In this week's episode, we chat with Natalie Mott, freelance SEO consultant, about all things core web vitals. We also find out what inspires Natalie and what empowers her to be the brilliant woman she is today.
This week, we have the wonderful Natalie Mott joining us, who is an SEO all-rounder with core interests in technical SEO, content strategy, project management and outreach. She has had senior SEO positions at several digital agencies and is thoroughly enjoying spending time in the world of freelance consultancy. A very warm welcome and hello to both of you.
Thank you so much for spending your Saturday morning with me and Areej. Very, very appreciative. How are we doing? How's your morning been?
I didn't know what SEO was when I went into my first job as a data researcher for a hotel advertising website. And it was amazing. It was completely aligned with how my brain works as a thing to do. So I was obsessed with it. And as soon as I was introduced to it as a concept, but yeah, I studied music at university. I had no idea what SEO was until I started that first job.
And certainly through the lockdown. I've thought at some points that I might've preferred the structure of having a full-time role or being part of a team. It can be quite lonely as a freelancer, not just, not immediately having a team to bounce ideas off of. I didn't realize how much I valued that when I was on the agency side.
So the projects I love the most are the ones where I am working with agency teams or with in-house teams. And I'm sort of part of the crew. But overall, it's good to have control of your schedule. You get a bit more control over, you know, to be frank, your earning potential.
It's so much more when you're self-employed. Seriously, in a sense, it's a bit of a scam. Maybe edit that bit out, but. It's just awesome. I still love it. It can be very, very stressful, but it can be very, very wonderful. And that's what I'll say about it.
[Quick Fire Round Questions]
So yeah, I try to be an active member, in that community and yeah, that's often been very helpful. On a personal level. I'm going to be quite personal, I'm fairly empowered by my sobriety. I don't drink anymore. And it has changed my life, just immeasurably.
And I'd say that if that wasn't there it could be a whole different story. And it's that in the spiritual practices that come with that and, and all the things you learn about yourself, I'd say that's, that's what empowers me the most.
And do you have any advice that you can share? Can you give it to women who are still starting to go from the industry and feel very overwhelmed?
And it looks like it's like this insurmountable thing too, to grasp. But so I'd say it's, it's like any of these things, it's like, we use the cliche of eating an elephant, eat an elephant at a time. So yeah.
Yeah, I can see how it would be overwhelming, but it's once you get into it. It's not as difficult as it looks. I believe that about SEO. There's an awful lot of smoke and mirrors and making it look like it's harder than it is. So don't be put off.
And there's a lot of lingo that isn't there and jargon. That can be a bit off-putting and like, don't get me wrong there are terms that you need to use. And there's the proper terminology, but I think sometimes that can be a bit scary. Do you know what I mean? Like it's like when you start a new job and there's a loss of acronyms that the business uses and stuff. Until you get used to the terminology and comfortable with what people are saying then yeah. Yeah.
Now, how would you explain what this is to someone who's just come across Core Web Vitals for the first time?
So it's been helpful to kind of consolidate those into these three metrics, which are Largest Contentful Paint, which relates to loading the part of the page that takes the longest to load. First Input Delay, which measures interactivity and Cumulative Layout Shift, which measures visual stability, and those three elements, other things that sort of go into what makes or breaks our user experience essentially.
If it takes too long to load, it's a frustrating user experience. If you can't click on it. Certain elements you can't interact with what you want to, that's extremely frustrating. And if things keep moving about one of the main causes of that is things like cookie policies or live chat overlays, or things keep moving about, that's a very frustrating user experience as well. So all of those things have been instilled into these three hopefully fairly easy to understand metrics.
So even if we think of ourselves as users and how frustrating it can be to go on a website and then have any form of slowness or bad experience or things popping up, it feels common sense. Doesn't it?
I'm finding it means different things to UX specialists and developers and SEOs. And then you've got the users themselves, it's sort of subjective. So Google is, you know, is trying to make this a little less subjective and make these things much more measurable and much easier to control.
Yeah, because obviously, Google knows good user experience. It's just a bit easier to distil it into those metrics.
Their sites were all ready to go. You know, game on, but no, I mean, it depends where, what you read the stats space that the same 90, at least 90% of all the websites are failing the Core Web Vitals assessment at the moment. So that's a lot of SEOs developers, UX specialists that are getting a reprieve here.
