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Inside Google’s SEO Roadmap

It hasn't even been a full year since Google redesigned how they measure page speed, an update which put site performance at the top of its ranking factors. So high, in fact, that over the months it's become clear that page speed can deeply impact your overall SEO ranking and even make your ad buys more expensive.

In short, performance is everything to Google. As the platform improves how it defines optimal page speed, Google will only continue to favor the fast and trusted web. So before things develop any further, it's important to get acquainted with how Google currently measures page speed and, specifically, the metrics the platform has identified as mattering the most.


Understanding Site Performance

According to Google, one of the most common misconceptions about site performance is that it's measured solely based on load time. While this isn't exactly untrue, what's often misconstrued is that load time is based on one user's experience. But we know that every user experiences a different load time based on the conditions of their connection, device, and so on. This means load times are measured across a host of different times collected from various users instead.

To better illustrate, here's a graph from Google:

In the graph, the x-axis represents load times, and the y-axis shows the number of users who experienced that particular load time. So while most of the users in this example experienced a fast load time of less than a second, there were still many users who experienced a much slower load time.

Slow load times can be caused by a number of things. For example, if there's too much JavaScript on a site, the code can take longer to execute and slow down the site's progress. Because of this, it's important to not just consider initial load time when measuring site performance, but rather a user's entire experience on site. Is the site animating smoothly? Are clickable links too slow to register? The best way to understand a user's journey is by becoming familiar with the metrics Google uses to determine their experience.

The User-Centric Metrics That Matter

User experience isn't just important from a technology standpoint; it's a make-or-break factor in any publisher's content strategy. If you're producing quality content, it's important to first make sure that content can be viewed with ease.

According to Google, when a user first arrives at a site, this is what both parties are looking for:

From Google.

To answer these questions, Google has broken down each into a few meaningful measurements:

From Google.

Let's break down what each of these means:

  • First Paint (FP): FP is the amount of time it takes for any visual content to appear on site, which answers the question: Is it happening?
  • First Meaningful Paint (FMP): This is the amount of time it takes the most important content, what Google calls "hero elements" to load on site. Hero elements are different for every site, but should be intuitive based on your content. This metric answers the question: Is it useful?
  • Time to Interactive (TTI): This is the most important metric to keep an eye on. This is when the site is fully rendered and ready for user action. This can be a critical point when slow load time can occur, due to JavaScript that hasn't fully loaded or long tasks, which you will learn about shortly. So, in short, think of TTI as how long it takes for your site to load completely, answering the question: Is it usable?
  • Long Tasks: As you see in the chart above, long tasks are something you want to avoid. When a browser executes JavaScript, it delivers it in a series of tasks one by one. Sometimes certain tasks take longer to complete than others, causing site load time to tank quickly. Here's a link to Long Tasks API, which identifies tasks that take 50 milliseconds or longer to load.

These metrics are your roadmap to how Google will rank your site's performance and, ultimately, where it ends up in the search rankings. Here's a good visual on how the load journey works:

From Google.

How to Get One of the Fastest Sites on the Open Web

The best way to test your own site's performance score is by using Google's PageSpeed Insights and Lighthouse tools. This article demonstrates some good ways to track Google's key metrics to see if your site is performing.

It's always best to measure, test, and repeat to optimize your site for speed. The good news is that by focusing on these metrics, you aren't just prioritizing overall load time, but you're also overhauling your entire user experience for the better.

At RebelMouse, we've tracked social and search algorithm changes and how they impact the publishing industry for many years. Thanks to the massive scale of our CMS platform, we live close to data like site performance, and are able to identify the key strategy changes publishers need to make to stay on top of industry standards.

An example of an article page speed score from RebelMouse-powered Mikkeller Brewing NYC.

Now that platform dependence has subsided, and the rise of subscription-based models and thoughtful news aggregators are becoming more popular, user experience is what will set your site apart in a very saturated space. In 2013, publishers asked themselves: "How do I get the most reach on Facebook?" In 2019, the question has become: How do I make my site the best it can be? This is the ticket to unlocking modern sustainable growth and building a loyal user base.

We've built and host some of the fastest sites on the web, often beating out major publishers with huge tech teams and budgets. RebelMouse is made up of a team of traffic-obsessed, data-driven strategists. We make small updates to our platform daily to prioritize speed. Whether it's more options for lazy loading or updating all images to Google's next-generation image format, our product is always adapting — and so is Google.

Google isn't done defining just how they'll define page speed moving forward, but this roadmap is a good start, and a ticket to your site's monetary health and SEO ranking. If your site isn't optimized for speed like it should be, request a proposal today and we'll help you build one of the fastest sites on the open web. Let's create something meaningful together.

