#597 WP-Tonic Show With Special Guest John Locke of Lockedown SEO

Google Page Experience Update What Does It Mean For The WordPress Community?

John Locke and his company Lockedown SEO helps manufacturers with search engine optimization. We work with industrial companies to make them rank higher in search engines, increase organic inbound traffic, boost revenue, and establish systems for lead generation and capture.

We have a background in web design and custom WordPress development, as well as marketing. Our methods for increasing search traffic are 100% sustainable and white-hat. Unlike other SEO companies, we say no to shady practices that will get you slapped with a Google penalty.

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Jonathan Denwood: Welcome back folks to the WP tonic show it’s episode 597. I’ve got a great friend of the show friend, in general, I’ve got John Locke from Lockedown SEO joining us on the podcast. We’re going to be talking about all the late upcoming, Google updates when it comes to SEO and search, and how that would affect WordPress and WordPress-powered websites. My normal co-host Steven can’t join us this week. He had a prior commitment, but he will be coming back next week. So, John, would you like to quickly introduce yourself to the listeners and viewers the new ones?

John Locke: Yea sure thing my name is John Locke. My business is Lockedown SEO, which you could find at lockedownseo.com. I’ve been building websites since 2012 professionally, and I’ve been specializing in SEO for about the past four and a half years.

Jonathan Denwood: That’s great. And before we get into the main part of the interview, I just want to mention our major sponsor and that’s Castos. They provide a podcast hosting service. You need somewhere to store your audio files. You need somebody who came help you. With looks like Steven’s joining us. So we’re going to have to redo this right there we go. Alright, Steven, how you doing I’m going to do it again just give me that. We’re just, I mean, into it, Steven, but alright, so three, two, one. Welcome back folks to the WP tonic show it’s episode 597. This is our interview show and we’ve got a special guest, a friend, and a friend of the show. We got John Locke of Lockedown SEO. So we’re going to be talking about the upcoming Google update that was supposed to happen this month but has been slightly delayed to June.

John is going to go through how all these updates will affect your or your client’s websites. What are some of the key things you need to keep your eye on connected to these updates? So, John, can you quickly introduce yourself? You’re well-known you regularly come on the WP tonic Friday show, but give us a quick intro to our new listeners and viewers, John.

John Locke: Sure. My name is John Locke. My business is Lockedown SEO, which you can find it LockedownSEO.com been building websites professionally since 2012 and since 2017, I’ve been specializing in SEO.

Jonathan Denwood: That’s great. And I’ve got my co-host, Steven. Steven, would you like to quickly introduce yourself to the new listeners and viewers?

Steven Sauder: Yea Steven Sauder from the Zipfish.io we make WordPress fast by optimizing code on the site and on the servers.

Jonathan Denwood: That’s great. So before going, to the main part of the interview, I like to talk about one of our great major sponsors and its Castos. And if you want to get into podcasting or you already have, or you are advising a client, that’s interested in it, you need somebody to store your audio files. You also need somebody that can provide cast-iron RSS feeds to all the major podcasting platforms like I tune Google Play and Spotify, you get this we’ve Castos at an amazing price. I was with another provider, it was getting a little bit expensive. Castos offers just one plan level, or they do offer different plan levels, but they offer unlimited bandwidth and unlimited storage on all their plans. So you can start off with their basic plan. The others offer a heap of extras that are also really useful, but it’s a great offer. And they helped me move over 500 shows to their platform. They were extremely helpful. The interface is really lovely and very easy to use.

The previous provider’s interface was a bit of a dog’s breath to be quite truthful about it. Obviously, you got used to it, but if you left it for more than a few weeks, it would be, I think you would have been confused. Castos is really, really it’s really impressive and easy to use interface. I can’t highly praise them more. I suggest that if you’re looking to get into podcasting, you should really look at this platform or if you’re advising a client, this is a great, platform. They also got a great affiliate, scheme. So if you regularly advise clients around podcasting, I suggest that you should approach them and sign up for their affiliate plan.

