With Google’s massive page experience update and its Core Web Vitals on the horizon, it seems that webmasters and marketers are doing their homework at the last minute, as usual.
Google first announced this update in May of 2020, with plans to roll it out one year later in May 2021. By November, they announced a median 70% increase in the number of users engaging with Lighthouse and PageSpeed Insights.
This indicates that people are starting to actively prepare for the update as the deadline approaches. Clearly, a lot of websites need a lot of work. As of August 2020, only about 13% of tested URLs would have passed the Core Web Vitals Test.
Lighting the Way
Lighthouse and PageSpeed Insights are proving to be the go-to tools for increasing any given site’s speeds, while also helping webmasters remove any user experience barriers that can cost them SEO clout or organic traffic.
With the update poised to make speed more important than ever, every SEO consultant and site owner is currently obsessed with 3 key speed metrics.
- Largest Contentful Paint: Measures the amount of time it takes the page’s largest element (often an auto-play video) to fully render.
- First Input Delay: Measures how long it takes the page to respond after a user action (i.e. clicking a button or link) is taken.
- Cumulative Layout Shift: Measures when the page’s elements stop moving around during the loading process.
Page speed has been a key ranking signal for years. However, the Core Web Vitals are now making speed a top priority for SEO, while giving marketers and webmasters more granular metrics that explore site speed in relation to the user experience.
Page Experience Barriers
Google’s page experience update will combine the Core Web Vitals’ speed metrics with 4 other key ranking signals:
- Mobile-friendliness: How mobile-friendly is the site? This is more important than ever with Google confirming that mobile-first indexing is now the norm.
- Safe-browsing: How safe/secure is the site for the user?
- HTTPS-security: Google Chrome has been flagging non-HTTPS sites for the user since 2018, yet a shocking number of these sites still exist.
- Intrusive interstitials: Does the site have cumbersome full-screen interstitial ads that ruin the experience?
Mobile-first indexing is already the norm for all websites, and desktop content will not be indexed if it doesn’t appear on a mobile site. This means that marketers and site owners can no longer get away with content-lean mobile sites with very little written copy. If the content isn’t on the mobile site, it simply won’t be indexed and the site’s rankings will suffer greatly.
This means that mobile-first planning now needs to be a priority when building a site from the ground up.
If a website was already experiencing these issues prior to the Page Experience update, they were most likely already struggling with underwhelming SEO rankings, traffic, and conversions. In fact, Chromium estimated that sites that meet the thresholds for the new metrics are 24% less likely to see users abandon page loads.