As we are just over a month from June, one topic is now at the top of every SEO expert’s mind: Google 2021 core web vitals update. This was initially planned to roll out in May, but has recentelly been moved to mid June.

It was almost a year ago that Google announced that it’s upcoming core update that would shift the way that this search engine measures websites in terms of user experience, and how it will directly impact rankings in the search results page.

Given the very large one year notice, it is fair to expect that Google wanted to prepare website owners for what is coming, meaning that something very significant would roll out.

Now that we are moments away from this highly expected event, it’s relevant to have a run through at what are the implications of this core update, and what to expect from it in terms of site performance and search appearance.

What is a core update

Google updates are released to improve algorithms and make them more accurate when matching search queries with results, with the ultimate goal of providing the best user experience possible.

Whilst smaller updates are usually implemented quite regularly (sometimes more than once a day), Core Algorithm Update are far more dramatic, and often released a few times each year. This also means that the Google core algorithm updates have a greater impact on rankings across a large number of websites.

What is going to change with Google 2021 core update

Although it is still soon to fully comprehend the effects on websites rankings, Google has already offered some insights on what is to be expected from this update. The most crucial feature noted, is the page experience signal which will measure the experience of users when interacting with a webpage. This insight will be provided by combining the Core Web Vitals with existing search signals. Existing search signals include mobile-friendliness, safe-browsing, HTTPS security and intrusive interstitials.

This kind of insight pulls together to produce a clear picture of how page experience is perceived holistically and will effectively interfere with the search ranking position.

Understanding the core web vitals

The core web vitals is a set of metrics that Google has developed to measure website’s load speed and responsiveness to user interactions. These are considered to be vital to user browsing experience an will soon be part of Google’s official ranking factors.

Large Contentfull Paint (LCP): The loading speed metric measures the amount of time that takes for the largest visible content element to render and appear on the screen. This is usually an image, video or even a large piece of HTML text. This is probably the most relevant element of the three as it determines when users have the most significative visual indication that the page is rendering.

First Input Delay (FID): The interactivity metric measures the amount of time that takes for a user to be allowed to interact with the loading page. This could be a click on a link, tapping on a button, or any other action that will require some level of interactivity between the user and the page. This metric is usually more relevant for pages where users are requested to do something.

Cumulative Shift Layout (CLS): The visual stability metric measures the total of all individuals layout shifts that occur during the entire period when the page is rendered. Zero shifts is the highest possible performance outcome, meaning that the layout is visually stable and is not interfering with user experience.

Google core web vitals

How to measure the core web vitals

Google offers a comprehensive list of free tools that can be used to measure the core web vitals on any individual page of a website.

The page speed insights report is still the most reliable tool to measure page speed performance. The report provides an overall performance score for when a page is loaded on mobile or desktop separately. The overall score is measured by the sum of individual performance metrics, including the three core web vitals. It also provides a list of the most relevant areas of improvement, which could relate to coding optimisations, server settings or image formatting.

The Google search console is also a powerful tool as it includes a specific report for the core web vitals. The report outlines the overall performance and issues encountered on individual pages of the site. This is useful to understand what pages or elements of the site are more critical to work on.

What to expect from this update

It is undeniable that this update will eventually represent a significant shift in the way Google measures and positions pages in the search results.

However, team of SEO experts are not expecting a dramatic change to happen immediately after Google May 2021 Core update has rolled out. Actually, one of the most influential Google’s advocate John Muller has stated many times that sites won’t be significantly penalised by this update, at least not for the time being.

Although this could be true for now, it is expected that user experience will eventually be a core part of Google ranking factors, and will definitely be detrimental to shape up the search results page.

Working with a B2B SEO Agency ahead of the update can bring forth a mount of benefits, considering the technicalities and impact of the May 2021 update.

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