So, John, let’s go straight into it. There has been a lot of talk on YouTube on Twitter and all the platforms about these updates. Can you give us a quick broad intro of what Google is proposing and how it might affect WordPress if you’re a developer designer or installer?

John Locke: Right So late last year, early 2021, Google announced that they were going to be rolling out what was called their page experience updates, using metrics that they’re already measuring in page speed insights and, through the Chrome user experience. And this was originally slated to be rolling out in May. Now it is going to be rolling out June through August and what the species that they’re going to be measuring is, a couple of metrics. One is the largest Contentful paint, which is the largest element that is in view in your browser. When you first load a page, how long does that take to load? Good would be under two and a half seconds.

Another one is the first input delay. How long does it take before the page starts loading under a hundred milliseconds is good. And the third is cumulative layout shift, which is how much the layout of the page shifts from the time that it starts loading until the time that it’s fully loaded, less than 0.1, of the page. I don’t know the CLS 0.1. I don’t know what they’re exactly measuring, but I can tell you what seems to result in that. And specifically, a lot of people are saying, I’m hoping that this will penalize sites that have a bunch of popups and interstitials and things like that. I don’t believe that that’s likely to happen because the way that the Google ranking algorithm works, it’s not exactly the same for every single site. Big brands do have a little bit of favoritism, in that, but what they have said is you will receive a slight boost. I don’t know how much that means, but if you get all three of these metrics in the green, which you can measure at page speed insights, then you should receive a little boost.

What I can tell you is that you still need to have the right content on the page that is helping people get to the goal that they’re trying to get to when they’re typing in a search. And I can break down the three metrics that we talked about in a little bit more detail, and I can tell you, a few things that I’ve done to try and get those in the green if you’d like.

Jonathan Denwood: I really think that would be helpful. But before we, we go down there and, also introduce Steven as well. If someone asks your opinion, obviously you brought up, the importance of content and all the other normal factors. I just notice in the kind of WordPress community and the web design development and it’s on YouTube. And that it’s just seemed to be a lot of anxiety and chatter about these updates to a slightly higher level than, a full-blown like a penguin or some of their other major updates. You got an insight what, especially around linking to linking this, to, to why you should not use page builders, why you shouldn’t use Divvy Why you shouldn’t use Elementor, why you shouldn’t use even Beaver Builder. First of all, what’s yours? Do you think it’s just been overblown? They don’t fully understand what these updates are, are really about. What was your opinion about it?

John Locke: Yeah I’ve heard a little bit of that chatter, but I mean, out of those ones probably Beaver Builder is the fastest probably divvy is the slowest. I’ve heard some people dogging on Elementor as well, but I mean, this is, I don’t anticipate that this is going to be a factor to where if you are in the orange or the red on these and some of your other competitors are also in the orange or red, I don’t think it’s going to make that big of a difference. I think if you combine this with other factors, let’s say that there are other, pages that you’re competing against and they have content that matches what people are trying to do. They give people a way to have a conversion that Google if they had a means of measuring that like satisfaction by like this person did a conversion. If you have some sort of means to have that on the page if those other pages are improving their design and their link velocity is, you know, active, it’s higher than yours they’re actively getting links. If all those things are combined, then you might lose some ground to your competitors.

But in isolation, if you change nothing else about your pages, is this something that I think you should do? I mean, yeah, you should always be focusing on speed, visual stability and, and things that are making this overall better. But you have to realize too, that Google can change the weight on these factors. At any time, for many years, they were, it seemed for like three years, they were saying, you got to get mobile-friendly. You got to get mobile-friendly and more and more sites became mobile-friendly. That’s good for their bottom line. If more people use the web and more people are using Google, then more people are spending money on ads, but to do that had to be friendly for all people.

