Throughout the year, Google makes dozens of algorithm changes to weed out poor search results and provide searchers with only the most useful, relevant content. Last fall, the search engine behemoth announced some significant changes that could impact your website’s ranking i.e., Google Core Web Vitals.
The good news is that if you’ve already prioritised website optimization and user experience (UX), you won’t have to worry about rushing to make changes to your site. However, that doesn’t mean you should ignore the Google Core Web Vitals without taking a moment to understand what they are and how they will affect search engine results once they go live at the end of May 2021.
What are Google Core Web Vitals?
For those paying attention to website performance and how it affects the overall consumer experience, Google Core Web Vitals aren’t exactly a new concept. According to studies, page speed directly impacts user experience, and Google has been using it as a ranking factor since 2010.
Google Core Web Vitals essentials that most web admins paid close attention to include:
- Web speed
- Site security
- Robots.txt and sitemaps
Google has been paying close attention to these factors for many years, but they are now more critical than ever. What has changed?
Google Core Web Vitals are more complex web vitals that will be included in Google’s core algorithm. That means that if your website does not meet the standards established by these new Google Core Web Vitals, it may suffer due to the changes.
Page/site loading, interactivity, and visual stability will be prioritised as part of Google’s latest update and will be represented as:
- Largest Contentful Paint (LCP): focuses on page load time and is represented by the amount of time it takes a single page to load from the user’s point of view.
- First Input Delay (FID): focuses on interactivity and the ability of the user to interact with your page
- Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS): focuses on visual stability and represents the stability of a page as it loads.
Are Google Core Web Vitals a Ranking Factor for Your Website?
Google Core Web Vitals have always had a minor impact on website ranking. However, Google is now prioritising them as more users demand that websites work for them rather than the other way around. Consumers will not hesitate to switch from one website to another if the page is difficult to navigate or takes too long to load.
Longer page load times, according to Google, have a “significant effect on bounce rates.”
- The bounce rate increases by 32% as the page load time increases from 1 second to 3 seconds.
- The bounce rate increases by 106 per cent when the load time of a single page increases from 1 second to 6 seconds.
These Google Core Web Vitals will be added to existing Search Signals for page experience, which currently includes:
- Mobile-Friendliness: With the mobile share of organic search engine visits in the United States reaching 59 per cent in the first quarter of 2021 and reaching an all-time high (64 per cent) in the second and third quarters of 2020, it makes sense that Google would include mobile-friendliness as a ranking factor for websites. This means that your website not only opens on a mobile device but also renders in a way that is simple to navigate and use for those using smartphones, tablets, and other mobile devices.
- Safe-Browsing: Your page does not contain any malicious or deceptive content, such as malware or social engineering, which attempts to trick visitors into disclosing confidential information or downloading software.
- HTTPS: Your website is secure and includes an SSL certificate, ensuring that sensitive data such as banking information and login credentials can be transmitted securely over the internet using encryption, authentication, and integrity protocols.
- No Intrusive Interstitials: Intrusive interstitials are interactive elements that appear and take over the page a visitor is currently viewing. Most of the time, these are pop-up ads and overlays. While some interstitials are required (for example, legal interstitials), Google will penalise a site that includes intrusive interstitials that are not necessary.
Each of these website vitals and the updated Google Core Web Vitals will now be used by Google’s algorithm to make ranking decisions. If you’ve been paying close attention to these Google Core Web Vitals, you’ve got nothing to worry about! However, suppose you haven’t been paying close attention to page speed, site security, and the other outlined UX essentials. In that case, you’ll want to start making some significant changes to your site sooner rather than later or keep in mind when designing your website with Google Core Web Vitals.
How to Improve Your Website’s Core Web Vitals?
There are several ways to improve your Google Core Web Vitals, whether you’re looking to make minor changes to an already optimised website or you’re planning a complete overhaul. The following are the top five Google Core Web Vitals.
1. Optimize Your Website Images
Unfortunately, when adding images and videos to a website, most designers simply embed the elements with little thought to optimise them to improve UX. Because images and videos consume approximately 63 per cent of the bandwidth on a modern website, you must optimise them for website performance using Google Core Web Vitals. Consider the following three factors when approaching image/video optimization:
- File Size: When adding images and videos to a website, file size is first considered. If you’re embedding an image or a video into your site, make sure the file isn’t too large. The larger the file size, the longer it will take to load the image.
- File Type: The file type is the second factor to consider. While most modern browsers will use whatever file type is required, it is best to use the correct file type for the image or video.
- Image Format: The image format is the third factor to consider. While most browsers will accept PNG and GIF files (and the occasional BMP), you’ll want to make sure the image is formatted correctly. PNG files are much more efficient than GIFs and are the file format of choice for most designers.
- Limit the Number of CSS Files: The greater the number of CSS files you have, the longer it will take for your site to load. You want to make sure your CSS files aren’t too large and that you’re only using the necessary number of files.
- Limit the Number of External Scripts: The more external scripts you have, the longer it will take to load your site.
3. Make Sure Your Website is Secure
Google has stated unequivocally that its ranking algorithm will consider security. That means you’ll need to purchase an SSL certificate (also known as an SSL/TLS certificate or simply TLS). An SSL certificate will help secure your website, protecting your visitors’ data and ensuring that any information they enter on your site is encrypted and secure. Fortunately, most well-managed WordPress hosting companies now support free Let’s Encrypt SSL, so you don’t have to spend a fortune to secure your site.
4. Ensure That Your Website is Mobile-Friendly
Because mobile search is becoming more popular, your website must be mobile-friendly. That is, your website will load and render correctly on mobile devices. You want to make sure that your website is responsive and easy to use for your visitors.
The vast majority of popular WordPress themes are responsive by default. However, if you’re using an old or customised theme, this may not be the case. Are you unsure how to make your website mobile-friendly? Here are a few things to think about:
- Load Time/Speed: Check that your site loads and renders appropriately. You want to ensure that your website does not take too long to load on mobile devices and does not lag/freeze.
- Responsiveness: Make sure your website is mobile-friendly. You must ensure that your website is responsive across all browsers and devices.
- Navigation: Make sure your website is simple to use. You want to make sure that your menus are simple to use and that there are no bottlenecks that make navigating difficult for your visitors.
5. Optimize Your Servers
Finally, you should ensure that your hosting servers are capable of handling the load of your website. If your servers are unable to take it, you may experience various issues, including slow load times and downtime. It is best to ensure that your servers are optimised for performance, and one way to do so is to use the correct server. Here are a few alternatives to consider:
- VPS Server: A VPS server is an excellent choice for a small website. VPS servers are inexpensive and adaptable, making them ideal for most small businesses.
- Dedicated Server: If you have a large website, a dedicated server may be the best option for you. If you have a large number of visitors and a large number of pages on your website, a dedicated server is an excellent solution.
- Cloud Server: If your website is small and you don’t get a lot of visitors, a cloud server might be the best option for you. Cloud servers are inexpensive and scalable, making them an excellent choice for small businesses.
- Shared Hosting: If your website is extensive and receives a high volume of visitors, shared hosting may be the best option for you. Shared hosting is both affordable and scalable, making it an excellent choice for larger businesses.
Wrapping It Up
For most marketing professionals, Google’s Core Web Vitals update will not cause much of a stir because best practices for search engine optimization (SEO) already emphasise the importance of prioritising the user experience.
However, suppose you are just starting your website or have not previously prioritised user experience. In that case, you will want to take the necessary steps to ensure that your website does not suffer a ranking penalty. The five steps outlined above are an excellent place to begin. Just take it one step at a time, and your website will be up and running in no time!