Editor-in-Chief, Speaker, Host of 'Content Lab' Podcast
April 21st, 2021
Editor's note: Google has since clarified that this update will be mobile-first, with desktop to be impacted at a later date. Here's the fully story.
Just when we thought we could finally relax, Google comes along and smashes our dreams (and our plans) into dust with a hammer. Much like a cat swiping a wine glass off of a coffee table with impunity.
Here's the short version
Back in November 2020, Google announced that page experience markers (load time, stability, etc.) would become ranking signals factoring into how well website pages and content do (or don't) rank in search results this May. So, like... next month.
This was something they teased earlier that year in May. And, in that update, the Google team said that, although it's common practice for them to give lots of lead time ahead of a big change like this, they were giving more than the usual notice because of the impacts of COVID-19 on businesses.
Earlier this week, however, they announced that this big change has been pushed back. Now it will be a "gradual rollout" beginning in mid-June, along with a few other key updates... for example, a page experience report in Google Search Console for website owners.
Google also noted that while the rollout will begin in June, it won't start having an impact on rankings until August.
Basically, Core Web Vitals measures how "healthy" your website is from a search and page experience perspective – this includes how quickly your site operates and pages load, the responsiveness of your website design across different devices), your website security, how easy your website is to use, and so on.
The new page experience-specific metrics added were:
Or, in human speak, your site speed (loading), your site's responsiveness to your website visitors interacting with your site (interactivity), and how stable your website layout and visuals are (visual stability).
Previously, these metrics were displayed for website owners like you without serious penalty, in the form of diminished rankings. So, if you were having page experience issues, you're in the clear... well, until this rollout is completed, that is.
And that's why this is a big deal.
Once this core algorithm update goes live, you need to understand that your website page and content rankings will either be positively or negatively impacted, depending on how you measure up in those key areas. You need to be taking action now to improve your website's page experience, so you're prepared.
"As we have said before, while this update is designed to highlight pages that offer great user experiences, page experience remains one of many factors our systems take into account. Given this, sites generally should not expect drastic changes."
I'm not disputing this, nor am I saying they're lying about this when I put forward that this is a "big deal" update.
However, let's say you're publishing great, educational blog articles and videos on your website, but your page experience overall sucks. You're going to send your ideal buyers running in the other direction with pages that load too slowly, glitchy user experiences, and websites that don't respond the way they're supposed to.
You're going to see your rankings fall, because Google will see through those metrics that you're failing in that area. Then that will only be made worse when your ideal buyers abandon your website quickly, because your site annoys them – and rapid site abandonment is another signal to Google that will cost you rankings.
You see what I mean? That's why, if you've been neglecting your page experience metrics, this should be a wake up call to get your act together.
Why is this Google update being delayed?
Though they didn't say something like, "We're postponing the update and here's why," here's what Google did say about the pushback:
A gradual rollout allows them to address "any unexpected or unintended issues" that may crop up.
"We hope that this adjusted roll-out schedule will help you continue to make refinements to your website with page experience in mind."
Here's why this new report is awesome, according to Google:
"The Page Experience report offers valuable metrics, such as the percentage of URLs with good page experience and search impressions over time, enabling you to quickly evaluate performance. You can also dig into the components of page experience signal to gain additional insights on opportunities for improvement."
In short, our friendly, neighborhood Skynet has made it easier for us to track how well we're performing against the metrics that will now sway our rankings up and down for our websites.
In summary, once more with feeling...
There are two things you need to keep in mind with this update:
If you've been neglecting or otherwise ignoring the page performance of your website, now is the time to get on track with it. For, example, you can't ignore how things like poor site speed and intrusive pop-ups can hurt you with your audience and, ultimately, in your rankings. This is your wake-up call.
Of course, you also have to remember that you need high-quality, relevant content on your website if you really want to win the search rankings game. A beautiful, sleek, peak-performing website will only go as far as the substance it contains.
Now, fingers crossed this is the final word from Google on this particular update.
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