Relax. Everything’s going to be okay.
The single most important thing to remember is that Google doesn’t make these updates for the simple pleasure of upsetting your apple cart. Google’s mission is to “organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.” Core Web Vital ranking changes are in keeping with that mission, extending the concept of accessibility and utility with an emphasis on user experience.
How is Google Changing Its Ranking Factors?
The algorithm update incorporates page experience as a ranking signal by measuring Core Web Vitals and giving preference to pages that Google determines to contain useful, relevant, and easily accessible content in response to a given search query. Google announced these changes so far in advance of rolling them out because they want all site owners to embrace a better user experience and do everything they can to make their sites more enjoyable for everyone.
What are Core Web Vitals?
Core Web Vitals are a set of real-world user-centered metrics that quantify…load time, interactivity, and stability of content as it loads.” Google’s Director of Engineering for Search Ecosystem
Core Web Vitals are metrics that answer questions such as:
- How fast does a page load?
- How quickly does the page become stable?
- How responsive are interactive elements on the page?
Google is joining the Core Web Vitals metrics to a group of metrics it’s already measuring, called Page Experience signals, which measure things like mobile-friendliness, security, and if there are intrusive interstitials, like pop-ups, that block important content. All of these elements together will determine how a page ranks for user experience.
These signals are less about what’s on the page — the traditional ranking signals we’ve grown accustomed to — and more about the technical barriers that might prevent the user from enjoying what’s on the page.
Why You Should Measure Your Core Web Vitals
Are your Core Web Vitals algorithm-update ready? The best way to answer that question is to measure them constantly.
But why are your Core Web Vitals so important?
Core Web Vitals are a critical component of Google’s page experience score, which measures a page’s overall user experience (UX). Improving your page experience score can help you rank higher, which is a good thing.
But beyond just improving your ranking, a targeted Core Web Vitals update can help you keep visitors on your site longer and increase the likelihood that they’ll return.
Optimizing your Core Web Vitals improves page loading times and interactivity, which are essential to making your website an enjoyable place to spend time.
Google’s increased emphasis on user experience has made it an essential part of SEO. After all, it doesn’t matter how valuable your content is if technical barriers keep people from consuming it. On the positive side, a pleasant user experience will only improve the enjoyment of already top-notch content.
As with so many other things, the first step to improving your page’s user experience is to monitor your Core Web Vitals.
How Will the Core Web Vitals Algorithm Update Affect Rankings?
That’s the million-dollar question! Even though these new ranking factors consider mobile-friendliness, they will affect search rankings similarly for mobile and desktop users. The most obvious impact will be on Google’s top stories, which had previously required AMP (accelerated mobile pages) to appear in that prime spot on mobile devices. When these changes roll out, Google will toss out AMP, and pages will need to meet a minimum threshold of Core Web Vitals to appear in top stories.
How Will My Rankings Change?
Another good question! The answer to this one is a little more complicated. In short, it depends. If we step back and look at the big picture, we know that Google has hundreds of ranking signals, so it’s not likely that one change will significantly impact your rankings.
Unless you’re operating in a highly competitive space, and other businesses are ready to swoop in and take advantage of any slippage in your rankings — potentially making it difficult to regain your position. Or if your site performs so poorly in user experience that negates signals you’re already ranking for.
Bear in mind that Google’s ranking signals can have an outsized impact beyond the actual metrics themselves. For example, the page speed signal has a small overall effect on your rankings. But, it can significantly impact visitor behavior (like spiking your bounce rate), eventually affecting your search position.
On the flip side, there can be a positive amplification of these changes on your overall traffic and conversion rates. Google analyzed millions of page impressions and found that users are 24% less likely to abandon a site when it meets Core Web Vitals thresholds. That means you’re going to hang on to more of your hard-earned traffic by merely making your site a more pleasant place to spend time. If page experience improvements keep more users on your site, your bounce rates will decrease, which creates a virtuous cycle of improved search rankings.
Three Signals for Core Web Vitals
It’s important to understand these metrics, but it’s equally important not to get too bogged down on the technical aspect of each. Let’s look at what each metric measures, how to identify potential problems on your pages, and what you can do to fix them.
1 – Largest Contentful Paint (LCP)
LCP measures how long it takes for the largest visual asset on the page, whether it’s a video, image, or text, to render in the viewport. The viewport describes a user’s visible web page area, whether they’re using a desktop or a phone browser. How long does it take for that one big thing to render fully? That’s the Largest Contentful Paint.
