Webinar Wrap-Up: Top Things to Know Now About SEO

On October 7, Matt Bailey, a member of the Digital Marketing Faculty at Simplilearn and the President of SiteLogic, joined Simplilearn for a conversation, Top Things to Know Now About SEO. He spoke about what digital marketers should know now about search engine optimization to propel their digital marketing careers ahead in 2021.

Analytics: Content Performance and Cookies

Matt’s first piece of advice is to evaluate your underperforming web content. You should look carefully at your analytics to identify the pages on your website that have high bounce rates. A high bounce rate doesn’t automatically mean that the page is not doing its job: sometimes, the purpose of a page is informational, and users will find the data they need and leave the page. However, pages meant to create engagement and drive transactions should not have high bounce rates if they are performing well. For those pages, you should look at the user behavior on the pages and see where you can improve engagement.

Matt pointed out that cookie-based analytics has recently changed a great deal due to changes in cookie expiration rules. Google Analytics is changing how visits are attributed, using more extended periods to show more attribution of page visits to Google search or Google Ads. By contrast, Apple is changing its Safari browser to cause cookies to expire automatically after seven days. You should consider how these changes will affect your analytics so that you can tell whether your site performance has really changed or only appears to have changed because of the cookie changes.

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Core Web Vitals

Matt demonstrated how core web vitals work. These tools allow you to evaluate the mechanics of your website’s performance. They provide uniform guidance for quality signals in the areas of content load speed, interactivity and responsiveness, and visual stability. The core web vitals are:

  • Largest Contentful Paint
  • First Input Delay
  • Cumulative Layout Shift

Largest Contentful Paint (LCP) measures the perceived content load speed. It reports the render time of the largest images or text block on the page. If the LCP time is too long, it could point to any of several problems: a slow server, slow client-side rendering due to inefficiencies in CSS or JavaScript, or sluggish 3rd party connections.

First Input Delay measures interactivity and responsiveness. It’s the time from a user interaction to the browser’s response. A common cause of sluggish responsiveness is excessive JavaScript execution, with the response relying on complex operations.

Cumulative Layout Shift measures visual stability. It looks at how much the positions of layout areas and blocks change as the page loads. The shifting can cause a poor user experience by moving content just as the user is about to interact with it and pushing the user’s desired information out of view. Typical causes of layout shift include:

  • Images without dimensions
  • Ads, embeds, iframes (also with no dimensions)
  • Dynamically injected content
  • Web fonts
  • Layout actions needing network response

Using tools like the core web vitals, you can look for ways to make your web pages faster. As you do, Matt reminds you to evaluate that speed across all devices. You can’t rely on your users to come to your site only on one type of device, so you need to pay attention to how your site performs on smartphones and tablets as well as laptops and desktops.

Don’t React to Quick Analysis

Matt noted that when search providers’ algorithms change or are updated, it can sometimes take months to years to understand the changes fully. He cautions you to beware of SEO “Analyses” or “Branded” SEO studies that claim to decode Google changes. The authors of these analyses don’t have access to the internal workings of Google or other search engines. Their externally-based analyses can have many fatal flaws:

  • Confirmation Bias: Favors information that supports the claim
  • Correlation: Weak correlations claimed as strong or favorable
  • Anecdotal Evidence: Situation or story, not data
  • Unverified Research: There is no peer-review in the SEO industry
  • Vested Interests: Company research that supports their product 
  • Statistical Significance: Limited sampling is not enough to draw a conclusion
  • Control for variation: Studies cannot replicate an unknown algorithm

Matt cautions against making decisions solely based on any such analysis or study. You should run your own tests to see how the changes have affected your website performance and digital marketing.

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Top SEO Questions

Matt addressed five questions that he is commonly asked about SEO:

  • Are SEO Services worth it? “Absolutely,” says Matt. SEO is the number one source of visits to web-based businesses. SEO has changed over the years, and it’s being applied to many more areas than web page content, areas such as articles, blogs, and videos. The most important aspect of SEO today is good writing that attracts and holds user interest.
  • Are SEO jobs in demand? Yes, Matt says, but the most demanded SEO professionals are ones who understand how SEO fits into an integrated digital marketing department. To become these highly-demanded professionals, SEO practitioners should learn about the other aspects of digital marketing, such as content marketing, email marketing, and social media, to be able to put SEO in service to all parts of the digital marketing program.
  • Are SEO tools worth it? Some are undoubtedly worth it, but you should not rely on them blindly. A SEO optimization tool may make recommendations based on its model that don’t fit with what you are doing with your website. They’re best for keyword research, backlink checks, and website management.
  • Will SEO exist in 5 years? Matt said the old idea of SEO as keyword optimization is already dying. But SEO as part of the complete and integrated digital marketing program will be necessary for many years ahead.
  • How does SEO work for YouTube? As Matt pointed out, he did a webinar with Simplilearn not long ago to discuss SEO for video. Video metadata (especially titles and closed-caption text) and video rankings are essential for building your search rankings, viewership, and subscriber base.

Matt also answered many questions from the live audience of the webinar. Watch the webinar replay above to get the full experience.

For more, check out Simplilearn's digital marketing resources that include articles and ebooks. And if you are ready to start gaining the specific skills and certifications for your career, check out the courses and Master’s programs Simplilearn offers such as the Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Training Course, Digital Marketing Specialist Master's Program, and Post Graduate Program in Digital Marketing.

About the Author

Stuart CrequeStuart Creque

Stuart is a storyteller, with a foundation in technology, marketing, and management. He tells business stories in the form of content that means something to both external clients and internal team. He has written, produced and directed short films and written the feature film The Last Earth Girl.

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