Is your website ready for the 2021 Google algorithm update?
First announced in 2020, Google is now preparing to launch one of the most significant algorithm changes in the last few years.
This update could bring big changes to where your website ranks on Google, so it’s vital that your SEO campaign is up to scratch if you want to achieve your online goals.
As a leading SEO agency, we’ve been supporting online businesses with their necessary changes and have provided some advice for the coming update below.
What to Expect from the Latest Google Algorithm Update
As the web continues to evolve, along with consumer expectations regarding websites, Google periodically updates its search engine algorithm to ensure the best sites appear at the top.
The latest Google algorithm update, launching in May 2021, features an update to how Google rates your site’s ‘Page Experience’.
As users, we now have higher expectations when it comes to finding great content at our fingertips on Google, especially during mobile searches. Our willingness to wait for buggy websites to load is decreasing, so Google is updating its algorithm to put more weight towards on-site performance.
Despite this change, Google is quick to stress that content remains the most crucial factor in rankings. However, making sure your website meets today’s expectations, particularly for mobile users, will be important for getting those top spots.
What Impacts Google’s Page Experience Ranking?
As the name suggests, Page Experience is concerned with how accessible and user-friendly your website is once the visitor lands.
Right now, Google uses common website features to rank pages based on Page Experience. These include:
- Having a mobile-friendly site, including no intrusive interstitials (pop-ups).
- Having an HTTPS security certificate
- Other safe browsing features
As part of this May 2021 update, Google will include some new, holistic benchmarks for Page Experience called ‘Core Web Vitals’. These consist of:
- Visual stability
These new benchmarks will allow Google to more accurately judge users’ experiences on your website. We take a look at each of these new Core Web Vitals in more detail below.
Unsurprisingly, given today’s rapidly-improving standards (and expectations), Google is keeping an eye on which pages are loading quickly!
Google’s algorithm update will measure something known as Largest Contentful Paint (LCP).
LCP is a measure of when Google thinks the main section of your webpage – the part that people are there to see – has loaded. If it’s a shopping page, this will be when the products appear on the user’s screen. If the page is a blog article, it will be when the body of text appears.
Websites should be aiming for an LPC of less than 2.5 seconds.
Have you ever loaded a website and had to click a link multiple times before you got a response? Google can now measure this delay and will reward sites that make it as small as possible.
Google’s Core Web Vitals include a metric called First Input Delay (FID). As the name suggests, this metric measures the delay between a user’s first click or tap on a page and the site registering that action.
A good FID score is below 100 milliseconds, which gives you an idea of the levels Google want to see from their high-ranking sites.
Last but not least, Google is also placing increased importance on the stability of a webpage experience.
Most websites will have various features that change how the site appears as you move through the page.
- Floating header menus.
- Pop-up adverts.
- CTAs and other features.
When these are slow to load and appear while browsing, they are an inconvenience to users.
Google is introducing a metric called Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS). Essentially, this metric gives a score to any unstable layout elements that change the layout of a loaded webpage, based on how significant the change is and its likely impact on the user.
Websites should be looking for a CLS score below 0.1. In essence, Google is expecting almost no unexpected layout shifts on webpages.
Paired with pre-existing SEO metrics such as bounce rate and time on page, Google is now able to paint a clear picture of website experience – there’s no way to hide from Google’s eyes!
How Will Google Page Experience Changes Impact Websites?
Most algorithm updates are met with fear by website managers, as a shake-up of search ranking results usually follows.
For users, the change is barely noticeable as it often only impacts sites on the first page by a few positions. However, online businesses may see their best-performing search queries change, making a considerable difference (positive or negative) to traffic.
In some instances, sudden algorithm changes can re-balance themselves after a few days, as Google considers hundreds of different metrics when creating its rankings. However, it’s likely that there will be significant long-term ranking changes for sites that excel or underperform on their Page Experience.
For sites with a good Page Experience, the algorithm change could result in a sudden increase in search rankings and organic traffic. Likewise, if you have an older website, you may see a significant decline.
How to Improve Your Website’s Ranking on Google
There’s no getting away from the fact that where your website ranks on Google significantly impacts your online performance.
According to BrightEdge, more than two-thirds of all online experiences start with a search engine. More than half of all website traffic comes from organic sources, also.
So, when Google says that it wants websites to hit a certain mark, it makes sense to ensure you reach that level!
Regarding the upcoming update, website managers should ensure their site is up to standard regarding Page Experience. This means:
- Ensure your website delivers an optimised mobile experience.
- Make sure your site pages load their key content quickly.
- Minimise additional and late loading procedures that impact the user’s experience.
However, it’s important to note that this latest update is just one part of Google’s vast picture of websites. Page Experience doesn’t usurp existing SEO best practices.
The Importance of Quality Website Content
In their blog outlining the Page Experience update, Google themselves are keen to make an important point:
“A good page experience doesn’t override having great, relevant content.”
People don’t use websites because they’re fun – they’re there to get information. While Page Experience is important for the user, it remains that websites producing consistent, relevant and high-quality content will appear in the top spots on Google.
Many different things go into making great content. These include:
- Writing content that’s relevant to your business or sector.
- Understanding the wants and needs of your audience.
- Ensuring content is well-written and structured.
- Engaging with readers where possible.
“Website content should always look to satisfy the needs of the user first, not the company. Having this approach helps us build meaningful connections between businesses and potential customers that leads to long-term success, both online and offline.” – Will Taylor (Head Of Content)
Google’s Page Experience algorithm update is set to launch in May 2021, which is closer than you may think. Businesses should already be taking steps to ensure their website is up to scratch.
By being ready for this algorithm update, you can put your website in the best possible position to take advantage of the changes. Backed by a dedicated SEO and content strategy, your website can significantly improve its search performance and organic traffic this year.
Here at Ducard, we’re working with companies right now to ensure their website is on course to have a successful 2021. We would love to take a look and see what we could do to prepare your website – why not get in touch with us today?