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With the announcement that Google will begin including the “Core Web Vitals”  (CWV) metrics in its search engine algorithm starting next year, many are scrambling to make sense of what exactly these metrics measure and how they work.

Unlike metrics such as “loading speed” or “dwell time” which are direct and simple to understand, Core Web Vitals combine a number of factors which can get very technical.

To help you prepare for the introduction of Core Web Vitals as a ranking signal next year, Google is sharing a comprehensive guide to what CWV measures, and how they can affect your website. 

What Are Core Web Vitals

The first thing to understand is what exactly Core Web Vitals are. Simply put, CWV are a combination of three specific metrics assessing your page’s loading speed, usability, and stability. These three metrics appear very technical at first, but the gist is that your site needs to load quickly and provide a secure and easy to use experience. As for the specifics, Core Web Vitals include:

  • Largest Contentful Paint (LCP): Measures loading performance. To provide a good user experience, sites should strive to have LCP occur within the first 2.5 seconds of the page starting to load.
  • First Input Delay (FID): Measures interactivity. To provide a good user experience, sites should strive to have an FID of less than 100 milliseconds.
  • Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS): Measures visual stability. To provide a good user experience, sites should strive to have a CLS score of less than 0.1.

Importantly, in the new guide, Google reaffirmed its intention to start using Core Web Vitals as a ranking signal in 2021. 

“Starting May 2021, Core Web vitals will be included in page experience signals together with existing search signals including mobile-friendliness, safe-browsing, HTTPS-security, and intrusive interstitial guidelines.”

Does Every Page Need To Meet CWV Standards?

In the help document, Google explains that the Core Web Vitals standards it set out should be seen as a mark to aim for, but not necessarily a requirement for good ranking. 

Q: Is Google recommending that all my pages hit these thresholds? What’s the benefit?

A: We recommend that websites use these three thresholds as a guidepost for optimal user experience across all pages. Core Web Vitals thresholds are assessed at the per-page level, and you might find that some pages are above and others below these thresholds. The immediate benefit will be a better experience for users that visit your site, but in the long-term we believe that working towards a shared set of user experience metrics and thresholds across all websites, will be critical in order to sustain a healthy web ecosystem.

Will Core Web Vitals Make or Break Your Site?

It is unclear exactly how strongly Core Web Vitals metrics will be able to affect your site when they are implemented, but Google’s current stance suggests they will be a significant part of your ranking.

Q: How does Google determine which pages are affected by the assessment of Page Experience and usage as a ranking signal?

A: Page experience is just one of many signals that are used to rank pages. Keep in mind that intent of the search query is still a very strong signal, so a page with a subpar page experience may still rank highly if it has great, relevant content.

Other Details

Among the Q&A, Google also gives a few important details on the scope and impact of Core Web Vitals.

Q: Is there a difference between desktop and mobile ranking? 

A: At this time, using page experience as a signal for ranking will apply only to mobile Search.

Q: What can site owners expect to happen to their traffic if they don’t hit Core Web Vitals performance metrics?

A: It’s difficult to make any kind of general prediction. We may have more to share in the future when we formally announce the changes are coming into effect. Keep in mind that the content itself and its match to the kind of information a user is seeking remains a very strong signal as well.

The full document covers a wide range of technical issues which will be relevant for any web designer or site manager, but the big picture remains the same. Google has been prioritizing sites with the best user experience for years, and the introduction of Core Web Vitals only advances that effort. 

Find out more about Core Web Vitals here.

Google is adding a new set of ranking signals to its search engine algorithm in the coming year, according to an announcement this week. 

The search engine says it will begin factoring “Core Web Vitals” as a ranking signal starting in May 2021, combining with already existing user experience-related ranking signals. 

Google has been measuring Core Web Vitals since earlier this year, assessing the speed, responsiveness, and stability of web pages. 

These factors are what Google calls the Core Web Vitals:

  • Largest Contentful Paint (LCP): Measures loading performance. To provide a good user experience, sites should strive to have LCP occur within the first 2.5 seconds of the page starting to load.
  • First Input Delay (FID): Measures interactivity. To provide a good user experience, sites should strive to have an FID of less than 100 milliseconds.
  • Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS): Measures visual stability. To provide a good user experience, sites should strive to have a CLS score of less than 0.1.

These signals will be joining the already announced page experience signals:

  • Mobile-friendliness
  • Safe-browsing
  • HTTPS-security
  • Intrusive interstitial guidelines

“These signals measure how users perceive the experience of interacting with a web page and contribute to our ongoing work to ensure people get the most helpful and enjoyable experiences from the web.”

Based on recent data assessments, this should concern the majority of websites out there. A study published in August suggests less than 15% of all websites would pass a Core Web Vitals assessment if the signals were implemented today. 

The search engine has also hinted at the potential to introduce new labels in search results, highlighting pages with the best user experience. Though nothing is set in stone, this would provide even more motivation for pages trying to maintain the best place in search results. 

