Per-Rule Custom Responses From Web Application Front-Ends
  • New Cluster of Dedicated Stats Servers on Ubuntu 18.04
    • We upgraded the infrastructure significantly to release a dedicated cluster of servers managing stats. This is excellent for the performance of other applications, as well as the performance for stats.
  • Distributed Tracing With Sentry and force_tracing Parameter
    • All changes are running in production deployments.
    • Microservices: We switched from OpenCensus and Jaeger to Sentry tracing, biker, EE, React dashboard, and added front-end tracing.
    • Monolith and Express-Based Microservices: We now support get-parameter force_tracing=1 (this forces traces sampler to record transactions with 100% probability). This works both for both front-end and back-end samplers.
    • Here are some additional resources about distributed tracing:
  • Quality Assurance

    • We've significantly amplified the team that works on QA to minimize any bugs found by users, clients, or readers.
    • We've upgraded processes so that any client can use the QA feature in Jira for any minor changes to the Layout & Design Tool.
    • Regression testing has been updated across all key platform features to ensure better stability as we release new features.
    • Regression testing has also been added for our more complex enterprise clients to test custom features in an automated way. This avoids running into any bugs from those new features.

Team Updates

We've added amazing talent to our team in Q2. These new Rebels will help scale our ability to continuously update our platform while delivering as a creative agency.

  • Engineering Team
    • Gabriela Carrion, Project Manager
    • Richard Santana, Back-end Engineer
    • Soham Chakraborty, SRE DevOps Engineer
  • Client Services/Delivery Team
    • Igor Dudnyk, Platform Engineer
    • Tatianna Machado, Platform Engineer
    • Ana-Maria Iancu, Solutions Architect
    • Alejandro Duarte, Technical Account Manager
    • Clara Savi, Quality Assurance Engineer
    • Natalia Blashchanitsa, Quality Assurance Engineer
    • Anzhalika Baradzin, Quality Assurance Engineer
    • Anna Maevskaya, Quality Assurance Automations Engineer
    • Anton Krylov, Quality Assurance Automations Engineer
  • Human Resources
    • Mayra Massuda, Head of HR

Minor Bug Fixes and Minor New Features

  • SoundCloud embeds now work on AMP
  • Images uploaded in Layout & Design Tool can have defined sizes
  • Support for "nearby locations"
  • Fix for scrolling through comments
  • Security prevention for community blog submissions
  • Optimized the crop tool in Entry Editor
  • Enabled a "Sort by Deadline" feature in the Posts dashboard
Click here to read our platform performance updates from Q1 2021.

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Take a peek into how our proprietary technology helps sites surge on search

The RebelMouse platform features a rich search engine optimization (SEO) toolset that guides writers and editors to think about the right search phrase behind every story, as well as how to focus on small but meaningful modifications designed to improve organic search performance.

Our SEO technology centers around best practices for search, including detailed metadata that will help Google's site crawler identify, index, and rank your content quickly. It often leads our clients to experiences traffic surges that look like the following after launching on our platform:

how to increase search traffic

Here's a look inside our proprietary technology that helps our clients experience quick search boosts that turn into long-term SEO wins.

The Search Tab

how to find the right search phrase

Every new article presents a new opportunity to win on search. RebelMouse's Entry Editor features an SEO tab that's designed to help you optimize every post to give it the best shot at winning a targeted search phrase. Here's a glimpse into how it guides editors through a perfected search strategy before the "Publish" button is even clicked.

Define Your Search Phrase

search volume data

It can be tricky to nail down which search phrase you want to win. Within the SEO tab, you can brainstorm your ideas in real time. Through the creative usage of APIs, we ensure writes and editors are armed with the right information when optimizing content for SEO. In the example above, the drop-down list is suggesting search phrases that are already performing well on Google. The number next to each recommended phrase is its monthly search volume.

This helps you determine which phrases are easy to win, or perhaps too competitive to strategize for, on an article-by-article basis. Click here to read more about this feature.

