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Core Web Vitals: Are You Ready For the Google Algorithm Change?

Google has been updating its algorithm since day one and in the SEO industry, we have got used to this. Some updates come with fair warning and a clear brief; some come out of nowhere leaving us scratching our heads trying to work out what they have changed.

Well, the good news here is that there is a big update on its way in June and fortunately, this time we do have fair warning!

The Panda and Penguin updates are the most notable to date. They wanted us to clean up the entire web… and as SEOs we did just that. Professionals across the industry meticulously went through and removed all the thin content, marked all the spammy links and told Google which links were the worst via the disavow process. It was tedious, but necessary hard work that enabled the Google search engines to cultivate good human-verified data to base their algorithmic changes on.

More on Google SEO: Page Speed and SEO: Everything Google Has Said So Far

Back in 2015, the search community did a massive amount of work to adapt to the ‘Mobile Friendly’ update.

Companies and agencies alike spent hundreds of hours and thousands of pounds on updating websites to be reactive and mobile-friendly. ‘Mobilegeddon’ was the media’s way of explaining the potential result if this didn’t happen – in plain English, websites would lose rankings.

Probably the most important update in my mind was actually at the back end of 2019 when the BERT update was rolled out. We could adopt a unique approach to search marketing in that we use our understanding of human behavior to supercharge what we do.

BERT made this more of a reality for us, as the BERT update has fundamentally shifted Google’s ability to understand natural language. This was a huge step forward and will continue to be so, as the artificial intelligence element is continuing to refine Google’s understanding of human language across the world.

Backlinks and Content Quality Correlate With Higher Google Rankings, New Study by Backlinko Finds

So, here we are in 2021 and Google is pushing us forward further with Core Web Vitals.

 

Compliance is our only option, otherwise, our rankings will be penalized, but the good news is that the changes make sense for creating better websites for users. The main requirements are that we make our websites faster and shift less on loading.

This is hardly surprising; it is annoying when sites take a long time to load and when they finally do load, the blocks are shifting around on the screen, so users click on something they didn’t mean to click on.

With our focus on human behavior, we welcome this update with open arms and are glad Google has forewarned us this time. This is going to take work for in-house marketing teams and agencies. But it’s essential we get it right to retain existing rankings and ensure future success.

So, what can brands do to prepare for this latest evolution in the search algorithm?

Core Web Vitals

Google believes that every web owner should be able to understand and measure the quality of the experience users have on the site, which is why they have simplified the process by creating Core Web Vitals.

Core Web Vitals are different factors and metrics that Google considers important to a site’s user experience. Each Core Web Vital will be constantly evolving, but for 2021 the focus is on loading, interactivity and visual stability.

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However, brands should not forget that there are other vital signs they need to take care of to optimise their website experience. In addition to the three areas of loading, interactivity and visual stability that Core Web Vitals seek to improve, brands need to also ensure their websites are built to be mobile-friendly and provide a safe browsing experience without intrusive advertising.

Google will make Core Web Vitals part of the Search Algorithm starting in June 2021, along with the previously mentioned signals, making them a Google ranking factor. What this is demonstrating is the ongoing and increased focus from Google on having user-centered websites, where everything brands do, and updates are for their users.

The update will be measuring three distinct areas:

  • Largest Contentful Paint (LCP): how long it takes for a page to load so the user can see the majority of the content on a screen
  • First Input Delay (FID): the time it takes for a user to be able to interact with the site or page
  • Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS): how many elements move around the page when it’s loading

So, how do brands measure against these metrics?

Let’s explore how prepared brands are for the new Core Web Vitals update across four sectors: legal, accountancy, insurance, and e-commerce.

Is the e-commerce sector ready?

Looking into the e-commerce sector, we interrogated URLs for the top 300 UK e-commerce websites, retrieving results across the three key metrics.

On the LCP metric, despite seeing some impressive scores for the sites tested, a staggering 65% still needed improvement or failed. The average score for LCP on the 260 successfully tested e-commerce websites was 3.01 seconds, 0.51 seconds off the score that Google deems acceptable. When it comes to loading time, it’s clear that e-commerce brands still have a lot of work to do. An impressive 96 sites however were under the 2.5 mark, scoring a ‘good’ range by Google, demonstrating that the e-commerce industry has already begun optimizing.

On the FID front, only two websites tested scored 100 milliseconds or a ‘good’ rating by Google. The average score measured against FID was a mere 430 milliseconds. Google considers any score below 100 to be ‘good’ for this metric, showing that there’s much work to be done around usability and creating an interactive interface to generate a positive user experience.

Finally, on the CLS metric, almost half (44%) of the sites tested achieved a ‘good’ rating, with 27 achieving the top score of 0 on the test. The average CLS score for this sector was 0.48, 0.38 points away from a good rating.

Conclusion

In addition to staying ahead of the competition, diminishing the negative effects of Google updates and increasing organic visibility, by undertaking the necessary SEO work ahead of June brands can focus on user experience.

By optimizing in advance of the algorithm roll-out, they can ensure the long-term plan is not being affected by losing rankings or having major setbacks. It is critical that brands perform a website audit using different tools, including PageSpeed insights, Lighthouse and Google Search Console and/or Chrome User Experience Reports.

Read Also: Samsung Ads Offers Nielsen’s Advanced TV Measurement For Samsung TV Plus…

Ultimately the Google changes signal Google’s continued focus on making the internet more user-centered, having a human focus.

To be truly successful at SEO, brands need to focus on the user. All these years, we’ve all been chasing the algorithm, but the irony is that Google’s algorithm has been chasing human behavior. This is a welcome change, one which will see all of us focus on people, ensuring our SEO strategies are laser-focused on delivering content that addresses their needs.

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