21st June 2021

What will Google’s latest update mean for your website?

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James Gardner
Head of SEO
Read time: 5min
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You've probably been receiving an increased number of unsolicited emails from SEO agencies reminding you that Google’s Core Web Vitals will become a ranking factor in June 2021 and advising you to take urgent action. You might be asking yourself - Should I be panicking? What are Google asking me to do? Why are they asking me to do this? What should I be doing now to prepare? Don't worry, we have all the answers to these questions below.

Should I panic? 

No, remember that it is one of several hundred different factors that Google uses to rank your site and Google has stated that it will be a minor ranking factor to begin with. It is highly unlikely that it will cause any site to disappear overnight. In fact, you're probably in the same boat as about 96% of the world’s websites that do not meet these new Google criteria today.

Further reassurance comes from Martin Splitt (Developer Advocate, Google). In this video, he explains that site speed might be a differentiator for two sites with equally great content. However all things being equal, it won’t make a site with poor content rank above a site with great content.  

Googles Core Web Vitals

Can I ignore it? 

No, you should absolutely not ingore this! Google has a very good track record of following through and changing the web. In the last few years, it has driven websites to stop using pop up landing pages, to be secure (https) and to work well on mobile devices. It is likely that within the next 6 - 12 months many of your competitors will have improved their websites and the speed of their websites, so it's your task to ensure you keep up with them.   

What is Google’s agenda with Core Web Vitals? 

For many years, Google has advocated creating websites that provide a high-quality user experience. Think of Google as a recommendation service. When someone carries out a search on Google, Google does not want to recommend a site that is: 

  • Off-topic 

  • Made up of badly written or with content copied from another website 

  • Difficult to use 

  • Insecure 

  • Leaves a user staring at a blank page before anything happens 

  • Full of so many images and videos that it takes forever to finish loading 

  • Jiggles and jerks as it loads 

Core Web Vitals is a set of objective standards that covers the last three points. The challenge is that many of the causes of slow page loads are because of the website technology (e.g. WordPress, Joomla, Drupal) and website hosting. It will take a while for these website technologies to develop to meet Google’s standards.  

So, it’s really about pleasing Google? 

No, it is about pleasing your customers and potential customers by providing them with an online experience that they have come to expect in 2021 and which showcases your brand, values and products.  

If your website is doing this well, you will probably be meeting many of the criteria that Google is driving. 

What should I be doing now? 

  1. Think like one of your website visitors, whether they are an existing customer or a prospective customer, and ask yourself: 

    1. Will these visitors find my website easy and enjoyable to use?   

    2. Can they find the information that they need quickly and intuitively?   

    3. Is it equally usable on a mobile phone or a laptop?   

    4. Does it demonstrate and display all the qualities that my brand represents? 

  2. Now visit your competitors’ websites and observe what they do well and what they do poorly. 

  3. Ask a good SEO agency to review your website and give you an objective and data-led review of these same questions. They will help you set the priorities that will make the most difference to your visitors and to Google.  

Action plans

Short term 

Create a list of items that can be improved in the short term. Almost certainly this will involve: 

  • Updating and improving the written content. 

  • Sourcing better photos and editing them to the correct size so they don’t slow your site down. 

  • Fixing anything that is broken.  

  • Asking your web developer to fine tune your page templates to minimise any ‘jiggling and jerking’ as pages load.

Often, we find that businesses have written regular blog posts but have neglected to update their main content pages about their business and products, so be sure to do so.

Medium term 

  • Speak to your web developer and ask them to review your web hosting.  For a relatively small extra cost each month, you might be able to run your website on a faster server and/or use a caching service like Cloudflare. 

  • Whether you run an ecommerce or lead generation site, improving your conversion rate can be the single most productive thing that you can do. By definition, this improves the user experience. Specialist conversion rate optimisation (CRO) agencies use sophisticated tools to find and create the optimum solution quickly and very cost effectively.  

Longer term 

If your website is more than a few years old and you have completed all of the above actions, it is likely that you will need to refresh the technology and the ‘look & feel’ with a new website. 

However, do make sure that you use a web developer that understands marketing performance and that they capture all of the optimisations that you learnt from your current website. Naturally, an important specification for this new website is that it consistently passes the requirements of Core Web Vitals.  

Key takeaway 

Core Web Vitals will be a watershed moment that continues the journey to make the web easier to use. So you should aim to always understand what Google is driving and focus on doing the best by your customers and prospective customers. The key is to deliver highly useful content to them quickly.  

If you'd like to find out more about Google's Core Web Vitals and how we can help you prepare for this update then please get in touch!