Preparing for Google's Page Experience Update via the Core Web Vitals Report

Google algorithm updates are a well-known entity in the digital marketing world. While the average person might not be aware of the frequent changes and the specific ranking factors that help determine which sites get onto Page 1, SEO professionals are always looking for the next major update.

According to a 2019 report from Moz, Google makes thousands of minor tweaks or improvements to its search engine algorithm each year. However, while many of these updates are minor, there are major updates that Google does announce that can have a significant impact on website ranking.

The next major update from Google for May 2021 is known as Page Experience, and a key component of that update is Core Web Vitals. To learn more about Core Web Vitals and help you prepare for this update, we’ve spoken to marketing and SEO experts.

What Are Core Web Vitals?

Core Web Vitals are the key signals Google measures that impact the user experience on web and mobile devices. These core web vitals, such as page loading speed and ease of interaction, have previously existed in some capacity as ranking factors. Still, Google is now focusing on them extensively as part of this latest update.

“These vitals are there to determine how fast a page loads, how quickly a user can interact with the page, and their overall experience when visiting a page,” said Jake Peterson, SEO specialist at Nashville, TN.-based Atiba Software.

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What Are the Most Important Core Web Vitals?

Previous Google algorithm updates have come as a surprise and left SEO professionals scratching their heads when previously well-performing sites suddenly take a dip in rankings. However, this time, Google has provided plenty of time for web admins to prepare their websites by making the announcement a year in advance.

So what are the most important ranking factors?

According to Paul St. Amand, Director of Application Development at Manchester, NH.-based SilverTech, “there are three main factors, or page experience signals, that Google said will contribute to your search rank, Largest Contentful Paint (LCP), First Input Delay (FID), and Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS).”

So what do each of these terms mean?

  • LCP refers to how fast your page loads when users enter your site. More specifically, it measures how long the largest site element takes to load. So if you have a large image or video, the measurement will be determined based on that.
  • FID evaluates the speed of page interactions, measuring how long user requests take to load in a browser. For example, when a user clicks a link, how long does it take to process everything on the backend and load the page.
  • CLS monitors the stability of your website, such as how items shift while the page is loading.

Here are some of the tips our experts offered to get yourself ready for the Core Web Vitals update and what to do afterwards.

Test Your Pages With Google Lighthouse and Third Party Testing Tools

It takes contributions from both developers and web admins to get sites ready for the update. However, they can’t fix things if they don’t know their current standing. “To start, tests should be run through Google’s Lighthouse page and a separate testing tool like GTMetrix to identify what elements are slowing down the site and where,” said Peterson.

Largest Contentful Paint (LCP) Optimization

LCP relates to page loading speed, and some of the key contributing factors to that metric are page rendering, image optimization and delivery. According to Tony Mamedbekov, Principal Solutions Architect at San Francisco, CA.-based Uniform, modern tools such as Jamstack and a headless CMS can be critical elements in optimizing page loading speed.

“If you have your frontend decoupled from the backend by utilizing a headless CMS, you can use Jamstack to pre-render the page for speed and deploy it globally and serving from the CDN,” he said.

First Input Delay (FID) Optimization

“The ideal website processes the click rapidly, under 300ms (100ms is optimal),” says St. Amand. He also suggests that developers should minify JavaScript and CSS and prioritize JavaScript to improve browser response time.

Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS)

It’s critical that your website doesn’t shift when it loads or have any pages drop out of frame when applications are loading. St. Amand recommends including width and height attributes on your images, reserving ad space and preloading fonts.

With the upcoming Core Web Vitals update, websites can be negatively impacted by slow server response times and slow loading resources, cookie banners or notices and other factors that impair the user experience. However, by following the tips outlined by our experts, businesses can get their sites in order and continue to climb the Google rankings.

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