Core Vitals, the Next Big Google Update: What You Need to Know.

Last year Google announced a new major update to their ranking algorithms. What does that mean? Who does it affect? Let’s dive right in.

What are Google Updates?

Before looking into what the new update is, first, what are Google Algorithms? It’s what Google uses to determine which websites should rank where in their search results. The platform makes minor updates periodically to ensure they are delivering the best search results to their users. While most updates are minor, there are some that can drastically affect your website’s search rankings. For these updates, most people won’t even notice until it is too late, and your site has been penalized.

Here is a list of some major updates that drastically changed the digital marketing world and how websites are created.

  • Panda & Hummingbird: These updates were focused on the quality of the content on your pages. Understanding it’s not the number of times a keyword is placed in your content, but rather the quality of the content, and if it satisfies the searcher’s intent was the point of this update.
  • Penguin: More of a technical update. This update penalized sites who acquired low-quality, purchased backlinks in an effort to look like a higher authority site.
  • Mobile: This update completely shifted how websites are built and penalized sites who were not mobile friendly.
  • Bert: This update penalized “fluff” writing, where the writer worried too much about word count and too little on the quality of the content being written.

There have been plenty of other updates over the last decade; however, they have changed the way search engines view websites and how webmasters build their sites.

What is the new update?

Google’s newest update is called Core Web ssVitals and is part of a group of more technical ranking factors such as page speed and mobile friendliness, among others. The update takes into account user experience, and as MOZ puts it, “These are real-world experience metrics that Google is looking at that answer things like: How fast does the page load? How fast is it interactive? How fast is it stable?”

The Core Web Vitals are broken down into three categories:

  • Largest contentful paint (LCP): This measures how fast the largest item on the website loads for users.
  • Cumulative layout shift (CLS): Ever go to a website, click on the link you want and have the entire site shift so you accidentally click on something different? This, in essence, is what CLS is, and sites that have that frustrating shifts will be penalized.
  • First input delay (FID): This measures how fast you are able to interact with the page once it loads.

There are several other nuances to this update, but these are the major factors that will determine whether or not your site will be penalized.

What is the penalty for not following these guidelines?

There’s no straightforward answer to this question. Like all other Google updates, there is no way of knowing whether sites that are penalized will lose “X percentage of traffic.” However, without even taking into account the traffic lost from rankings, Google themselves have said that for sites that follow these guidelines and have good Core Web Vitals, users are 24% less likely to abandon the page as it is loading. So even if your ranking decrease isn’t substantial, it is still extremely important to be sure your site is following these guidelines.

Is my site at risk? How can I find out and fix it?

The easiest way to determine if your site is performing poorly in these Core Web Vitals is by logging into your Google Search Console. There is a section there that will show you detailed information about exactly how well your website is performing under each of the three categories. If you are a web developer, then you can take that information and fix those issues on your site. Not a web developer? Then reach out to The Agency, where our Digital Marketing Team can help determine if your site will be penalized and ensure you don’t lose a single customer to this new update.

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