Optimize Your Slug to Match Your Search Phrase

submit url to search engines

The SEO tab in our Entry Editor is designed to repeat your desired search phrase throughout your content so that Google's crawler has every chance to index it correctly for search. With this methodology in mind, it's a best practice to have your article's URL slug match your desired search phrase. From the SEO tab, you can click the Optimize Slug button to automatically match your URL slug to the search phrase you want to win. Click here to read more about this feature.

Pick Smart Recirculation Links

seo outlinks

After you've defined your search phrase and optimized your URL slug accordingly, you can select highly relevant links to add as related content to the end of your article. We call these Around the Web (ATW) links. The SEO tab allows you to pick the best links from your own site, as well as from around the web, which leads to truly amazing traffic boosts. This is a proven SEO practice that's rewarded by Google. Since your article will link to pages already winning your search phrase, it can increase your own post's relevance score in the eyes of Google's crawler.

We automate the surfacing of both ATW and internal links for you, so it's as easy as ticking a handful of checkboxes to add them to your post. We've also done the math, and the data is clear: Adding ATW and internal links to the end of your articles can increase traffic coming to your posts from Google by over 300%! Click here to read more about this feature.

Craft Metadata Before Publish

what is seo metadata

When it comes to Google's site crawler, providing clever metadata is one of the best ways to contextualize your content for search. From there, Google's search algorithm will rank your site for search queries that it determines are relevant to your content. Our SEO tab allows you to write your metadata right from within our Entry Editor. Plus, our character counter will help you make sure that your SEO headline and description match Google's best practices for metadata text length.

It's important to make sure your metadata is clearly written in a succinct way so that Google can quickly understand the nature of your content. Click here to read more.

The RebelMouse Particle Assembler

how to optimize an article for seo

RebelMouse's Particle Assembler is a content creation tool within our Entry Editor that makes it easy to transform your posts into media-rich micro pieces of content, which we call particles, that can both be shared individually and crawled separately on search. Our Assembler functionality gives your content more legs, which means more chances to generate more traffic.

The following steps demonstrate how you can use our Assembler to optimize an article to win a search phrase.

Use Particle Headlines to Reinforce Your Search Phrase

how to write headlines for seo

Assembler is accessible via one simple click in the formatting toolbar of our Entry Editor. From there, an organizational layout will be inserted into your article that will help guide you through building out the particles that will shape your Assembler. The best way to think of Assembler is by treating it as an enhanced list format. If your article is about vegan cooking trends, each particle can feature a new trend. But Assembler does not need to be a simple list. It can also cover the main points of your article and feature user-generated content or even related stories.

Assembler is a helpful SEO tool because it can generate a unique URL slug for each particle, maximizing your article's ability to get indexed by Google for more than one key search phrase. Click here to read more about this feature.

Make the Most of Google's "People Also Ask" Module

how to optimize for people also ask

Particle headlines are also a great way to make use of Google's "People Also Ask" module. This will help you identify search patterns of users who are interested in your search phrase. By tailoring your particles to those patterns, it's likely that your post will move up in Google's search rankings. Click here to read more about this strategy.

Add Media to Every Particle

alt text for seo

Each particle is another opportunity to add relevant media to your post, and Assembler makes it easy to add alt text to every image you upload. Alt text is very important for accessibility and can also have benefits for SEO. Briefly, alt text is text that is added to an image to describe it to search engines, and also to allow people using screen readers to be able to know what the image is without actually being able to see it. You can easily add alt text to any image in RebelMouse from our Entry Editor. Adding your search phase into every alt text field will only bring you one step closer to the top of Google Search's first page.

Make the Most of Our SEO Toolset

RebelMouse's proprietary technology works for any kind of site, whether you're a brand, a new media company, or a legacy publisher. SEO doesn't have to be something that only developers and analysts can understand and augment. Our product is designed to put the power of search in the hands of content creators, editors, and social curators, too.

Start winning on search with every publish. Request a proposal today and let's start working together.

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