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2021 Google Algorithm Update

Improving your page speed will have the greatest impact on the 2021 Page Experience update:

The New Google Algorithm Update has everything to do with page speed. Watch this video to learn what's changing and find your solution.

Introduction to the June 2021 Google Algorithm Update

(Last updated: June 3, 2021)

Page speed has been a ranking factor since 2010 on desktop and 2018 on mobile. On June 2, 2021, Google began the rollout of a broad core algorithm update which includes another set of speed-related ranking signals. These ranking signals are called the Core Web Vitals (CWVs). The June 2021 Core Update is the first in a series of core algorithm updates focusing on "page experience," and we can expect a July 2021 Core Update next month.

Google Announces June 2021 Core Update Live

Google announced the June 2021 broad core update release and plans to release July 2021 core update. Their announcement was accompanied by this message: "The June 2021 Core Update is now rolling out live. As is typical with these updates, it will typically take about one to two weeks to fully roll out."

The new Core Web Vitals include largest contentful paint (LCP), first input delay (FID), and cumulative layout shift (CLS). In addition to serving as lightweight ranking signals, these new metrics will help website owners monitor and improve the loading speed, responsiveness, and stability of their websites to ultimately build a better user experience (UX). 

This article will provide all the information site owners need to understand this upcoming core algorithm update and prepare their sites accordingly to experience a rankings boost when the rollout starts in June and goes live over the course of this summer.

The Latest News on the Page Experience Google Algorithm Update

In this article you’ll learn: 

  • History of the Page Speed Ranking Factor
  • How the Page Speed Ranking Factor will expand in 2021
  • What are Core Web Vitals?
  • What does this algorithm update mean for SEO?
  • What does this algorithm update mean for conversions and revenue?
  • How to measure Core Web Vitals
  • How to improve Core Web Vitals
  • The future of Core Web Vitals
  • The latest news about Core Web Vitals
  • Top articles about the Core Web Vitals algorithm update
  • Core Web Vitals Frequently Asked Questions

The history of the Page Speed ranking factor

“We’re obsessed with speed"

— Google

Google updates its search engine ranking algorithm thousands of times per year. Most of the changes are minor and go unnoticed without much industry chatter. However, since the inception of it’s search engine and pagerank algorithm in the late 90s, Google has also publicly announced numerous core (read: major) updates to it’s algorithm, many of which were geared towards recognizing and penalizing spam and sites trying to cheat the system, like the panda update in 2011, the penguin update in 2012, and the medic core update in 2018. 

Some of these updates have also focused on improving the user experience as it relates to site speed. Operation “speed up the internet,” for example, has been underway since 2010 when Google announced the desktop site-landing speed would be a new ranking factor for search results. In 2018, they doubled down, announcing to the search community that mobile site-loading speed would also become a ranking factor as well. 

Since these algorithm updates have gone live, metrics associated with page speed have only become more important. Users increasingly expect a stellar page experience as they click into, navigate through, find information, and purchase products and services from websites — especially from mobile search. And in many ways, the importance of a quality user experience has transcended the realm of SEO — it influences all marketing channels now.

“Providing a smooth journey for users is one of the most effective ways to grow online traffic and web-based businesses. We hope the Web Vitals metrics and thresholds will provide publishers, developers and business owners with clear and actionable ways to make their sites part of fast, interruption-free journeys for more users.” - Google

— Google

In the context of site speed, user experience has always been difficult to capture in a single metric. It certainly hasn’t been satisfactorily accounted for in previous updates. This Core Web Vitals quality update is the product of extensive research on user behavior, which determined that the best proxy for a quality user experience was to measure how quickly the most important content loads on page (largest contentful paint), how fast buttons and such respond to a user click (first input delay), and how little the page moves as additional elements load (cumulative layout shift).

How the Page Speed ranking factor will expand in June 2021

In May 2020, Google announced the planned launch of a broad core algorithm update, called the “page experience” update, in the spring of 2021 that would be focused on measuring the quality of a web page’s user experience. The update was announced over a year in advance to give webmasters a sufficient timeline to improve their sites before the new ranking factors went live.

