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Google Core Web Vitals: How Page Experience Will Impact SEO

core web vitals

In May, Google began to release details about a new update being called the Page Experience algorithm update by some.

You’re probably thinking, “but Google pushes algorithm updates all the time.” What’s different? 

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, they’ve given us a heads up. This algorithm update also isn’t being released until 2021.

Let the planning begin! We’ve plenty of time to implement any changes. So, read along as we highlight some of the areas here that will need your attention. 

What Is the Google Algorithm?

If you’re new and haven’t heard about the Google Algorithm, let’s explain it for you. 

In general, an algorithm is a set of defined steps for solving a problem – think mathematical calculations. When looking at the Google Algorithm, here is what we know. 

When you search for a specific term using Google Search, it returns a particular set of results.

How does it decide which results are relevant to your search term? The Google algorithm is a very complicated one that’s primary purpose is to serve up search results, and changes get made to it all the time.

Although the algorithm is not made available to the public, there are a few things we know that help a page’s placement in search results based on the keywords or terms used:

  • When keywords are used in the page’s title, meta description, and header tags
  • The quantity of naturally formed, organic links to the page
  • The responsiveness of the page on mobile devices like smartphones and tablets 

What Elements Does Google’s Algorithm Count?

Now that the algorithm isn’t so much of a puzzle, most of us understand the factors and metrics that it uses to rank pages. All-in-all, Google uses over 200 of these in its algorithm. The challenge is to understand which have a higher value than others.

Google’s algorithm prescribes a pre-ordained numerical value to each trait it seeks, as it “reads” a page. The page that has the more sought-after characteristics will be ranked higher because it is assigned more significance.

Every year Google implements thousands of updates to its algorithm; most of them are done without any notice.

These updates are released daily and are made to improve search results for everyone. When an update is more significant, Google will let us know a week or days in advance, but this time they are giving us ample time due to COVID-19 and the impact this has had on some businesses. 

Core Web Vitals – What Are They?

Google’s new focus is user experience and is targeting areas of a website that this impacts. 

It isn’t new; Google has long considered this as an essential aspect of on-page SEO. For example, some metrics weigh in whether a web page is responsive on mobile devices and whether it is secure. 

Core Web Vitals are the outcome of an extensive search for secure user experience metrics. Google proposes that combining these three new metrics will finally quantify the effect that a page first has on a user. They are also integrating the latest metrics with their existing user page experience signals. 

Just like existing signals are measured on a page basis, so will Core Web Vitals. Google suggests that websites that achieve excellent first impressions are less likely to lose visitors by at least 24%

Some people think great user experiences and SEO have nothing to do with each other, but many experts say there is a bit of overlap. 

To answer the question, what are Google’s Core Web Vitals (CWV), we need to review the three metrics that make up the CWV:

What Is LCP or Largest Contentful Paint?

In short, LCP takes the most significant object visible on your website as your primary content. Then it measures the time it takes to load that content from the Document Object Model. 

Which content does Google consider?

Google Developers have identified several elements that they consider relevant:

  • Image Elements 
  • Thumbnail graphics of video elements 
  • Background images with CSS 
  • Paragraphs and other text-heavy block-level elements, like headers or lists

What Is FID or First Input Delay?

First impressions mean a lot, whether it is an interview, first day at a new job, or when building visitor experiences on your website. An excellent first impression can be the difference between a visitor becoming a return customer or leaving and not coming back. 

Many things make up the first impression, from the design and visual appeal to a site’s speed and responsiveness. 

FID is measured from when a visitor interacts with a page to the time the browser responds to it. Sites wanting to provide a good user experience should target response times of under 100 milliseconds. 

What Is CLS or Cumulative Layout Shift?

Just as you attempt to click on a button on a page it jumps, leaving you thinking, “Wait a minute, where did it go?”

Layout shifts are frustrating and confusing to website visitors. Imagine you’re reading a blog post when unexpectedly, everything moves. Then you have to skim the page to find where you were reading. 

This happens more than you may think, including reading news sites and trying to click on various buttons on a website. 

CLS measures how stable content is by summing shift scores across website content within 500 milliseconds of visitor input. 

So, what causes a weak CLS score? 

  • Content injected dynamically
  • FOIT/FOUT caused by web fonts
  • Images that don’t have dimensions
  • Ads, iframes, and embeds that don’t have dimensions
  • Actions that wait for a network response to update DOM

Other Signals That Google Includes

While Core Web Vitals are user-centric, real-world metrics that will be used to measure primary phases of UX, Google will also consider a few other things in their new page experience ranking factors.

Among other points, the fact that more than two billion people use only mobile phones for the internet, with estimates showing that this will increase to 72.6% of all internet users by 2025, is significant. 

What this means is that UX on all devices must be considered equally. To be sure your site is mobile-friendly, Google has this resource to test it. Thus, Google will also combine signals like: 

Mobile Friendliness

As Google announced in 2015, mobile-friendliness is a ranking signal where content is prioritized for easy viewing on mobile devices.

Secure Browsing

Business owners and website developers should seek to fix security issues seen in the security report in the Google Search Console.

HTTPS / Transport Layer Security

While it’s not as significant as others, businesses should consider migrating websites to https to improve visitor security, in addition to ranking considerations. 

Intrusive Interstitial Objects

At their core, these metrics will help web developers and business owners have a robust way to measure key indicators, especially UX design and SEO. 

 Why Is This Update Significant?

The question is, what sites does Google want to rank at the top?

You might think it’s the sites with the best keywords, most back-links, or better coding and be wrong. 

It’s websites where users have the best experiences. Google is working on changing its algorithm to show websites that users prefer first in their search results. Over the next few years, it is quite likely that we will see more updates that focus on this metric. 

So, what should you do now? Here are a few things that business owners and web developers can review.

Optimize Page Load Speed

The faster your site loads, the more users will have better experiences, and there are many places where you can check your page loading speed so you can make the needed changes; however, we do recommend making use of Google Page Speed Insights.

google page speed insights

Competition Comparisons

The next step, even if you believe you’ve done a great job on upping user experiences on your site, is simple. Compare, compare, compare. The same websites that let you measure your metrics often allow you to check other sites, too. 

So, check on your primary competitors’ websites to see where you stand against them. 

Examine Your Website Design

Remember the metric, Cumulative Layout Shift, where shifts in the layout were causing user frustration? You won’t have this issue in most cases, but you will find other usability problems. 

One way you can locate these problems is by running a Crazy Egg test. After you’ve set up your Crazy Egg test, the best advice is to wait a few days and then go back, log in and click on Snapshots in the sidebar.  

From there, you can see the snapshots you’ve created and a heat-map view of how visitors are interacting with your website.

What’s interesting is these snapshots let you see every click and scroll visitors make. As you review, you’ll be able to see where changes are needed and once you’ve made them rerun the test. 

What’s Next For Core Ranking?

Google’s new update may have you thinking about how it will impact your site’s core ranking. Reviewing these suggestions should help have your website in the best position long before the update takes place. Since Google was already ranking for user experiences, these changes shouldn’t be challenging for most businesses. 

Keeping your site in good form and ranking well is the goal, so user experiences should have already been a priority. If the update has you confused, reach out to the experts at GHAX Marketing for a free strategy session today.

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Antonio Calabrese Founder GHAX

Hey, I’m Antonio Calabrese, Founder at GHAX. We love working with businesses who are serious about growth.

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