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Google’s search algorithm update with “wide-reaching impact” takes effect in 2 months: Publishers, get ready

Google’s search algorithm currently depends on certain signals like mobile-friendliness, safe-browsing, HTTPS-security, and intrusive interstitial guidelines. In about 2 months, there will be a major update with new page experience signals, combining Core Web Vitals with the existing search signals.

Core Web Vitals are designed to measure how users experience the speed, responsiveness, and visual stability of a page.

“Optimizing for quality of user experience”

Web Vitals is an initiative by Google to provide unified guidance for quality signals that are essential to delivering a great user experience on the web. Core Web Vitals are a set of real-world, user-centered metrics that quantify key aspects of the user experience. They measure dimensions of web usability such as load time, interactivity, and the stability of content as it loads.

Optimizing for quality of user experience is key to the long-term success of any site on the web. Whether you’re a business owner, marketer, or developer, Web Vitals can help you quantify the experience of your site and identify opportunities to improve.

Philip Walton, Google Engineer

These signals measure how users perceive the experience of interacting with a web page and ensures they get the most helpful and enjoyable experiences from the web. The metrics that make up Core Web Vitals continue to evolve over time. The current set focuses on three aspects of the user experience—loading, interactivity, and visual stability.

According to Google, “changes to these metrics will have wide-reaching impact.”

Google will prioritize pages with great page experience

In 2020, Google announced that Core Web Vitals would become a part of Google’s algorithms in 2021, but given the pandemic conditions, assured publishers that “there is no immediate need to take action.”

Now Google has confirmed that this algorithm update would take effect in May 2021, so for publishers, now is the time to take action on the aptly named page experience update.

Great page experiences enable people to get more done and engage more deeply; in contrast, a bad page experience could stand in the way of a person being able to find the valuable information on a page.

By adding page experience to the hundreds of signals that Google considers when ranking search results, we aim to help people more easily access the information and web pages they’re looking for, and support site owners in providing an experience users enjoy.

Sowmya Subramanian, Director of Engineering for Search Ecosystem

The change for non-AMP content to become eligible to appear in the mobile Top Stories feature in Search will also roll out in May 2021. Any page that meets the News content policies will be eligible and Google will prioritize pages with great page experience, whether implemented using AMP or any other web technology, as they rank the results.

Tools publishers need for improving page experience

Publishers should not have to be performance gurus in order to understand the quality of experience they are delivering to their users. The Web Vitals initiative aims to simplify the landscape, and help sites focus on the metrics that matter most, the Core Web Vitals.

To get ready for these changes, Google has released a variety of tools that publishers can use to start improving their page experience. 

The first step is doing a site-wide audit of your pages to see where there is room for improvement. Search Console’s report for Core Web Vitals gives you an overview of how your site is doing and a deepdive into issues. Once you’ve identified opportunities, PageSpeed Insights and Lighthouse can help you as you iterate on fixing any issues that you’ve uncovered. 

Philip Walton, Google Engineer

Head over to web.dev/vitals-tools for a roundup of all the tools required to get started.

The Chrome User Experience Report collects anonymized, real user measurement data for each Core Web Vital. This data enables publishers to quickly assess their performance without requiring them to manually instrument analytics on their pages, and powers tools like PageSpeed Insights, and Search Console’s Core Web Vitals report.

Since Google believes that the Core Web Vitals are critical to all web experiences, it is committed to surfacing these metrics in all of its popular tools

“The goal with these updates is to highlight the best experiences and ensure that users can find the information they’re looking for,” says Jeffrey Jose, Google’s Product Manager on Search. “Our work is ongoing, which is why we plan to incorporate more page experience signals going forward and update them on a yearly basis.”

We believe user engagement will improve as experiences on the web get better — and that by incorporating these new signals into Search, we’ll help make the web better for everyone.

Sowmya Subramanian, Director of Engineering for Search Ecosystem
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