Business owners and webmasters share the same goal of maximizing website performance. You need your site to be in the best position to deliver profitable results — and ranking high on search results is critical. Google’s upcoming algorithm update, Core Web Vitals identifies Google ranking signals that prioritize your site’s user experience (UX).
You must prepare your site according to the specific metrics laid out in the Google Core Web Vitals update and ensure usability is your top consideration throughout your improvements and site changes.
Two key players that determine the success of your digital strategies are the search engines and your site visitors. Google helps your potential customers find you online but you need to qualify as a worthy site to earn that search traffic. After your target audience finds you and visits your site, your users will decide if they are interested enough in your website and brand’s value proposition before engaging further.
In the Core Web Vitals update 2021 announcement, Google compels webmasters to prioritize their page experience if they hope to maintain their site’s current good ranking or to achieve a high ranking on search results. The early announcement gives ample time to improve your site’s interactivity, visual stability and loading performance for the best possible Core Web Vitals performance.
With websites preparing for the Core Web Vitals update, it becomes a win-win situation for all key players. Google secures its reputation as a credible search engine when it ranks high-quality websites higher and your site visitors are more likely to convert with delightful user experience.
To hit all the marks for Google ranking signals, you need to have a complete grasp of Google’s user experience standards and make specific changes to ensure your site is in an advantageous position when the update takes effect.
In this blog, we simplify technical terms and ensure the discussion is easy to digest to get you started on improving your page experience as soon as possible.
Read on to find the answers to your most pressing questions about the Core Web Vitals update:
• What Are Core Web Vitals?
• Why Are Core Web Vitals Important?
• How Will The Google Core Web Vitals Update Affect My Site Traffic?
• How Do I Prepare My Website for the Core Web Vitals Update 2021?
What Are Core Web Vitals?
The Google Core Web Vitals are a set of three metrics that are indicative of the user experience you provide on your site, namely Largest Contentful Paint (LCP), First Input Delay (FID) and Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS). These metrics involve your loading speed, interactivity, and visual stability, all of which relate to providing a good user experience (UX).
Let’s take a closer look at what each of these Google ranking signals means:
• Largest Contentful Paint (LCP)
This metric measures loading performance and reports the render time of the largest content element visible in the viewport, which is often an image or video. This means that the main image on your page must load as soon as possible to let the user know that the URL is actually loading. A good LCP is 2.5 seconds or less.
• First Input Delay (FIP)
FIP measures your site’s interactivity or how long it takes for the browser to respond after the user interacts with the page. For example, when a user viewing the homepage clicks on a button to learn more, your site should be responsive to that action — ideally in 100 milliseconds or less.
• Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS)
Compared to LCP and FIP, the idea behind the CLS metric is new. CLS measures how much your page layout shifts during the loading phase. In reference to the scenario provided by Google, you would not want your user to accidentally confirm their purchase when they intended to press a cancel button below it — simply because the page layout suddenly shifted downwards. This metric should be 0.1 or closest to zero.
Why Are Core Web Vitals Important?
The reason Google Core Web Vitals are important is precisely the same reason UX is important. Moosa Hemani, an SEO expert at Thrive Internet Marketing Agency, perfectly describes the value of improving user experience — “What do Uber, Amazon, and Apple have in common? They are successful brands that focus on a customer-first design approach. They anticipate what a customer needs, provide relevant results, create ways to maximize UX and leverage these experiences to generate better ones.”
Taking a customer-first approach is precisely the mindset that Google adopts in incorporating Core Web Vitals as ranking factors. It requires websites to meet specific requirements for its Core Web Vitals metrics to qualify as a user-friendly site:
So, why are Core Web Vitals important? The better your metrics, the more likely Google will boost your rankings on the search engine results page (SERP). When you improve your metrics, you directly provide a better UX for your site visitors.
How Will The Google Core Web Vitals Update Affect My Site Traffic?