The next thing they were starting to push was HTTPS and people who were saying, if you don’t have it, you’re not going to rank. Now over time, the number of sites that were in the top 10 for any given result, most of them ended up being HTTPS. I think most of them are like that now. And that signal, at first people, were hyping it up like if you don’t have it, you’re not going to rank. But now Google basically said, if everything else is like, even that’s kind of a tiebreaker, so they can change the weights on any of these factors at any time. And they do quite often. do I anticipate this is just not just, but as a means of pushing people toward creating websites that are better for everyone overall? That’s probably true.

The one thing that you should be, I mean, not the one thing, but the several things that you should be working on is making a site that loads quickly, you know, largest Contentful paint. Do you really need, an image that is, you know, 6,000 pixels wide, 4,000 pixels high as [Interposed talking13:55].

Jonathan Denwood: Of you do I’m going to throw it over to Steven.

Steven Sauder: Yeah, those are 4k monitors, man. Got to make those images pop. You got to give them something to do, if you don’t have that 6,000-pixel image to load. Yeah. so like, if somebody is like sitting here listening to it, what order would you put page speed stuff as I have, you know, I’m working like crazy trying to get my startup going. SEO is something that I’m trying to do, probably not as good as I should be doing, you know, creating new content around keywords and stuff like that. If I have 10 hours, should I keep putting time and resources into creating content? Or should I spend that time optimizing my site? Like how, how should I rank that in priority? Because at the end of the day, like you have a finite amount of hours and a finite amount of things to pay attention to.

John Locke: Yeah. I mean, if I had 10 hours, I’d put like eight into creating new content or improving existing content, trying to make it match what Google wants to rank for a given keyword query. I’d spend the remaining two hours trying to improve, the site and, and do little tweaks on this. one thing that I have noticed is sites that have a low cumulative layout shift, meaning from the second, from the millisecond that it starts loading until it’s fully rendered the ones that have a low cumulative layout shift right now seem to be ranking higher, that can always change.

some of the things that I’ve done to try and alleviate that is using system fonts, a system font stack to where there is no shift from the text, or having Google fonts or Adobe fonts or something like that, come in and shift, the layout and making it room for any elements that might appear above the fold, such as your header or any images or videos or things like that. And if you take care of those things then pretty much that that layout shift will disappear.

The other thing is the largest Contentful paint. One of the biggest things that I’ve done is, and I’m going backward through client sites and redoing the code in this to make this possible. But normally in the past, like three or four years ago, I was using background images in CSS. But every time that the page loads, if you’re using just a background image, it loads that image every time. So one thing that I’ve shifted to doing is using a picture element with web P first and then an image fallback, and then using CSS to simulate background cover. Those images can be cached, meaning that, and they can also be lazy-loaded as well. So that means for one it’s loading quicker, the space is there, it’ll load as the page goes, but there’s no way the browser’s not waiting around to load that image.

Steven Sauder: Yeah.

John Locke: There are other things I’ve done. Like what YouTube using Paul Irish’s YouTube light embed or something that I think that’s what it’s called. Yeah. But those are all things that you can do to speed up your say there’s a million, like little things like that that you can do, you know, using caching, things like this, all differing Jarvis script. But if this is me, I’m doing content first and then using a few hours a week to kind of make these improvements. And then overall it’s improving your overall site.

Steven Sauder: when Googling is looking at ranking sites, how much are they considering like bounce rate and like a number of pages viewed on how they weigh things? Because something that I think is interesting about page speed is that, although Google is looking at page speed right now, page speed has a huge impact, even bigger impact on somebody’s bounce rate off of their website or the number of pages, someone views. Does Google look at those numbers or those numbers, like not something that they’ve?

John Locke: Yeah. Great question. Okay. So this is the thing that Google representatives have said probably like four dozen times. They do not use Google analytics at all. Okay. The reason being, not every site is Google analytics. Maybe half the sites in the world have Google analytics installed. So they’re not using that at all. That’s for the webmaster and for you and to look at, but they don’t use Google analytics at all. And they’ve been very adamant about saying that the bounce rate, John Mueller and Gary Isles who are representatives for Google have both said several times bounce rate is not a good signal.

