Read why Google's new ranking factor is a smart change for brands and end users.
Just like people have key vitals that indicate overall health, so do websites. Google, the search engine leader, recently announced the addition of a new website health indicator called Core Web Vitals. In addition to traditional indicators including indexability and content relevance, Core Web Vitals adds user experience (UX) into the mix, and we think that’s a good thing. The new ranking factor, set to launch this summer, measures aspects of how users perceive the experience of interacting with a web page. Good experiences are rewarded with improved ranking.
It is rare for Google to openly share new organic ranking factors along with target benchmarks, leaving marketers to hypothesize, test and make assumptions about their proprietary algorithm. This change allows Google to maximize the search engine’s greatest asset: satisfied users. People will keep googling as long as Google delivers valuable experiences.
Google frequently tinkers with its health indicators, and this isn’t the first time UX is taking center stage. Other page experience elements such as mobile-friendliness, website security and penalizing intrusive practices such as pop-ups have been added into Google's algorithm. The company knows users want a fast and seamless experience, and that delays impact the bottom line. For example, for every second delay in mobile page load, conversions can fall by up to 20%.
Adept SEO Manager Lincoln Rinehart is encouraged by Core Web Vitals: “SEO and user experience have always played nicely, but now one can't have a seat at the table without the other. We're entering a world where better on-site experience can contribute to more website traffic.”
What's included in Core Web Vitals?
Core Web Vitals consists of three factors: loading, interactivity and visual stability. Each represents a facet of user experience and is meant to quantify usability. These factors can be scored as individual objects and then combined to make the final score.
In Google's words, “The page experience signal measures aspects of how users perceive the experience of interacting with a web page. Optimizing for these factors makes the web more delightful for users across all web browsers and surfaces. It helps sites evolve towards user expectations on mobile. We believe this will contribute to business success on the web as users grow more engaged and can transact with less friction.”
- Largest Contentful Paint (LCP) measures perceived load speed and marks the point in the page load timeline when the page's main content has likely loaded.
- First Input Delay (FID) measures responsiveness and quantifies the experience users feel when interacting with the page.
- Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS) measures visual stability and quantifies the amount of unexpected layout shift of visible page content.
Balancing the Playing Field
Although Google will begin rolling out Core Web Vitals in June, we do not anticipate immediate seismic swings in Google rankings. Danny Sullivan, Google Public Liaison for Search, all but confirmed that would be the case in a recent fireside chat, explaining that "the new ranking factor will not cause significant pain, and that it's just one ranking factor out of many, and that the goal of ranking relevant sites is the goal of the ranking algorithm." Some marketers actually fear that Google will not place enough ranking weight on Core Web Vitals, resulting in a lackluster emphasis on improving user experience. Only time will tell, but if this rollout mirrors the increased importance of mobile, we believe Google will gradually place greater emphasis on user experience by adding new factors and priority to the page experience signals.
Google has also made it clear that Core Web Vitals is not an all-or-nothing factor. All three vitals do not need to have a good score to earn an organic ranking boost. At the end of the day, Google will still emphasize content quality and relevance as a core ranking factor. A web page with an above-average core web vitals but poor content quality will not outrank a web page that has a more relevant and useful content experience. But a site that offers a great content experience and meets the standards for core web vitals puts brands in the best position to grow organic visibility.
Is Your Website Ready for Core Web Vitals?
Various reports indicate most websites aren’t up to Google’s standards for Core Web Vitals, but that isn’t the case for Adept clients. Using Google Data Studio, we pulled benchmark reports that indicate most of our clients’ websites are already in great health. That’s not surprising since UX and site performance has always been a significant focus for Adept.
To maintain our clients’ healthy website vitals, we are setting up proactive performance monitoring using site speed tools and regular health checks as part of ongoing optimization. Most of Google's popular web development tools support the measurement of Core Web Vitals, including: Search Console, PageSpeed Insights, Chrome DevTools, and others. A few of our favorite site performance monitoring tools include Pingdom and New Relic.
Core Web Vitals is a smart change for brands and end users. Organic optimizations that keep end users' interests top-of-mind are often what performs best. This shift will also require more proactive collaboration among SEO, development, UX, CRO and creative experts. While we expect the mid-June rollout to cause minimal impact, we’re working closely with clients to help them prepare. We’ve shared findings through initial SEO audits and have begun mapping out both immediate and long-term opportunities. If you’re unsure whether or not your website is optimized to pass a Core Web Vitals assessment, contact Adept. Knowing is the first step to creating a plan that will improve your website health.