Now, today, let’s talk about site speed.
Google is rolling out a new ranking signal at some point in 2021, which will consider their Core Web Vitals.
Now, what is Core Web Vitals?
Core Web Vitals is a set of important page speed and user interaction factors that Google will use as part of a new ranking signal, which will be released sometime in 2021.
These important page speed and user interaction factors are 3 specific metrics that all websites will have to adhere to if they want to maintain and increase their organic traffic from Google.
These metrics are Largest Contentful Paint, First Input Delay, and Cumulative Layout Shift.
Now, before I get into each one of these, let’s take a moment and think about why Google is making such changes – and why they’ve told us about it – months in advance.
What is Google’s mission…?
Paraphrasing their corporate mission, they intend to make information accessible to people when they seek it, and to present it to them quickly.
The single most important word here is ‘quickly’!
To Google, when providing people with the information they seek, speed is of the essence.
In order for them to provide the ‘best’, most appropriate information to people they need a certain amount of confidence from the websites they present. Confidence that the site values their users’ experience.
Now, one of the many ways websites can show they consider their users’ experience is to have a website that functions quickly.
Google loves these types of site!
They love them because it bolds well that when Google presents a site to a user, and the user clicks on it, the user has a great experience with the site, seeing the information they seek, quickly.
Speed is a factor! It’s a factor to users. And Google knows this!
What would be your impression of Google if you searched for something and it took 10 seconds for the results to show up?
Wouldn’t be good, would it?
What if you had used Google off a recommendation from another site?
Would you hold that site in high regard…?
Would you trust and have confidence in their recommendations…?
You wouldn’t, would you?
So, considering Google’s corporate mission and the credibility they want to uphold when they present sites in their results, how do you think they could influence the entire web to ensure they have websites that operate quickly?
They would, of course, highlight the importance of site speed.
They would, of course, give websites the tools and support (to some extent) to optimize.
They would, of course, place more emphasis on site speed being a ranking factor.
Speed is a factor! To Google, to users, and now, more than ever, to websites.
If you want to maintain and increase the organic traffic you get from Google, you must invest in the improvement of the speed of your site.
When the Core Web Vitals related signal is rolled out as a ranking factor in 2021, this will be for the benefit of users.
It wouldn’t be an attack on your business, it will be a strategic move by Google to influence your business to keep user experience as a priority when optimizing your site.
This should be in line with your SEO strategy. Afterall, SEO is for users, and not for search engines!
OK. So, we’ve covered why Google will have their Core Web Vitals as a ranking signal.
Let’s touch on each of the 3 CWV metrics, and as I talk about them, you’ll see why each metric is being brought to the forefront.
Largest Contentful Paint.
LCP is how long it takes a page to load from a user’s point of view.
This measurement considers the timespan from when a user clicks on a link to the point when the user sees the majority of the content on-screen.
A score within 2.5 is what sites should aim for.
First Input Delay (or FID) measures the time it takes for a user to actually interact with a page.
For this, Google considers less than 100ms as a good score.
Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS).
This metric is particularly important for sites that have a lot of ads – a lot of news-based sites will need to pay attention to this metric.
Have you ever landed on a page, proceed to browse the page, perhaps click or hover over a link, and the site jumps on you? It sort of shifts position without you scrolling!
This metric considers how stable a site is as it loads.
If elements on your page move around as the page loads, your CLS will be considered to be high.
Google’s guide for this is to have a CLS that’s less than 0.1.
This score is rated from 0 to 1. Zero means there is no shift at all; 1 means the page has elements that shift a lot.
Now, these 3 metrics are already on Google Search Console.
Google has made this report available in GSC as an attempt to encourage websites to take action on the findings – i.e. improve their page speed – for users.
We don’t yet know what the new ranking signal will be called, or when exactly in 2021 it will be released.
But remember, page speed is already a ranking factor. This new signal is going to be an addition to the signals that Google already uses.
We can reasonably assume that page speed is going to be an even more important ranking factor in 2021.
How could this affect organic traffic?
Again, let’s think about this from Google’s point of view.
They aim to serve users with the information they seek, as quickly as possible.
They want websites to pay more attention to their page speed.
They’ve provided guidelines to influence change, and plenty of time to affect change.
Come 2021, whenever this signal is released, sites in the SERPs are likely to change – possibly quite significantly.
Pages that target keywords that meet and exceed the Core Web Vitals metrics could perform better than the pages that fall outside of the range of ‘good’.
And what does a drop in rankings mean for traffic, via the organic channel?
A drop in rankings mean we see a drop in traffic – organic, that is!
You could have the best, most appropriate content, geared towards a targeted audience.
If you’re not showing you have users in mind, with the Core Web Vitals metrics, everything else being equal, Google is likely to present other sites that show that they do have users in mind.
How this impacts revenus is clear.
Page speed correlates to rankings.
Rankings correlate to traffic.
Traffic correlates to conversions.
Conversions correlate to revenue.
Have, keep or create pages with speed that compromises users’ experience on your site and you establish a potential threat to your business.
So, more than ever before, it is imperative that your site health is considered.
And who should be involved in this consideration?
You guessed it. SEO, baby! SEO!
What you want to avoid is a situation where the page speed of key SEO equity pages are not monitored.
What you want to avoid is a precedence where your advertising team make ad deals on your site where they do not know how their actions impact the performance of the SEO channel.
What you want to avoid is a premise where the importance of page speed and the related upcoming ranking signal is not shared throughout your organisation.