This is a summary of the most interesting questions and answers from the Google SEO Office Hours with John Mueller on January 29th, 2021. 

Core Web Vitals thresholds vs. ranking

0:37 – When it comes to search ranking, what is the difference between having your Core Web Vitals scores green or yellow? Can we expect to get more specific information on this from Google before the Page Experience update goes live?

John didn’t have specific information on the difference. He said: “My understanding is we see if it’s in the green, and then that counts as it’s ok, or not. So if it’s yellow, that wouldn’t be in the green. But I don’t know what the final approach there will be.”

He also said the following with regards to Google’s plans:

“We would like to use these criteria to be able to show a badge in the search results. (…) For that, we really need to know that all of the factors are compliant. So if it’s not on HTTPS, then, essentially, even if the rest is OK, that wouldn’t be enough.”

This means that on top of passing the Core Web Vitals threshold, you also need to do well in terms of the four other Page Experience signals: HTTPS, Intrusive interstitials, Safe Browsing, and Mobile-friendliness!

Getting a Knowledge Panel

2:40 – How do you get a Knowledge Panel generated for your website? 

According to John, there are no guidelines for getting a Knowledge Panel, and it depends on the algorithm that picks it up automatically. There’s nothing specific you can do to get it. Google needs to understand that there are relevant entities related to the site. 

That being said, John suggested looking up people in the community who specialize in Knowledge Panels, such as Jason Barnard. 

Alt tag for videos

7:44 – When you upload an image to your website, you can use the alt attribute to let Google know about the content of the image. What can you do if you upload a video?

John recommended using structured data for video, which includes the option of writing a description of the video. Other than that, you can simply use text elements on the page like the caption and title to describe the content of the video.

Page speed as a ranking factor

21:24 – Is page speed used now as a significant ranking factor that may outweigh other factors, and will it have more influence on ranking after the Page Experience update goes live in May?

John said that page speed is currently used on mobile as a ranking factor. However, Google primarily wants to show content that reflects what the user is looking for. For instance, if your competitor’s website is slightly faster than yours, it won’t outrank you when users are looking specifically for your brand. He said: “It’s still the case that when we can recognize that someone is looking for something specific or the page is particularly relevant to users, then that’s what we plan to show.”

That being said, Google is planning to put more emphasis on Page Experience after the May update. 

Migrating your sitemaps and robots.txt

31:45 – When migrating your domain, what should you do with your sitemap and the robots.txt file? Should you redirect them to the new version like you do with all other pages?

John said that Google’s recommendation is to have an empty robots.txt file on the old domain so that Google can crawl the entire site and find all the redirects that you should have implemented to the new website. 

When it comes to redirecting your robots.txt and sitemaps, it doesn’t really matter if you redirect them or not.

Experiencing issues with domain migration? Take a look at our website migration services and contact us.