So you lost ground in Google’s most recent algorithm update? The enormous one about usability and speed, particularly on mobile? Or perhaps you’re afraid you’re going to, considering it’s still rolling out.
Maybe you don’t even know and can’t tell how to even determine whether you have or not.
Google provided a few tools to help you get an understanding of how you’ve been doing historically and how you are doing throughout this process as well as what you can do in the event your site gets deemed by Google’s latest “updataggedon”.
The page experience algorithm
So what was this update all about? Well, Google announced well in advance that it would be coming, and we’ve been preparing for it aggressively. It’s all around taking usability, speed, and mobile factors and turning them into ranking factors. In order to do so, Google has revamped its reporting tools and given early access within Google search console to show you how you’re doing.
It’s officially called the Google page experience update, it was originally intended to go fully live in May, 2021, but it has been pushed through June. Many people believe the significant advance notice, more than six months, portends the importance of this algorithm update, which is slated to be fully rolled out by the end of August, 2021.
Page experience signals
The primary take away is that following this update, Google will use its new page experience signals directly as a ranking factor. That’s important. You’ve likely already known for some time that usability is factored into Google’s rankings somehow, but now, it’s something measurable that you can look at, understand, and take steps towards improving. It’s not only about choosing the best colors for your website, it’s all about the experience of the user, and making your site more user-friendly, straightforward, and easy to navigate. If you do that well, which again can be measured now, you should do well in this update.
Google will be combining current signals for page experience with what they call court wed vitals to create a more comprehensive ranking signal. All of these will then help Google determine a page experience score which, if good, can improve your rankings, but conversely, if bad can cause them to drop.
If you’re still sitting on a pre-2000 website, or the 2021 equivalent of a pre-2000 website, say one built in 2016, you might want to consider investing in some updates. Failure to do so could prove difficult to overcome as the process of fine-tuning a site for the signals is a time-consuming one that requires measurement over time. As such, if you lose traction, you should expect that you’re going to lose that traction for some time and you will be playing catch-up.
What are Core Web Vitals?
Core Web Vitals are performance metrics designed to measure how user-friendly a page is. Google intends to update these as time goes on, but currently, there are three:
First Contentful Paint (FCP)
- When the browser renders the first bit of content, providing the first feedback to the user that the page is loading.
First input delay (FID)
- Measures the time from when a user first interacts with a page to the time when the browser is able to begin to respond to that interaction.
Largest Contentful Paint (LCP)
- LCP measures how quickly the content on your site loads. Ideally, LCP should be 2.5 seconds or less for any given page.
Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS)
- CLS looks at the stability of your layout. It measures whether objects or text on the page are likely to shift suddenly as a person tries to interact with them. Sudden shifts can be a significant problem for user experience. Google calculates your layout shift score by looking at impact fraction and distance fraction, both of which are metrics that look at how unstable elements move on a page. A good CLS score is 0.1 or lower.
Together, Core Web Vitals measure the loading performance, interactivity, and stability of your page.
What you can do if you got hit?
Don’t panic, you still have time. Google will tell you what are the pages failing any of the 5 main signals: “Core web vitals”, “Mobile usability”, “Security issues”, “HTTPs”, and if you are running ads, “Add experience”.
Let’s focus on the Core web vitals. If issues are present, Google will list them once you click for more details. The details will show you the status, type, validation, trend and URLs failing.
Click on the ones with either “Poor” or “Need improvement” and you will see examples of the URLs and the problems affecting the URLs in your website, how many URL have the same issue and a detail of any of the main metrics explained above: FCP, FID, LCP or CLS.
The solution relies on understanding what is your page loading on the first fold, because that is in essence what the user sees once it navigates into your website: It has to show everything intended to be seen, it cannot move or change shape and it has to quick to interactions. The key is to separate your CSS and JS into what is loading first, and what will load later. It’s like having your carry-on and your luggage that goes on the plane’s belly for a long trip. The essential goes first.
As per “Mobile usability”, “Security issues”, “HTTPs”, and “Add experience”, these are also important page experience signals, but we will talk about those in another article since this is getting very long and “not SEO friendly” :-).
Feel free to reach out to us, Surgeons Advisor, or me, Robert Baxter, directly if you’d like our help to resolve your issue and get you through this update. We’ve made it out of the last twenty-three Google algorithm updates, and our entire customer base has thrived. While the world has been falling down around us throughout this pandemic, the last few years has been particularly good for us online.