Last summer, we previewed a Google update that was set for 2021, and — while a little delayed — it’s finally (almost) here. “Core web vitals” are three metrics included in an announcement about an algorithm update for “Page Experience” that will account for “perceived page load time” in the weighted formula for website rankings. This goes past the traditional “have your site load in 3 seconds” rule and has become more nuanced to focus on the user experience of a page load.

When Will This Update Happen?
Google has announced that the Page Experience update — originally planned for May 2021 — will likely be rolling out this month and fully in effect in August 2021.

Why Is Google Rolling Out This Update?
Google cares about a user’s experience with websites. When a webpage shifts after loading or takes forever to interact with, this is frustrating to users. Because Google’s competitive advantage is central to the quality of search result pages, it is only natural that they put a heightened focus on overall page experience as it relates to users.

Illustration of Google core web vitals functionality

How Is Intouch Preparing for the Page Experience Update?
Intouch has developed a proprietary audit to deep-dive into these specific metrics and identify the assets, scripts, or code causing any issues and from there, uncover potential solutions. The output of this audit is a developer-friendly guide to increase a site’s core web vitals and load time. After which, the SEO team and developers, whether at Intouch, a partner agency, or in-house, meet to determine which of the solutions’ juice is worth the squeeze. Some fixes may be easy, with a low level of effort, while others may require fundamental shifts to website templates or many hours to shave off milliseconds of time. Finally, a plan to implement the determined changes is agreed upon by all parties — client, Intouch and partner agencies, if applicable.

Why Should You Care About Your Website’s Core Web Vitals?

  1. Page load time is important! Page load time has been an organic ranking factor for many years. These additional metrics show Google is doubling down on their User Experience metrics – rewarding sites that users find appealing and easy to use over sites that are frustrating. Because of this, user experience has become increasingly important for organic performance over the years.
  2. UX impacts all channels! UX is important because it impacts all channels, not just organic search. If your site is slow to load, paid users are going to experience that. If your site has a banner pop-up that shifts the content down, the user experience for email traffic is going to be negatively impacted.
  3. The rising tide lifts all ships! Improvements to site speed and page experience are going to be felt across all channels, so the investment is definitely worth it.

Be Aware, But Don’t Panic
Core web vitals account for three ranking signals out of hundreds that Google considers. This means that if all else were equal between two sites, but one site had poorer core web vital scores or a slower page-load time, then that site would hypothetically rank below the site with better metrics. However, it does behoove website owners to address and be as optimized as they can be, because these metrics are tangible and measurable, compared to many other ranking signals that are more abstract.

Be prepared and stay up to speed with your website’s user and page experience as Google begins to roll out this update. Reach out to your account team representative or the SEO team to learn more about Intouch’s Core Web Vitals audit.

To learn more about core web vitals, check out our post from last summer.

About the author: Josie Black is an associate director of SEO for Intouch Group.