Google Will Update their Algorithm to Include Actual Page Experience
Today, Google controls more than 90% of the world’s search engine market share, processing about 3.5 billion searches in just one day. It’s no wonder why Google keeps its algorithms so tightly held — and why it’s so valuable for businesses to stay up-to-date on the latest SEO practices. One small tweak in the algorithm could be the difference between making one sale and making 100 sales.
Therefore, anytime Google announces changes to its algorithms, the team starts to buzz. And in May 2021, Google will now be including Core Web Vitals into its search rankings. This means that how a user feels and experiences your website (also called real user metrics) will determine to a certain extent how worthy your website is to searchers. And while no one except Google knows exactly what will happen in May, there are steps you can take now to prepare your website for the update and to come out on top.
In this post, I will cover:
- What the ranking signals mean
- Tools you can use to diagnose issues
- What to do about those issues
But before we dig into specifics, let’s revisit some search engine history to understand how we got here and why now.
How SEO, Search Engines and Algorithms Have Evolved Over Time
In the grand scheme of things, search engines and the internet are insanely new technologies. And the more we’ve used them, the more we’ve learned how to better them over time.
In the beginning, SEO specialists learned to prioritize certain keywords over others. As more people caught on to the basic rules of the algorithm, they began to learn how to use it to their advantage and in extreme cases began “stuffing” their pages with keywords.
However, Google is no fool. Over the years, Google and other search engines like it have fine-tuned their algorithm to catch and even punish keyword stuffers. At the beginning of search, bots (or as we call them crawlers) only recognized keywords, but as they’ve evolved, they have learned to focus on the meaning of words and phrases. And today, there is no doubt Google employs artificial intelligence to understand content and the intent behind searches, or queries.
Of course, I’m oversimplifying almost 25 years of web and search engine evolution — it may be a drop in the bucket when it comes to human evolution, but we are talking about two-thirds of the worldwide web’s existence.
Now, we are at a new stage. The focus is shifting to a more cohesive and comprehensive way of looking at web pages and websites. Something that started with “Mobilegeddon” in 2015 moved to Mobile Speed Update in 2018 now has taken us to this moment in 2021— the Page Experience update.
Let’s Dig into the Page Experience Algorithm Update
At this point, we are ready to get our hands dirty. The page experience algorithm update focuses on a set of quality signals called Core Web Vitals along with older, more well-known search signals. Specifically, these are the signals that you need to be on the lookout for:
- Largest Contentful Paint (LCP): How fast your page loads
- First Input Delay (FID): How fast you can interact with the page
- Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS): The stability of that page or whether the layout and/or content shifts suddenly
- Site security
- Intrusive Interstitials
The first three bullets make up the Core Web Vitals, and the last four are part of the existing search signals.
Which Tools Can You Use to Prepare for the Page Experience Update?
In order to prepare for this algorithm update, you need the right tools to diagnose and “treat” issues. Below we’ve compiled all you need to start digging into your website’s health:
- Lighthouse: An open-source tool that can be easily run in Chrome DevTools. Lighthouse will provide you with a detailed report of all the issues it finds on a given page
- Page Speed Insights: This tool created by Google provides you with detailed suggestions to improve the speed of a particular page
- Mobile-friendly Test: This Google tool tests the mobile-friendliness of a page and gives you a list of any mobile usability issues it finds.
- Search Console: Last but definitely not least, you can use the Web Core Vitals report located in Search Console to quickly access real user measurement data.
Using any of these tools will give you at least a partial look at the potential issues you need to solve. After identifying the issues you will need to prioritize them so you can start climbing to a better site performance.
The Final Stretch: Making Your Website Better
The issues you find can be vast and may range from design and U/X to server response time and render-blocking resources. But now that you have identified your website’s foes, prioritizing which ones to tackle first will be your next challenge.
You can focus on low-hanging fruit and complete those first, or you can tackle the big issues that affect your site drastically. At the end of the day, there is no wrong answer if the goal is making your site better.
Why This All Matters
Over and over again, Google tends to push us towards what they think is the correct direction. Most of the time they are correct, but sometimes they are entirely wrong. With this update, we believe they are pointing us to the “light.”
By making your website better, you will not only be in Google’s good graces, but you will also be doing yourself a favor. You will be providing a better experience to your site visitors, who in turn will be more likely to become your customers.
Of course, this can be challenging for any company, and that’s why we are here. Reach out to us if you’re having issues, and we’d be glad to help you out.