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Google’s Page Experience Update: Core Web Vitals

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Tablet featuring Google search screen on top of spreadsheets and a keyboard

In recent years, Google updates have started to occur on a nearly continuous basis. These updates often affect a small number of queries and it’s easy for them to go unnoticed by the average searcher. Even the larger updates are often unconfirmed by Google. On occasion, however, we see some that are announced in advance by Google themselves, designed to capture the attention of website owners and prompt changes to the internet as a whole. One such update is scheduled to be released this spring, the Page Experience Update.

What Exactly Is Changing?

Google updates are ultimately designed to improve search results for users. This is accomplished by changing the factors that contribute to a page’s rankings or their relative importance. An example of such an update, one of historical impact, was known as The Penguin Algorithm Update in 2012. This changed the way Google looked at backlinks, especially those artificially created to boost website rankings, and resulted in a dramatic increase in search result quality and changes in which pages ranked well.

With this new update, we will see new signals relating to user experience being considered. These signals are related to how quickly a web page loads and are collectively known as Core Web Vitals. Specifically, these metrics are:

  • Largest Contentful Paint (LCP) – The time to load the largest item in viewport to load.
  • First Input Delay (FID) – The time it takes for a page to become interactive.
  • Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS) – The shifting of page elements as various elements are loaded.

So while page speed has always been important, this update provides specific metrics to improve and will reward websites that are able to excel by those standards. These metrics will also join existing page experience signals such as Mobile Friendliness and HTTPS Security.

Google Core Web Vitals Graphic

Image source: https://developers.google.com/search/blog/2020/11/timing-for-page-experience

When Is It Happening?

Originally slated for a May 2021 release, Google has recently announced that there will be a gradual rollout starting in mid-June. This staggered rollout will further incentivize webmasters to make improvements to their Core Web Vitals as they see the impact of the update manifest more gradually. The update is anticipated to be completed by the end of August 2021.

What Should I Do?

The simplest answer is to check your website’s performance. Google provides a simple yet powerful option with its PageSpeed Insights tool. This will quickly show you how your site performs and provide specific numbers for your site’s Core Web Vitals.

This update also serves as a reminder that websites must continue to evolve in order to remain competitive. It is important that your firm’s site remains up-to-date with the latest technologies and services. In addition to speed, it is important to consider whether your site meets the expectations of modern users and if you are delivering on all page experience signals.

If your law firm’s website is more than two years old, contact us to learn how technologies have evolved since your site’s launch and the potential benefits of updating your site.