April 26, 2021
In just days, it’s coming. Yet another major Google algorithm update, set to launch May 2021. Last year in 2020 alone, we had four.
Technically, Google conducts thousands of updates to its search algorithm each year, but most of these are small fine-tuning operations that have no impact on the online presence of your business.
However, every once in a while a more important update happens, and the Google public search liaison announces the news a few weeks beforehand in a Tweet.
Digital marketers around the world brace themselves when Google announces an update. They wonder how seriously it may impact website search engine rankings that they have spent years—maybe decades—building.
For example, in May 2018 Google launched its so-called “Medic” algorithm update, and many health care web sites still haven’t recovered. While the details of the Medic update remain murky, it’s clear that the update harmed web sites in the “YMYL” (Your Money, Your Life”) space—that is, health care, finance, and law—that had weak authority signals.
Authority is a quality that Google measures by many different factors. These include the age of the site and the number of backlink referrals from other sites. The basic idea behind the Medic update was that since the information on YMYL sites can affect a person’s life and finances, only very well-known and trusted sources should be allowed to rank highly.
Needless to say, for new-ish sites in the YMYL space that had managed to rank well without putting years of work in, the Medic update was devastating.
Most of the major Google updates issued in 2020 were similar to the Medic update in promoting expertise, authority, and trust, the so-called “E-A-T” factors. Thankfully, none of these updates had nearly the same impact as Medic. Fortunately for all the online businesses out there, May’s algorithm update will not deal with any quality as tricky as “authority.”
Instead, the update will focus on what Google calls “Core Web Vitals.” These are the technical aspects of your business website that make it easy to use. This means that if you’ve been taking the advice of your SEO specialist and your friendly neighborhood web developer, you should have nothing to worry about.
The three primary Core Web Vitals that this new update targets are topics we at Main Event Digital talk up to our clients all the time. They are loading, interactivity, and visual stability:
1. Loading - The new update will measure how long it takes the largest graphic
element on a web page - also known as the “Largest Contentful Paint” - to load.
Pages with LCPs that load in 2.5 seconds or less will be considered “good” according
to Google search engine standards.
2. Interactivity - The new update will also gauge how long it takes for a web page to
react when a user interacts with it for the first time, for example by clicking on a
button. This measurement is known as “First Input Delay.” Google will consider pages
that react to the user in fewer than 100 milliseconds “good.”
3. Visual Stability — Websites often load page content in a staggered fashion. The
amount of time it takes for all the content sections of a page to load and align into
their proper place is called "Cumulative Layout Shift." If a web page can reach this
state within 100 milliseconds when loading, it will be "good" by Google standards.
There are a few other user experience issues Google will rank for the Core Web Vitals update. Sites that are optimized for mobile and that have a secure https connection will be favored in the rankings, while sites that harbor dangerous malware and disturbing pop-ups and advertisements will be impacted negatively. However, if your business has been working with a team of experts like we have at Main Event Digital, you will already be doing what you should be doing in all these areas.
Google offers tools that allow you to audit your site on various ranking issues, which can affect a site in any number of ways. A good web developer will have been thinking about Google tools before even building your site, since code that is too repetitive and lacking in elegance can slow down your load times. In some cases such as LCP, your web developer should have been prescribing graphics of different sizes, each of which will only load for a certain kind of device (i.e. desktop, mobile, etc.).
The Core Web Vitals update will likely force businesses away from cheap hosting services that pack a lot of sites onto one server, ultimately slowing all of them down. Also, the days when business owners feel comfortable just uploading any image taken on their phones to their company sites are over.
Overall the Core Web Vitals update reflects a world where the majority of web traffic now occurs on mobile devices. People in emerging economies like China or Nigeria are likely to access the Internet through mobile first, and the dominance of this format will continue to grow. Google’s latest update pressures webmasters to be ready for the future with sites that are easy to use on any device.
The emphasis on usability in this update reflects how much competition there is to reach customers online and how much control users have over the type of media that actually reaches them. We have known for a long, long time that users will bounce from a page if the load time is too slow. We also know that different types of people prefer specific devices and online behaviors. That’s why it’s critical to have an omnichannel digital strategy and above all to understand who exactly your target customer is and how they interact with technology.
We will help you do all of this and more at Main Event Digital. Visit maineventdigital.com or get in touch with CEO Mike Mayer via email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or phone (773) 405-3635 to schedule a free consultation. We’ll help you become a contender in the Google search engine results.