If you want to rank on Google, the two major factors we recommend focusing on are speed, and branding.
The search giant has always prioritized speed, and brands are easier to trust than individuals for most consumers. If your website is fast and has engaging brand content, Google will love you! If your website is slow or if it lacks a strong brand presence, you may have a hard time ranking anywhere meaningful.
Google released some major updates in 2021 including the Page Experience Update which made Core Web Vitals a ranking factor, and the recent Link Spam Update which devalued the links from many affiliate blog and guest post style pages.
If you've been struggling to rank, these updates might be the reason why. If your website was made recently, lacks brand experience and is not optimized for speed, chances are Google has noticed.
"If you're trying to compete with a fast site that serves up secure content through HTTP/2 or HTTPS, there's no way your site can compete," said Google's John Mueller.
So, if you're struggling to rank on Google and it just so happens your site is not secure, there's your answer! Make sure all appended content is loaded through HTTPS by using HSTS and make sure you check out HTTP/2.
Here's a few more tips to keep your brand in front of your competition...
1. Fix Your Core Web Vitals
"If you're using a CDN, make sure your origin servers are configured to return an HSTS header. Doing this will allow Chrome to force HTTPS on all assets requested from that origin server." - John Mueller, Google Webmaster Central Office
2. Reduce Cumulative Layout Shift
You might have noticed a gradual change in the layout of your web pages as they load. This is called cumulative layout shift and it's a natural part of WordPress’ behind-the-scene activity. However, excessive cumulative layout shift can cause you to lose significant ranking on Google.
The layouts of your images without dimensions can cause cumulative layout shift, which is a gradual change in the layout of web pages as they load. Google sees this development negatively and it can cause you to rank lower on the search engine.
Third party content like iframes dimensions are often used to load ads, embeds, and other third-party content without impacting the design of the webpage. This technique is especially popular with advertisers who want their popup ads to appear seamlessly on a page, but it can also cause cumulative layout shift. Google sees this development negatively and it can cause you to rank lower on the search engine.
On a slower website, users can easily notice a cumulative layout shift.
3. Debloat CSS & JS
If you're developing a website on which you want to load CSS and JS files, and you notice that you're loading too many files and your site is starting to get pixelated, it's time to de-bloat. The simplest way to do this is to try and look at the size of each file.
If something is over 10K in size, it may be worth cutting it. If one script is loading multiple files inside of it (e.g., another script or more images) make sure they are not also coded in the same file. This way, only one HTTP requests will be needed for all of them!
In order to prevent this cumulative layout shift from impacting your site, you need to minimize the amount of files that are loading on your webpage. More specifically, you should only load scripts and CSS if they're absolutely necessary. If there's a script or CSS file that is over 10K in size, then it may be worth cutting it out.
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If you're struggling to rank on Google and it just so happens your site is not fast, there's your answer!
If layouts of images without dimensions are causing cumulative layout shift, which can cause a website to rank lower on the search engine like Google, then consider optimizing those images with one of many image optimization plugins available. To reduce cumulative layout shift caused by scripts loading multiple files inside one file (e.g., another script or more images), ensure they are not also coded in the same file. You should only load scripts and CSS if they're absolutely necessary when building websites that want to rank high on Google - otherwise, the rankings could suffer because of bloat.
Google is a fast-moving environment. When Google needs to update its algorithm, it usually rolls changes out immediately and without much fanfare. This means that SEOs need to maintain a solid yet flexible schedule in order to keep their sites ranked.
As the saying goes, "be where the puck is going, not where it has been".
You should consider making site speed a top priority if you want to rank high on Google.