Since last year it’s been known that Google is preparing to launch a new algorithm update concerning websites’ speed and performance.
You may wonder why it keeps happening, but Google has good reasons for their preference for constant change - they tweak its algorithm to provide the best user experience possible.
Google doesn’t reveal everything on how exactly the algorithm works.
This is to avoid abusive strategies by website owners trying to improve their rankings.
There are however Google guidelines, and we know enough about positive signals to create websites according to SEO best practices.
Fortunately, this time round it’s been officially announced what is going to be included in June’s algorithm update.
Initially the update was scheduled for May 2021, however Google announced that the page experience rollout will begin in mid-June, and it “won't play its full role as part of those systems until the end of August”.
Keep reading to learn how to prepare for the update. Spoiler alert: it’s all about a great user experience and Core Web Vitals.
What Are Core Web Vitals?
Web Vitals is a Google initiative that allows you to measure the experience that a user gets on your website. You can decide to improve on these features to make your visitors even happier.
Core Web Vitals are simply a subgroup of Web Vitals that apply to every page.
Because of their critical influence on the user experience, they should be tracked by all websites.
The current Core Web Vitals focus on loading performance, interactivity and visual stability.
They will be added to other factors such as mobile friendliness and safety of browsing, under the umbrella of Page Experience ranking factors.
In that manner Google will be able to evaluate a website’s user-friendliness more accurately.
How Are Core Web Vitals Measured?
Core Web Vitals are graded from “poor”, through “needs improvement” to “good”. Needless to say that the website should aim for the latter.
Now, let's get down to the nitty-gritty of Core Web Vitals that have been identified as crucial for the first update:
- Loading performance measured by Largest Contentful Paint (LCP)
This may sound complicated, but it all has to do with how quickly the biggest item entirely loads. More precisely, what’s measured is the time between the first page starts loading and the moment the biggest image or text block becomes visible to the user. For a good user experience this should be 2.5 seconds or less.
- Interactivity measured by First Input Delay (FID)
Have you ever been irritated with a non-responsive website? We’re sure you’d agree that it’s not a great user experience to be waiting forever for a website to respond after you click on something. This is why websites will have to optimise for this measurement.
The expected time from the moment a user clicks on the button until the website reacts here is below 100 milliseconds. Anything slower than that is suboptimal.
- Visual Stability measured by Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS)
It’s quite annoying from the user’s perspective to see something on the website shifting unexpectedly, let alone disappearing. It may also cause serious errors for businesses where a customer needs to make a decision but can click on the wrong button due to a shift. To keep visitors and Google happy, a website needs to maintain the cumulative layout shift below 0.1.
You can measure your website’s Core Web Vitals with a number of tools. At the moment there are four tools that can measure all three metrics:
Measuring your website’s performance in terms of these metrics is the first step to optimising it.
Why Optimise for Core Web Vitals
The biggest benefit of passing the Google Core Web Vitals assessment is ranking higher in the search engine result page (SERP).
It’s a good idea to try to benefit from this opportunity.
The measurement tools and specific metrics have been provided. The rollout of the update is around the corner, so you should start to introduce any necessary improvements right now.
What Happens If You Don’t Optimise for CWV?
You should remember that not optimising for Core Web Vitals also carries a risk with it.
It’s not just about missing out on the opportunity of ranking higher, but the lack of compliance may also mean losing your current positions in rankings.
Take it to heart and prepare for the upcoming update before it’s too late!
How to Optimise for Core Web Vitals
First, use the right tools to learn how your website is already doing.
If you check all the boxes, there’s no further work needed.
However, if there are some issues, you’ll need to address them.
Remember that the metrics work together, so improving one of them may have a positive effect on the other ones.
Here are some suggestions on how to enhance the relevant Core Web Vitals:
There are many possible causes of poor CLS: images and other elements with no dimensions, dynamic content, web fonts... The good news is that if you use the Page Speed Insights tool, you’ll learn exactly what’s causing your CLS issues. Once you know what’s wrong, use the web.dev instructions on optimising Cumulative Layout Shift.
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