The 2021 Google SEO Update

Core Web Vitals | SEO Update

Warning – this getting a bit nerdy, but it is important so bear with me and I’ve tried to make it as readable as possible!

In May 2020 Google for the first time gave clear advice around what their next organic search update would look like. And gave people over a year to prepare. That year us now up, with the new page experience update launching very soon.

The summary of this update is that every web page, both desktop and mobile will be assessed and ranked using Google’s new Web Vitals Ranking system. In Google speak this update means that, “Pages that receive a score of “good” on Core Web Vitals are achieving an aspirational level of user experience, and might get a boost in the page experience component of ranking, provided other components of the page experience signal (HTTPS, mobile-friendliness, etc) are deemed OK.” In English; if your site is doing well for all other SEO components you “may” do better if you’re web vital scores are good.

Still with me?

The first question therefore is what are Core Web Vitals? They are a set of the three individual metrics that are wrapped up in the overall page experience:

• Largest Contentful Paint (LCP) - measures the loading speeds and performance of a web page.

• Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS) - measures visual stability. Google states that objects and elements should not move around a page as it is rendering/loading for a user

• First Input Delay (FID) measures the amount of time it takes for a user’s first interaction with a web page element (Clicks a link, tap on an object, etc) to when that specific element begins processing in response to the user action.

So, like with many of Google’s updates the user is squarely front and centre of this update ensuring that mobile web pages load quickly, are easy to navigate, and interact with, and the page is not littered with banners, ads, pop-ups, massive images etc. So, in theory if you optimise your mobile site to make sure it is fast, easy to use, and visually stable your SEO rankings will rise.

Below is what this looks like in reality. I’ve audited a well known NZ retailer and what this shows us is that like many NZ businesses the desktop version does very well in the Core Web Vitals getting a good across the board, but mobile is another story, with slow load spend, poor responsiveness but good content stability. So the outcome of this will be a shift over time of rankings between mobile and desktop searches. But as now over 60% of searches come from mobile devices this will hurt rankings, which will reduce traffic and reduce sales. Not overnight, but slowly….

The moral of the story therefore is review your web vital scores and start now in optimising both your desktop and mobile sites for them.