In the SEO world, strategies are ever-changing, largely because of algorithm updates Google rolls out. Some algorithm updates are more impactful than others, but each one offers insight into how to best optimize your own websites.
In May 2020, Google gave us an advanced notice of an update coming in May 2021 that would boost pages with a good user experience. This update sets standards for preferred user experiences based on Google's research into user preferences for website experiences.
If these updates happened in 2021, are they still relevant in 2022 and ongoing? Yes! Google changes its algorithms to enhance the experience users get from search results. The updates are generally geared toward providing more relevant results to users. When we follow Google’s recommendations based on algorithm changes, not only do our current website visitors have a better experience, but we can be rewarded with better rankings in the Search Engines Results Page (SERP) and more visitors to our site over time.
Core Web Vitals
- Largest Contentful Paint
- First Input Delay
- Cumulative Layout Shift
The metrics that will measure and set standards for page experience are called Core Web Vitals. With Core Web Vitals, you’re able to measure the time it takes for a page to load, elements to become interactive, and visual assets to become stable.
Largest Contentful Paint
What is the Largest Contentful Paint (LCP)?
The metric that takes loading speed into consideration is Largest Contentful Paint (LCP). LCP measures how long it takes to load your page’s main piece of content that’s within the user’s device viewport. This content includes mainly images, videos, and block-level elements.
How does LCP impact User Experience?
A good LCP score means your visitors don't have long to wait for your content to load. Over time, fast sites have set the bar and taught users to expect speed in a website. Users may associate faster sites with trustworthiness and believe slower sites to be less trustworthy. If a user doesn’t trust a site, they will leave that site to find one they find is more trustworthy.
Good vs. poor LCP
Although users typically only acknowledge poor experiences, an ideal Largest Contentful Paint score occurs when the largest piece of content within the visitor’s viewport loads within 2.5 seconds. For example, if your page has a hero image, that hero image will need to load within 2.5 seconds for your page to score well on the LCP metric. Conversely, a poor experience would take 4 seconds or longer for the hero image to load.
First Input Delay
What is First Input Delay (FID)?
First Input Delay (FID) is the metric that evaluates interactivity of elements. FID scores your page on the number of milliseconds it takes for the browser to process the request when a user interacts with an element on your site, such as clicking a link or button.
How does FID impact User Experience?
Users stay on websites that quickly fulfill requests. When the page begins loading quickly after a user clicks the button, they’re relying on the page to show reputable information on the other side of that click. But if the page is not as responsive, the user may leave find a more reliable site.
Good vs. poor FID
A good user experience will have an FID score of fewer than 100 milliseconds, while 300 milliseconds or longer is seen as a poor FID score. On average, people take 100-400 milliseconds to blink, so even a poor FID speed begins loading literally in the blink of an eye.
Cumulative Layout Shift
What is Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS)?
The CLS measures the stability of content on a website. While LCP and FID are measured by time, the CLS is calculated using the percentage of the screen that’s impacted by the shift multiplied by the distance of the viewport that the element moves.
Cumulative Layout Shift formula = impact fraction (how much of the screen) * distance fraction (how far it moved).
How does CLS impact User Experience?
Large layout shifts can easily cause frustration, especially if users try clicking on an element that moves while the page is still loading. For example, if users intend to click on a button to take them to a similar product, but the page shifts and they end up clicking the ‘add to cart' button, they may question the integrity of the site. Users may even perceive the website as intentionally making the content shift around so they’d click the add to cart button, when in reality, it may have just been a coding glitch.
Good vs. poor CLS
A poor Cumulative Layout Shift score is anything greater than 0.25. A good CLS experience, or a score of 0.1 or less, won’t be disruptive to the user. There are situations when a user is expecting shifts to take place on a site; for instance, expanding a collapsed FAQ section to show an answer.
How to Prepare for Google’s User Experience Algorithm Updates
Get your website ready for Google updates by keeping a close eye on Google’s recommendations. Chances are good that sites that follow Google’s recommendations will not be negatively impacted by any future algorithm updates.
You can get an idea of your site’s current state by navigating through your site and taking Page Speed tests. Test forms to see if unexpected and disruptive shifts occur, or if certain pages take longer to fulfill requests or load images. While doing these tests, try to think of how your users may react to your site to gain a better understanding of what you need to optimize.
Google rolls out algorithm changes to provide the best search experience. These changes may require technical improvements to your website, but they don’t have to stress you out. If you’re in need of help with the Core Web Vital update, we’d love to work with you. Simply submit a form and we’ll be in touch.