Google has made significant updates to their Core Web Vitals and Page Experience FAQs. This is important because at the time of writing (April, 2021) we are expecting Google to roll out their Core Web Vitals update in May 2021.
They created this FAQ in December of last year (2020) but today it was finally upgraded with many significant developments. We can learn from these FAQ updates and perhaps predict some changes to expect when the Core Web Vitals update arrives in May.
Why We Think the Core Web Vitals Information is Critical to Understand
With Google’s latest page experience update just on the horizon for many marketers, we believe it’s imperative to ensure that your site complies with better page experience along with Core web Vitals.
While the update will likely be straightforward, we feel that compliance with these metrics will give your site a competitive advantage and that spending some time and effort now can benefit your site long term.
Even if you don’t experience a significant boost, it may help your conversion rate and keep people on your site longer (a metric known as “dwell time”).
What Information is Critical?
Google’s FAQs provides some insight into the information that we think is important t as you continue SEO work on your projects.
“Q: Where does the Core Web Vitals data that Search considers come from?
A: The data comes from the Chrome User Experience Report, which is based on actual user visits and interactions with web pages (also known as field data). To be clear, the data is not computed based on lab simulations of loading pages or based on the visits of a non-human visitor like Googlebot.
Q: How are scores for individual URLs calculated? In other words, how is it determined if a page passes or fails the web vitals assessment?
A: Metrics are calculated at the 75th percentile over a 28 day window. By using 75th percentile, we know that most visits to the site (3 of 4) experienced the target level of performance or better. If a page hits the recommended targets for all three metrics, it passes the web vitals assessment. More details on the distribution and aggregation is here.
Q: Why am I seeing different metric values in different tools such as Lighthouse and the Chrome User Experience Report?
A: Core Web Vitals are based on actual user visits, which will be influenced by users’ environmental conditions and their interactions. Tools like Lighthouse are lab simulations. While Lighthouse can provide a point in time picture of what the metrics may be for some users and what opportunities there are to improve, it may differ from the data collected based on actual users’ visits.
Q: I don’t see the page I’m looking for in the Core Web Vitals report on Search Console.
A: For each issue type, Search Console lists a subset of URLs. These URLs are representative of various types of pages your site may have. The purpose of this report is to help users discover problematic page types such that they can be debugged in tools like Page Speed Insights or Lighthouse. We hope that by fixing the patterns of issues exposed through examination of individual URLs, the entire page type would be improved.
Q: Are noindex pages and pages “blocked by robots.txt” included in the CrUX dataset?
A: You can access CrUX data in 2 ways: Page-level through PSI and the CrUX API or Origin-level through the Public Big Query Dataset. The former only surfaces information for publicly indexable pages that also meet a traffic threshold, while the latter may include aggregate data from all public and private pages.
Q: What is the page experience update and how important is it compared to other ranking signals?
A: The page experience update introduces a new signal that our search algorithms will use alongside hundreds of other signals to determine the best content to show in response to a query. Our systems will continue to prioritize pages with the best information overall, even if some aspects of page experience are subpar. A good page experience doesn’t override having great, relevant content.
This is similar to changes we’ve had in the past, such as our mobile-friendly update or our speed update. As with those signals, page experience will be more important in “tie-breaker” types of situations. If there are multiple pages of similar quality and content, those with better page experience might perform better than those without.
In short, publishers shouldn’t worry that when we begin using page experience, that they may suffer some immediate significant drop, if they’re still working on making improvements. But publishers should be focused on making those improvements a relative priority over time. This is because as more and more sites continue to improve their page experience, it will be the norm that publishers will want to match.
Q: How does page experience ranking work with respect to the published guidance on what values for Core Web Vitals are considered in the “good” threshold?
A: The guidance for LCP, FID, and CLS (the Core Web Vitals) each outline a specific value that constitutes a “good” score. Because closer to zero is better for all of these particular metrics, we can speak in terms of any score between zero and the documented value (inclusively) as being the “good range”.
