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2020 Google Search Updates

Google is constantly working to update their software services and modify their search offering (Google.com) in an effort to streamline the web experience for us regular folks. This year they’ve made announcements detailing new policies for search results ranking and a new tool for measuring site experience. In May, they released their new tool, called Web Vitals. They followed up, later that month and earlier this month, outlining updates to the search results algorithm ranks web pages.

These announcements are changes related to user experience(UX) on websites, and more specifically the “search signals for page experience” factored into the search results algorithm. Google’s research has indicated that website users place a priority on sites that are a pleasure to use. Loading speed and ease of access to content create an experience that people will appreciate and return to. Enhancing the user experience on your website will increase the success of the site over time.

With this in mind, Google developed specific tools to measure certain metrics commonly associated with UX. You can think of them as loading speed, interactivity, and visual stability. While we all have different experiences relating to specific content and context, these three metrics are referred to as Core Web Vitals by Google. You can either use the public data gathered in the Chrome User Experience Report or use Google’s publicly available code to collect data on actual visits to your website. Whichever you choose to research, gathering the data and making changes to improve your UX will strengthen your site’s performance.

Starting in May of 2021, you will want to account for the Core Web Vitals. They will be included in an update to the criteria used to rank searched web pages in Google’s search results. Moving forward, Google will advance sites with a streamlined UX past those sites that have not optimized their UX(with similar content).

Search Factors

Google’s search algorithm considers many factors (hundreds even), but I think over time, the page experience factors will weigh heavily on the ranking of a website. The current search signals for page experience are as follows:

Existing Factors Prior to 2020
-Mobile Friendliness: As more people use mobile devices for web browsing, Google looks at a site for consistent design and layout across all modern devices and how easy it is to complete tasks (like going from site entrance to purchase of a product)
-Safe Browsing: Google deprioritizes websites that contain malware, links to malware, or lead users into downloading malware or entering sensitive information
-HTTPS: A secure extension to hypertext transfer protocol, which is the method your computer talks to a website
-No/non Intrusive Interstitials: Any visual impediment to the content upon landing on a webpage, such as a pop-up or an in-content ad that fills the area above the fold
New Factors in 2020
-Loading Speed: The main measurement is the time it takes to load the main page content, also known as the Largest Contentful Paint
-Interactivity: Here used to mean measuring the time between the first interaction we make with a website and when it has loaded enough to respond, also called the First Input Delay
-Visual Stability: This refers to the likelihood of unexpected shifts in the layout of a web page during loading. This metric is known as Cumulative Layout Shift.

Frank Daniels
Listings Expert

Further Reading:

U/X Blog Post

https://webmasters.googleblog.com/2020/05/evaluating-page-experience.html

https://blog.chromium.org/2020/05/introducing-web-vitals-essential-metrics.html

https://webmasters.googleblog.com/