Read Time: 5 Minutes 30 Seconds
By Matilda Moir
November started with somewhat of an SEO shakeup, as Google announced that, as of May 2021, Page Experience Signals would be included within the Search ranking process. If a site performs poorly or doesn’t comply with the new algorithm, then you can almost certainly expect to see some sort of downturn in Organic Google performance. The question that needs asking is, what does that mean for your Google Ranking and SEO strategy?
We asked just that to Incubeta’s UK Director of Search Experience, Joe Comotto, & ZA SEO Analyst, Bridget Hoepner, who were joined by Binary Bear’s Founder & CEO Joe Doveton to discuss all things search.
As explored within our piece last month (Google’s New Search Criteria), Google’s new algorithm update will focus specifically on the amalgamation of numerous metrics and pre-existing search signals – such as mobile-friendliness, safe-browsing, HTTPS-security & page load speed – with Google Core Web Vitals. This amalgamation will be rolled out in May 2021, under the title of Page Experience signals and will measure how a user will perceive the experience of a specific web page. Have a read of the full blog here.
During their discussion Joe, Bridget and Joe focused on six key topics: SEO & UX, Core Web Vitals, Building and Adapting Sites, Third Party Platforms & Affiliates, Cross Sector Impact and Further Google Updates.
SEO and UX
As Joe Doveton highlights – historically speaking, SEO and UX often operate in silos – with both seen as separate disciplines in their own right. Whilst many digital marketers might not implement cross team collaborations across both channels at this time, Google’s new update will undoubtedly encourage advertisers to change this somewhat dated approach – breaking down barriers to combine SEO and UX in a harmonious manner within their marketing strategy.
Google’s algorithm update adds weight to the age-old argument of customer centricity, and will encourage advertisers to put users at the centre of their strategy. Advertisers will likely push organic optimisation as high priority through the holistic implementation of SEO and UX in a seamless approach.
Core Web Vitals
Despite Core Web Vitals sounding fairly complicated, it ultimately means the metrics by which businesses can measure the quality of their site’s user experience using three specific core vitals; load time, interactivity and visual stability.
Joe Comotto went on to detail these specific core vitals. Load time, or Largest Contentful Paint is the measurement of perceived load speed – marking the specific point in the page load timeline when the main content of the page has downloaded and is ready to interact with. Interactivity, or First Input Delay is the measurement of responsiveness or interactivity of the user. This measurement is only triggered by clicks or taps – not scrolls or zooms. Visual Stability, or Cumulative Layout Shift measures stability, quantifying the amount of unexpected layout shifts in page content visible to the user.
Bridget furthered the discussion, highlighting how advertisers can use a number of different tools to help measure their performance within these metrics. Such as; Lighthouse, Page Speed Insights, Core Vital Report within Google Search Console and Google Analytics.
Building & Adapting
Whilst certain previous Google algorithm updates have targeted certain sectors of search, the page experience update isn’t focusing on a specific sector per say – it’s targeting all websites with a definitive focus on usability. Bridget expanded on this topic, discussing how there are certain types of websites that will have to pay close attention to the new update; such as publishers who rely on top news stories as a primary drive of traffic.
For existing brands, it’s important to remember that, whilst metrics are helpful in the management and monitoring of performance, they need to be considering users at the heart of their strategy – what exactly are they trying to achieve on your website, and how can you streamline that experience? For new brands, we could potentially say they have the upper hand when it comes to this specific ranking signal – fixing what already exists is often more challenging than starting afresh.
Whether old or new, brands who are using seamless platforms should be inquiring about upcoming releases and improvements, specifically identifying if they are focusing on Core Web Vitals. And , if so, how are the platforms you’re using actually responding to these metrics and page experience signals.
Third Party Platforms
As Joe Doveton mentioned, the most important thing to consider, whether building or adapting your website, is that the developer brought in to assist is both up to date and aware of these upcoming algorithm updates. You should be asking questions such as; who’s doing the hosting, what CDN is being implemented and how can my site be optimised to respond to Core Web Vitals.
Bridget expanded on this, discussing how, in the run up to May, brands should be identifying what their main core objectives are for their users – translating this to their third party platforms (be it plugins or widgets) to optimise the functionality and interactivity of their site.
Cross Sector Impact
It is highly likely that we’ll see varying degrees of impact across the industry, with certain sectors reacting more to the algorithm update than others. This variation will be heavily influenced by the competitive set in which brands sit. Joe Comotto elaborated on this, explaining that – if your sector has invested heavily in site performance and UX, then you’ll see less impact of the update, compared to sectors that haven’t invested in page and site experience. It will also be dependent on one’s competitors and how one’s peer set is performing in that space. If your direct competitors haven’t invested in site performance and page experience then there’s a real opportunity to succeed.
Over the next six months, benchmarking against competitors will be a huge asset to brands, helping to contextualise their situation and optimise their SEO and UX strategy.
Further Google Updates
The question that many are asking is whether Google’s Page Experience updates will have an impact on further updates launched by the search engine – such as the recent core algorithm update Google announced last week. Primarily speaking, we’re unlikely to see a change in ‘impact’ for these further Google updates. Aside from Google’s Page Experience update, the majority of new/further core algorithm updates aren’t major updates – more an optimisation or ‘cleaning’ of the existing algorithm.
Unanimously so, Joe, Bridget and Joe all emphasised that Google’s Page Experience update and Core Algorithm update are two separate ‘sides of the coin’ so to speak. Each valid in their own right – neither necessarily impacting the other.
Analysing your site user experience is more important now than ever before, and for the remainder of the holiday season we are offering a free personalised Core Web Vitals Dashboard to our readers. Get in touch with Sophie Dixon today to claim your free audit (firstname.lastname@example.org).