Google’s new algorithm will take effect on May 21, 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 less 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:
- 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)
Google Signals – First Input Delay (FID) / Interactivity
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.