29 Dec Core Web Vitals: New Google SEO Update 2021
Web developers, marketers, and business owners all should aim to ensure that their site users have a quality experience. But obtaining real-world usage data to learn how your pages perform can be challenging. That’s why Google has a new algorithm update called Core Web Vitals (or Web Vitals) as part of its Page Experience Update in 2021.
We’ll explain this new Google algorithm update so that you can better understand how this affects your SEO and how site owners can adapt to rank higher in Google Search.
The Evolution of Technical SEO: Site Speed and User Experience (UX)
Google’s update, Core Web Vitals, is an evolution of performance metrics. These metrics often highlight different aspects of website development that impact UX, or User Experience. While marketers, developers, and business owners want to enhance the user page experience for SEO, Core Web Vitals wants to boost overall user satisfaction by focusing on a page’s interactivity, loading speed, and visual stability.
Some of these features are updates that Google has implemented previously. For instance, Google’s Webmaster Central Blog notes that the Google Search rankings in recent years have added more criteria from users about their experience, specifically, how quickly pages load and whether pages are mobile-friendly.
In the simplest terms, Google wants sites that users love the most to rank at the top of search results.
With Core Web Vitals, a user-friendly site will rank higher than one that isn’t—without taking into account the other SEO factors (eg. backlinks). Google wants to optimize a user’s experience to be more engaged with the sites they like. It’s a shift in SEO that takes some preparation. Fortunately, SEO Core Web Vitals won’t roll out until 2021 allowing us some time to prepare.
What Are the Core Web Vitals and What Is Their Importance in Google’s New Update?
Google’s Core Web Vitals are all about fixing poor user experiences on your site. People want to find specific information or products on the web, but users become frustrated when interruptions or obstacles appear. Google designed Core Web Vitals to provide field data—or real-world usage data—about how your site’s pages perform so that your users and customers are satisfied.
Usability can be tough to measure. For example, Patel gave an instance where heatmaps on his site showed that visitors were clicking on images they expected to take subsequent pages. Enough people expected these images to be clickable that Patel wondered if he should tweak his page design.
With Core Web Vitals, Google will create a holistic picture of your site’s loading speed, interactivity, and visual stability, ranking how responsive your site is for users before they click elsewhere.
Loading time is the most common interruption for a user’s page experience. Google notes that for developers, a page load is “a discrete event” that “might feel inevitable.” But even though users expect pages to take time to load, they become irritated when these delays occur in the middle of their web journey. If they’re searching for something to purchase or researching an item in the news, they want the list of results—and the pages they load from the search—to appear quickly.
Once users achieve their goal of clicking on the page where they want to read, browse, or shop, they’re more tolerant of delays, Google says. Pages need to load fast so that what Google calls “the user’s journey” can continue smoothly. Sites should load for both desktop and mobile use within three seconds. Any longer, and users may look for a competitor.
Delays decrease satisfaction and also reduce a user’s likeliness to return to your website, Google notes. The company’s developers cited one study that said when users were unfamiliar with a site’s content, a two-second delay was enough to cause people to drop away.
Other signs of poor website health? Broken pages, 404 internal links, and how the page’s content shifts in response to a user’s interactions.
If if you’re curious how your current SEO strategy is working, let Inbound Hunters conduct a comprehensive SEO audit of your site that can uncover any weaknesses or hidden errors in your approach. We’ll also suggest how you can optimize your content and your user page experience for SEO. Call us today at 210-623-0713 or click on the “Request Audit” button to speak with one of our knowledgeable SEO experts.
What Should I Check?
Google says it wants to make Core Web Vitals easy for all site owners and developers to access and measure. Several browsers, including Google Chrome, already support some specifications for Google’s Core Web Vitals:
Largest Contentful Paint – This metric measures when the largest image or text block of a webpage is visible to a user. A fast LCP assures users that a page is useful, Google says, noting that sites with a good user experience strive to have the LCP occur within the first 2.5 seconds that the page loads. An LCP of 2.5 to 4 seconds merits a Google grade of “needs improvement,” while beyond 4 seconds ranks as “poor.”
Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS) – This metric identifies any time that a website element visible on the screen changes its starting position. As Google says, a layout shift is bad only if the user doesn’t expect it. If a user triggers an action that takes a moment to complete (typing in a search box, pressing a button, clicking a link), a user may anticipate such a shift.
First Input Delay (FID) – This metric measures the time when a user first interacts with your site to the time when the browser is actually able to respond to that interaction. Consider this a balance that gives users enough time to react but not grow impatient.
A research study from the Nielsen Norman Group shows that 1.0 second is “about the limit for the user’s flow of thought to stay uninterrupted.” But when a computer moves too fast for a user’s feedback, such as being unable to stop scrolling along a list to select an option, a user won’t know what to expect. Google says that a system’s response speed should be comparable to the delays humans experience in typical interactions or roughly 1 to 4 seconds.
Even if you’ve already noticed these metrics in your Google Search Console, there are additional ways to check your site’s health and assess a user’s experience. Core Web Vitals also involve mobile-friendliness, safe browsing, user experience elements, and no intrusive interstitials. Let’s look at each.
Ownership of smartphones is becoming so common that a business truly misses out on a valuable portion of the market by not having a mobile-friendly site. As Google notes, in some countries, smartphones outnumber personal computers.
