With Chrome 68 looming, there seems to be a general sense of SEO panic that all websites in HTTP will soon be marked as ‘non secure’. Usually, Google Chrome Updates are a hell of a lot more exciting for web developers than for SEOs, and sometimes, changes affecting SEO slip by without it being obvious what’s going on.
This year we can expect a total of 7 updates, from Google Chrome 64 at the start of the year, to Google Chrome 70 in December. Some updates affect SEO more than others, with Chrome 64 and Chrome 66 being omitted as they do not have anything notable affecting the SEO realm. I’ve also included security updates as well. Any SEO will know that Google is moving towards a more secure web, and slowly incorporating security as a ranking factor – starting with HTTPS.
Each update removes web APIs which are outdated in order to keep the platform healthy. This could be as a result of newer APIs, or to be consistent with other browsers, or for a variety of other reasons. For this reason I will not go into detail on each API update that comes with Chrome changes.
Release Date: March 2018
Lighthouse 2.7 – 2.8 Offer SEO section. This was released in the Google Chrome 65 Update, containing an entire section of SEO audits. The list itself is not fully inclusive, rather a list of suggestions that SEOs can have a look at; these tend to be focus on changes that can be made within the source code, such as having valid hreflang, or canonical tags.
New performance audits were also available in this version, which align with SEO best practises. These focus more on page load speed (now a ranking factor) with some suggestions from the PageSpeed Insights Tool provided by Google. This includes:
Avoids page redirects
Uses inefficient cache policy on static assets
Our CEO and Founder Pete has previously written on site speed optimisation if this is something you are looking to implement.
Symantec-Issued Certificates Are No Longer Trusted. This includes SSL certificates as well – if you are using these on your website, now is a good time to change them. It only affects websites that have explicitly opted-out of the transition to DigiCert’s new PKI. Chrome 70 (to be released in October) will remove full trust in the old Symantec infrastructure, so it’s important to make changes before then if you haven’t already.
Release Date: May 2018
New Configuration Options In Lighthouse. Before performing an audit, there are more options available to configure settings with the Google Chrome 67 Update.
There is now a choice between running the audit on desktop or mobile, as well as disabling network and CPU throttling. Our developer has informed me that ‘CPU throttling is commonly used to automatically slow down the computer when possible to use less energy and conserve battery’. I now know what CPU throttling is. You learn something new every day.
Another option is to preserve storage across audits. If you are aiming on viewing the page as a first time user, then it makes sense to clear the storage. If not, then you can now configure new settings.
Lighthouse 2.9 Provides New Audits. The first is reporting on preload key requests, which can speed up page load speed and help with SEO. The second is to avoid invisible text when web fonts are loading. The purpose of this is to serve users with more relevant information as quickly as possible to improve user experience.
Site Isolation Improves Website Security. Site isolation is a security feature which reduces the chances of attacks from other websites. It does this by putting each page through a different process. They run in this thing called a sandbox which limits what the process can or cannot do, as well as limiting the amount of sensitive data that can be received from other websites. The purpose of this is to prevent malicious attacks stealing data from other websites.
Certificate Transparency Is Now Available. The security panel within the inspect bar reports on certificate transparency information. So if you’re wanting to check your SSL certificate information on the website you’re working on, the process is a lot easier.
Support Provided For Progressive Web Apps. Support is only provided on Chrome OS 67 and not yet Mac and Windows however it is underway. They launch the exact same way as other apps, in their own app window and without an address bar or tabs.
Progressive web apps are types of web pages that appear to the user like traditional applications or mobile apps. This was also something new I learnt, #knowledgeispower. The benefits of PWAs are to provide a seamless experience for the user, ensuring that it loads quickly without the need to installation of a regular app.
Security Is Upped With Another Credential Type Available. Google offers a product called the Credential Management API which previously let a website store and retrieve user and federated credentials. Now, it lets a website store public key credentials: it essentially lets Google authenticate users with a key pair generated by an authenticator (e.g. security key or fingerprint reader).
Release Date: July 2018
Lighthouse 3.0 Is Faster. It uses a new auditing engine called ‘codename Lantern’ which runs the audits under your network and CPU settings. Using this data, it calculates an estimated value on how it would take a mobile device to load the page. Previously it throttled the page to receive this data, but now it simulates throttling.
Lighthouse 3.0 Can Be Exported In CSV File. The audits can be exported into a CSV file, with each row showing information for each audit, with the following information:
There is also a new scoring system with the new lighthouse for the performance audits, calculating a weighted average, details can be found here on how they score each audit.
Lighthouse 3.0 Checks robots.txt File. Under the SEO section of Lighthouse, the robots.txt file is now checked that it is written properly to help Googlebot crawl your website. It also has an additional audit related to site speed, with rel=”preconnect”. This attribute can be added to link tags, which aims to avoid multiple and costly round trips to any origin.
Non-HTTPS Sites Will Be Marked As ‘Not Secure’. This is probably the most hyped about update in the SEO world. As we all know, Google is moving towards a more secure web. One way is by championing websites adopting HTTPS (now a ranking factor). You may have noticed that over the last year more and more HTTP pages are marked as ‘not secure’. As of the Chrome 68 update, this will run across all HTTP sites.
Release Date: September 2018
Not a lot of information is available on what we can expect from the Google Chrome 69 update. This is currently in beta mode being tested in Google Canary. For those of you who aren’t aware, Google Canary is a version of Google available for developers. The purpose of this is for their testing and also for developers to code for the latest version of the browser. So far, Google has told us that this update will include following:
HTTP-Based Public Key Pinning (HPKP) Will Be Deprecated. What this does is provide security against mis-issued certificates. Web developers should be using the Expect-CT header to achieve this instead of HPKP as it is safer, because it allows site operators to recover from configuration errors.
Deprecate AppCache Over HTTP. Another security update, AppCache allows offline access to an origin. Using this over non-secure websites creates a cyber-security issues, making websites vulnerable for cross-site scripting hacks.
You Can Download Files To Specific Folders On Android. At the moment when you’re downloading a file, its dumped into the downloads folder. This update should allow you to download wherever you like as well as rename it.
‘Secure’ Label On HTTPS Sites Will Disappear. Google are creating secure websites as the standard, as you can see the eventual goal is not having to mark sites at all:
Later on in the year, we’re expecting Google Chrome 70 and Google Chrome 71 releases in October and December. Although Google has not yet released any detailed information of what they will entail, the general theme seems to be towards creating a more secure web and eventually using this to influence ranking.
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