On the flip side, there's a school of thought that it isn't going to do much to the SERPs at all because everyone, almost everyone is failing the assessment. I don't quite subscribe to that because there are sites that are nailing it, you know, certainly in the.
Like in the insurance industry, that's always been a sort of a shining light of page speed and user experience. You know, the big players in the insurance industry have always focused on that and got it. Right. Amazon has got it right. eBay's got it right. Certainly, many e-commerce retailers haven't so it's anyone's guess. I think it's good that it's been pushed back and good that it's been confirmed to be more of a phased rollout rather than some kind of flick of a switch, like the likes of Panda and Penguin.
I remember, sites that, you know, well-known brands decimated as a result of those algorithm updates. And although Google's algorithm has become much more sophisticated, you know, there's, less of that drastic change, you know, for the majority of sites, unless they've done something seriously wrong with their LinkedIn practices or their content strategy or whatever.
I still think there's a risk of this affecting sites more than people may think.
And I have had that, some people we use in the earlier day is a bit of urgency. Do you know what I mean? And now that I like it, there. The update has been pushed back. Yes. It gives time to websites to get things sorted. And it sounds like that's what's needed because a lot of companies are failing then, but they might also be on the other side.
It might be hard to get things implemented because the urgency side has gone. Do you know what I mean?
So I think the urgency is still there. It's just not as urgent as it was. There's still, it's still going to happen. It's still on the horizon.
What are the specific nodes that are causing this? That issue or the CLS issue, for example, and you can work quite closely with the developer and get it done in larger organizations. You know, you have more stakeholders, more people vying for development, time and space. There may be resource issues you don't know about as an SEO, if you're not privy to you know, how things are staffed, you know, there's just all kinds of things you have to deal with if you're a larger organization.
But I would say the best way to get buy-in is to keep making your case, figure out who the stakeholders are, you know, make acquaintance with the product managers, the UX people get close to the developers. Not always easy depending on the organization. But you know, don't just swan in with your SEO recommendations, you know, and try and try and push it through.
Now, you need to demonstrate how it's going to help everybody, how it's going to help the organization achieve its objectives.
So imagine the worst-case scenario that failing Core Web Vitals assessment will mean that your competitors leapfrog you and you do lose traffic. That's the reason that you'd focus on the pages that are most important, generating the most organic traffic at the moment, all the page types, page templates but then also the competition and this is something I'm still sort of weighing up about this competition element because you don't know that in 28 days if I get the context in this 28 days thing, 28 days is the lag on the field data provided by PageSpeed Insights user experience report.
We benchmark our competitors based on, what their field data score is at the moment. There's no visibility on what development work they're doing at the moment. So we sort of there's a 28-day lag. So I'd say, do prioritize the work based on how much of a risk the competition is, but also bear in mind that you might not have full visibility of that.
You know, once you're making the changes to the page templates and everything be monitoring your performance within the report in Search Console. I'm not brilliant with dashboards and Data Studio, to be honest, I'm someone who just deals with all my benchmarking in Excel, sometimes quite manually.
I could probably do that a bit better, but I do that so I can be hands-on with the data and intimately acquainted with it. So I'll take benchmarks, I'll try and crawl for all the whole site and take a benchmark of all of the field and the lab data using Screaming Frog, and PageSpeed Insights API.
And then summarize from that how the different page types are performing, I'll put them into a sort of a summary sheet and then you can see at a glance exactly what the scores are against the different templates. But also, Data studio has provided some, yeah, some good dashboards.
Just literally I think it was a Google Core Web Vitals dashboard. The data studio dashboards will come up. So they are a good starting point as well.
So sort of like my last question in this area is where can people go to learn more about Core Web Vitals? What are some of the good resources out there, or like good things that you've come across?
She put it out the other day on Search Engine Journal and the talk she did at Tech SEO boost. Jess B Peck did a deep dive into what affects Cumulative Layout Shift. So that's good if you want to get into sort of a deep dive into that specific metric.
But I'd also Google's documentation on this. So web.dev is the best resource to start with, but then if you want to add colour. Start with those kinds of people.