When it comes to SEO, we spend a lot of time focusing on keyword optimization, mobile experience, and backlinks. However, Google pays a lot of attention to the on-page experience too. That’s why they’ve rolled out a new set of signals called Core Web Vitals. In May 2020, Google announced that user experience would become part of their ranking criteria. The new page experience update is rolling out to all users globally and will be completed by the end of August 2021.
These signals will take into account a website’s page loading speed, responsiveness, and visual stability.
The factors they’re looking at include:
- Mobile-friendly: Sites should be optimized for mobile browsing.
- Safe-browsing: Sites should not contain misleading content or malicious software.
- HTTPS: The page is served in HTTPS.
- No intrusives: No popups or other features that block the main content.
- Core Web Vitals: Fast load times with elements of interactivity and visual stability.
The goal, according to Google, is to deliver a better user experience, which is crucial to the long-term success of websites.
There’s a good chance you’re already doing most of these as best practices. Most websites built within the last two years are mobile-friendly. You are likely not publishing any misleading or malicious content or software. If you don’t have an SSL and your website is served up via HTTP versus HTTPS, you need to get this added ASAP. The instrusives and Core Web Vitals are newer to the criteria list, and we will be watching Google closely to see how these elements impact site rankings in search results.
As a best practice, you should be familiar with the Core Web Vitals report and how to evaluate your website. Core Web Vitals get a bit more complicated than just improving page speed. The report also measures things like the largest contentful paint (the time a website takes to show the largest content on the screen), the first input delay (loading responsiveness), and cumulative layout shift (visual stability).
Now let’s talk about where you can get this information.
Head to your Google Search Console, where you’ll see the speed test was replaced with “Core Web Vitals.”
Here you will find a Mobile and Desktop data report. If Google hasn’t collected enough data from your site yet, you may see a message that directs you to “Try Page Speed Insights.” This page speed test will give you both mobile and desktop scores. Most websites are going to see higher scores on desktop than mobile, which basically means getting a website to load fast and provide a better user experience is definitely more challenging on mobile.
At the moment, we are finding much more success running Page Speed Insights Tests than accessing data from the Google Search Console window. This is primarily due to the volume of traffic a website receives. It appears that Google has a threshold for levels before the data will be visible on the search console dashboard.
These reports can be helpful to pinpoint areas that need improvement. While we don’t suggest chasing perfect scores, it is vital to know how Google grades your website and to be sure you are scoring better than the competition. We have yet to see how these scores will affect search rankings, but they are a good starting point to evaluate areas of improvement for your website.