Google takes user-friendliness to the next level
Google’s first big update for the year is about to roll out, and with it come a few (quite significant) changes to the algorithm. From a website owner’s perspective, the most crucial change is that the page experience ranking signals will be applied globally on all browsers on mobile devices.
If this sounds like a mishmash of SEO jargon, don’t worry because we’ll explain everything. And, it’s actually really easy to understand. You just have to look at things from Google’s perspective. They’ve always been all about ease of use and accessibility (as noted in their mission statement), and almost all algorithm changes aim to make the web more user-friendly.
Of course, in a perfect world, “search engine optimisation” wouldn’t need to exist. People would just create their content and websites in line with the standard from the get-go because they want to provide users with the best possible experience. However, web development trends aren’t there just yet. And, besides, making something functional is much simpler (and cheaper) than making something functional and user-friendly. That’s where SEO comes in.
What are these “Core Web Vitals” and why should you care about them?
Well, probably, because Google has been going on and on about the “major change that’s on the horizon” for the better part of a year? Besides, website owners who allow themselves to get blindsided by this update are very likely to lose many positions.
Here’s a quick summary:
Google wants to point users to safe, secure, mobile-friendly and user-friendly websites. The update places a big emphasis on usability. Websites that are easier to browse will have an easier time ranking higher. Good user experience has always been a significant factor, but now, they’re taking it to the next level.
And don’t worry, because, in their own words,
“Good page experience doesn’t override having great, relevant content.”
So, if two websites have the same score, the one with the better content will still have the upper hand. All inline with Google’s original goal. They want to help users find the most relevant, easily accessible and interesting content that’s available out there. Annoying delays, slow loading speeds, insecure websites, repetitive content, and everything of the sort should be a thing of the past.
Core Web Vitals – The Three Metrics
- LCP – Largest Contentful Paint (yes, that’s a word!)
- FID – First Input Delay
- CLS – Cumulative Layout Shift
The first metric – LCP – is all about response time. And it’s pretty self-explanatory: you want your pages to load as fast as possible. This includes everything from server response time and scripts to specific resources like images and video files. The longer the users have to wait for your page to load, the higher chance they’ll get bored and go to your competitor. Google wants the LCP to take less than 2.5 seconds from the moment it starts loading.
The second metric – FID – is focused on input delay. Or, you can view it as “yet another” speed metric. Basically, you want the website to respond to the user’s taps or clicks as quickly as possible. The big delays usually come from big scripts or other elements loading in the background, which prevents the browser from responding in a timely manner (and usually creates frustration in the user). Google is looking for a delay of 100ms or less.
The final metric – CLS – has to do with layout shifts, ads, dynamic content, and weird fonts. You know how, sometimes, the website’s layout shifts or changes a couple times after the page is done loading? This is one of the major sources of frustrations for mobile users because you’re always forced to wait a couple of seconds before interacting with your screen unless you want to risk clicking on something that just seemingly appeared out of nowhere. And, what’s even worse is that the user has no choice in the matter – the issue is present regardless of your connection speed or device specs. Google understands the frustration and wants to limit (or, ideally – eliminate) the shifting layout practice.
How to prepare your website for the Core Web Vitals Google Update
Getting your website ready for the update is as “simple” as making sure you’re compliant with Google’s usability policies. This includes a combination of the following:
- Mobile Friendliness – Seeing how this update is focused on mobile usability, you will want your website to perform equally well across all devices. Or, in other words, you’re looking for a “good” mobile score with zero usability errors.
- Security – In order to get a “good” rating, you need to eliminate all possible security issues. Depending on the type of website you’re running, this can be achieved via plugins or back-end code implementations.
- SSL Certification (HTTPS) – HTTPS has long since been the norm, and this update will only reinforce the notion. SSL certificates are easy to obtain (and relatively simple to set up), protect your users’ data and allow them to know for sure that they’re in the right place. Besides, all popular browsers (e.g. Google, Firefox, Vivaldi, etc.) now come with a built-in feature that screams at users if your website lacks an SSL certificate. And we don’t need to tell you why this is bad for business.
- Ads (and lack thereof) – If at all possible, we’d advise you to go ad-free, especially for commercial websites. On top of being less annoying to visitors, this helps with appearing credible and building your brand. However, for some projects, this is simply not an option (see media websites, platforms, etc.). For websites that rely on ad revenue, earning a “good” page experience ranking can be a bit tricky (depending on your ad provider). You will want to avoid hosting any ads which could be considered obstructive, distracting, or otherwise interruptive. This is sort of silly, considering the leading advertisement notions in marketing, but, hey – Google wants a better user experience, which means less annoying ads!
As with most of their updates over the past couple of years, Google is not willing to leave website owners in the dark. Google’s report tool can help you see exactly what’s “wrong” with your website on an URL-by-URL (page by page) basis. You will want to take a good look at any URLs that return “poor” or “need improvement” results and address the issues as soon as possible to avoid losing positions.