2 – Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS)
CLS measures how long it takes for the page to achieve stability. Have you ever tried to click a button on a page, only to have an asset above it load, pushing the button down the page, so you end up clicking on something else entirely? Pretty frustrating, right? That’s why Cumulative Layout Shift factors into page experience signals.
3 – First input delay (FID)
FID measures any delay between a user taking action on the page and seeing the results of that action. For example, after you click a button, how long until you see the expected result? First input delay is about any lag time between an action and a reaction on the page.
How to Measure Your Core Web Vitals
Let’s get down to business and talk about how to measure your Core Web Vitals so you can fix any issues you find. Thankfully, Google makes it simple to measure your site’s metrics in these areas with a new report on the Search Console called “Core Web Vitals.” This report assigns every Google-indexed URL on your site with a performance label of “poor,” “needs improvement,” or “good.”
This is an incredibly helpful report because it so clearly prioritizes what you need to fix. If you have URLs that are poor or need improvement, dig in to find out why they’re falling short and what you can do to improve the user experience on those pages. Every report in the Search Console links to a report in Page Speed Insights, which is probably the best tool to diagnose specific issues with your Core Web Vitals.
When to Seek Expert Help
We’re not writing an exhaustive blog post about how to fix
issues with each of the Core Web Vitals because, unless you’re an experienced developer, you’ll probably need to work with someone who is. Rather than trying to open up the hood on your site and fix things you’re not familiar with, use Google Search Console to get a feel for the scope of changes you need and then contact a reliable partner to do the work.
In a Nutshell
Not only will optimizing page experience future-proof your website’s performance by putting it in the best possible position to capitalize on the Core Web Vitals algorithm update, but it will also improve the experience for users on your website right now.
Remember, page experience optimization isn’t about meeting specific search engine criteria. It’s about providing the best possible experiences for real users.
Google says it best:
“A good page experience doesn’t override having great, relevant content.”
Yes, you can get a noticeable boost with a successful Core Web Vitals roll out on your page, but it shouldn’t replace creating useful content that connects searchers with the answers they seek.
5 Key Takeaways
- Core Web Vitals Measure User Experience
An emphasis on improving user experience makes the internet a better place for everyone and puts you on track to delight your customers.
- Know Where You Stand
Google makes it easy to measure your page experience metrics.
- Prioritize Your Updates
Focus first on the metrics where your site performs most poorly.
- Seek Expert Help
Technical fixes require technical know-how. Find a specialist to help you out.
- Keep Creating Content
No amount of page optimization is going to make up for lackluster content.
How Victorious Can Help With Core Web Vitals / SEO Best Practices
Everyone is scrambling to optimize their site to maintain or boost their SERPs ranking due to the Core Web Vitals algorithm update.
But it’s one thing to identify that you need help with your Core Web Vitals; it’s an entirely different thing to fix the issue.
That’s because some of these metrics are relatively new, and some marketers might not be familiar with how to improve them.
For instance, Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS) issues are easy to identify – they’re apparent to the casual observer who visits your page.
But there’s no simple fix for it because so many different factors could impact it.
An SEO partner like Victorious can give you an edge in detecting and resolving Core Web Vitals metrics. We can identify the critical areas you need to address to improve your Core Web Vitals and benefit from this algorithm update.
Because problems with Core Web Vitals are technical in nature, development expertise is required to fix them. Our web development team can help.
Finally, we know that Core Web Vitals are one small part of the overall user experience. Our team can help you develop a comprehensive strategy to address technical issues that could be standing in the way of improving your search visibility.
How Victorious is Helping Our Customers
Our holistic approach doesn’t stop at making sure that pages load fast or are quick to interact. The Victorious team helps our clients deliver valuable content that ranks for their targeted customers through competitive research and keyword strategies that match our clients’ business goals.
Victorious’ rigorous technical audit leaves no stone unturned in seeking out potential page experience issues. After identifying areas for improvement, we work with our clients’ developers or provide development support with our in-house team to address problems and improve Core Web Vitals.
Curious to learn more about algorithm updates?
- How To Stop Dreading And Start Loving Google Algorithm Updates
- Google Dance: Why We Love Search Fluctuations (& You Should Too)
for a fresh perspective on why change can be a good thing.
When’s the best time to respond to Google’s 2021 algorithm update?
If you haven’t started already, there’s no better time than the present. Get your free SEO consultation today.