Subscribe to Our Newsletter

x

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.

Related Articles

You're almost there! Fill out the form below and a Rebel will contact you within one business day.

x

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!

Keep reading... Show less

NEW! Beta Posts Dashboard: Filtering and Search UI Upgrade

New Filters in Posts Dashboard

We've implemented new filters that allow users to easily find exactly what they need in their posts dashboard. You can now customize your search results by:

  • Creators You Follow
  • Rating
  • Post Status
  • Post Type
  • Period
  • Sections
Here's what the new filter menu looks like:

Easy-to-Use Search Queries

In the same slick user interface, you can also create search queries and combine them with your filtered results:

  • Post Search
  • Creator Search With Ajax Autocomplete
  • Community Search

This is an exciting step forward in enhancing the editorial experience for our users. It should now be much simpler to narrow down results to exactly what you're looking for.

Here's how the workflow looks in action:

If you have any questions about these dashboard updates, please email support@rebelmouse.com.

Higher SEO Audit Scores With RebelMouse

SEMrush Reports Help Keep Our Sites Optimized for Search

Even the most brilliant and successful marketers will admit that chasing a perfect search strategy is a full-time job in and of itself. Google's algorithm is fickle at best, with frequent algorithm updates that can turn a site's rankings completely sideways.

At RebelMouse, we obsess over Google's algorithm updates and the latest SEO best practices so that our publishers can focus on doing what they do best: create quality content. This means our traffic experts work around the clock to make sure our sites are optimized for search, and are even a few steps ahead of what Google's next move will be.

Keep reading... Show less

You're almost there! Fill out the form below and a Rebel will contact you within one business day.

x

Our Obsessive Approach to Caching

Site updates appear in a flash with our cache process

When it comes to growing your site traffic and audience, we all tend to think of the same things: great content, beautiful design, fast load times, interactive experiences, etc. But one thing that often gets overlooked is the role of caching. A web cache is the temporary storage of web documents, like images, article pages, and multimedia assets, to reduce unnecessary repeat loading from a server. Any platform that doesn't focus on caching performance usually has poor uptime stats, which means that you're going to experience downtime issues.

RebelMouse obsesses over these things so that you don't have to, and that's why we're able to handle massive traffic spikes without any degradation in service. Just ask RebelMouse-powered PAPER Magazine, who recently had an article receive 20 million page views in one day (!) with no noticeable change in site performance.

Keep reading... Show less

A PSA to Brands: Control Your Context

Resonate with your audience the right way

Programmatic Advertising Is a Gamble

For years, brands have relied on display ads and programmatic levers as a cheap and easy solution to spend large portions of marketing dollars. But the major frustration with programmatic advertising has always been the lack of control and transparency on where ads actually show up. And as banner blindness spreads, ad-blocking technology becomes more prevalent, and subpar or broken sites crop up at increasingly high rates, programmatic advertising will only become more expensive, unsustainable, and a huge risk.

According to a recent study from Integral Ad Science, when your programmatic ads happen to show up in high-quality environments, it could lead to a 30% lift in brand recall. But on the flip side, when your ads appear in low-quality environments, the consequences can be brutal: Ads in low-quality environments were perceived 74% less favorably, and even harshly, compared to the same ads seen on high-quality sites. Overall, users were four times less likely to think a brand cared about them after seeing the brand surface next to inappropriate content. Finding your ad in poor-quality environments creates a stronger impression among audiences, and it's not the kind of impression you want. Plus, it means that your paid marketing needs to work harder to boost your brand reputation, convert customers, and do damage control.

It's Time for Brands to Become Publishers and Take Control

As a brand marketer, you need to reclaim ownership of where and how your messaging shows up. One key way to control your context is to become a publisher. According to NewsWhip, 70% of people would rather learn about a brand through content than through ads, and 68% feel more positive about a company after engaging with the brand's content. And it's a good time for brands to go all in and create an advantage with content, too. Now, more than ever, page performance matters for audience reach, retention, and revenue. Google, along with Facebook, have explicitly made page speed a factor in search results and News Feed, while site visitors will quickly leave a page that takes more than three seconds to load. Media companies that have survived in the past with broken sites now feel the consequences of their low-performing properties due to their inability to provide solid returns to advertisers.

As a CMS platform and creative agency, RebelMouse partners with brand teams on best practices and innovative ways to build content experiences that will break through and resonate with audiences. For example, our work with United Airlines has produced a better-performing site and helped them beat out media companies to win travel search phrases for organic audience growth. Our partnership is a key reason why United Airlines' content now drives the most web engagement in their industry.

Choose Your Media Partners Wisely

If you plan to rely on media partners to place your messaging, then be selective and spend on the right context. Build direct relationships with quality publishers that prioritize the user experience and know how to pair editorial with premium advertising (in particular sponsored content) to maximize eyeballs and engagement for brands. RebelMouse powers a tight ecosystem of quality publishers, like PAPER Magazine and Motherly, that have built valuable, new media properties. We can connect brands into this network of quality sites to execute premium and effective campaigns at scale.

Build for the Future

Moving away from the inefficient world and disadvantages of programmatic advertising and creating a sustainable content marketing strategy is not easy — it takes organizational commitment, patience, and the right technologies. If you're a brand marketer, reach out and learn how RebelMouse's full-stack content marketing solution is ideal for your growth into a publishing powerhouse. If you're a media company and sell premium advertising, guide your advertising partners on how to build mutual value on your site when they're tempted to blindly toss marketing dollars on cheaper impressions.

Subscribe to Our Newsletter