Google Core Web Vitals and Page Experience Update
Seen the Core Web Vitals report in your Google Search Console recently but not had a chance to explore it? Here, we explain exactly what it is, and why, from a Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) perspective, it’s crucially important to the future of your website and business.
Big Changes Are Coming to Search
Google is constantly updating its algorithm to help users find the information they need from the best and most relevant sources possible.
While most of those updates drop unannounced, we’ll soon all be getting a change that’s so comprehensive, Google has taken the rather unusual step of giving everyone six months’ notice to prepare for it.
It’s called Page Experience, and from May 2021 it’s going to have a huge impact on the way Google ranks sites in its search results.
Page Experience and Core Web Vitals Explained
Page Experience is Google’s umbrella term for how usable a website is and how well it delivers its information to its users. It isn’t going to be the only factor Google uses to rank pages (there are currently around 200 all told), but from May 2021 any websites that don’t conform to Page Experience criteria will be missing the boat in a big way on search.
When it comes to optimising areas of your website in preparation for next May, there are seven core elements to look at, which fall into two categories.
Core Web Vitals
This is the newest addition to Google’s page ranking metrics. But what are the Core Web Vitals? And more specifically, what are the Core Web Vitals ranking factors?
Essentially, they break down into three different labels (Google calls these ‘signals’):
Loading – Largest Contentful Paint (LCP)
Faster sites mean more responsive browsing. In short, the faster your site loads, the quicker your users can get the information they need.
LCP looks at how long the largest piece of content on your page – be it an image, video, or piece of text – takes to appear on the page. Good LCP looks like 2.5 seconds or less.
Interactivity – Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS)
If LCP looks at loading time, CLS asks how quickly it takes the layout of the page to stabilise. This means that users won’t go to tap a button, only to find its moved and they’ve clicked to a different page altogether instead.
If your site tends to slowly build itself before the user’s eyes, your CLS might be worth investigating. Your website(s) should strive for a CLS score of less than 0.1.
Visual Stability – First Input Delay (FID)
So your page has loaded its primary piece of content and its navigation has stabilised. Now your users will want to start exploring.
FID measures how long it takes for the user to be able to make that first interaction on a fully-loaded webpage. You should be aiming for an FID of less than 100 milliseconds.
Pre-Existing Search Signals
The Core Web Vitals ranking factor won’t be the only one you need to consider when Page Experience goes live in May. Four of Google’s existing search signals will also be factored in:
With the over half of the world’s web traffic now consistently happening on handheld devices, responsive designs and mobile-friendly browsing are essential. You can check your site with The Mobile Friendly Test.
The secure version of HTTP that gives your site the lock icon in your browser address bar, being HTTPS certified means your site uses an encrypted connection. It stops people eavesdropping on your web session, and protects users’ sensitive data like password and credit card details. You can learn more about securing your site with HTTPS here.
No Intrusive Interstitials
Otherwise known as popups, interstitials can either add to the browsing experience – say, by offering a sign-up form at just the right time to capitalise on customer interest. Or they can massively detract from it – for instance, by unwantedly covering the content the user is looking for.
Owing to their prevalence on the web, whether your site uses interstitials tastefully and helpfully, rather than annoyingly and intrusively, will form a key part of the new focus on page usability in Google’s activation of Page Experience.
Top Stories is Changing, Too
Google estimates that sites adjusted for these new Page Experience measures will not only rank better in search, they’ll also be 24% less likely to have visitors leave before the site can load. This will help improve your site’s bounce rate (how quickly a user leaves your site once landing on it), so the motivation to make changes before next May is very real.
If that wasn’t enough, Google is also changing the way the Top Stories carousel works. Instead of using Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) as a criteria for news ranking, Google will be doing away with AMP and implementing a minimum threshold for Core Web Vitals instead.
Your content will still need to meet the normal requirements for Google News Inclusion, of course – but if you run a news outlet, or want your business to be positioned as a thought leader in its field, tailoring for Core Web Vitals will be an essential part of managing your website moving forwards.
Improving Your Site’s Page Experience
Thankfully, Google has included handy tools to help you investigate what’s going on with your site in the six months before the changes happen.
That’s where the Core Web Vitals report we mentioned earlier comes in. You’ll find it in the Enhancements’ section of your Search Console, offering a speedy insight into how many pages on your site are classed as good, poor, or need improvement.
You can then use Google’s Lighthouse-powered suite of metrics measurement dev tools to dig into the diagnostics and see what they tell you about where to make changes to your site.
Of course, if your focus is on the day-today running of your business and you aren’t especially technically minded, this can be where working with an agency that offers an SEO service like us can be invaluable.
Here at One2create, we’ll be optimising our client’s websites well ahead of the Page Experience changes happening in May. How will your business be adapting?
Do you need help rolling out the changes? Get in touch with our friendly team to see how we can help.