For more information about updating your site for Core Web Vitals, you can explore Google’s resources and tools here

Google will soon be updating their search ranking algorithm with a new ranking signal. This new signal will combine a number of existing signals with a recently introduced metric known as Core Web Vitals. 

The search engine says the goal of the new update is to better rank pages based on the quality of users’ experiences with the site. 

In addition to the new ranking signal, the company announced a few other changes it will be making to its systems in the coming future:

  • Incorporating page experience metrics into rankings for Top Stories in Search on mobile
  • Removing the AMP requirement for content to be shown in Top Stories

The “New” Ranking Signal

While the new signal is being called the Page Experience Signal, it actually combines a few existing search ranking signals with the recently introduced Core Web Vitals details. The metrics being brought under the umbrella of Core Web Vitals include:

  • Mobile-friendliness
  • Safe-browsing
  • HTTPS-security certification
  • Following intrusive interstitial guidelines

As the company said in its announcement

“The page experience signal measures aspects of how users perceive the experience of interacting with a web page. Optimizing for these factors makes the web more delightful for users across all web browsers and surfaces, and helps sites evolve towards user expectations on mobile.”

How To Monitor Your Core Web Vitals

To help prepare webmasters for the coming update, Google has also created a new report section within Search Console. The goal is for the new report to replace the need for a suite of tools aimed at specific issues such as page speed and mobile-friendliness.

The tool can also filter data based on those which are “Poor,” “Needs Improvement,” or “Good.”

When Will The Update Happen

While the update doesn’t really change all that much regarding how webmasters and SEO specialists should approach managing sites, the company sees it as important enough to give a significant notice ahead of the release. 

In fact, Google says these changes to the algorithm will not be happening before 2021. Additionally, the search engine will provide another notice 6 months before it is rolled out.

HTTPS

It has now been two years since Google announced it would be making HTTPS a minor ranking signal, and a recent study from Moz shows just how many sites have made the switch since then.

After Google’s announcement, there was an initial surge in sites changing from HTTP to HTTPS, but many held back to assess just how important the security protocol was to the search engine and ultimately decided it wasn’t worth the risk. Google only considers HTTPS a minor factor in their ranking algorithm and there has been concern about potential risks when making the switch.

To check up how far along the transition is, Dr. Pete Meyer from Moz compiled data to see just how close is Google is to changing the web over to HTTPS.

Before Google started including HTTPS in its algorithm, Meyer says only around 7% of all pages featured on the first page of Google search results used the more secure protocol. A week after the switch that number had climbed to 8%. Since then, the number has steadily been rising, reaching over 30% this year.

Moz reports that “as of late June, our tracking data shows that 32.5% (almost one-third of page-1 Google results now use the “https:” protocol.”

However, Meyer says he is not convinced everyone that has made the switch was motivated by algorithms and ranking signals. Instead, he believes it is a sign that Google’s PR campaign to make HTTPS more attractive and desirable for sites is working.

Meyer also says that in another 1 to 1.5 years we are likely to see 50% of the sites shown on the first page of search results to use HTTPS, which he predicts will lead Google to strengthen the ranking signal.

Ultimately, many are still hesitant about changing their entire site’s HTML structure to HTTPS and the risks that come along with site-wide changes like this. However, Dr. Meyers says it is wise to keep an eye on how many sites in your industry are using the protocol and to be watchful for any upcoming algorithm updates that may make HTTPS even more prominent in search results.

Gary Illyes at SMX West Photo Credit: Steve Boymel

Gary Illyes at SMX West
Photo Credit: Steve Boymel

After months of hints, Google officially announced they would be including mobile-friendliness as a ranking factor in their search engine results last week. Now we are getting more information about how the mobile-friendliness signal will be implemented when it goes into effect next month.

Google’s Gary Illyes answered several questions about the new ranking signal at SMX West, where he explained the ranking factor would operate in real time and works on a page-by-page basis.

The conversation started when Gary was asked if there was a deadline for when webmasters need to have their sites updates to avoid being negatively affected by the launch of the signal. According to his response, the algorithm will operate in real time, so you could theoretically update any time you want and expect to start benefiting from the signal immediately.

Most likely, the signal won’t actually operate in real time for webmasters, but will reflect the version indexed by Google. That means sites that don’t get indexed very often may want to ensure their sites are updated soon, while sites that are crawled and indexed daily can address the issue when they see fit.

Google has not clarified, but all sites will still get the most benefit from having their webpages ready before the April 21st launch.

Gary also stated the algorithm will operate on a page-by-page basis, so you will need to ensure every important individual page is updated.

This is important for many webmasters who have sub-sections or unique areas of their page that would be difficult to make mobile-friendly. If you have pages that aren’t intended for mobile users, you don’t have to worry about them impacting your other pages.

If you have many pages that aren’t easily usable for mobile visitors, you might want to reconsider your strategy overall as more traffic is coming from smartphones and tablets every day. The new ranking algorithm is a big statement from Google about the importance of mobile in the current state of the internet, and you can expect to continue to struggle if you resist the changing tides.