Free digital copy
Get Speciality Food magazine delivered to your inbox FREEGet your free copy
Vital Ingredients for 2021
Online success is largely defined by aligning your digital business with how Google works, particularly search.
Google follows three steps to generate search results from web pages; crawling, indexing and ranking, and there are many factors associated with their optimisation.
The buzz right now is around ranking factors because Google is adding some big ones to its list.
Ranking factors are the 200 (or so) factors used by search engines to evaluate web pages and compile search results. The most influential are backlinks and content.
I’ve written about content below. Backlinks are the links search engines find to your site, the more the better. But not all links are equal, each comes with relevance and authority, and the higher the better. The outtake is to implement a consistent program of link building with relevant and authoritative sites.
Back to 2021’s big Google news – the addition of page experience factors to its ranking list.
Google states 24% of users are less likely to abandon a site that delivers a good page experience, and adds there aren’t many factors that can have this level of positive influence.
In the future, the search engine results page (SERP) may well show an icon against websites with a good ‘page experience’, which will influence which site gets the click-through.
The current page experience ranking factors are; mobile friendliness, safe browsing, HTTPS protocol and no intrusive interstitials — pop ups for example.
To these, Google is adding three page experience factors, the so-called Core Web Vitals, which assess:
1. How quickly a page loads
2. How soon a user can interact with a page
3. How stable a page is on loading and as users interact with it
Google will report your website’s Core Web Vitals in your Search Console – Google’s tool that gives insights into your website’s performance in search. Alternatively, you can use Google’s Page Speed Insights tool to measure them.
The insights will help you optimise your website’s user experience. I’d suggest working through them methodically; as things stand Google’s change will have ramifications for years to come.
Dessert, then Starter
When a chef designs a set menu, they’ll plan each course, and the effect each has on the one following. Much the same applies to web development.
For the visitor and owner, websites must be simple to use and manage. However, behind the scenes, they have a complex recipe, and I would advocate looking forwards as far as possible to future-proof today’s changes for the growth to follow. Taking two steps forward and one step back can have big implications.
For example, you’ll probably want to email customers using an easy-to-use system. However, in time you might also want to harness the power of automations and send messages to capitalise on purchases or behaviour. The system to do this becomes increasingly complex over time, but it remains optimal if the best solution is in place from day one.
To help plan with the end in mind, I’d suggest creating a product roadmap to visualise how your website will evolve alongside your business growth.
Visitors to your website will generally land on the home page and expect a 360 view of the business.
As visitors flow through your content, functionality and branding, the whole must become greater than the sum of its parts. To achieve this, start a phase of web development with the pages that are less important, and work up to the pièce de résistance that is the home page.
Generally, I’d suggest the order of approach: Business pages, Brand pages, Product pages, Category pages, Blog-style pages and then, the all-important Home page.
In planning, you’ll want to visualise the site as paper sketches or a ‘low fidelity’ wireframe. You can then work with your developer to create a ‘high fidelity’, interactive wireframe, and then populate the site with content, functionality and branding, always bottom’s up!
The Meat and Veg
Is content, and it has to be good.
When Google ranks a website, backlinks (introduced above) are King, content is Queen.
The more you publish (and make accessible to search engines) fresh, high-quality, multimedia content the better. And, for relevance, this content has to combine what you have to say with what web searchers are looking for – traditionally researched as keywords.
The SERP is competitive, and to improve your ranking your content has to provide a better answer to a searcher’s query than the next business does.
Like a best-seller book list, only the best read gets to the top of the list. So I’d suggest working with a copywriter to produce quality content within the development schedule. But, if, after assessing the competition, you consider yourself to be up to the task, there are some great online tools to help you write.
Images must, of course, communicate the message and capture the imagination, whether the subject matter is business, people, packshots, ingredients, or recipes. People really do eat with their eyes. Additionally, best-practice image optimisation will deliver a speedy user experience, and help Google index your images.
The same applies to video and graphics, get a grasp of best practice, and give all the ingredients the careful cooking they deserve, so your content is crowned Queen by those that will judge it.
Icing the Cake
I’ve iced a good few cakes in my time, in the kitchen and studio!
In web development, design is the icing on the cake of the business presentation. Websites live and breathe in 3D, and are more complex than static media like labels and leaflets.
Your website must, of course, differentiate your business, and present your branding beautifully. However, in the 2021 page experience update, and more broadly, Google only cares about design that facilitates a good visitor experience.
Performing well online is increasingly about website simplicity. With simplicity comes speed, and with speed comes one foundation of a good user experience.
Form must follow function, start with a cake first, then think about the icing of design. And the message is, ice the cake as simply as possible.
My final tip is about marketing, not website development specifically.
Over the past year, I’ve seen businesses jump into Facebook ads as a quick revenue fix, with a good few reports of disappointing return on investment.
Reflecting on my advertising agency days, success was about delivering brilliant creative campaigns around the most relevant topics. These were run across media, and alongside the client’s own broader marketing programme.
Your website should be the single source of truth for the communication of your business, brand, products and related topics. There should be a wealth of ideas within that can be translated into cohesive multi-media campaigns.
So, after you have done your roadmap, wireframe, and optimised website development, look to the campaign-able topics on your site to take the lead into a fully flavoured marketing plan.
For an introduction to SEO, start with Google’s Beginners SEO guide: https://developers.google.com/search/docs/beginner/get-started
The Ahrefs blog and newsletter will keep you on top of all things web and SEO: https://ahrefs.com/blog/
Find out about the Core Web Vitals here: https://ahrefs.com/blog/core-web-vitals/
Use Google’s Page Speed Insights tool here: https://developers.google.com/speed/pagespeed/insights/
Notion is a great tool to build your product roadmap: https://www.notion.so
As an envelope alternative, Miro is great for building ‘low fidelity’ wireframes: https://miro.com/templates/low-fidelity-wireframes/
ProWritingAid will help you write better: https://prowritingaid.com
Find out about image SEO here: https://ahrefs.com/blog/image-seo/
Rich makes super-tasty websites, content, SEO, and digital strategies for food and drink businesses. He has worked with a plateful of food and drink businesses, B2C and B2B, and across most categories. He has a Diploma in Digital Marketing, an MBA in Innovation Management and is trained as a chef, qualified in wines & spirits, and in spirits distilling.
Find out more on his website
Stay connected and receive the latest news, analysis and insights from our industry's top commentators