WebMechanix hinted at some big potential changes as a result of Google’s Core Web Vitals in an article we wrote in June 2020. And now, Google has indeed confirmed that they will become official ranking signals in May 2021. The update will combine existing user experience signals with the new Core Web Vitals ranking signals.
The new signals include:
- Safe browsing
- HTTPS security
- Intrusive interstitials
The purpose of Core Web Vitals (CWV) is to score webpages based on user experience metrics, including website loading, interactivity, and visual stability.
Google measures two of the three CWV metrics on a time-to-load basis. Your score for each metric will be good or bad, depending on how fast or slow a certain part of your website is.
- Largest Contentful Paint: The time it takes for a page’s main content to load. An ideal LCP is under 2.5 seconds.
- First Input Delay: The time it takes for a page to become interactive. An ideal FID is less than 100 milliseconds.
- Cumulative Layout Shift: The amount of unexpected layout shift (visual instability) of visual content. An ideal CLS is less than 0.1.
The goal of Google measuring websites against these signals is to improve users’ experience on the websites Google recommends and show more UX-friendly websites on SERPs.
While that’s the extent of the guidance on CWV Google has provided for 2021, Google has said that these Web Vitals will evolve over time, so website owners will need to stay on top of any new updates.
New Labels in Google Search Results
Google may also soon add labels in SERPs to indicate which pages have a great user experience. These labels may include visual indicators that let users know if all of the UX criteria have been met.
If Google’s testing of these labels is successful, they’ll launch alongside the Core Web Vitals criteria in May 2021. These labels could present an opportunity to increase the click-through rate and rankings for your webpage.
What This Means for You
If you haven’t already started to score and optimize your webpages for the update, you should start preparing immediately. Google offers its free PageSpeed Insights tool, which now comes with a thorough report on the CWV scores for any URL you enter.
Most of the updates required to improve your scores need web developer support. If you’re unable to make these changes yourself, work with your web developer. Provide them with results from the Insights tool, which comes with documentation and recommendations to improve each score.
Ultimately, the work involved comes down to making sure your page’s main content, layout, and interactions load quickly and properly.
There are some things that you can do right now without a developer, though. For starters, make sure you’re creating content in a way that is optimized for website load speed and user experience. For example, remove any unnecessary images, forms, plugins, or embeds that take a while to load. And make sure the images get compressed so that they don’t take a long time to load.
Finally, prepare for any traffic and ranking shifts in May of this year. If your boss or client comes to you asking about a change in traffic, you’ll be prepared with an understanding of why it happened and what to do next.
The Opportunity Ahead
A study done in August shows that less than 15% of sites pass a Core Web Vitals test. If many of these sites do not prepare for this update in May 2021, they could lose out to their competitors in rankings. While some websites remain unaware and unprepared, others are taking a proactive approach. Google has reported a median 70% jump in users engaging with Lighthouse and Page Speed Insights to evaluate their page experience.
Depending on how much weight the Google algorithm gives these metrics, we could see some noticeable changes in rankings in May. Getting ahead of this update could provide you with a substantial advantage for SEO.