Brace Yourselves. Google's Next Big Update Is Going To Change Everything...

By Tanya Dharmapala on Mar 31, 2021

Does Google love your site? 

Well, come May this year, the search engine King might not. All thanks to the Core Web Vitals update. 

Google has made good user experience a focus with all its recent updates. Or rather, what Google deems to be a good user experience. 

In the upcoming Core Web Vitals update, the all-powerful algorithm master will be looking at page experience as a critical ranking factor.

This has been a confusing one for many so we at Dilate just wanted to shed some light on:

  • What the Core Web Vitals are
  • How you can prepare
  • What else you need to worry about

Let's get started.

What are the Core Web Vitals?

Simply put, these are real-world page experience signals that tell Google about the page experience you're offering. That's right. These ranking signals apply on a landing-page level.

Google measures these Vitals and gives you one of three grades: good, needs improvement or poor.

This isn't about the usual SEO stuff like web page content, keywords, meta tags etc. We're talking pure user experience factors.

Putting people first. Creating a better user journey. At the end of the day, that's all it's about. In the constraints of what Google believes anyway.

There are three Core Web Vitals being graded:

  • Largest Contentful Paint (LCP)

largest Contentful paint

That's just a fancy way of saying what's the page speed?

How fast are the visual elements of your page loading from the moment of clicking? This is usually affected mostly by the time it takes for the largest image, video or text on the web page to render.

Google defines the ideal LCP measurement as 2.5 seconds or faster.

  • First Input Delay (FID)

First Input Delay

This one's about interactivity. When users interact, how long does it take for the web page to respond? Key actions like clicking, scrolling and keyboard input can become really frustrating when there are delays. From the moment a user engages, the browser must process that action and produce a result.

A good FID is less than 100ms.

  • Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS)

Cumulative Layout Shift

Finally, we're looking at visual stability. We've all struggled with this as users, especially on mobile. You go to click on something, it suddenly shifts and you click on the wrong thing. Ridiculously frustrating. CLS measures how quickly your page stabilises.

Sometimes undefined image sizes and unstable animations will lead to these unexpected layout shifts. An ideal CLS is less than 100ms.

Okay. What does this have to do with my site?

When the update hits, Google is going to take your passability on the Core Web Vitals into consideration on search results. Which makes sense. Why wouldn't you want to provide people with a good user experience?

Think about it. How frustrating is it when you click on a link and you stare at a blank screen, eating up your precious time. Or you try to click on something and it just doesn't work.

Don't think of this page experience update as a problem. It's an opportunity to improve. The Core Web Vitals are about cutting through to what matters most, simplifying how you optimise.

Give people a fast, interactive and functional site and you'll crawl higher on the search results.

This should be measured by all site owners, on desktop and mobile sites. Google's studies show that meeting the Core Web Vitals requirements means users are 24% less likely to abandon the site.

That's the key to long-term success on the web, no matter how the ranking signals evolve as technology grows.

Find out where you're at.

To start, let's look at some tools you can use to assess your passability.

Google's own Search Console tool has introduced a new Core Web Vitals report which is a great starting point.

This will show you the grade for all the URLs that are indexed currently, and additionally links through to the PageSpeed Insights tool. Go through the report in Google Search Console and identify any opportunities to improve.

For a little more technical detail, look to Lighthouse, a suite of performance metrics that power the Search Console report. The Lighthouse tool is one of our favourites at Dilate and has four main reports: performance, accessibility, best practices and SEO. The performance report is where you'll find info on your LCP, FID and CLS.

Lighthouse Site Performance report

Here's an example from one of our clients that's sitting in a really comfortable position ahead of the algorithm update. At an average, you want all your results to be hitting at least 75% on any of your measurement tools.

The other reports on Lighthouse are just as important to dive into because the Core Web Vitals aren't the only important user experience ranking signals. More on that later.

Get fixing. No bandaids here.

Once you know what's at risk, it's time to optimise.

The tools we mentioned above will offer some insight on specific issues and how you can address them. It's going to take some knowledge of technical SEO to really achieve results here.

Let's go over some of the key considerations for each signal.

LCP: Show your main content faster

There are four common ways to deal with a low Largest Contentful Paint score.

  • Removing excessive and/or unnecessary third-party scripts to reduce CSS and JavaScript blocking
  • Upgrading your web hosting to reduce issues with server response time
  • Setting up lazy loading to delay elements until they're actually needed
  • Taking out large page elements to reduce the strain on your loading time

FID: Meet user interaction needs quicker

This is all about JavaScript keeping the browser busy. Take a look at:

  • Breaking up longer tasks by cutting up long-running code into quicker actions
  • Taking an interaction-first approach to applying scripts
  • Using web workers to shift the priority of your JavaScript running
  • Reducing the amount of JavaScript being executed on your page at all

CLS: Stay on task with user interactions

Avoid distracting your users with crazy, random elements shifting by:

  • Using defined dimensions for all your media content
  • Making sure ads have a pre-determined and allotted space
  • Adding any new user interface elements below the immediate viewing space, known as the fold

These are only some of the fixes to address your page experience. Some of the issues flagged in reports will be a little more complex to manage. You may want to have a developer go through the list in more detail.

But wait. There's more...

The Core Web Vitals aren't the only user experience ranking signals at play. They're joining a suite of factors that were part of previous updates, including mobile friendliness, safe browsing, HTTPS level security and intrusive interstitial guidelines. So even without this update, you can see that page experience is still a hugely important factor for showing on search results.

Together with the Core Web Vitals, site owners can allow an optimal website experience for potential customers. Fail to meet the requirements and you'll be sending people to your competitors!

With the update coming out in May, some site owners will have a big job ahead getting their sites ready for the rollout.

Need a hand? We'll help you score.

With a market-shaking change like this, you need to make sure you execute right to stay ahead of the impact. An experienced specialist could make a crucial difference in whether you continue to rank in the search results. Working with a Google marketing agency will allow you to access developers, SEO experts and content strategists - all things you need to quickly and efficiently address your site's user experience quality.

Dilate are proud Google Premier Partners, with priority access to reps and updates on addressing these Core Web Vitals requirements. Working closely with our Google partners, we ensure that we continue to help our clients stay on top of the latest shifts in the industry.

If you'd like to find out how we can help you get ahead of the update, jump on a call with us today on 1300 345 283 or send through an enquiry.

Does Google love your site? 

Well, come May this year, the search engine King might not. All thanks to the Core Web Vitals update. 

Google has made good user experience a focus with all its recent updates. Or rather, what Google deems to be a good user experience. 

In the upcoming Core Web Vitals update, the all-powerful algorithm master will be looking at page experience as a critical ranking factor.

This has been a confusing one for many so we at Dilate just wanted to shed some light on:

  • What the Core Web Vitals are
  • How you can prepare
  • What else you need to worry about

Let's get started.

Tanya Dharmapala

Hey, I'm Tanya - lover of staying busy, challenging myself, digging deep into digital and working closely with clients! And food. Especially food. The thing I love the most about digital marketing is how it's always changing. There's always a new challenge to tear your hair out over. But when you figure it out? That's the sweetest feeling of them all.

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