Are You Ready for the Core Google Algorithm Change, Core Web Vitals, Coming in May 2021?

by Ciaran Oliver Reflect Digital

They did this with Panda and Penguin updates when they wanted us to clean up the entire web… and as SEOs we did just that. Across the industry people meticulously went through and removed all the thin content, marked all the spammy links, and told Google which links were the worst via the disavow process. It was this tedious but necessary hard work that led the Google search engines to have good, human-verified data to base their algorithmic changes on.

The search community also did a massive amount of work back in 2015 with the “Mobile Friendly” update. Companies and agencies alike spent hundreds of hours and thousands of pounds on updating websites to be reactive and mobile-friendly. Mobilegeddon was the press’ way of explaining what would happen if it didn’t happen – websites would lose rankings.

So here we are in 2021 and Google wants us to make more improvements for the user, and if we don’t comply our SEO will be penalised. Their main demands are that we make our websites faster and offer less shifting around on loading. We get it. It is annoying when sites take an age to load and when they finally do load, all of the blocks are shifting around on the screen so you click on something you didn’t mean to click on.

With our focus on human behaviour, we welcome this update with open arms and are really glad Google has given fore-warning, as many of the previous big algorithm changes have dropped without notice. This update further cements our view that to be really successful at SEO we need to be chasing the user, as this is what Google’s doing.

It’s undeniable that this is going to take work. For in-house marketing teams and agencies it’s essential we get this right to retain existing rankings and ensure future success.

Let’s dive in and see what you can do to prepare for this latest evolution in the search algorithm.

What is Web Core Vitals?

Google believes that every web owner should be able to understand and measure the quality of the experience users are receiving on the site. This is why they have simplified the process by creating Web Core Vitals.

Web Core Vitals are different factors and metrics that Google considers important to a site’s user experience. Each Core Web Vital will be constantly evolving, but for 2021 it will focus on loading, interactivity, and visual stability, although we should not forget that there are still other vital signs we need to take care of (as shown in the picture below):

When is the Core Web Vitals update happening?

Google will make Core Web Vitals be part of the Search Algorithm starting in May 2021, along with the above-mentioned signals, making them a Google ranking factor. What this is demonstrating to us is the ongoing and increased focus from Google on having a user-centred website, where everything we do and update is for our visitors.

Why is it important to prepare?

By doing SEO, we are not only looking into staying ahead of the competition, diminishing the negative effects of Google updates, and increasing organic visibility, but we are also focusing on user experience. By optimizing in advance of the algorithm roll-out, we ensure the long term plan is not being affected by losing rankings or having major setbacks.

What is the first step?

An audit of your site using the different tools should be performed. For this audit to be as accurate as possible a mix of the following tools needs to be used:

  • PageSpeed insights.
  • Lighthouse.
  • Google Search Console and/or Chrome User Experience Reports.

What will the Core Web Vitals update be measuring?

  1. Largest Contentful Paint (LCP): this is how long it takes for a page to load so the user can see the majority of the content on a screen.
  2. First Input Delay (FID): measures the time it takes for a user to be able to interact with the site/page.
  3. Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS): measures how many elements move around the page when it’s loading.

If you are concerned about how your site will be affected by this update get in touch with Reflect. They can conduct a Core Web Vitals audit – this is a relatively easy and fast process.  From this point, they can discuss what the best solutions are for your particular case.