I don’t think that they’ve ever adamantly said that they do not use bounce rate at all, but it is a signal that can be gained. And what I mean by that is if you can pay somebody on, on Fiverr to, go on your site or pay a bunch of people or go on Amazon mechanical Turk or anything like this, and pay a bunch of people to go to your site, visit a couple of pages, hang out there for a minute or two minutes. Is that really a thing that is a good signal? It’s the same thing as PBNs. If you have a bunch of links, you know, that’s on the surface, that looks like a good signal, but it’s really one that’s easy to manipulate. And then people spend all their time trying to manipulate it instead of trying to make one, that’s actually good.

Now there’s a clue to this. And that is that Google very recently said that they do collect data from Chrome, for the Chrome, for the crux, the Chrome user experience. That’s a clue. They have a mobile browser in Android. They have a desktop browser in Chrome. There are better ways to determine whether people are satisfied with the page than using bounce rate. It’s kind of a signal that can be gamed as a semester’s signal. It’s one that they’ve kind of out and out said that it’s not their first choice to use. So they are using as some sort of metrics somewhere that-

Steven Sauder: They obviously are using some sort of metrics somewhere, but like, I mean, really it’s like you, you have to think about it, like if you are getting to your goal in one page, I mean, that’s really what they’re going for is measuring that.

John Locke: Maybe fewer page clicks is better. Like that might be a better user experience.

Steven Sauder: I mean, reading and reading and reading in a site doesn’t necessarily mean that you get to your goal. And I think that that’s the thing that every webmaster should be thinking about is what goal are people really trying to accomplish when they Google this term that I’m trying to rank for it? Are they trying to get information? Are they trying to complete a task? Are they trying to purchase a product? No matter what it is, you got to be trying to get them to that goal and a clue to that is looking at what’s currently ranking at the top. So basically looking for clues in what they’re already favoring will give you a clue about what they think people are trying to accomplish when they type in a certain keyword.

Jonathan Denwood: we need to actually Steven goes for a break we’ll be back Steven is going to be asking his first question I think it’s being a great first half anyway we see you in a few moments folks.

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Jonathan Denwood: We’re coming back, got my, friend John Locke on there is not much about SEO that John doesn’t know, he’s a real expert on, I mean a true expert on this back over to you Steven.

Steven Sauder: something that I feel like is always confusing to me, about, Google’s search engine SEO-type stuff is like the whole local aspect. Like that’s like a really big thing people talk about. What does that mean? And what does that entail? I think like, just linking this back to our page speed conversation. Sometimes I wonder if people are talking a lot about page speed because it’s an understandable metric and it’s a metric that you can like run and like Google will run a check on your site and tell you how you rank. But like, when somebody’s talking about, oh, like we need to become, you know, we need to, like, we want to rank locally for when people Google, whatever. No one really likes does a lot more like fear. Like, what does that mean? How do I do that? And I feel like that’s somewhere I’ve gotten stuck.

Like, sure. If I am talking about, how to clean somebody’s house for COVID, let’s say, that’s a very broad term and let’s say I can rank, across the United States for that term. I get that. But if somebody is looking for cleaning services locally, how does someone like get into that market? Because that’s the market like they really care about. Right. And that’s something that always confused me. I just don’t understand.

John Locke: Okay. Excellent question. I’m glad you went there. So local SEO, you got to think about it like this also when people are, are trying to rank locally that so Google is looking at what can we measure online to determine whether someone should rank locally for this? What is a metric? If you were going to measure through a machine who to rank for whether it’s cleaning service or HVAC or auto repair, or, you know, whatever it is, how are you going to rank it? You’re looking for signals at the local level. So one thing to remember too, Google said a long time ago that they want to rank big brands. They said this back in 2008. So Hallmarks of big brands is they do things like try and acquire customers in different areas. So they’re probably going to have all their social media, profiles claimed they’re going to have a little bit of activity there they’re at least going to be claimed, right?

