Everything Counts in Large Amounts

Why can't Google just tell us what actually matters when it comes to search engine rankings?

Everything Counts in Large Amounts

Why can't Google just tell us what actually matters when it comes to search engine rankings?

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GOOGLE • Do Core Web Vitals Count or Not?!

Not to get too nerdy first thing in the week, but we need to talk about Cumulative Layout Shift, Largest Contentful Paint, and First Input Delay.

These are the three components of what Google calls the Core Web Vitals. They’re a set of metrics that measure how well your web page performs in terms of speed and usability.

Here’s a quick rundown of them:

  • Cumulative Layout Shift measures how jumpy your page is. You know when you sometimes land on a web page and go to tap a button, but suddenly the page loads something above it, like an ad, and the whole thing shifts down and you tap something else? That.

  • First Contentful Paint is essentially a measure of how fast your web page starts putting content on the page

  • First Input Delay is how soon after the page starts loading someone can interact with it.

When Google rolled these out, it made sense that they’d use these to determine how high up the search results a web page would land. After all, if your page is jumpy or it takes forever to load, that’s a bad user experience, and Google wants users to enjoy their clicks from the search results.

Even as recently as a year ago, Google said that these page experience metrics were a ranking signal.

But that’s where things get muddy.

On Friday, Google's liaison to the SEO community, Danny Sullivan, said on social media:

We don’t confirm any of the things [page experience or core web vitals] as a direct ranking factor. But to reiterate we look at many things not one thing and even the one thing might not be a direct ranking factor.

…It just meant these weren't ranking systems but instead signals used by other systems.

Danny Sullivan, Google

I mention it today because any time Google jumps into what-matters and what-doesn’t, it tends to make things less clear than more.

And maybe that’s by design. It’s not in Google’s interests to share the full details on ranking — but these subtle differences between ranking “factors,” “signals,” and “systems,” are confusing. Maybe the distinction means something to Google, but the industry is looking for a yes or no here.

Do Core Web Vitals affect ranking, or do they not?

As far as anyone can discern, Google’s statement just before the weekend seemed to be another way of saying “We use a whole bunch of ranking signals, and CWV might inform the ranking engine, but not directly affect it.”

I think.

Either way, the best advice is the simplest: Focus more on making the web experience and content as good as you can, and hope for the best.

(One side note here: That “First Input Delay” metric is actually being replaced next month by one — INP — that measures how fast a website reacts when you interact with it.)

Do you regularly track your brand's Core Web Vitals?

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GOOGLE • New SEO Starter Guide Released

Perhaps that makes it good timing that Google has streamlined its SEO starter guide, aiming it squarely at beginners.

This major overhaul marks a big shift from the more comprehensive versions tailored for seasoned SEO experts.

Google has only updated its guide a handful of times since its original release in 2008, with revisions in 2010, 2017, and now the latest edition.

The new guide is described as a "pocket-sized version," pared down to essentials that newcomers to SEO should focus on.

While much of the previous content has been removed or condensed, there's a sprinkle of new material for readers.

Gary Illyes, a Google search analyst, posted about it on LinkedIn:

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SNAPCHAT • 550 People, Including VPs, Laid Off

Snapchat is cutting about 10% of its workforce — that’s about 550 people. There are even some very high-level departures in here, including some VPs.

The company, which had roughly 5,300 employees at the beginning of the year, is facing these layoffs after reducing its staff by 20% in 2022 and by another 3% earlier this year.

Many analysts say Snap is finding it challenging to broaden its offerings beyond its main social networking platform. High-profile projects like augmented reality glasses and a selfie drone have either been shelved or failed to reach a wide audience.

Even within its flagship app, Snapchat, attempts to mimic TikTok's success with Spotlight and to monetize through the Snapchat Plus subscription service have not met expectations.

Snap's revenue saw a rise in the third quarter of 2023, following two consecutive quarters of decline. The company will announce its fourth-quarter earnings soon.

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What percentage of Snapchat ads are viewed with the sound on?

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INSTAGRAM • New “Profile Grid” Preview in Testing

One interesting side quest social media content managers sometimes play is how their brand’s Instagram profile looks. I don’t mean the individual posts; I mean the posts as they’re seen all grouped together on the profile page.

Some people go to great lengths to make this page look really good, with alternating colours, or making the images connect in some way.

In fact, one of the few things Instagram hasn’t smacked with its Giant Stick of Algorithm is the order in which those appear. Certainly they’ve wanted to, so that the posts it thinks people would be most interested in would show up at the top of that profile, but doing that would jumble up what a surprising number of people work on.

Now, Instagram is testing a way for you to see how your posts will look on that grid before you publish.

This is something that some third-party tools have incorporated into their platforms, but it’s definitely interesting that Instagram sees so much use of this tactic that it’s putting it more front and center.

It might be easy to miss, though, as it just adds an optional small “Preview” button in the post workflow.

Some people are seeing it already on all post types except Reels.

Does your brand try to make your profile grid a design feature?

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LINKEDIN • “Creator Mode” Being Shelved

LinkedIn is phasing out its "Creator Mode."

Introduced in 2021, Creator Mode was designed to help users build their presence on the platform with tools like profile hashtags, a "Featured" section for content, and a "Follow" button for easier connection.

LinkedIn says it will drop profile hashtags, but will keep the "Follow" button. It’ll also move the "About" section to the top of user profiles.

Basically, they’re trying to integrate the most used aspects of Creator Mode into the general user experience, without needing to switch modes.

LinkedIn's move away from hashtags follows the general industry trend of deprioriting them — now that AI is good enough to understand the topics being discussed, there’s not really much use for hashtags in general, though losing them does mean also losing very specific searches — like the kind attendees of a specific conference might use.

Did you ever use LinkedIn's creator mode?

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GEN-AI • The Modesty Police Come to Images

A bunch of users from the notoriously troublesome 4chan web site are using AI to digitally manipulate images of women and change their appearance and clothing.

But not the way you might be thinking.

No, apparently there’s a counter-group on the site which is using generative AI to put modest clothing on women.

One post on the site discussing this strange new trend describes the mission this way:

With the power of AI
We will clothe the instahots
We will purifAI them of their tattoos
We will liberate them of their piercings
We will lengthen their skirts

Post on 4chan’s /pol/ board

Someone created a Twitter account called @DignifAI to show some of these.

The account is mostly posting the edited images in reply to posts by women who have OnlyFans accounts or accounts on similar platforms.

In one example, it posted an image that turns a woman from curvy and lightly draped in fabric while sitting peacefully on a chair into an extremely thin version of herself with digital artifacts having mangled her toes and hands, and added several children around her. 

It’s not just women, for the record. They took a photo of a chubby Elon Musk on a boat, slimmed him down, and put him in a tuxedo.

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