Google statistics show that 94% of people in the United States search for local information on their phones; what’s more, 77% of those searches occur at work or at home, places where people could look on a desktop or laptop but happen to use their smartphone instead.
A mobile-friendly site doesn’t require users to pinch or zoom to read or click on content. Even the mobile-friendly layout has a more straightforward design. While some users might be tolerant of pinching or zooming, Google says others find this frustrating and are more likely to abandon the site for another one that’s immediately usable and readable.
Remember those statistics earlier about how fast a page should load? Google found additional research that mobile users don’t keep their attention on their screens for as long as desktop or laptop users do, magnifying any perceived delay in finding what they want. Mobile web users tend to look at their screens for about 4 to 8 seconds at a time, this study said, so if they look away before your page loads, it adds to the time when they’ll finally see your website.
HTTPS (Safe Browsing)
HTTPS stands for Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure. Users often encounter these structures in their web browser when exchanging information, such as credit card numbers. However, Google Chrome has incorporated a warning form that displays when visitors want to proceed to some HTTP sites, even if the user may not be sharing secure information.
HTTP, or Hypertext Transfer Protocol, is the most frequent structure on the web for receiving HTML pages—and the basis of many blogs, news sites, and other websites. If you’re a business or site that involves secure transactions or authorizations, Google says that HTTPS assures users that your site is safe for browsing. Otherwise, users may hesitate before clicking through to your “unsafe” site and instead search elsewhere.
User Experience Elements
According to usability.gov, a federal resource for user experience guidelines and best practices, the basis of providing a good user experience is that users find value in what you provide. In other words, your product and services are useful, desirable, accessible, valuable, and credible.
Your product and services should fulfill a need, and your site should be easy to use. Your brand, image, and other design elements should evoke emotion and appreciation, these experts say. Users should be able to trust what you tell them, and people with disabilities should be able to access your content.
Traditional SEO looks at keywords to help drive traffic. But adding user experience elements to the mix shows that users weigh more in their web searches than only which sites contain the most popular keywords in a particular niche. A brand’s credibility and recognition also play a role in how valuable and useful people find that site’s products or services.
Website Page Without Intrusive Interstitials
Intrusive interstitials are irrelevant content. According to Search Engine Journal, many of them are pop-up ads, but they could be any content that blocks all or most of a page, resulting in a poor user experience, regardless of if someone is on a smartphone or a desktop. They tend to be more annoying for mobile users, appearing seemingly without prompting and then being difficult to close.
Marketing experts find that pop-ups work. One 2019 study published at Sumo looked at about 1.7 billion pop-ups and discovered that the average conversion rate was 3.09%, with 10% of pop-ups studied averaging a conversion rate at about 9.28%. But if your site’s pop-ups don’t have such high click-through or conversion rates, especially on smartphones, it may be worth reviewing how much benefit your users are gleaning from these ads. Do they provide value, or are they an annoyance that could tempt users to close that browser window?
Other sites have intrusive interstitials that can interfere with a user’s online experience by shifting the page elements. One example was on a site where a user had selected 14 items from a merchant, then wanted to click a button that read, “No, go back.” An install bar popped up across the top of the screen, which changed the buttons’ position on the page so that the user accidentally clicked on the button reading, “Yes, place my order” instead.
Such hiccups keep a website from providing an intuitive, frictionless experience. Google’s new algorithm update wants to compile all this information so that sites with experiences that users dislike don’t benefit from more traffic since it only creates more frustrated users. It also leads to a challenge for businesses, developers, designers, and others who have grown accustomed to navigating the current SEO landscape.
Optimize Your Site for Google’s New Update
Although we’ve tried to be as thorough as possible in this overview of the SEO Core Web Vitals changes, we won’t fully understand how Google’s algorithm update will affect Google Search results and web traffic until 2021. But no designer, developer, or professional who studies user page experience for SEO wants to wait until then before being proactive.
If you’re confused or concerned about Google’s Core Web Vitals, there are ways to prepare your site now so that this updated algorithm likely won’t impact your traffic quite as much. At Inbound Hunters, we perform a comprehensive SEO audit of your website. We look at every detail of your site to analyze how well your data performs, plus we comb through your menus, buttons, content, and images for any issues with user experience and SEO. We also scan for hidden errors that might hinder your website’s performance and SEO rankings, as well as opportunities for successful marketing and client acquisition.
An SEO audit also uncovers any low-quality links, broken internal links, keywords that aren’t working to your advantage, and other technical obstacles that seem minor but add up to affect user experience and your site’s SEO rankings. With Google’s Core Web Vitals honing in on more of these technical SEO aspects, it’s vital to ensure that Google can read your site map correctly and that you reduce or eliminate any speed issues, missing pages, or frustrations with mobile compatibility.
When you work with Inbound Hunters on an SEO audit, our specialists will also analyze your direct competition and find what works for them to apply it to your business. Also, we provide expert insights into longtail keywords that aren’t as highly competitive but can boost your traffic significantly.
Don’t wait until Google’s new algorithm rolls out next year before you see how you measure up against your competition or in Google Search rankings. Contact Inbound Hunters today at 210-623-0713 or send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org to learn how we can help your site rank high in search results and user satisfaction.