Coming in mid-June 2021 to a Search Engine Results Page (SERP) near you, Google will include new page experience signals in its search ranking algorithm. I’ve had a few clients reach out to me asking what this means and how it will affect their website’s rank on Google. So let’s dive into this new page experience signal, how it’s calculated, and its impact on your website’s ranking.
The page experience signal combines existing signals such as mobile-friendliness, safe-browsing, HTTPS-security, and intrusive interstitial guidelines, with their most recent metric, Core Web Vitals. Core Web Vitals (CWV) is a relatively new set of metrics developed by Google to help website publishers improve page performance for the benefit of their visitors. Website performance is not only important to website publishers because faster pages can generate more leads and/or sales, but it’s also important to site visitors because it can reduce the time it takes for them to find what they and reach their desired end goal more quickly. These new metrics also help inform Google how a user will experience your website once they click on your listing from the search engine results page.
When Google crawls your website, it will look at three main metrics: Loading, Interactivity, and Visual Stability.
- The Loading metric, or Largest Contentful Paint (LCP), is essentially how long it takes a page to load from the point of view of an actual user. It’s different from other speed test metrics because it focuses on what really matters to the user – being able to see and interact with your website.
- The Interactivity metric, or First Input Delay (FID), measures the time it takes for a user to actually interact with your page. This could include being able to use the navigation or typing into a text field. Google considers FID important because it takes into account how real-life users interact with websites.
- The Visual Stability metric, or Cumulative Shift Layout (CSL), measures how stable a page is as it loads. Think about times you’ve loaded a website and just as you were about to click on something, suddenly the layout shifted and you accidentally clicked something else. That would result in a poor CSL score.
There are multiple ways to test your website and get an idea of how it stacks up in these areas. If you’re looking for an instant, on-demand test, you can access Google’s Lighthouse testing tool at web.dev . This will audit a specific URL and provide suggestions on how it can be improved. If your site meets a certain traffic minimum, you’ll be able to see real user CWV data in your Google Search Console dashboard, which is collected/updated roughly every 28 days.
So now that we know what CWV is and how we can measure it, just how much of an impact will it have on search rankings? When it comes to Google’s search algorithm, they don’t give out specifics on how the “special sauce” is made. However, the general consensus is these scores will result in fairly minor changes to where your site ranks on the SERP. According to Google’s John Mueller, “It is something that users notice. It is something that we will start using for ranking. But it’s not going to change everything completely. So it’s not going to destroy your site and remove it from the index if you have it wrong. It’s not going to catapult you from page ten to number one position if you get it right.” It’s still exceedingly more important to have relevant content in relation to the search query than to have a great CWV score.
Now you’re probably wondering, “Okay, since this doesn’t seem like it will have a major impact on my site’s ranking, should I invest the time in optimizing these scores?” Well, it certainly can’t hurt. Having a well optimized site that is easy-to-use is always what’s best for the user, and what’s best for the user is always what’s best for you as a site publisher. Ignoring potential site issues may not tank your rankings, but it may be a sign that your users aren’t getting a great experience on your website.
So my advice about this upcoming change is to certainly keep an eye on the new changes and optimize what you can, but don’t obsess over the scores, and above all, make sure your site’s content is relevant, actionable, and trustworthy to your desired audience.
Originally published by the Rochester Business Journal