Now that we know exactly how Core Web Vitals are defined, the next question is around how it will affect site traffic. It’s essential to understand that in the Core Web Vitals update 2021, Google is prioritizing page experience as a whole. This means that Core Web Vitals metrics are only a part of the bigger picture of page experience, that will ultimately become an official ranking factor.
As the Google team puts it, “We’re combining the signals derived from Core Web Vitals with our existing Search signals for page experience, including mobile-friendliness, safe-browsing, HTTPS-security, and intrusive interstitial guidelines, to provide a holistic picture of page experience.”
Because the page experience standards account for a good number of the vital Google ranking signals, not optimizing for these will likely result in lower rankings and drastic decreases in your site traffic. Moreover, if your UX is unsatisfactory, your site visitors would naturally be discouraged from browsing and returning to your site.
With this update, Google aims to push site owners to build pages that users enjoy visiting and turn into increased conversion opportunities for your business.
Apart from affecting all regular search results, Core Web Vitals will be a ranking factor to Google Top Stories. This means news outlets will have to go the extra mile to adapt to the Core Web Vitals update or lose the site traffic opportunities. The update also includes removing Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) as a requirement to appear in the Top Stories.
Google found that users are 24 percent less likely to abandon page loads when a site meets the Core Web Vitals thresholds. This is a massive finding that can boost your site traffic remarkably.
How Do I Prepare My Website for the Google Core Web Vitals Update?
The first step is to find out where your site currently stands by viewing your Core Web Vitals report in the Google Search Console. You need to identify your URLs’ performance and if they classify as good, needs improvement or poor. Then, consider the bigger picture of Google’s page experience and craft a holistic approach to improving your UX.
Prepare for the Google Core Web Vitals update with these seven tips on enhancing page experience:
1. Optimize Your Images
Most websites have a hero image or the eye-catching main banner at the top of your web page. Optimize your hero image to make it appear within the LCP threshold by compressing it or converting it to a more efficient format. It’s best to evaluate all your site images as unoptimized media can significantly lower your loading performance.
2. Upgrade Your Web Hosting
3. Reserve Space for Loading Content
A best practice to keep CLS at a minimum is always to include width and height attributes on your image and video elements. This allows the browser to allocate the right amount of space while the media is loading and avoids sudden shifts in your layout.
4. Prioritize Above-The-Fold Content
5. Content Is Still King
Google reminds webmasters that content relevance can still outweigh page experience. Similarly, page experience doesn’t necessarily override relevant content. You will never go wrong when providing high-quality content to attract and add value to your site visitors.
6. Monitor Mobile-Responsiveness
Mobile-first indexing took center stage in July 2019 and applies to every single website as of September 2020. Along with all SEO and web design experts, Google identifies mobile-friendliness as a top priority in UX design for ease of access and usability.
7. Utilize All Google Optimization Tools
For you to rank well, Google places all pertinent information and resources within reach. The best way to ensure you’re meeting Google’s standards for site quality, is to optimize using Web Vitals tools, including Search Console, PageSpeed Insights, Lighthouse, Chrome DevTools, Chrome UX report and the new Web Vitals Chrome extension.
If you’re running low on time, you could also consult a comprehensive Google Page Experience Guide providing step-by-step instructions for optimizing for all three Core Web Vitals and other UX-focused ranking factors.
Prioritize Page Experience And Drive Better Results
The page experience algorithm update is expected to take effect in March 2021 and Google guarantees a six-month notice before the changes are rolled out. It’s the best time to invest in your page experience to rank higher and boost your website performance by placing your users first.
It’s important to note that even with the detailed guidelines Google has set regarding Core Web Vitals, these metrics are expected to evolve.
Get the help of Thrive Internet Marketing Agency to ensure your site is always up to par with the continuously developing Google algorithms. We have web design professionals and technical SEO experts who customize and optimize your website strategy for its best search and sales performance. We take a holistic approach to grow single and multi-location businesses.
With our industry expertise, we craft the optimal page experience strategy for your specific business goals. Contact us today to get your site started on delivering tremendous results.