Beginning next month, Google’s Search Engine algorithm will be undergoing a major update that will prioritize website speed even more then they do now – and it is already a fairly significant ranking factor.
While it’s nothing to freak out about (we’ve actually known about this for nearly a year) – it is still something that could heavily affect your website’s rankings beginning next month. Especially if you are in a competitive online niche and rely heavily on organic traffic.
However, if you are in an online niche with not a lot of SEO competition, this may actually be a big opportunity for you.
Either way, it’s essential to know what this update will mean for your website and what steps you can start to take now to ensure you’re prepared. That’s what this podcast episode will help you achieve. And for the next episode, we’ll be diving into all the technical improvements you can do to your website to get it in shape for this update.
What Are Google’s Core Web Vitals?
Starting in May 2021, Google will begin using 3 new factors to determine how fast your website is and what type of experience it offers to visitors.
Truth be told these metrics are already commonly used to evaluate your website inside of Google’s marketing tools.
But up until now they have been merely suggestions for how to improve the technical performance of your website. So while it wasn’t great if your website wasn’t performing well in these areas, you could still get away with it.
Now, how your website performs on these metrics will have a direct impact on your SEO rankings going forward.
Those three factors are:
- Largest Contentful Paint (LCP): This measures how long it takes for the main content of a webpage to load (For example, the background image of a hero section at the top of a page). To get a good score here, you will want to aim for an LCP under 2.5.
- First Input Delay (FID): This measures how long it takes for a visitor to be able to interact with your website (scroll down, click a button, etc.) once the page begins loading. To meet Google’s benchmarks, shoot for a FID of under 100 milliseconds.
- Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS): This measures if elements on a webpage bounce or move unexpectedly after initially loading. You’ve likely encountered this yourself (especially on mobile) and can lead to a visitor making accidental clicks, which is terrible for user experience. Aim for a CLS under 0.1.
Why Does Google’s Core Web Vitals Matter?
Alright, so now you understand what Google’s Core Web Vitals are and how Google will be measuring your website’s speed going forward.
But in non-technical terms, what exactly does this mean for your website? And why exactly is it so important?
Let’s break it down in plain english. Basically from my view, there are 2 main areas why this is important. Going forward, how your website performs on Google’s Core Web Vitals metrics is going to have a big effect on the user experience your website provides and on your SEO rankings.
Site speed is very important for keeping visitors on your website so they can engage with your brand and content. You work so hard to develop clever marketing strategies and optimize your site for SEO, that it would be a real shame if all that work is negated by a poorly loading website. But if your site’s speed isn’t properly optimized, that’s exactly what will happen.
How important is website speed for user experience? There are many studies that show the longer a website takes to load, the higher percentage of people will exit your website. From there, they will likely go back Google and continue their search – only this time on competitor websites. That means lost business for you.
For example, a website that takes 5 seconds to load see’s nearly 40% of it’s traffic leave the website. That’s over a 1/3rd of your traffic gone right off the bat if your website isn’t performing well from a speed perspective.
Now, Google’s own studies show that for web pages that meet the new standards laid out by Core Web Vitals, visitors are 24% less likely to abandon the site.
So by taking the time to ensure your website is firing on all cylinders from a speed perspective, you are going to see a lot more engagement and meaningful traffic to your website. And if you know your numbers, that more traffic will likely mean a set amount of more subscribers, leads, and new business opportunities for your company.
The next big area where we will see this Google algorithm update have a major effect is in – you guessed it – your website’s SEO rankings.
If you’re in a highly competitive online niche and rely heavily on organic traffic from Google, you need to have this buttoned up or your rankings are likely to take a hit. Alternatively, if you are in a non-competitive niche online for SEO, then this is a big opportunity for you that you will want to take advantage of.
Before this update, online marketers and SEO professionals were able to look at these metrics and take them seriously, but not necessarily be forced to act on them right away – since they had no effects on ranking.
So, many companies did not prioritize making these site speed fixes. But now that they are here to become a ranking factor, there can be no more waiting.
And it is important to note that this is likely just the first of many Google algorithm updates that will be focused on site speed. Over time, I would expect to see additional metrics introduced that further increase the importance of your website’s loading time.
