Google Page Speed at the Core of May 2021 Update

Google Page Speed at the Core of May 2021 Update

How Will Google’s Page Experience Update Affect Your Website?

If you’re reading this article chances are that you have seen various mumblings of another core Google update set to be rolled out in May 2021. It seems likely that this will be a fairly big deal in the organic search world, as it looks closely at page experience for a user and more specifically at page speed scoring metrics or core web vitals as they have become known. Looking into this, you may be thinking:

  • How much will my site be affected by the upcoming Google update?
  • Will I lose lots of organic traffic?
  • Is it worth investing lots of time and money into my website in preparation?

To understand how best to approach answers to these questions, let’s look at a breakdown of what the update involves:

HTTPS Ranking Favourability

Strictly speaking, this crucial ranking factor is not new and has been cited on numerous updates, originally surfacing in 2014. If your website is still actively serving non-secure pages on its domain, you really should be making efforts to switch them to HTTPS. Like search engines, serving non-secure pages to users creates uncertainty as to the legitimacy of a website, particularly in a data and transactional sense.

Mobile Friendliness

Is your website fully optimised for mobile? If the answer is no, then I would urge you to work on making a sharp mobile experience for your users as a priority.

Since July 1, 2019, Google switched the way it indexes websites to mobile first by default. This means that search bots prioritise mobile handling of your website over desktop experience and provide ranking boosts for this enhanced mobile usability. In other words, if you don’t have mobile optimisation in place, you’re missing out on huge visibility benefits.

Page Speed (Core Web Vitals)

Going hand-in-hand with mobile friendliness, if your website is slow in its load times then users will simply bounce from your website before they have found what they are looking for.

Google has been pushing the digital world towards understanding page speed better by introducing core web vitals. FCP, LCP, CLS, Speed Index and Time to Interactive may sound like jargon but each of these metrics plays a vital role in the way your website loads when users and search bots access it. Addressing issues with each of these, typically looking at third party render blocking resources, will help alleviate problems with page speed and for that you could be on to a winner with the proposed “visual indicator” release.

Signals on SERPs Which Highlight Good Page Experience

The details of Google’s visual indication on SERPs of pages with a good experience are vague except for a few sentences from their official blog announcing the update:

“On results, the snippet or image preview helps provide topical context for users to know what information a page can provide. Visual indicators on the results are another way to do the same, and we are working on one that identifies pages that have met all of the page experience criteria.”

So, if testing of this update is successful, we can expect to see some visual representation of enhanced websites that tick all of the boxes of the page experience metrics on SERP listings in May.

This is particularly important because it has the ability to directly affect your website’s CTR from search results. If successful, what better way to get ahead of your competition by not only improving your rankings with this update but also by having the premium page experience signal next to your listings.

Should I Take The May 2021 Google Update Seriously?

Usually, I would advise caution with a large number of Google updates. Yes, it is important to be aware of how Google is developing their complex algorithm to enhance search but often when they do roll out an update it goes through a series of phases, developments and roll backs before widely being accepted as stable.

Stability is Key

After a typical update it is not uncommon to see periods of fluctuation across keyword rankings which can result in either some small spikes or dips in organic traffic, depending on which side of an update your website is favoured. From this, understanding and recognising fluctuation causes is pivotal to your SEO efforts going forward.

Reacting to initial causes of minor fluctuation across metrics actually could be more harmful to your SEO, if you knowingly had a good strategy in place prior to any update. After an update, always look for commonality in trends, seek advice from other SEOs to gauge what experiences they’ve had post-update and check official documentation and release notes from Google. Of course, if you are noticing major negative impacts to key metrics, you should investigate probable causes thoroughly.

Always understand the implication of an update

This update promises to enhance search results visually, so while it may take longer than the initial May deadline for Google to finesse, it is likely that visual indicators will become more developed on SERPs during the course of this year. With this in mind and if your budget allows, now is a good time to become more familiar with core web vitals, their function and relationship to your website and the potential benefits they can provide to your overall visibility.