Google Search is the most widely used search engine globally; more than 90% of the world relies on it to provide the most relevant and reliable information for their search queries. With this traffic, it’s no surprise that Google utilizes automated systems to deliver top-tier results to their users. Google is also constantly looking to improve these systems to display the most valuable results available. Cue Google’s algorithm updates.
Google Search is updated repeatedly throughout each year to decrease irrelevant search engine results page (SERP) results. According to Danny Sullivan, public liaison for Search, most of these updates go unnoticed by users. These smaller changes have included improvements for highlighting better product reviews and identifying content’s mobile-friendliness, ultimately improving Google Search as a whole.
In contrast to these incremental updates, broad algorithm updates (like the panda and penguin updates) are more substantial improvements to the overall ranking signal processes and can produce noticeable changes for users and site owners alike. These updates are announced in advance and designed to increase the overall relevancy of search results.
What’s included in the most recent update?
As of June 2nd, Google started gradually introducing their broad algorithm update, with the second half taking effect July 1st and the update launched entirely by August 2021. This gradual rollout is intended to monitor the algo update impact and mitigate the number and severity of issues as they’re identified. To ensure their algorithms are working according to plan and to identify areas for improvement, Google employs the help of quality raters and its automated Knowledge Graph; these tools confirm they’re representing each site’s search quality accurately.
So – what’s in the update?
One of the most notable changes is that Core Web Vitals (which measures the speed, responsiveness, and visual stability of a page) is combining with existing holistic user- experience-related signals to become Page Experience ranking signals. For those familiar with how Google Search has previously operated, this algo update will stop using AMP as a factor for Top Stories and will pivot to using page experience metrics. For those without this deep understanding, here’s the meat-and-potatoes: this is essentially a new Search Engine Optimization (SEO) ranking method where user-friendly sites rank higher on search results than user-unfriendly sites.
Here’s a breakdown of the Core Web Vitals pieces and user experience (UX) metrics:
Core Web Vitals parts and pieces
To reiterate, Core Web Vitals quantifies key aspects of the user experience, measuring the speed, responsiveness, and visual stability of a page. Specifically, the features being considered are as follows:
- Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS): the measure of how much visual page content shifts. A score less than 0.1 is good, with 0.25 showing a need for improvement. For CLS improvement, look at optimizing image dimensions, ads, embeds, and iframes dimensions, dynamically injected content, and web fonts causing flashes of invisible or unstyled text (FOIT/FOUT).
As discussed, this June 2021 core update combines the Core Web Vital features listed above with user experience metrics to create search signals for page experience. The user experience metrics taken into account are as follows:
- Mobile-friendliness: ensures a site is configured correctly and viewable on modern, portable devices.
- Safe-browsing: helps webmasters identify threats and helps fix security issues with their sites, including malware, deceptive pages, and harmful and unwanted downloads.
- HTPPS-security: promotes a shift to HTTPS (vs HTTP), enabling the best performance and powerful features that benefit site conversions, offline support, web push notifications, and credit card autofill.
- Intrusive ad-blocking: prevents intrusive ads by penalizing sites for interruptive and distracting advertising techniques.
What does this mean for my business?
While nerding out over this update has been a treat, all business and website owners need to understand how this update affects them. A study conducted in August 2020 found that less than 15% of sites were currently optimized to pass a Core Web Vitals assessment, highlighting the need for site owners to prepare their pages for the new page experience signals.
Because this update places greater emphasis on UX metrics, all site owners must invest more heavily in their user experience. Suppose you’ve not improved your site to meet Google’s new update strategies. In that case, you’ll likely notice a drop in traffic and visibility for your site, risking your ability to appear in organic search.
While pages that perform less well with this core update haven’t violated Google webmaster guidelines, now’s the time to reduce the quantity of thin content on your site; this is content that has little to no value for the visitor. Google awards high-volume, quality content – so focus on improving this on your site.
Search Engine Roundtable is a great resource to find the latest news and tips from the search engine marketing community regarding SEO techniques. Still, the first step in remaining competitive post-update is to create a site-wide audit to identify areas for improvement. We offer free site audits to all interested parties – you can get your report below!
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