Update: On April 19, Google announced that it would be postponing this algorithm update. Instead of a full launch in May, the company says it will be a gradual rollout that won’t start until mid-June 2021 and won’t be fully rolled out until the end of August. Google adjusted the timeline for this update to “help you continue to make refinements to your website with page experience in mind,” and to also to allow the platform to work out any kinks on their end.
Google frequently updates its ranking algorithm to ensure it is providing end users with the most relevant search results possible. Google does not normally alert the SEO community when an update occurs, but due to the covid-19 pandemic, Google is giving business owners and webmasters a glimpse into what to look for so that we can be prepared. This algorithm update is going to focus on “page experience” and is scheduled to roll out in May 2021.
What is Google’s ranking algorithm?
Google’s algorithms are a complex system used to retrieve data from its search index and instantly deliver the best possible results for a query. The search engine uses a combination of algorithms and over 200 ranking factors to deliver web pages ranked by relevance on its search engine results pages (SERPs).
What factors will this algorithm update specifically look at?
According to Google:
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, and 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.
In other words, the update will look at how usable your website is. The simplest way to think about this update is that user-friendly sites will rank higher than sites that aren’t user friendly.
There are many factors that go into determining if a website is user-friendly. A core component of this measurement is if a website is easy to navigate and use on mobile devices.
Core Web Vitals
Each Core Web Vital refers to a distinct component of a page’s user experience. These three vitals refer to loading, interactivity, and visual stability. The loading and interactivity components are directly related to page speed, while visual stability relates to how the design of your website practically delivers content.
Page speed has always been an important ranking factor for Google. The GTU SEO team primarily uses the Google PageSpeed Insights tool to modify how the elements of a website work together with the server and CDNs (content delivery networks) to deliver the content to users quickly and efficiently.
Visual stability is exactly what it sounds like: when content moves around on a page. For example, imagine you are reading an article and an ad or image loads above the page content, causing the content to move down on the screen. This movement contributes to a poor user experience on the site.
The visual stability element is determined by Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS), and aims to provide a measurement for unexpected layout shifts so webmasters can keep an eye on how frequently users may encounter a poor user experience due to content shifting on the screen.
What is Geek Town USA doing to prepare for this update?
The Geek Town team has been preparing for this algorithm update since it was first announced late last year. We’ve done extensive research and planning so that we can assure all of our clients minimal disruption when the update rolls out.
1) Google Search Console Monitoring
The good news is that Google has provided us with a new tool located within Google Search Console (GSC) dashboard to provide us with additional information and guidance specifically on core web vitals. As a part of your SEO engagement with Geek Town, the team is always monitoring GSC for issues.
2) Page Speed Tests and Updates
The GTU team has evaluated the current page speed scores for all client websites. The Google Page Speed Insights tool breaks down that a poor score is between 0 and 49, an average one between 50 and 89, and a good score is 90+. What we see in practice, however- is that an average website has a score of between 40 and 80. A perfect score is not the goal; having a better score than your competition is.
If necessary, GTU will be using some of your SEO hours in the coming months to make back-end website changes to improve page speed. We’ve recently added more development resources to our growing team to ensure these issues can be addressed.
3) Listening & Staying Informed
One of the most important things an SEO team can do is listen to chatter about algorithm updates, stay informed about how the update appears to affect different industries, and participate in the conversation. The GTU SEO team is constantly staying up-to-date on search engine changes so we can always stay ahead of the curve.
The GTU team is also always listening to you, our valued client. In some cases, there may be issues with your website that we are not aware of on devices or browsers that are not industry standard for testing. If you are aware of any such issues, please let us know!
What should I expect?
The truth is, we just won’t know how this update is going to affect the SEO performance of your website until the update is rolled-out and applied widely across most industries. What we do know is what we have seen with past Google algorithm updates. Here are some possibilities:
- Volatility in keyword rankings (extreme highs and lows) that may last a few days to a few weeks
- A temporary dip in organic traffic while Google sorts things out
- A dip in traffic to specific website pages that may have usability issues
Rest assured that the GTU team is always recommending SEO tactics that are intended to withstand algorithm changes. We are prepared for this update and have been taking appropriate measures to ensure minimal disruption in SEO performance. We are also here to answer any questions you may have. We appreciate your business and look forward to a continued relationship.