Google has rolled out and prioritized a new set of metrics for Search Console – but what are they and why the big change?
Google likes to roll out new features and updates to its algorithms and tools several times a year. These updates all further one goal: to continue indexing, ranking, and sharing the best the web has to offer, all to better serve their users. Everything they put out they do to update their algorithm. Updating the algorithm is to benefit their users, the searchers – but sometimes these can make websites and SEOs catch strays and struggle to figure it out. One of the more robust and recent changes is Google’s new prioritization of what it’s calling Core Web Vitals.
As we mentioned, all of these changes are meant to serve one goal: to improve the user experience. Here’s the hard truth: user expectations are getting higher and higher, the standards of what they find acceptable are rising and the unfortunate truth is most sites aren’t keeping up with them.
To address this, Google is trying to optimize their search engine with those expectations in mind, which in turn encourages SEOs to start prioritizing their site’s user experiences if they want to stay ranking and reach the relevant audience. This is all a part of the SEO game, and it only benefits sites to have a good user experience, bounce rates should plummet for instance.
Core Web Vitals are three specific metrics (or vitals) that Google has determined are the backbone, or the core, of a healthy, strong website. Specifically, they measure user experience. They are Largest Contentful Paint (LCP), First Input Delay (FID), and Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS).
Web vitals (and even the specific core web vitals) aren’t new necessarily. Google began rolling out their measurement and tracking in 2020, but it’s with this algorithm update of June 2021 that they became as important as they are.
LCP measures the time it takes for the largest image or text block on the page (largest contentful) to load in (or paint). This is a key indicator for the site’s overall speed and performance. As you might imagine, the slower the worse and the faster the better!
This measures the time from when a user first interacts with a website to when the browser responds. Click a button and the browser doesn’t start loading for seconds? That’s no good. The less delay or lag, the better!
The CLS measures how much images, text blocks, and other page elements shift while the site page is loading. The less shift, the better. If someone clicks a website, it opens and they start to read while images load but they can’t make it through the introduction without the text jumping back and forth, that makes for a headache and a terrible user experience.
These of course aren’t the only vitals that Google considers when it’s measuring user experience. These are just the core vitals. They also measure and track if a site is mobile friendly, has an HTTPS, safe browsing, and makes sure there are no intrusive interstitials, like pop ups.
At first, core web vitals won’t have a huge impact as the algorithm adjusts and starts to pick up. But over time, as more and more sites adopt these new Google Best Practices, you’ll see a huge shift in rankings based on user experience first and foremost. It’s not enough to have the right information, you need to have it ready to go fast. Depending on your particular vertical it might have an even heavier impact – for instance news sites use a ton of ad placements layered into their content which can cause more loading issues and stability troubles whereas simpler websites with less content won’t be hit as hard by those metrics.
Thankfully there are a ton of tools out there already that can help you get a handle on what’s coming!
Google Search Console
Google Search Console is a crucial tool in any SEOs belt. Use it to look at how every page ranks, and see the pages that require further optimization.
PageSpeed Insights does exactly what it says on the tin. It tells you all about the page speed for your website, both on desktop and mobile. Simply enter the URL and get your insights!
Chrome UX Report uses a number of different metrics (including PageSpeed Insights) to generate a custom report for your site’s performance. It’s a bit more involved to use, but it comes with excellent data.
A whole set of web dev tools that live right in Google Chrome. You can use these to see how your site is measuring up. Lighthouse is an open-source and automated tool that is used to improve the quality of web sites. It creates audits for accessibility, progressive web apps, SEO, performance and more.
Web Vitals Extensions
There are also Chrome extensions you can install and run to track the Core Web Vitals of a page in real time while browsing Chrome. This is the easiest way to see exactly how your website is performing for users.
What are your Core Web Vitals looking like? Need SEO help? Helix House is here! Give us a call and see what our crew of cutting-edge digital natives can do for your business!