On 21 October, the PM Forum East Midlands branch organised a SEO masterclass webinar where Hugo Whittaker (Twitter account @ImpressionTalk) of Impression gave a fast SEO update for professional services firms. I have summarised his key points in this short article. See here for an introduction to SEO (Oct 2011) – and for an update on the previous major changes to the Google algorithm (March 2018). Impression also provided an introduction to SEO. While most professional services firms are most interested in lead generation, Hugo did provide insights for those involved in e-commerce (buying and selling online) as well.
Google algorithm update
The most recent update occurred on 21st-23rd September and wasn’t announced. Some people witnessed an increase of unrelated search results – particularly on mobile platforms. He urged everyone to review how their web traffic changed at that time to assess the level of impact as some sites saw a significant drop in organic traffic and ranking. Ranking volatility was affected across the board.
He mentioned some tools that can be used for SEO analysis including SEMrush Sensor, Google Search Console and Ahrefs. Aalthough later in the session he advised that the free versions of Ahrefs meant you shared your data which could have an impact on your future competitive edge (he suggested watching the Netflix documentary The Social Dilemma if you haven’t already done so). He suggested using these tools to see how your competitors have fared – and what techniques they have used to retain or improve their ranking position.
He suggested the 186 page Google’s Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines as a useful source. See the previous articles (mentioned above) for more details on the fundamentals and the role of relevant content, back link profiles and web site performance.
Recent indexation issues
After a quick explanation of how Google indexes pages (crawler, indexes, query engine) Hugo reported that there was an issue that affected .22% of all web pages. This resulted in some pages coming out of the index and new content not being indexed.
He suggested the use of Google Search Console to check the status of your pages of concern as this shows immediately if a URL is on Google.
Indexing passages – not just pages
Rather than index an entire page, Google will start to index specific passages that answer a discrete question – although it is the page that remains ranked.
This new development came into use on 15th October and is expected to affect around 7% of all search queries. This has a huge impact on those in content development and content management roles who will need to consider how they structure pages (and use sub-headings) and write copy or content going forward. It reinforces the need to identify the key question or point and provide a short paragraph to explain.
Another development arriving on 15th October was the use of sub-topics in searches. Using an example of home gym equipment, sub-sectors might include: equipment, small space, small budget and premium.
Black Friday SEO tips
I am not aware of any professional service firms using Black Friday (fourth Thursday of November) for promotions. Elements mentioned included: specific landing pages, product and category content, imagery and video, social proof (reviews and testimonials), site speed and schema mark up (this is where you mark elements for inclusion in the shopping tag such as price, stock levels and reviews). He also mentioned that free listings in Google Shopping – currently available in the USA – would be rolled out to Europe, Asia and Latin America by the end of October – although you will need a Google Merchant account.
Hugo referred those interested to Ben Garry’s Guide to Black Friday SEO
New ranking factors
This was announced in May and becomes effective from 2021. The list will be as follows:
- Visual stability
- Mobile friendly
- Safe browsing
- No interstitials
The first three elements are core web vitals. Some of the issues to be aware of included:
- LCP – Largest Contentful Paint (i.e. the time taken to load the largest image on the page)
- FID – First Input Delay (i.e. the time taken to action any requests such as clicks)
- CLS – Cumulative Layout Shift (i.e. the extent to which the page changes once loaded)
These are all issues that have a negative impact on the user experience (Ux or Cx for Client Experience)
I still find it helpful to check the main web site performance issues with Hubspot’s Web Site Grader