Did you notice a drop in web visitors last month? Probably so, and you’re not alone.
Google released a new update and may have caused your analytics to show a bit of a drop. It went into effect on June 4, 2021, and will continue to update through mid-August.
During recent years, Google has made thousands of updates that typically go unnoticed, but this one is worth taking the time to understand.
Although your content will always play a major role in the ranking of your website, your page experience will now be a deciding factor. At the beginning of May 2020, Google announced a new tool to optimize the quality of your user experience: the Core Web Vitals tool. The main goal is to help you identify opportunities to improve user experiences. This analytics tool was clearly to set the stage for the update that was announced later that month.
If you didn’t know the update was coming, or just didn’t have the time to prepare (COVID-19 impacted a lot of business that year), don’t panic. Let’s take a look at how this update works and how you can use this update to your advantage.
Understanding Your Core Web Vitals
In the past, the only page experience factors that affected your SEO were if it was mobile-friendly, secure, and avoided crazy pop-ups. Now, three distinct measurements known as the Core Web Vitals impact your rank: Largest Content Paint, First Input Delay, and Cumulative Layout Shift. Since not everyone has a computer science background, here are simple ways to think about each of these:
Largest Content Paint (LCP)
Measures how long the largest element on the page (above the fold) takes to load.
Think: Does your banner image take a while to load?
First Input Delay (FID)
Measures how quickly your website responds to a user’s action.
Think: Does your CTA quickly lead to the next page?
Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS)
Measures the unexpected shifts of page elements while the page is loading.
Think: While the page is loading, does content move around?
The best way to track and monitor these scores is through Google’s Search Console. There, you’ll see which pages need help and specifically what measurements are hurting your ranking.
5 Simple Ways to Improve Your Core Web Vitals
Content will always be king. However, even Google said when there are multiple relevant pages of content for a search query, the page experience will act as the tiebreaker to decide which websites are shown.
Even if page experience didn’t impact the Search Engine Results Page (SERP), users are 24% less likely to abandon a website with a smooth user experience.
Those who focus on providing a quality page experience, along with great content, can use this update to their advantage. Let’s consider a few simple ways to improve your page experience and push your website above competitors on the SERP.
1. Optimize All Photos
Decreasing the time it takes for photos to load will quickly decrease your website’s load time. Many people upload photos to a website without resizing or updating the file format. Check out this guide to best optimize your photos.
2. Prioritize Content Above the Fold
As I mentioned, LCP only measures the load time of the largest element above the fold, meaning before you scroll down the page. If you have multiple large elements toward the top of your page, such as more than one photo, video, or GIF, consider rearranging the elements to be more spread out on the page. Even better, place the bigger elements at the bottom of the page.
3. Reduce the Number of Third-Party Plug-ins and Scripts
4. Use an Image Placeholder for Videos
The reality is, not all users will want to watch your videos. So don’t take the hit of having your videos load with your page. Instead, place an image where the video should go and guide users to click on the image to load the video. The image will initially load more quickly than the video, letting your page load even faster.
5. Consider a New Website Host
This tip isn’t for most but should be considered. If you haven’t updated your website in years and notice your overall load time trending upward, it may be time for a strategic website redesign. New hosting sites are available that track Google’s updates to ensure all backend coding is up to the current standard.
The new update shouldn’t throw your current SEO plan to a completely new course. By monitoring your Core Web Vitals and making website updates as needed, your SEO will continue to improve as you build your content.