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What does Google’s algorithm update in May 2021 mean for your website

Google’s Algorithm update

What does Google’s Algorithm update, Page Experience update, mean for your website in Google’s first major update of 2021? The Page Experience algorithm includes three new Core Web Vitals. Google considers these ranking signals important for measuring a page’s overall user experience (UX). There will be several recommendations to site owners to speed up their websites and do their best to provide visitors with a smooth and pleasant experience.

They include the following three Core Web Vitals that will become official ranking signals and are likely to have a significant impact on how Google ranks your website.

What are Core Web Vitals?

Core Web Vitals are key Page Experience update signals that Google’s Algorithm update uses to measure different aspects of a user’s experience on a website. These signals refer to things like how fast a page loads, how stable its layout is as it loads, and how quickly users can interact with it.

Here are the three Core Web Vitals signals that will roll out this May, as part of the Page experience update:

  • First Input Delay (FID)
  • Largest Contentful Paint (LCP)
  • Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS)

Google will use these metrics to rank websites together with its existing search signals, which include:

  • HTTPS, the secure version of HTTP
  • Mobile friendliness
  • Lack of interstitial pop-ups that are considered intrusive
  • Safe browsing, meaning no presence of malware on your pages

Here’s how that looks:

If you’re using the Google Search Console to keep an eye on your site’s performance and health, you can already review your website’s Core Web Vitals. Log in to your Google Search Console account, and then go to Enhancements to see where you stand.

If you haven’t signed up for a Google Search Console account, now’s the perfect time to set it up. It’s free and a great tool to identify issues with your site (including if it’s been infected with malware) as well as opportunities to improve your site’s performance.

Next, let’s go through each of the Core Web Vitals signals to explain what they mean and what you can do to improve your scores.

1. Largest Contentful Paint (LCP)

LCP refers to how long it takes a page to load for someone who visits your site. In other words, it’s the time it takes a user to see your page’s main content on their screen after clicking your link in the search engine results.

Do you know how fast a visitor can see the text, images, and videos on your page? If you don’t, you can quickly check your LCP score using Google’s PageSpeed Insights tool. Go to PageSpeed Insights, and then enter your website address or the web address of a specific page on your site. Click Analyze and see what shows up.

Here’s an example of how a diagnosis looks:

On the top left, you can also select to view your scores and insights for both Mobile and Desktop.

The great thing about this tool is that it shows you how your site has performed in the real world, based on Chrome browser data. For example, for LCP, Google recommends sites to load within 2.5 seconds. That’s considered a good score.

2. First Input Delay (FID)

First Input Delay, also known as Interactivity, refers to how long it takes a user to be able to interact with a page on your site. Unlike the first signal, this second one is a more direct measure of user experience.

So, what does it mean to interact? It means to take any action on your page, such as:

  • Clicking or tapping on links and buttons
  • Filling out a form and submitting it
  • Tapping to open your site’s navigation on a mobile device
  • Playing a video

Note that Google doesn’t consider zooming in and out, dragging, or scrolling to be interactions.

With this signal, Google looks at whether or not your website is usable by how long it takes a user to do something on your page. Just like with the first signal, Google buckets FID scores into three ranges: good, needs improvements, and poor.

By Google standards, an FID score of below 100ms is ideal. This means that when a visitor lands on your site and clicks on a button, your site needs to acknowledge, respond to that click, and load the requested content within 1/10th of a second.

If you see that a page finished loading and you click on a button or submit a form but then nothing happens, that can be frustrating. So frustrating that some visitors might think your site is broken and decide to leave.

You need to make sure that your site works properly and that it responds quickly to any action that users take, whether it’s a click on a Buy Now button or a tap to play a video. Just as with LCP recommendations, consider removing any 3rd party plugins you don’t use or need so your pages can load faster.

3. Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS)

Cumulative Layout Shift refers to how stable a page is as it loads. For example, if you visit a page on a site and elements start to move around as the page loads, that’s not a good user experience. CLS looks at how long it takes for elements to stop moving around as the page loads.

By Google standards, a CLS score of below 100ms is ideal.

This signal is even more important for mobile users since elements like images tend to shift around on smaller devices. So when you look at your CLS scores, make sure you review them for both mobile and desktop as they might differ.

The way to improve your CLS score is to optimise the images, videos, infographics, and other media on your site. You want to ensure they display properly right away according to the device used, be it desktop, tablet, or mobile.

What can I do to be ready for Google’s Algorithm update?

Google’s Algorithm update to the Core Web Vitals signals is all about ensuring that users have a fast and pleasant experience on any website they visit. As a website owner, you can look at the following

  • Sign up for a search console account and make any changes it recommends.
  • Optimise all of your website’s images
  • Install website caching software to compress files and reduce the server load
  • Setup a CDN for your website, these are paid for services.
  • Remove unesscessary plugins
  • Keep your site up-to-date with updates
  • Have your website scanned for any SEO issues and make any changes
  • Perform regular Malware scans of your website
  • Ensure you have a valid HTTPS SSL certificate on your website

If you would like help with any of these or any web development needs, you can always contact us and we’d be happy to help you.

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