So instead of just having a website and a Facebook page, and that’s it, you want to make sure that you are doing a thing that a big brand would do. You would have Twitter, Instagram, a LinkedIn company page, Pinterest, YouTube have those things and Instagram, and because you’re trying to acquire customers on social media, right? Another thing that would be used to measure local excellence is you’d have a local phone number and it might be displayed on your page prominently. You would have an address that’s consistent across the web, that phone number, the phone number. Basically, if you understand what databases are like, that phone number basically is a primary key to your profile locally. So they’re using that phone number that you have on your Google, my business and your, website. And then it’s connected to all the different things like your Yelp profile, your Facebook page and they’re looking at things like you have your, the same address, same phone number, you’re in the same business categories on all these different things. Google is also looking to, yeah, go ahead.

Steven Sauder: Quick question. So like, yeah. So like the way to contextualize this phone number is to think of it, like the email address and how that hides everything, and deal with CRM together, Google’s using a phone number to tie it together.

John Locke: Yeah, that’s basically, yeah. Instead, email is a primary key in your CRM. The phone number is the primary key when it comes to your business profile. So, and another thing, you know, okay, so we’re talking about the lead acquisition. If you’re a real company, we’ll just go with contractors. Cause I have a lot of these on my roster right now, if you’re a contractor and you’re actually trying to get customers, Google’s can expect to see you in a couple of different places, you’re going to have a white, a Yellow pages profile, a Wipey profile. You might have a better business profile, but you’re going to be expected to show up in certain places like home advisor how’s Angie’s list. You’re going to have profiles here.

Because if you’re a real contractor, you’re trying to get customers in those different markets, because that’s where customers go to look, not just a website, not just a Facebook page. So you’re probably actively getting reviews on all these, but especially with Yelp and especially, with your, Google profile. But Yelp is also a very big part of this. Now there’s a couple of reasons for this. Yelp is a predominant site where people are going locally to look for, any type of service. Also, Yelp has the antitrust suit against Google saying that Google is unfairly competing against them. And you’ll notice it in most local searches for any type of thing. Yelp is usually the number one result and all the other third-party sites. And then the regular websites of the businesses.

I don’t know if that’s because they have this lawsuit or if it’s just because it’s useful a useful place to compare, businesses. And, they pull data from all different places as well. So you’re more than likely going to be there. Now I have had like businesses before say, we don’t like to be on Yelp because we get bad reviews or whatever people say this or that. I said Google expects to see you there. So as in this particular case that I’m thinking of, like when we put them on Yelp, their rankings, both in the map and organically went up for the things that they were trying to rank for, is just one of those things Google expects to see.

Now, when we’re talking about local as well, look at the type of landing page that you were going to. And again, it’s a clue, you just look at it and see what they’re already trying to favor. These. A lot of the pages out there are not that well put together, they could have more information. Some of them are really good. Some of them have great design and great content, and they’re really appealing pages. It gets people to where they want to go. So what I encourage people to do, especially if they’re in a Metro area and they’re trying to hit like different cities is to make distinct landing pages that aren’t just where you take the city name and you change it on each page and everything else is the same. Try and make it unique, have reviews from different customers that are in those cities a little bit about the city, maybe, a photo of a landmark in that city, but some of the actual services that you do in each one of these.

Now in different cities too, I’ve noticed there are different, there might be a little bit, slightly different criteria of what Google wants to rank. So again, it’s, looking at the actual SERPs and seeing what needs to be there. But basically if, if you have service pages that detail, what you do, who you do it for the lists of different services, lay it out in a cohesive manner. Don’t just put like, Hey, we do this. And we’ve been around for 25 years, go into like a little bit more detail about it. I know it’s really hard for people to write about stuff like that. But if you, if you break it down into lots of contexts like that, you usually do Okay.

