Last year, Google announced its release of a Core Algorithm update coming in May 2021. Through several internal and external studies, Google has found that users prefer (and are more likely to convert on) websites that offer a great page experience. With this update, Google will increase the importance of page experience metrics, also called Google Core Web Vitals, in ranking criteria for search.
Google Core Web Vitals: The Foundation Of The Update
Coming in May, Google's algorithm will change the way in which it weighs on-page performance in terms of ranking. The foundation of Google Core Web Vitals involves three things:
- Loading Experience
- Visual Stability of Page Content
Core Web Vitals will focus on the user experience once a user clicks on a web page from Google SERPs − this includes whether a page loads quickly or is stable (meaning that it doesn't need to load twice or three times before it becomes clickable and navigable).
With a stronger focus on these elements, it's important for businesses to analyze their typical engagement metrics, such as bounce rate, time on site, pages per session, etc. These metrics, which can be found in your Google Analytics account, speak to whether the user is having an enjoyable experience on your website when they access it through organic search results.
This Google Core Web Vitals update is a more technical update rather than a content-focused update. It's something that we lean on our development partners for. Since Google released information about this update back in November 2020, we encourage you to start optimizing your website as soon as possible. It's not too late to start; beginning even one month ahead of the update will position your website for higher rankings than those who wait until after the update goes into effect.
What can companies do to ensure a high ranking on SERPs after this update?
Mckenzie Hibler, Senior Digital Strategist
Additionally, it's critical for website administrators to actively monitor the following four metrics that measure dimensions of web usability such as load time, interactivity and the stability of content as it loads − AKA the foundation of Google Core Web Vitals discussed earlier.
First Contentful Paint
This metric measures the time from when the page starts loading to when any part of the page's content is rendered on the screen.
Largest Contentful Paint
Google uses this term as a metric that measures how quickly the largest element on a page renders. It marks the point in the page load timeline when the page's main content has likely loaded.
First Input Delay
This measures page responsiveness and quantifies the experience that users feel when trying to first interact with the page.
Cumulative Layout Shift
This metric refers to the number of times that content on a page has shifted and has caused users to lose their spot without warning. It quantifies the amount of unexpected layout shift of visible page content.
Google Search Console
Google Search Console added a separate section for Core Web Vitals, which reports on whether pages are high, medium or low priority and whether or not they perform well. This tool is helpful because it's like a report card for your website that lets administrators know which web pages need to be optimized.
It's important to note that Google Search Console bases the reports off of page templates and not URLs. The idea is that web page templates are pretty synonymous across various URLs, especially when it comes to code. Website pages are built with templates that developers typically "plug and chug" information into across various pages.
For example, all product pages on one website will use the same template, but the URLs are going to be different for different products. The templates will be the same, but the pages will be different because the actual product information on each page will be different.
Reporting on the template-level is actually more valuable than reporting on a URL basis. We've had clients that wanted to know all of their URLs, but they don't need to. They only need to know the templates that need updating so that they can effect change on a wider scale.
Google Developer Tools
Google has provided developer tools that can measure those important metrics and report in real time. Though more tedious, this is just another way to look at Google Core Web Vitals. This tool measures the following:
- Largest Contentful Paint (LCP)
- First Input Delay (FID)
- Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS)
- First Contentful Paint (FCP)
- Time To First Byte (TTFB)
There are also traditional tools to check on your website's vitals, such as Lighthouse, Page Speed Insights, Chrome DevTools and more.
If you are not prepared and have not worked on optimizing your web pages, don't be surprised when you struggle with improving your organic rankings. Remember, your website does not need to be the best or the fastest across the whole entire web; rather, you should work towards the goal that your website will perform the best against your competition. If you haven't begun optimizing your website, start now. This ~1 month head start will make a difference by the time the algorithm rolls out in May.
Those who take zero steps to improve the user experience will likely see a dip in rankings, a shift in rank allocation and a dip in engagement metrics − such as higher bounce rate, lower time on site, lower pages per session, etc. This is all relative, and users are going to find and purchase from the sites that offer the best experience for them.
Interested in learning about Groove Commerce's SEO services? From technical optimization to website strategy, link building, reporting and more, our team is here to help you rank on the first page of search engine results. Get in touch with our team through the form below, and we'll be happy to answer and questions you may have!
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