Google is set to make one of its biggest changes with how it ranks web pages this year. The update will begin rolling out in mid-June 2021 but won’t play its full role until the end of August. Any building materials business that values brand awareness and visibility needs to care about it.
Let me explain. In May 2020, Google announced the new Core Web Vitals, a set of user-focused metrics designed to measure a page’s “health” in terms of providing a smooth and seamless user experience.
These metrics are made up of three components: content loading speed, interactivity and visual stability. Google has been gradually advancing the algorithm to analyze small details like these to help it provide the best content and results.
Marketers are paying close attention to this news and you should be as well. After all, 53% of all website traffic comes from organic search.
What Are Google’s Core Web Vitals?
Let’s get back to the basics. Google is a search engine, and its job is to match a user’s query with the best possible results. Here’s where things get interesting though.
In the past, this process was mostly semantic. The algorithm would find high-quality content that matched the search intent. It would also audit for mobile-friendliness, safe browsing and basic experience signals.
Now, Google is kicking it up a notch. The inclusion of Core Web Vitals as a ranking signal means that websites that fail to apply the best practices will be given lower ranking scores than ones that do.
While original and relevant content will always be stellar for SEO, Google also will be evaluating website performance based on how well users interact with your website.
Google outlined three new Core Web Vitals that it will be using to assess a website’s user experience score:
Loading: Largest Contentful Paint (LCP)
The first Core Web Vital is Largest Contentful Paint rating (LCP). Don’t worry if this sounds complicated. It simply refers to the average loading time of the main content found on a page.
Main content formats include both media and text. Google will use LCP to determine how fast the first meaningful piece of content (or the LCP) loads. It’s more than just about how fast your page loads. LCP is an indicator of “perceived” load speed, a.k.a how quickly does the main visible content take to appear?
This is scored at the page level. To be able to meet user experience standards set by Google, an individual page’s content must load in less than 2.5 seconds. If loading time is more than this, you’re going to receive a low LCP score. However, LCP can be different for each type of page. A product image might be the most important content on a product page while an H1 headline is for a blog.
A good LCP score is important if you want to provide the best user experience to your customers. How many times have you clicked on a website to search for something but ended up leaving, because the content took forever to load? If visitors can access your content faster, you increase the chances of having them stay on the page and interact with your content.
Interactivity: First Input Delay (FID)
Next up is First Input Delay (FID). This metric is used to measure the time from when a user inputs an action or command and the page executes it. First inputs include clicking links, buttons or pressing keys. An FID score of fewer than 100 milliseconds is ideal according to Google. However, more than 300ms of FID spells trouble for your SEO performance.
One way to improve First Input Delay is by reducing the impact of third-party code. For instance, have you ever noticed a page loading slower after adding a script for A/B testing or analytics software? Many of us have. To solve issues like these and improve FID, businesses can: minify and compress CSS files, break long java script tasks into shorter tasks, use lazy loading for content that isn't urgent to appear and remove unused third-party tracking tags.
Visual Stability: Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS)
Last but not least, there is Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS). This metric measures your website page stability as it loads.
Do you ever notice how, sometimes, images and links seem to shift down as a website loads? This would indicate a high CLS score, which means that the page elements aren’t visually stable.
Optimizing for this Core Web Vital prevents users from making accidental clicks or getting frustrated because they’re taken to a page other than the one they intended to see. Visual stability enhances the user experience and improves your overall SEO performance.
The Google algorithm is slowly moving towards a more user-centric approach when it comes to ranking web pages. Based on the new Core Web Vitals, it will be rewarding websites that do well in terms of main content loading time, first input delay and visual stability.
The sooner you start making UX improvements on your website, the greater your advantage will be against competitors. Start by running an analysis of your site with Google’s official http://web.dev tool. Oh, and use the new “Core Web Vitals” report inside Google Search Console to find bottlenecks.
Both of these will give you a detailed overview of your page performance and what to fix. Common issues from my experience are uncompressed images, large files, unminified code or invasive popups. Although that’s just the tip of the iceberg, the tools I recommended will give you thorough breakdowns.
If your company values its search presence and wants to generate more leads from Google, don’t wait to optimize for Core Web Vitals. It will help you deliver a better user experience and ultimately increase conversion rates.
If you are looking for more information about digital marketing in the building materials industry, check out Venveo’s Smarter Building Materials Marketing podcast.
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This article was originally posted on Forbes.com.