Since we’re now in the back half of May, we should be fully immersed in the next update of the famed Google algorithm.
What is the Google algorithm, you ask? It’s not actually just a single algorithm, but a combination of algorithms and ranking factors whose job is to retrieve data from its search index and instantly deliver the best, most satisfying search results to a user’s query.
Google is always updating its algorithms, but every year or two it makes what it deems to be a major update. Most people point to the update in 2011 called Panda to be the start of this major updating trend. Since Panda debuted in February 2011, there have been an additional seven major algorithm updates/changes:
- Penguin — April 2012
- Hummingbird — August 2013
- Mobile — April 2015
- RankBrain — October 2015
- Medic — May 2018
- Bert — October 2019
- Core Updates — 2017-present
Next up? Page Experience, which at this writing was set to debut in May 2021. So, let’s get into what’s coming.
If you’re a client of MyAdvice, you don’t need to worry about any of this stuff — we will be completely ready with all of our websites for these changes. If you’re not a client, first off, why not? Second, you’ll need to pay attention to these areas for your website. Regardless of your standing, it’s interesting to see the areas Google seeks to fix/upgrade in its relentless drive to provide the ultimate user search experience.
Core Web Vitals keeps expanding
Part of Page Experience is the continuing expansion and upgrade of Google’s Core Updates, which began four years ago. Let’s walk through these.
- Largest Contentful Paint (LCP) — Measures how fast the largest content on a page loads. A fast LCP of 2.5 seconds of less shows users the page is useful and well maintained
- First input delay (FID) — This is the time from when a user first interacts with a page (i.e., clicking a link, etc.) to when the browser actually processes and responds to the interaction. A well-designed page should have an FID of less than 100 millisecond.
- Cumulative layout shift (CLS) — This is one everyone can relate to. This is when a visual element on a page, such as a sign-up form or a link, changes its position on the page, “shifting” up or down. This is maddening, as you click and miss the original target, often then clicking instead of some other link or even an ad. A good CLS score is less than 0.1.
These are what Google refers to as “behind the scenes” metrics. They will play a bigger part in ranking moving forward with Page Experience.
There are also four “existing metrics” that Google is pushing to perform better on sites in this new update:
- Mobile-friendliness — Mobile search now is larger than desktop search, so this is kind of a no brainer, but since its first push for this in 2015 Google continues to want pages to load quickly and be easy to read on mobile devices. If your site isn’t mobile friendly, it will sink in search rankings, as it should.
- Browsing safety — It’s expected that sites are to be free of malware and they protect users’ personal information.
- HTTPS security — The Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure (HTTPS) means data sent via HTTPS is authentic, encrypted, and safe from modification. If a site is still HTTP, without the S, forget about it in ranking.
- Intrusive interstitial compliance — A popup ad would count as an “intrusive interstitial.” These things open atop the content the user clicked on and wants to see. These are especially annoying on the smaller real estate of a phone screen. These are penalized if they are pop-up ads, full-screen overlays, or other large windows that block the content on the page.
Page Experience is all about user experience
Google has moved to rewarding content on websites and truly weighing the user search experience. That’s why it will use the above core vitals and existing metrics in addition to weighing lots of other factors in this latest update of its famed search engine algorithm. This all started four years ago when Google devalued keywords in favor of robust, detailed, well-written content. That was in response to the “gaming of the keyword system,” which was rampant.
At that point, Google felt rewarding content was in the searcher’s best interest rather than allowing a bunch of back-loaded keywords to dictate sites that rose in search. In response to that algorithm change, website content expanded from weak bullet point lists to pages full of relevant content. Well, it didn’t for all websites, but those that didn’t generate meaningful content instantly dropped in organic search.
At that point, Google placed user experience front and center when considering the optimization of a website. The time it takes pages to load, the quality of those pages, the lack of movement on a page once it loads, how long users stay on pages or abandon them — these are all factors that have been evolving in how Google rewards websites in organic search.
As a Google Partner, at MyAdvice we’ve known about these upcoming and expanding changes since long before any of them were made public. That means come the time you’re reading this in May, as Google actually implements Page Experience, if you’re one of our clients your site will be ready to go. It will meet all of these criteria and then some. Plus, it will feature the stunning, efficient design we’ve been known for since we started designing websites over 20 years ago.