A few months ago, Google announced plans to introduce a new search engine ranking signal based on page impressions as measured by metrics Core Web Vitals . Google has thus promised to give site owners at least six months' notice before the update is rolled out, so that they can improve their results before it is introduced.
Recently, Google officially confirmed that they will introduce the mentioned quality signals in May 2021. And in the last few days, they moved this date to mid-June. The implementation process is expected to last until the end of August.
The search engine also plans to introduce a new visual label for sites that fully meet the quality requirements. As we can read:
Visual result indicators are another way to improve the search engine user experience. We are working on one that identifies pages that meet all quality criteria. We plan to test this soon and if testing is successful, implementation will begin in May 2021. We will provide more details on progress in the coming months.
There are no details yet on what this will actually look like, but the AMP lightning stamp is a good example of how small graphics in search results can influence user browsing behaviour.
Are you ready for change?
Google's planned implementation will include basic Web Vitals (loading rates, interactivity and visual stability) in combination with existing search signals for mobile adaptability, secure browsing, HTTPS security or intrusive full-screen messages. Given where we are now, site owners will undoubtedly need the next few months to realise the nature of the new ranking signal and prepare for it accordingly.
A Google Core Web Vitals score results in a pass or fail, with a "pass" requiring a good score in all three categories. A cursory test using Page Speed Insights on several websites for major companies, hosts and interactive agencies dealing with WordPress shows that most do not meet these requirements today.
In August 2020, SEO agency Screaming Frog published an extensive report, which shows that only 12% results on mobile devices and 13% on desktops passed Core Web Vitals. Screaming Frog used the PageSpeed Insights API to test 20,000 websites, which were selected by pulling organic results from the first page of results for 2,500 keywords from 100 different topics. The report highlights some of the data:
- Delay (FID) on computers for 99% URLs are considered good and 89% in the case of mobile phones .
- 43% URLs on mobile devices and 44% URLs on computers had a good LCP (Largest Contentful Paint) index.
- 46% URLs on mobile devices and 47% URLs on computers had a good layout shift (CLS).
- The URLs in position 1 had o 10% more likely to pass the CWV assessment than URLs in position 9 .
These results suggest that most site owners still have a long way to go to meet the requirements and pass the Core Web Vitals test. Not surprisingly, Google suggests using AMP technology, but even AMP is not a guaranteed success.
60% AMP domains pass Core Web Vitals tests, compared to 12% domains that do not use AMP based on the same criteria. This means that owners of sites with Google's technology deployed will also have some work to do in optimisation.
GTmetrix with new algorithms
As if in response to Google's announcement, GTMetrix one of the most popular website performance analysis tools made significant changes to its analytics tools a few days ago.
Until recently, GTmetrix used the older PageSpeed and YSlow libraries to evaluate your site and suggest best practices for web performance. While these libraries are great for analysing how well you've created and optimised your website for speed, they don't measure actual performance and page load speed for real users.
To fix this, GTmetrix has updated its algorithms to use the latest Lighthouse indicators, which in turn use Chrome data (CrUX).
Analysing the site today using GTmetrix, the metrics immediately catch the eye Web Vitals.
I will write about the new version of GTmetrix more than once, but now the important information is that we should start thinking seriously about preparing for the upcoming changes due to further signals affecting the SEO of our projects.
Results will be influenced by real data, not laboratory data
What you should know and distinguish between is lab data and data from real users. Virtually everyone who is starting out with their site or not particularly interested in performance issues believes that what Google Page Speed Insights shows in lab data will affect rankings. Example:
Unqualified results, but they are not the ones that will be taken into account. If there is enough traffic to your site, the month in month test will also show overall data for the last 28 days, which is based on data from real users.
There is some overlap between these data like CLS, but you can also see the differences for FCP and LCP. This type of information from real site visitors will be taken into account by Google, not lab data. In the example above, the most important metrics are both good, but this doesn't have to be the case at all.
It is also worth tracking the basic web metrics recorded in Google Search Console:
Optimisations will not be an easy task, or at least not for everyone. Often they may require giving up add-ons that we use and which underperform especially when our competitors in this field are not sleeping. Prudent and skilful selection of extensions for WordPress and the theme itself, as well as what kind of content architecture and arrangement we ultimately develop, will become even more important. Actions based on "I like it" without analysing the consequences will not be the best way to work with the website.
As part of the courses MeetWP especially WordPress course and course related to SEO optimisation we will be talking about it, but it is highly likely that your needs will also result in additional material on this important topic. Keep your hand on the pulse 🙂 .
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Are you looking to optimise and improve Core Web Vitals for your WordPress site? If not it's either because you've already done so, or because
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