Google’s Search Algorithm Update: What You Need to Know About Core Web Vitals

May 21, 2021

What is happening?

During the months between June and August 2021, Google will gradually roll out an update to their search algorithm that places a higher emphasis on user experience. This update is part of Google’s continued desire to measure the overall quality of websites, and will now include a series of ranking signals called Core Web Vitals. By the end of August, these metric factors will notably affect search rankings.

Will the changes be drastic?

Core Web Vitals is designed to help web publishers provide a positive user experience, but it’s only one of many factors taken into account. It’s important to first establish basic search engine optimization (SEO) practices within your website, like making sure every page on your site has a meta title and meta description, before moving on to more complex factors like Core Web Vitals.

What are the new Core Web Vital metrics?
There are three search metrics within Core Web Vitals: Largest Contentful Paint (LCP), First Input Delay (FID), and Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS).

These metrics are already being measured, but starting in June 2021 they will be grouped into a single score, and will gain importance in the search result algorithm. Together they attempt to quantify the feel of each page. Pages that score well will load quickly, consistently, and react to user input as fast as possible.

How to test your site
There are many ways to test your site, including in-browser tests and tools that measure your sites with real-world user data. Here are our favorites:

  • Page Speed Insights is great for testing individual pages
  • Google Search Console is part of the Google Analytics suite of apps. This robust tool measures your whole site, and provides you with page experience reports and helpful alerts

How to improve your page Core Web Vitals score

  • Load as few assets as possible. Simple pages will load fast and score higher. The more images, text, videos, or digital assets your page has, the longer it will take to load.
  • Aggregate CSS and Javascript. In Drupal, enable the Advanced Aggregation module to make CSS and javascript files as small as possible.
  • Properly size your images. If the news article image only needs to be 900 x 600 px, don’t use a 15,000 x 9,000px image without reducing the size. Drupal and the Folwell theme have image styles that make this easy.
  • Third-party tools will slow your pages down. Embedding a video or widget adds code to your page that will slow it down and hurt the page score.
  • Content is still most important. All these considerations should be balanced with providing users the best content. If your page needs three embedded Youtbe videos and a hi-res image gallery, use them.

Next steps
There are several actions you can take to help prepare for Google’s Core Web VItals update.

Please contact University Relations if you are interested in learning more about SEO best practices, including:

  • How to properly write meta titles and meta descriptions for your website
  • How to correctly setup images within Drupal’s CMS platform
  • Discuss advanced Core Web Vitals topics
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