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Meet RebelMouse

Build on a better platform that supports far-reaching content distribution, impactful conversion, and unparalleled loyalty.

The world's largest companies trust us to power their global, multiplatform content experience. As a platform, we're now one of the largest in the world, reaching 50+ million people every month. As a creative agency, we build mass pop culture hits that grow organically to become household names — Axios and The Dodo, for example.

We work strategically with United Airlines and many other brands to establish the new media roadmap for their future and implement it. RebelMouse was founded by the CTO who built The Huffington Post. The founding vision and mission is still the same today: to be the right new media platform for both media companies and brands. It's working exceedingly well, and we're delivering some staggering results for our clients.

Read our latest deck here!

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How to Include Interactive Elements in Posts

Enhance your articles with rich and creative media

Every article is a fresh chance to grab new readers and nurture loyal followers. This is why we give creators every opportunity to build content rich with media elements that enhance every reader's experience.

Add More Layers to Your Content

You can easily add interactive elements, like charts, to posts on our platform. For example, if you need to embed iframe code into a post, this can be done via our Add Media Bar. To do so, click the code icon (< >):

A text box will appear so you can insert your code:

Embedded Code Across Platforms

One important thing to keep in mind is that Google AMP, AppleNews, and Facebook Instant Articles will not always support embedded code. So if you use an iframe, it's best to turn off distribution to those channels for that particular post. If you have a lot of posts that require embedded code, this could be problematic for growth across those important platforms.

If you do want to use an iframe on a post destined for Google AMP distribution, it can be possible if the iframe is not at the top of the page or within the first 75% of the viewport when the page is scrolled to the top (whichever is smaller). AMP is a fast technology designed for mobile users and iframes are loaded using arbitrary timing that AMP's technology cannot ensure. For this reason, it's suggested that iframes be included in places that are not visible by users upon load.

If you have an article that needs to include an iframe at the top of the page, or within the first 75% of the viewport, AMP can be turned off for that individual article within Entry Editor.

If you don't need an interactive chart to be interactive in nature, can turn it into an image and upload it directly to your post. This way it will work on all platforms, including Google AMP, Apple News, and Facebook Instant Articles. This option, when possible, is ideal to ensure you're optimized for page speed.

Take Advantage of Shortcodes

Another great way to embed media is through our shortcodes functionality. Click here to learn more about shortcodes. Shortcodes can also inserted using the Add Media Bar. Click the brackets icon ([ ]) to choose the shortcode you want to use.

Here's an example of a chart on an article page that's been inserted using a shortcode:

If you have any questions about how to add interactive elements to your content, please email support@rebelmouse.com or talk to your account manager today.

Shortcodes Dashboard: Dynamic Media in Just a Few Clicks

Create multidimensional content with easy-to-find shortcodes

We believe static media is dead, and that every piece of content should be multidimensional and engaging. This is why our platform enables creators so they can add dynamic media to their content in easy and efficient ways.

One simple way to add interactive content to any post is through the use of shortcodes. Shortcodes are small snippets of code that are easier to remember than longer sequences. They typically will activate a feature or embed media into an article.

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How to Add Scalable Vector Graphics to RebelMouse

Quickly add an SVG to any page

A Scalable Vector Graphic, or SVG, is a type of graphic format that gives you more flexibility than standard formats like JPEG or PNG.

To add an SVG to your RebelMouse site, first go to your Layout & Design tool. Next, open the SVG in a code editor and copy the entire <svg> element. Then, add a Custom HTML element to your layout and paste in the SVG code:

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How to Find Work-Life Balance as a Remote Employee

Tips from our CEO on making the most of an office-free lifestyle

Working from home is becoming increasingly popular, with an estimated 66% of companies now allowing remote work and 16% operating completely office-free. RebelMouse is one of those fully remote companies, and over the years we've mastered how to stay close to each other despite being spread across more than a dozen countries. We believe working remotely is good for both our personal lives and our productivity. Read more about this here.

Still, working free from the shackles of an office environment doesn't mean every day is a dance party in your pajamas from 9 to 5. Working from home comes with its own set of challenges just like any other job.

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Canvas Page and Shareable Element: An Easier Way to Organize

In our Layout & Design tool, you have the option to create new pages and reuse them anywhere within your templates. With this update, we wanted to create a clear distinction between what is used as a Canvas page — a blank page, open to any design and structure — and a Shareable Element — a block or page created specifically to be reused as a module within another page or site.

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