Google’s page experience ranking assesses each of the Core Web Vitals individually as a signal for ranking. The page experience ranking impact will be the same for all pages that are in the good range for all Core Web Vitals, irrespective of their individual Core Web Vitals scores. For example, a page with an LCP of 1750 ms (better than the “good” LCP guidance) and another one with 2500 ms (at the “good” guidance) would not be distinguished on the basis of the LCP signal. However, hundreds of other signals, including the other Core Web Vitals, could result in differing ranking for the two pages in question. Outside of the good range, differing values of a Core Web Vital metric across two pages could result in differing page experience ranking.
Q: How does a publisher know if their pages are receiving the benefit of Core Web Vitals in ranking?
A: Page experience ranking is concerned with evaluating pages based on user experience as measured by Core Web Vitals, along with other criteria. We recognize that sites may balance user experience goals with other business goals. Pages that receive a score of “good” on Core Web Vitals are achieving an aspirational level of user experience, and might get a boost in the page experience component of ranking, provided other components of the page experience signal (HTTPS, mobile-friendliness, etc) are deemed OK.
If you have pages that aren’t measuring “good” on at least one of the Core Web Vitals metrics or not passing the other page experience criteria, we recommend focusing on improvements in those dimensions over time. While all of the components of page experience are important, we will prioritize pages with the best information overall, even if some aspects of page experience are subpar. 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.”
Google’s Page Experience Update Coming in May 2021
The update that’s on everyone’s mind at present is Google’s page experience update. In addition to the behind-the-scenes algorithm updates, Google will also be using visual indicators in the SERPs, directing users to sites that have the best user experience.
According to Google:
“We believe that providing information about the quality of a web page’s experience can be helpful to users in choosing the search result that they want to visit,” Google wrote. “On results, the snippet or image preview helps provide topical context for users to know what information a page can provide. Visual indicators on the results are another way to do the same, and we are working on one that identifies pages that have met all of the page experience criteria.”
We don’t know exactly what this means yet, but Google could be edging ever closer to a SERP where they direct users to particular pages that have a wonderful user experience.
It will be interesting to see what happens as we get closer to the launch date of the new page experience algorithms.
Our Major Takeaway
What we find most interesting about the changes is that Google says they will always rank a site based on how relevant the content is, regardless of how well it does with Core Web Vitals.
This is how Google explains it:
“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.
For some developers, understanding how their sites measure on the Core Web Vitals—and addressing noted issues—will require some work. To help out, we’ve updated popular developer tools such as Lighthouse and PageSpeed Insights to surface Core Web Vitals information and recommendations, and Google Search Console provides a dedicated report to help site owners quickly identify opportunities for improvement. We’re also working with external tool developers to bring Core Web Vitals into their offerings.
While all of the components of page experience are important, we will prioritize pages with the best information overall, even if some aspects of page experience are subpar. 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.”
Clearly, relevance of content will continue to be one of the most important strategic SEO elements you can pursue. While page speed is a ranking factor, we don’t recommend constantly pursuing other efforts like Core Web Vitals at the expense of your content relevance. Here is Google’s article where they explain this further.
The strongest possible SEO strategy is one that focuses on page speed, Core Web Vitals, content relevance, and high-quality page experiences. We recommend considering each of these topics when you want to improve your SEO instead of prioritizing one above all else.
What Google’s Page Experience Update Tells Us
It turns out ranking may in fact be less about page speed and more about page quality. While page speed is still a ranking factor and may become more important in the future, page quality still ties into page experience quite significantly and can affect your page’s success.
It wouldn’t surprise us if page speed was more of an add-on, rather than a chaos-inducing update. We won’t know for sure until the update finally hits.
We can’t wait to see what the upcoming page experience update will look like when we run it through our tests.
As always, iloveseo will be here to keep you informed every step of the way.