SEO has evolved over the years. We’ve witnessed major changes, such as the shift to mobile-first indexing, the rise of zero-click searches, and the influence of voice search on how content is created.
With advancements in AI and machine learning, there’s still one element that’s shaping all these technologies and driving the future of SEO: user experience.
In a nutshell, what’s good for your consumer is good for your organic search ranking.
To improve user experience, search engines like Google will rely on user signals. These are signals website visitors send to search engines that tell them (search engines like Google) about their positive and negative experiences with a website.
A few examples of these signals can be found in Google’s recent Core Web Vitals Update. Familiarizing yourself with these updates will help you prepare your website for future changes in SEO more effectively.
Page Experience and Core Web Vitals
In the second quarter of 2021, Google released its latest major update called Page Experience, a major component of which is the Core Web Vitals or CWV.
The Core Web Vitals are ranking signals and they are also metrics that webmasters need to look at to make sure that the pages on their site are optimized. CWV determines how fast a page loads, how quickly a visitor can interact with it, and its overall ease of use.
Here are the key points to remember:
– Largest Contentful Paint or LCP is known to measure page speed and loading speed. This refers to how long it takes for the biggest and heaviest piece of content to load on the user’s screen. Loading time of less than 2.5 seconds is considered good. Any more than that and Google will see it as a page that needs to be improved.
– First Input Delay of FID is known to measure interactivity. This refers to the moment a visitor starts to interact with a page (click a link, scroll, etc.) to the browser’s response to that interaction or user request. A score of less than 100 milliseconds is ideal. Anything slower than that and the page will have to be optimized.
– Cumulative Layout Shift or CLS is known to measure visual stability. This measures the amount of movements or shifts that elements on the page did from when they first started loading. The less movement and more static the elements are, the better. A score of less than 0.1 is ideal for CLS.
The CWV is a guide for webmasters, content creators, marketers, and site owners so that they not only aim for quality but enhance user experience as well. The update, however, doesn’t mean focusing solely on speed, stability, and interactivity to the exclusion of that other element intended for users: quality content.
Google has this to say about the update:
“A good page experience doesn’t override having great, relevant content. However, in cases where there are multiple pages that have similar content, page experience becomes much more important for visibility in Search.”
But “user experience” can be ambiguous, so Google has formed a system that can help you assess and compare UX in a quantifiable manner.
How Can You Measure CWV
Google has been preparing for this update since 2019, and in May of 2020, has even included the Core Web Vitals report feature in Google Search Console (GSC). The report gives you an overview of how your content and pages are performing following these three metrics.
You’ll gain an idea of how your website is complying in terms of Page Experience.
Aside from GSC, Google has prepared other web vitals tools that will help you gain insight into how a web visitor experiences your website
When combined, these tools will give you more detailed feedback that will help you diagnose the problems properly.
– PageSpeed Insights – This tool gauges how fast the pages on your site loads. It also points out lab and field issues that your SEO needs to work on. You can use this to compare field and lab CWV performance.
– Lighthouse, Web Vitals Extension, and DevTools by Chrome – This array of tools will help your SEO team gather more technical data and help them experiment with changes in offline environments.
– Chrome UX Report – This helps you get a more granular way of monitoring updates compared to what you’ll get from GSC. You can easily know how efficient your origin and URL performed against CWV in the span of 28 days.
Optimize Your Website for User Experience
To begin your optimizing for user experience with Core Web Vitals, Google advises to try to follow the workflow below:
➢ Go to Search Console’s Core Web Vitals report feature and determine the pages that require attention based on the field data.
➢ Next, head over to PageSpeed Insights to determine lab and field issues on a page.
➢ Once you’re ready to optimize your site, go to Lighthouse and Chrome DevTools to measure CWV.
➢ You will be provided with advice and guidance on what you need to fix. Chrome has the “Web Vitals” extension that enables you to view metrics real-time on your desktop.
➢ If you need a custom CWV dashboard, use PageSpeed Insights for lab data and the updated Chrome User Experience (UX) Report for field data. If you need more guidance, go to web.dev/measure because this tool measures your page and presents you with a prioritized set of guides for optimization.
➢ Lastly, use Lighthouse CI to ensure there are no issues in Core Web Vitals before you execute the changes.
Here are more steps you can take to optimize each page of your website:
➔ Compress your images
➔ Resize your images to the right placement sizing
➔ Lazy load content
➔ Take out any render-blocking elements and resources that are unnecessary
➔ Use a content delivery network (CDN)
Your Content Needs to Be Optimized
Core Web Vitals are guidelines, a webmaster’s North Star. They help guide website owners, SEO specialists, white label SEO providers, and content marketers create web pages that will engage people to stay longer on sites.
A business or a brand will only be able to engage people if they target the right users, possess the right data about those users, and use the data properly. For example, creating the right content that’s interesting for those users, or having a web design that makes browsing easier for the visitor.
The key here is to have the right data and have the skills to analyze the information to create an efficient SEO strategy. It’s an important component in achieving top-class user experience.
For example, you need to know what keywords your target users are looking for. Next, you have to know the top websites or competitors appearing for those keywords and which pages are attracting those users.
Next, audit that page or your competitor’s website, and then compare them to yours. How does your LCP, CLS, and FID stack up against them? What kind of content are they writing? How many users are clicking on that content? Analyze your findings and optimize your content or page accordingly.
Content needs to comply with Page Experience 75% of the time.
Google states that to gauge the overall page or site performance, they use 75% of all page views to that site. If at least 75% of page views meet a good threshold or score, then the site classifies as having good performance for a particular metric.
CWV metrics threshold is explained in more detail on Google’s own page. It’s important to note that you have to constantly check if all the pages in your site adhere to at least the acceptable score for each metric.
Engage Your Users
The whole point of any business is to serve its target market. So it makes perfect sense for search engines to follow that goal; to make sure consumers are getting the best experiences and services they can from brands, from websites.
Every SEO professional who does their work with long-term results in mind should always keep the user in mind. They need to understand their target audience, to determine intent, and to learn what drives their behavior. Once these things are figured out, you’ve got half of a potentially successful SEO campaign on your hands.The other half being the tools and skills needed to implement the tactics in your strategy.
Yes, the SEO landscape will always change. But if you keep the user at the center of your strategies, you’ll maintain if not exceed your search performance.
Itamar Gero is the founder of SEO Reseller, an SEO Services & global digital marketing solutions provider that empowers agencies and their local clients all over the world. When he isn’t working, he’s traveling the world, meditating, or dreaming (in code).