14 September 2020

by Spark Eighteen

Everything you need to know about Google’s official ranking factors in 2021

DIGITAL MARKETING

Google is continuously updating the way it decides how websites should appear in the search results. It either does it in secrecy or by shouting it to the world at large. One of these new updates that Google recently announced is the Core Web Vitals.

Table of Content:

In 2019, Google reported more than 3,620 improvements to search, more than 10 times the number of updates in 2009 which was around 350.

Let us take a look at what Google is introducing this time:

What Are The New Core Web Vitals?

Core Web Vitals are a set of factors specified by Google considering a webpage’s overall page performance and user experience. These Core Web Vitals are made up of three items. These include:

  1. Largest Contentful Pain (LCP)
  2. First Input Delay (FID)
  3. Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS)

The new metrics are included as part of a user’s page experience data.

Slow-loading websites will lose traffic

As Google puts it out,

“Pages that meet these thresholds of  Core Web Vitals, visitors are 24% less likely to abandon the site.”

You might have heard the age-old adage saying “slow and steady wins the race”. Sadly, Google considers this as a recipe for failure when it comes to website performance. That’s why it gave it out loud and clear that if you want to boost your traffic by a significant amount, you need to offer a decent web experience.

To add to your visitor’s satisfaction and your overall efficiency, you need to be aware of your page experience.

For example, as Google says,

bounce rate 32%

Are you going to risk out on losing traffic just because your page takes a few seconds more to load as compared to other pages? We bet not!

They further add,

bounce rate 106%

That’s a big number to talk about. So you need to sort out your page speed by introducing these new metrics or just lose out on the opportunity of scoring big numbers on your website!

Content Is Still The King

Luckily you won’t have to compromise your good content over page experience. Google indicates that the Core Web Vitals are only likely to be used as a kind of tiebreaker where several sites have very similar ranking content.

Page experience isn’t as important a factor as great content when it comes to ranking higher.  So, these new factors won’t have a big impact on SEO so far. However, when it comes to maximizing user experience and conversions, you need to implement the best practices that Google is giving us all a jog towards.

Does Core Web Vitals affect ranking?

Yes, but only if you’re going head-to-head with similar page content.

Loading, interactivity, and visual stability are three important factors that Google talks about which will play a big part in ranking.

When it comes to measuring these new metrics, Google Search Console and Pagespeed Insights should have you covered.

There are plenty of tools from Google itself if you’re in search of more. Some of these including Lighthouse, UX Report, or Chrome DevTools – these are just some that can help you work on your Core Web Vitals ranking and development.

There will also be a Core Web Vitals extension/plugin for Chrome, or you can look into how to use PageSpeed Insights API for these new metrics.

Google’s Core Web Vitals

So what are these new metrics and how can you measure, identify, and fix them? Let’s talk about them below:

1. Largest Contentful Paint (LCP) – Load Time

The first and most important factor that contributes to the poor user experience is slow-loading webpages.

Largest Contentful Paint (or LCP) is a metric that measures how long your page takes to load. This is hugely influenced by the render time, the largest content element on the viewport becomes visible. This can either be some type of an image format or video file.

Factors like server time, CSS, JavaScript, and client-side rendering plays an important role in influencing a page’s load time. You can easily measure this using Google’s PageSpeed Insights.

How can you improve LCP?

lcp core web vitals
Source: web.dev

According to Google, an LCP lower than 2.5 seconds is nothing to worry about, but once it goes up that number it means that there’s something you need to work on. Times between 2.5 and 4 seconds indicate that the page need improvement and over 4 seconds, well, let’s see where your problem areas could be.

  • Does your page have unnecessary third-party scripts?

If so, you need to avoid them. Third-party scripts are a predominant cause of performance slowdown and will only add extra time to your loading speed.

  • Have you chosen the right web hosting option?

More efficient hosting will lead to faster-speed and loading time which is perfect to keep up with traffic spikes.

  • What are your biggest page elements? Can they be optimized?

