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June Core Web Vitals Update: What Does It Mean and How Will It Affect You?

Let’s take it back to the foundations of Google’s updates – the algorithm.

Google’s algorithm is a complex system that combines various ranking factors and data from its search index to rank and deliver the best possible result to a user’s search.

An algorithm update is what it says on the tin – an update to the algorithm to determine what pages it will display for search queries. Algorithm updates happen all the time, but they are usually small and unnoticeable tweaks.

However, two to three times a year, Google will release what’s called a core algorithm update. This is a significant change to the base algorithm Google uses which can cause significant ranking shifts on a much wider scale.

We normally find that if you’re following best practices, a website will be rewarded or stay the same position post-algorithm update. If you’re not, then you’re likely to experience a dip in your ranking position.

A brief history of Google’s algorithm updates

Google’s early algorithm updates cracked down on websites that were essentially cheating the system. But, in recent years, the updates have shifted to focus on ensuring websites provide a good user experience. This is why most updates revolve around content quality, security and page speed.

Here’s a quick recap of some of Google’s most significant algorithm updates over the last decade:

  • Panda (2011): Panda was developed by Google to crack down on how often low-quality, thin content was displaying in the search results. It’s also designed to reward unique and compelling content. Upon release, the update affected 12 percent of search queries. Websites that recover from the impacts of Panda do so by revamping their low-quality content and improving the overall user experience.
  • Penguin (2012): Google’s battle against low quality began with the Panda update. Penguin, also known as the webspam algorithm update, was later released as an extension to this. The update was developed to gain greater control of SERP results and reduce the overall effectiveness of black hat spamming techniques. Targeting manipulative link building tactics and penalising those sites with bad practice link acquisition, Penguin affected 3 percent of searches.
  • Hummingbird (2013): Unlike the Panda and Penguin updates which were released as add-ons to Google’s algorithm, Hummingbird was noted as a complete overhaul to the core algorithm. Signaling Google’s commitment to developing a sophisticated understanding of the intent behind a user’s search, this update brought a significant change to how the algorithm reads content. With the goal of matching a search with more relevant results, Hummingbird provides better results for conversational and semantic search queries.
  • Mobile friendly (2015): The mobile-friendly update caused big changes to mobile search rankings and moved us into the mobile-first era. Google is on a mission to continuously improve the user experience by aligning updates with user behaviour trends. As mobile browsing became more prevalent, it was only a matter of time before the search engine giant reflected this shift. With the update, a website’s mobile version became a ranking factor across both mobile and desktop SERPs.
  • Medic (2018): The Medic update – also known as EAT – is all about ensuring your content is up to scratch. A significant change to content requirements, site owners are expected to demonstrate expertise, authority and trustworthiness within their written content. The EAT update is especially important within YMYL (Your Money, Your Life) sectors, think finance, legal, medical or simply any sector that can have an impact on your quality of life.

This leads us on to the June update – Google’s most significant step towards providing a great user experience since 2018.

The Core Web Vitals Update

Core web vitals are a set of metrics used to measure a site’s loading speed, responsiveness and visual stability. Google’s next update is focused on ensuring website’s are following the Core and Other Web Vitals.

  • The Other Web Vitals (shown in grey) are fairly basic and followed by the vast majority of websites.
  • The Core Web Vitals (shown in green) are a bit more technical and trickier to adhere to.

These metrics are set to evolve as user expectations continue to develop and will be used by Google to provide guidance to brands on the essential ranking signals for delivering a positive user experience. If all of these areas are followed correctly, when the June update rolls out, you’ll send positive search signals to the search engine which may lead to increased rankings.

It’s important to note that the update won’t fully roll out until August, as outlined in Google’s Search Central blog: “We’ll begin using page experience as part of our ranking systems beginning in mid-June 2021. However, page experience won’t play its full role as part of those systems until the end of August”.

The Core Web Vitals update will be combined with previous UX-related signals to provide a ranking for page experience. Google will test a visual indicatorin the SERPs for a website that has a good Page Experience, which is likely to increase click-through rate.

De-jargoned – what does this mean?

Let’s remove the jargon and break this down even further…

  • First Input Delay is the time from when a user interacts with the site to when the browser responds.
  • Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS) is how often users experience unexpected re-arrangements in the page layout. Basically, as a page loads, how much does the layout of that page move around? If it moves around a lot, you’ll have a high CLS and if it barely moves at all you’ll have a low CLS. The lower, the better.
  • Largest Contentful Paint is the largest area of the page that requires loading. Your Largest Contentful Paint can impact your CLS. If your webpage has a large image such as a banner that takes a long time to load, it will shift the layout around unexpectedly once it’s able to load and cause you to have a high CLS.

Our approach

In-house Page Speed Analysis Tool

Our internal research and development team created a tool that uses Google’s Page Speed Insights API to collate data relating to page speed on a page-by-page basis.

Carrying out a page speed audit allows us to be more productive and specific with the technical recommendations that will improve your page speed score and optimise your site for Core Web Vitals.

Core Web Vitals

Using Google Search Console, we’re able to identify which URLs require attention from a Core Web Vitals perspective.

For example, this image shows a Google Search Console account pre-technical changes – it takes 28 days for Google to update its Core Web Vitals data. The great news is that there are no URLs which score ‘Poorly’ and those that ‘Need Improvement’ can be worked through.

The takeaways

The Core Web Vitals update will be here in June 2021. To prepare, you must ensure these factors are in tip top shape:

  • Largest Contentful Paint
  • First Input Delay
  • Cumulative Layout Shift

If you don’t optimise your Core Web Vitals, you run the risk of experiencing a dip in your ranking keywords. This will decrease your website’s organic search visibility, ultimately leading to a loss in traffic and revenue. If you do optimise your Core Web Vitals, you’ll either maintain your current rankings or improve them, with a potential visual indicator in the SERP to be introduced as well.

We’re at the forefront of any changes in the search landscape. Backed by an internal research and development team constantly working on exclusive tools that spot improvement opportunities, monitor performance and boost results, our technical SEO experts can help you prepare, optimise and stay ahead of updates like these.

If you want to get your website ready before the Core Web Vitals update occurs to prevent your rankings from being affected, get in touch with our specialists who will be more than happy to help.