Google has announced that in May 2021 mobile page speed will become a ranking factor. A study published in August of 2020 states that less than 15% of websites are optimized to pass the Core Web Vitals assessment. 

So you may be asking yourself, what is a Google Core Update? Google releases several Core algorithmic updates throughout the year, each of these releases focuses around different ranking and indexing factors. These adjustments and stand alone algorithms searccan revolve around Natural Language Processing (Bert) to filtering when businesses show up in local map searches (Possum). 

What we will cover in this article:

Page Experience Signals

Core Web Vitals

Other Factors

How to Plan

What are Page Experience Signals?

Straight from the horse’s mouth, this is what Google has to say about them::

“Page experience is a set of signals that measure how users perceive the experience of interacting with a web page beyond it’s pure information value.”

What this means is that how fast your site loads, how accessible it is, and how mobile friendly and functional it is will be more important than it has in the past with the coming Google update. So, let’s talk about what these signals  are, how they impact users, and some recommendations to work around them.

Core Web Vitals

  • Largest Contentful Paint (LCP)

    The time it takes for a page’s main content to load, or the content above the fold of the screen. An ideal LCP measurement is 2.5 seconds or faster.
  • First Input Delay (FID)

    The time it takes for a page to become interactive, or how long it takes for a web page to respond to a click while loading. An ideal measurement is less than 100 ms.
  • Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS)

    The amount of unexpected layout shift of visual page content, or how likely it is for a clickable object to shift while loading. An ideal measurement is less than 0.1.

Other web page factors that are included in the overall page experience bucket would be:

  1. In 2015, Google announced in the mobile friendliness guidelines which stated your site should handle redirects properly to ensure they push to the right mobile version of the page. It also focused around issues with Adobe Flash videos. With most responsive sites, the need for a specific mobile URL is not necessary and most sites use dedicated mobile friendly platforms like vimeo or youtube.com. Essentially, this means when launching a site, you want it tested on a variety of device configurations to ensure that it will provide a great user experience to the whole of your mobile traffic. You can test your site here.
  2. Safe Browsing should be managed by your SEO team through Google Search Console. This tool for webmasters allows them to access security issues which can detect issues like malware, deceptive pages, and harmful or uncommon downloads. It also provides recommendations on how to resolve these issues. Sadly, we  find most clients do not have this tool setup or even monitored. This is why we stress owning your data, and not just your data but your entire Google toolset.
  3. Serving your website from a secure server, essentially, ensuring that your HTTPS is the main version of the website and that all non secure pages point to secure pages. This should be a bygone issue for most web pages as it  was announced back in 2016, but we still see this issue from time to time so it is important to note this.
  4. Intrusive Interstitials are a tricky subject for many clients, everyone loves having a plugin that handles chat, pop-ups to promote specials, or in rare cases ads. These types of features provide an “intrusive” experience and as such, we recommend using them as sparingly as possible. Instead of having a pop up, have a creative team develop a rotational slider or update the Hero image or text placed there monthly with this language. These guidelines were announced in 2017, meaning without content that is easy to access the site will not rank as high as it could. 

There is also chatter around Google pushing a label that showcases if a website meets the sufficient criteria listed here in their SERPs(Search Engine Results Page). They have done this in the past with the mobile friendly update so we believe that these labels are currently being tested in a limited capacity and will likely roll out with the update in May.

How to Plan

Now is the time to evaluate your website and determine if losing rankings and potential leads is worth the investment into your platform. We want to emphasize that nothing can replace well optimized quality content, but as additional  factors start to become more important, you should start a cost/benefit analysis. If your page speed ranks better than many of your competitors it may not be as essential right now, but in highly competitive markets we expect this to become extremely important in May 2021 and worth a hard look.