Practical Steps You Can Take To Prepare for the Core Web Vitals Algorithm Update
So now that you understand Google’s new Core Web Vitals metrics and how they will directly impact your business, what exactly can you do to prepare?
Fortunately, Google is very transparent here. The search engine giant provides you with a lot of resources that will not only clearly tell you how your website is currently performing, but also give you actionable insights that will clearly inform you on what needs to be fixed to improve your scores.
Google PageSpeed Insights Test
Fortunately, Google actually has a tool that grade’s your website’s speed performance and will show you both what it does well and where your site needs improvement. It also scores both the mobile and desktop versions of your website, allowing you to see how it performs in both areas.
This would be the first thing we would do to start to get an overview of your website’s speeds. Note that it measures just the webpage of the URL you enter – not your whole site. So by entering in your homepage URL, that is not the score for your whole site but just the homepage.
Start by entering in a few of your main, most visiting pages to get a good view of where your site currently stands speed-wise.
Google Search Console Web Vitals Report
If you want to see how your entire website is performing, there is now a new report in Google Search Console called “Core Web Vitals”. Once you login to Search Console, you will find it on the left-hand sidebar towards the bottom under “Enhancements”.
This report crawls every page on your site that Google can see and will give each a score of either “Poor”, “Needs Improvement”, or “Good”. It also will give you separate scores for each page based on mobile and desktop, which is helpful.
Use this report to get a quick, high-level overview of your website’s speed and to see how prepared you are for this upcoming algorithm update.
Review Your Website’s Hosting Setup
For next week’s episode, I’ll be discussing all the technical improvements you can make to your website to get it fully optimized for this algorithm update.
But for now, one thing you can do now before making a bunch of optimizations to your website is to review what hosting provider and plan your website is on. While there is a lot we can do to optimize a site for performance, one of the main things that determine how fast your site is your website’s host.
If you’re website is currently on a budget host like GoDaddy or Bluehost, then it’s worth considering upgrading to a better plan there or migrating to a new host altogether that provides better performance (many will do this for you free of charge when you first sign up).
If you’re in the market for a new host, I would highly recommend taking a look at Cloudways – It does require some basic technical skills to set up, but it provides the best value for the money of any hosting provider I’ve come across.
The Big Takeaway from Google’s Core Web Vitals Update
Google’s Core Web Vitals certainly represent a shift in SEO as site speed is quickly becoming one of the most important factors for being able to get your site on that illustrious first page of Google. It’s more clear than ever now that all things being equal when comparing two websites, the one that is faster is always going to come out on top.
That means your website’s speed can no longer be ignored. And that the speed of your website is going to have a direct impact on the marketing performance of your website and the subsequent business results it will be able to generate.
If your website’s PageSpeed scores are bad and you were already considering redesigning your website, this should be the catalyst for you beginning to take that project more seriously.
I have seen from my own web development experience that many websites that are older than 3-5 years were built on bloated, unoptimized frameworks (especially on WordPress). During this time, many of these website speed factors were of little concern.
In fact, up until a few short years ago, Google didn’t even have site speed as a known ranking factor. So, it can be forgiven that many theme/plugin developers and companies did not take the performance of their tools seriously.
But that is no longer the case, obviously. And while there are tons of optimizations you can make to your website to make it faster (check out our next episode for a laundry list of those) if you’re site is on a bad theme or web framework, no optimizations you make are going to be super helpful in the long run.
Think of the theme/framework (along with the hosting) of the website as the foundation of a home. If there is a faulty foundation with major problems – would you try remodeling your home or knocking it down, just to build a new house on top of that same faulty foundation? I know little to nothing about construction but I am going to say probably not.
So if that’s the case and you were already considering a website redesign, it makes more sense, in the long run, to rip the bandaid off right away and rebuild it the right way from the ground up. While it will take longer initially to get your website in a good place, in the long run it will be worth it and actually save you time and money.
If you have any interest in seeing what it would take to redesign your current website, click the banner below to book a consultation with us. We also have a website speed optimization package that will take care of all the optimizations Google’s PageSpeed Insights tool will flag which we can also help you out with, should you not want to do a full redesign. Either way, we’ll give you our honest professional opinion and recommend the best path forward to you.