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Three questions to… SMX Advanced Europe 2022 Edition

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Three questions to Lisa Fellinger and Alin Radulescu, who will be talking about the benefits of waterfall analysis at SMX Advanced 2022 in September.

On September 29th and 30th, 2022, SMX Advanced will take place in Berlin. Our Team Lead SEO Lisa Fellinger will speak together with SEO Tech Sparring Partner Alin Radulescu on the second day of the conference.

With the topic "Good from far, but far from good - How to use waterfall charts to resolve the most common misconceptions affecting site performance" they will go through the benefits of a waterfall chart, one of the most effective, but underused tools in an SEO’s toolbox. 

Sometimes SEOs don't know where to start when looking at waterfall chart from webpagetest.org. This is where Lisa and Alin would like to support with their presentation.

Three questions to Lisa

Photo Lisa Fellinger

 

From your point of view, what are the most common misconceptions that affect the performance of a website?

These would be, for example:
a. Our website loads fast:  This can also be confirmed by webpagetest.org, but if you look more closely in the waterfall charts, you can see many layout shifts. The Google Core Web Vital metric CLS thus still has some optimisation potential that can be addressed.
b. We use an excellent cookie consent management tool: These tools are often perceived as miracle cures. Looking more closely at the waterfall diagram, you can see that sometimes they are not set up correctly and do not block all cookies or third parties when they should. Also, some tools are incredibly powerful and have a big impact on the loading time of the website. 
c. Our images are optimised. Often there is still a bit of 'something' left. Either in the compression, the type of integration or the way lazy loading is implemented.

 

In what way is a waterfall analysis comparable to a hurdle race?

Firstly, the analysis is also running on time. There is a starting point (when the browser requests the HTML document) and a finish line (when the page is fully loaded). In between, there are some hurdles to overcome: Files have to be requested, received and unpacked. Contents are painted. Elements are interdependent. Depending on how the hurdle race is designed, loading a website can become a round thing. Sometimes, however, the individual hurdles are set so high (e.g. when countless fonts that are not actually used are loaded right at the beginning of a website), that the run-in at the finish line (Document Complete) is greatly delayed. 
If you then see a website in comparison to its competitors, you can clearly identify winners and losers in this "sport". In the end, however, it is always the user who is the real winner or loser.

 

What helps you keep track when analysing a waterfall diagram?

Alin :-), who has already dived into numerous waterfall diagrams and gained very helpful insights from his own experiences and developer discussions. But also the guide by Matt Hobbs "How to read a WebPageTest Waterfall View chart" is extremely helpful and very well structured: 
https://nooshu.com/blog/2019/10/02/how-to-read-a-wpt-waterfall-chart/  

Three questions to Alin

Photo Alin Radulescu

 

Should waterfall analysis become a (fixed) part of an SEO audit? 

Web performance has been an important aspect for a successful website for some time. 
In 2018, Google introduced the Page Speed Update, which made page speed on mobile devices a ranking factor. This was followed in 2021 by the Page Experience Update. The user-friendliness of a website is more important for SEO success than before. And the speed of a website is a decisive factor in the user-friendliness of a website.

So it is more important than ever that a website is fast, both for SEO and for user friendliness or user experience (UX).

Therefore, the performance of the website under review should play a role in an SEO audit. The waterfall analysis helps me personally to best discover possible potential. However, it is certainly only one of the many possibilities that are available within the scope of an audit.

 

Examples of relevant and insightful data that a waterfall diagram outputs: 

Besides very obvious insights, such as too large or too many image files or fonts, there is helpful information about the number of connections or faulty image implementations (301, or 302 redirects). Personally, I am very interested in the order of the loaded resources as well as their TTFB. I also find the information about individual KPIs, such as FCP, LCP or the layout shifts, very exciting. 

 

Who is involved in a waterfall analysis and for whom is it relevant? 

The waterfall diagram is quickly explained and even newcomers to the field can quickly and easily recognise possible potential for improvement. Developers appreciate the concrete recommendations for action that can be derived from a waterfall diagram, but also the dependencies and effects of the individual resources on the loading, scripting, layout and painting process. 

A little technical understanding is certainly helpful, but not absolutely necessary. If I could choose, I would like to discuss the results with someone from the frontend, backend, UX and SEO team. At best, we would be supported by an interested PO/PM.

Tickets

SMX Advanced is aimed at all SEO and PPC experts from all over the world and will take place this year in Berlin. Experienced search marketers will exchange views on complex specialist topics from 29 to 30 September 2022. 

The event and all presentations will be held in English. 

Tickets are available here: 
https://smxadvanced.eu/registration/ 

We are looking forward to your presentation on Friday, 30 September at 11:20 a.m. - Thank you both for your time and the first insights!

Project Manager Marketing & Communications
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As Project Manager Marketing & Communications, Paulina has been working in The Boutique Agency external and internal communication since April 2021. In addition to email marketing, social media and press relations, she works together with Julia on the website and event planning. Corporate identity is also in her area.

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