Once you figure out which element on your page takes the most time to load, you need to optimize them. These big elements are the main offenders of LCP and can affect your ranking in a big way. See if you can get rid of them altogether, if not try creating smaller file sizes for the element.

  • Is your CSS cleaned up?

Cleaning up your CSS can be an important step. Girthy and clumsy CSS can delay LCP times. Make your code clean and well-organized to get out of the red and go back into the green.

2. First Input Delay (FID) – Interactivity

How fast do your pages become interactive when first loaded?

To put it simply, when a user interacts with a button on your page, how fast does the browser indicate that action and produce results?

First Input Delay (or FID) is the measure of time your page takes to become interactive for a user. Google Search Console holds data for these metrics too and will let you know in its three easy to understand levels if you’re good (green), need improvement (orange), or poor (red).

How can you refine FID?

fid core web vitals
Source: web.dev

An FID under 100ms is good to go. When it comes between 100ms-300ms you need to work on a few changes. And when it goes above 300ms, you know you’re in trouble. Here are the things you can try:

  • Minimize your JavaScript

It becomes impossible to interact with a page while the browser is still loading JavaScript.

  • Cut-out unnecessary third-party scripts.

As mentioned above, third-party scripts can significantly impact your page performance. Are there scripts in your code that you don’t need?

  • Use a browser cache

A browser cache will help your page content load faster, dealing with scripts quicker and boosting your FID score.

3. Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS) – Visual Stability

We all have experiences in the past where we try to click on a button on a loading page but end up clicking on an ad banner that popped-up suddenly pushing the actual button aside.

This only leads to the poor user experience that Google wants to avoid at all costs.

Cumulative Layout Shift (or CLS) helps you understand how stable your page is as it loads.

According to Google, the number one reason for this lack of stability is the undefined size of images used. If you have an image and it’s 400 pixels wide and tall, those need to be defined in the HTML. There are other reasons as well, such as animations and things like that.

But that’s what they’re measuring, cumulative layout shift.

How Can You Minimize CLS?

CLS core web vitals
Source: web.dev

How do you know when your CLS needs work? If your score is less than 0.1, then you do not have to worry about anything. Once it comes between 0.1-0.25, it means you might need some work. Over 0.25 is the area you need to avoid because above that your page score will be considered ‘poor’.

Here are a few things to keep in mind so your page can maintain a healthy score:

  • Use set size attributes for your media dimensions

All the visual elements that appear on your page need to have pre-set dimensions using size attributes. When you do this, you are informing the browser how much space will an element need and apply it while the element is loading. No more jumping page—and an easy fix.

  • Reserve space for your ads

If your page has ads that appear to pop-up, then make sure your code contains that correct reserved space for them. Ads may take a little longer to load than most elements on your page, and their sudden appearance can affect your CLS score.

  • Can you put slow-loading elements below the fold?

When you put slow-loading elements below the fold, they have a better chance to start downloading before the user gets to them.  If you can organize your page structure to compensate for this, your score will improve.

Conclusion

Google wants us all to stick to the best practices in order to get the best results for our web pages. It has made it quite clear with the introduction of Google’s new metrics that will inform website developers and marketers where exactly are they going wrong and how can they improve the user experience by working on specific areas.

Looking after your users is important because ultimately, they are the decision-makers and if you want to see your website grow, you first have to serve their needs.

Even though at first glance, these metrics may not have a huge impact on SEO, they could still help us achieve far greater metrics and more of the sales we’re aiming for.

What do you think about Google’s new ranking factor? If you think you are lagging somewhere and need some assistance with it, Reach us here.

Spark Eighteen

Spark Eighteen is a brainchild of innovative young minds and a group of alarmingly out-of-the-box thinkers who happen to see the world of marketing from a new age perspective. With a proven expertise in the field of Brand consulting, Digital Marketing and Website Design and Development, our team of designers, developers, and creative heads work towards delivering maximum results, tailor-made to all your business needs.
Spark Eighteen

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Contact us