The world of SEO has been rocked by large updates in the past. Panda, Penguin, Hummingbird, RankBrain…the list will continue to grow. In May 2020, Google announced Core Web Vitals as part of its page experience update. There seemed to be an incredible hype around these new measures and the wider algorithm update. Many SEO managers and clients were swept up in the barrage of speculation. The hyperbole can be easily forgiven as it’s a rarity for Google to categorically confirm ranking factors. In addition, the announcement made by Google took place almost a full 12 months before its release date, building a sense of anticipation for its launch.
Amongst all the exaggeration, scare-mongering and genuine discussion, a key statement from Google was overlooked by some, “page experience remains one of many factors our systems take into account. Given this, sites generally should not expect drastic changes”. There’s a couple of snippets from this that should be highlighted. Firstly, the word “remains” tells us that page experience was already a factor – if any SEO team out there hasn’t been concerned about user experience, then they’ve missed the point! Secondly, Google said websites should “not expect drastic changes” – which couldn’t have been put more clearly.
Core Web Vitals are important, not just for SEO but as a measure of website performance beyond simply page load speed. However, measuring true user experience, which is subjective, is virtually an impossible task for an automated system (at the moment). We know from trends and patterns that certain elements correlate with a good user experience, but this data is not bulletproof and many, many aspects slip through the net – there isn’t a one-size fits all measure for user experience. Google opened pandoras box on a complicated problem. If a site loads in less than 1 second on a 3G connection but doesn’t score well in a CWV audit, is it an SEO problem? Knowing that the results wouldn’t be completely reliable is likely why the impact of Core Web Vitals and the page experience update was limited.
A difficult balance needs to be stuck between effort and reward. As we’ve seen, Core Web Vitals aren’t a silver bullet that will skyrocket your SEO rankings. In fact, many SEO data analysts haven’t seen any significant rankings changes as a direct result this update. However, user experience is important for lots of reasons and if improvements can be made, they should be. As above, user experience remains a ranking factor and should continue to be given adequate priority amongst other marketing influences.
If you have any questions regarding Core Web Vitals or Google’s page experience update, please don’t hesitate to contact us and our SEO team will be happy to help.