Core Web Vitals – How You Can Prepare for Google’s New Ranking Factor

You need your website in front of the eyes of as many qualified leads as possible to find success in today’s supremely digital business landscape. To achieve that successfully, you need to rank high on the results page of the most-utilized search engine in the world. Because Google currently holds over 86% of the world’s search market share, you can effectively narrow much of your focus to the search engine giant.

Finding success on Google effectively translates to building a productive paid search and organic SEO strategy. For the latter, you’ll need to do what you can to optimize your site in a way that helps you move up the rankings on Google’s SERP—which means paying careful attention to Google’s ranking factors. To that end, Google’s most recent announcement of Core Web Vitals, a brand-new ranking factor, stands to impact how you approach SEO.

What Is Core Web Vitals?

Outside its major algorithm updates, Google makes hundreds of smaller algorithm and ranking factor changes per year. Most target page performance factors and boost page rankings for websites in compliance and diminish rankings for those that struggle. The overall goal is to encourage sites to provide improved user experience by incentivizing real-world experience metrics.

Core Web Vitals (CWV) is one of these ranking factors and will be joining a larger group of other ranking factors known as Page Experience signals sometime in 2021. Current Page Experience signals include mobile-friendliness, the frequency of interstitial pop-ups, and more. CWV involves three new signs that primarily focus on page load speeds, including:

Largest Contentful Paint (LCP)

While Google focuses on many factors that contribute to page load speed, the newest highlighted by CWV involves the render time of larger items—how long it takes the largest object in the user’s viewport to load.

Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS)

Another speed measurement element that affects the mobile experience is the cumulative layout shift—how long it takes for the page to become stable without shifting and forcing the user to select the wrong item accidentally.

First Input Delay (FID)

The final page load speed signal addressed is how fast the page becomes responsive to interaction—how quickly a user can interact with the page so that the browser begins processing a response.

What’s Going to Change?

When implemented, CWV will affect all pages appearing on its mobile and desktop SERPs. In addition, this ranking factor will become one of the criteria for your page to appear in Google’s Top Stories feature at the top of regular SERP results, replacing the AMP framework requirement. Optimizing CWV signals could help your page become more visible than ever.

If your page is currently average regarding these new ranking signals, it’s important to keep in mind that CWV is among just over 200 different ranking factors Google now considers. However, performing poorly could result in some significant rankings losses—particularly in a competitive environment. Also, Google pointed out that outside its ranking factors, pages that endeavor to perform well on CWV signals perform much better with live users. They are 24% less likely to abandon a page in compliance.

What You Can Do Now

While Google has promised a six-month warning before implementing CWV—and at the time of this publication has not yet announced an effective date—it’s best to begin addressing these signals well before early 2021. You’ll need to measure your current performance, a task achievable within Google’s Search Console. There, you’ll find a new Core Web Vitals report that will provide more insight into each of the three new CWV signals.

Your CWV report lists all your URLs currently present in Google’s index and identifies whether each URL is considered “Good,” “Needs Improvement,” or “Poor.” The report links to a corresponding report in Page Speed Insights, a tool to help you identify and correct any problems. Focus on “Opportunities” and “Diagnostics” suggestions to help move problematic URLs into “Good” territory before the Core Web Vitals ranking factor goes live.

Need Help Getting Started?

If you’re still unsure how (and why) improving your page load speeds can help your page ranking, Toledo SEO for Growth can help. Our page speed resource can provide more precise insight into what Google is looking for when it ranks your page according to user Page Experience. Meanwhile, our talented team can help you dive deeper into what’s holding you up before Core Web Vitals hits in 2021.

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