The last thing, when it comes to this, Google has a memory of what’s worked in the past. They’re using these metrics to determine, you know, like, hey, people seem to like this page, so we’re going to push it up. And we see this pattern of how these pages are laid out. What’s on them, the content that’s on them, the secondary content that’s on them? These things seem to work and people seem to like this when they Google this in all different cities. So when we see, a page like this, we’ll say in Carson City, Nevada, for home services, we’ve seen this pattern work in different places. So when we see it for this business over here, we’re also going to give it a big push and then we’re going to see how it does. And if it does good, we’ll leave it up there. And if it does bad, then we’ll bring it back down and will push something else. That’s usually how local SEO goes to once you keep getting pushed, they might give you a push higher. But if you don’t do good or if the signals aren’t right, then they might push you down again. But a lot of it is just testing, like different ones sometimes randomly, to find out how good they’re going to do.

Steven Sauder: now, when somebody is thinking about ranking in local SEO, is that just if somebody would Google contracting services or contractor services inside of a certain like IP address, geographic location, or is it always upended with the location? So somebody would have to, like, I live in Lafayette, somebody would have to Google Lafayette contractors.

John Locke: So if you Google like contracting services in Lafayette, more and likely You’re going to get like ones that are local to you because it knows, sorry. It knows from geo look, holds on-

Jonathan Denwood: We are going to give John a chance to get a drink if he’s recovered a bit. One of the factors folks that, I’ve learned is directories. You know, when it comes to national SEO directories business directories online business directories really have no effect on regional or national, but they still have relevance when it comes to Google when it comes to local. One there’s a number of services that can help you get into all these business direct online business directories. one of, I wouldn’t say it’s the best, but I’m one of the ones that have a good track record and a reasonable price is most local where you can put your business details on with a yearly fee. I think it’s still a yearly fee. It will push your business details onto over a hundred different business directories. Am I talking any sense there, John, or am I-

John Locke: That’s foundational work I mean those things definitely do help. There’s a lot of searches where nobody is really doing like high level and just having that will probably help you a ton. Back to Steve’s question. If you Google contracting in Lafayette, it’s going to give you-

Steven Sauder: [Inaudible] Googling the word in Lafayette, or am I just Googling that [Interposed talking35:57]?

John Locke: Yeah. If you Google in Lafayette, then it’s going to give you all a hundred percent like local results. But if, if you just Google it by itself, maybe four or five of those results will be local because it’s not specifically sure. The more,-

Jonathan Denwood: I’m sorry to interrupt John, we need to break. And in the podcast part, the show. Are you okay to stay on for another 15 minutes? And that will be our bonus content folks. you’ll be able to listen to the bonus content on the WP tonic YouTube channel, go over there and registers, as well, give us a thumbs up, but not only do I put those interviews up and our round table, Friday’s show, there’s a host of other content, which I regularly put up every month on the YouTube channel and only on the YouTube channel. So please do subscribe to it. So John, what’s the best way for people to find out more about you and obviously learn more about SEO because obviously you are a total expert, on this,

John Locke: you can go on my website, which is lockedownseo.com. You can also go to my YouTube channel if you just search, John Locke SEO or Lockedown SEO, you’ll find it.

Jonathan Denwood: And I can’t honestly stress folks if you’re looking, for collaborating on a project, we feel an agency owner all, if you are a business owner and you’re looking for an SEO expert, I can’t highly recommend John anymore. I’ve known John for a number of years. He’s helped me on a number of projects. He really is a true expert in this area. So Steven, how can people find out more about you and what you are up?

Steven Sauder: Head over to Zipfish.io run a speed and see how much faster your website could be.

Jonathan Denwood: Yeah and they’ve helped on the WP tonic site and they made a big difference to our page loading I suggest that you go over there. We are going to wrap it up now we’ll be back next week with another great guest. We’ve got some great guests coming up in my, in June. I think you’re going to be delighted with the interviews that we have coming up. We will be back next week. See you soon folks, and do remember to look over to the WP tonic YouTube channel and see the rest of this great interview we’ll see you next week.

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