Google’s new algorithm will take effect in mid-June 2021, which means that your website will rank based on new signals that reflect the user experience (UX) your visitors have. Called Core Web Vitals, these new signals were developed to reflect the speed, responsiveness, and visual stability of every site page.

If your site does not meet the new UX criteria and load speeds set by Google, your site may not rank as favorably on search engine results pages (SERPs). When you rank lower on SERPs or appear beyond the first page, you miss out on user traffic and, ultimately, new revenue opportunities. Core Web Vitals also affects whether your site appears in Google Top Stories, which is prime real estate for both desktop and mobile users.

Given that fewer than 15% of websites are optimized to pass a Core Web Vitals assessment, now is the time to break down what these new requirements really mean and how SEO practitioners can provide support. After all, Google’s own research shows that visitors are 24% less likely to abandon sites that meet the thresholds of Core Web Vitals.

How Google Measures Experience – Core Web Vitals

Google has three Core Web Vitals to measure site speed, interactivity and visual stability. They are:

Google's Core Web Vitals
  • Largest Contentful Paint (LCP), which is the total time it takes for the main content to load on a page. Google indicates that an optimal LCP measurement is 2.5 seconds or faster.
  • First Input Delay (FID), or the time it takes for a page to become interactive. This should take no longer than 100 milliseconds, according to Google.
  • Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS) is how much visual page content shifts throughout the loading process. An ideal measurement is less than 0.1 seconds.

Beyond the three Core Web Vitals, Google continues to evaluate mobile-friendliness, Safe Browsing, HTTPS, and non-intrusive interstitials. Together, these seven signals define how the search engine ranks the overall page — and user — experience. Let’s dive deeper into each, their potential challenges and the measures that SEO practitioners can take to improve the user experience.

Google Signals – Largest Contentful Paint (LCP)

Largest Contentful Paint (LCP) tracks how long it takes for a page to load. This is determined based on the amount of time that passes between the First Contentful Paint (FCP) and the LCP, or the largest photo, image or text in the viewport, loading. If your page loads in less than 2.5 seconds, you’re in great shape. But if not, there are some key issues you can look into, like slow server response time, render-blocking CSS and/or JavaScript, resource load times, and client rendering. Optimize images by compressing them and correctly cache your site when content and image updates are made.

Google Signals – First Input Delay (FID) / Interactivity

How many times have you impatiently clicked on a link or button because a site took too long to redirect you? First Input Delay (FID) measures how quickly a page becomes interactive. It’s the total amount of time it takes for the browser to process an action (a user clicking on a button or JavaScript event) and produce a result (a new page).

Based on Google’s recommendations, anything that takes longer than 100 milliseconds is a technical challenge that needs to be resolved or improved. Since FID is typically connected to heavy use of JavaScript, find ways to break down your different tasks and have them load at different times, and optimize page interaction readiness using JavaScript Web Worker.

Google Signals – Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS) / Visual Stability

With Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS), or visual stability, Google is reaffirming the correlation between user experience and SEO. It looks at how elements on a page shift. Think about the times when you go to a website and see ads, images and videos shift around on a page before it’s fully loaded. All of these “shifts” represent instability in the site design, which creates frustration for users. The goal is for all page elements to stabilize in less than one-tenth of a second. To achieve this, we must set width and height attributes for all image and video elements, including ads. All space should be reserved on the back end, so another doesn’t randomly pop in. By preloading fonts, you can also prevent flashing and paragraphs from shifting within the site as the content loads.

Google Signals – Mobile Friendly

A mobile friendly SEO strategy means thinking about the entire mobile experience — not just what people see when they go on Google. So, you need to think about how content loads and renders on your site across all devices, as well. Because so many people typically use their smartphones to search, you can’t afford to not think about it. After all, when you have a poor user experience through mobile, your prospects are unlikely to return. Companies going through a site rebuild can address these issues by making sure the user experience is mobile-first. That means creating the design concept and layout for mobile devices first and then scaling to larger screens. If that’s not in the cards, there are other common mistakes that you can address. For example, one of the biggest mistakes is having mobile display results for a website show on a subdomain.

Google Signals – Secure Website HTTPS

Data security has become a top concern for consumers, especially as they spend more time (and money) online. Consumers have cause for concern because hacks are becoming increasingly common for businesses of all sizes. Cyber threats are also not just evolving in sophistication; they’re also becoming more malicious. To create a secure website for customers, prioritize getting an SSL certificate, especially if you have forms or other data entry fields on your site. In cases when user-entered content is communicated to the server side and there is no SSL certificate, Google will tag your site as non-secure, which means users will see the tag in their URL bar.

SSL certificates provide three layers of protection in the authentication process, proving to users that the site they requested wasn’t hijacked by a malicious party. This HTTPS authentication, combined with Google marketing it as a secure website, helps improve overall user experience.

How To Take SEO Action

You may wonder how to prioritize this work at scale, especially with all the other SEO tasks you need to complete in a normal day. There are a few tools you can use to evaluate pages, identify specific pages that are hindering performance, dig into their templates and identify problems that exist within them. By working in tandem with your development team, you can develop a scalable workflow that keeps your Core Web Vitals at peak performance.

Deepcrawl Performance Metrics

Conductor customers have access to Deepcrawl, which highlights the key performance indicators that connect directly to Core Web Vitals. When you perform a web crawl, it groups pages based on whether they’ve scored “good,” “average” or “poor” based on the key benchmarks. This helps you to discover and prioritize issues at scale with your development team or webmaster. Some rumors suggest that Core Web Vital metrics largely applying to mobile devices, so it might be wise to look at your mobile device pages first, make improvements and work your way up to your desktop pages.

Google Search Console

SEO experts can register with Google Search Console for alerts to malware, deceptive pages, harmful downloads or abnormal downloads that can occur on their sites. If Google detects these things sitting on your website, it displays a warning screen, which will quickly prevent them from clicking through to your home page. Register for these updates so that you can quickly solve problems as soon as they arise.

Page Speed Insights

PageSpeed Insights is a great tool that lets you test different page templates and track their overall performance. That way, your developers can easily understand what’s causing or hindering page performance more quickly.

Since Core Web Vitals is so driven by the technical makeup of your website, we recommend that SEO experts work closely with their web developer colleagues who will be more familiar with the actions required.

To find out how Conductor can help your team prepare for Google’s Core Web Vitals algorithm update schedule a demo today.

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