Originally, the update was supposed to go live in May 2021. However, Google announced on April 19th, 2021 that the rollout wouldn’t begin until June 2021, and that it would be granular at first before fully having an impact on rankings by the end of August 2021. They related the rollout to the gradual flavoring of food saying, “You can think of it as if you’re adding a flavoring to the food you’re preparing. Rather than add the flavor all at once into the mix, we’ll be slowly adding it all over this time period.”

What Are the Google Core Web Vitals

core web vitals metrics

Core Web Vitals are a new set of user experience-based ranking signals that make up Google’s “page experience” update, which goes live in June 2021. They measure various real-world user experiences with your site that determine your overall page speed and page performance scores, and will ultimately have some impact on your page rankings in search results.

largest contentful paint

The first Core Web Vital, Largest Contentful Paint, essentially measures how quickly the largest and most important piece of page content loads in the initial viewport for a user visiting the site. To pass a Core Web Vitals assessment, this piece of content needs to load in under 2.5 seconds. It also accounts for 25% of your Google Performance Score. You can read more about the details here.

first input delay

First Input Delay (FID)

The second Core Web Vital, First Input Delay, measures how responsive your web page is to user input, like the clicking of a button. To pass a Core Web Vitals assessment, your web page needs to register a response time under 100 milliseconds. It also accounts for 25% of your Google Performance Score. You can read more about the details here.

first-input-delay-button

John Mueller Explains FID

John has a good point here. If you click into a site and it appears to load a little slow, you might be okay with it. But, if a page has already loaded and then you can't interact with it... you're likely going to leave the page. That's a really bad page experience, so Google wants to avoid serving those web pages to search engine users if they can.

It's also important to point out the connection here between FID and bounce rate. When a user goes to click and something and the page doesn't respond it's bad for your business. That user will be more likely to bounce, they won't convert, and the bad page experience can reflect poorly on your brand.

Cumulative Layout Shift

cumulative layout shift

The third Core Web Vital, Cumulative Layout Shift, measures the stability of your web page and whether elements move out of place as additional ones are loaded. To pass a Core Web Vitals assessment, your web page needs to register a score under .1. It also accounts for 5% of your Google Performance Score. You can read more about the details here.

To pass a Core Web Vital assessment and receive a ranking boost, your page needs to register a passing score for each of these metrics. Additionally, each of these three metrics will be considered alongside pre-existing page experience metrics that include being mobile friendly, safe-browsing, https, and having no intrusive interstitials

cls-mobile-button
John Mueller tweet cumulative layout shift

John Mueller Explains Cumulative Layout Shift

"Ugh. Bye" is right. No user wants to put up with a shifty, unstable page. They will simply leave. So, again, a page that with a low CLS score is likely to have a higher bounce-rate, lower conversion rate, and reflect poorly on your brand.

How will the new Core Web Vitals and page experience update impact your SEO?

From an SEO standpoint, there will be an incentive to optimize your website for good Core Web Vitals scores because they will become a lightweight ranking factor. And Google plans to show a badge alongside specific search results that pass the Core Web Vitals assessment, in order to signal to user that they can expect a good experience on these pages. Additionally, a good user experience improves bounce rates, conversion rates, and ultimately, revenue, across all marketing channels.

That said, you don’t want to abandon quality content creation efforts in the process of optimizing for this update. As Google’s Martin Splitt said:

“Is it ‘the’ ranking factor (whatever that’s supposed to mean)? No. A fast website with terrible content is likely not what searchers seek… But if you have two good pieces of content and one is going to be frustratingly slow, we might wanna give the faster one a better position, no?”

— Martin Splitt
Martin Splitt of Google comment on core web vitals

Should we follow these metrics 'religiously'?

Simply put, you still need to provide valuable content to your users that answer their questions, and you still need to consider the other ranking factors. However, if you aren’t thinking about user experience in terms of page performance then you simply are not providing the highest value to your audience, and your Google Search rankings will reflect that.

How will Core Web Vitals and the page experience update impact conversions and revenue?

If your website isn’t currently meeting the aforementioned criteria for good page experience, then it’s already hurting your conversions and revenue — not just in organic search — but across all marketing channels. There are lots of studies on this from Google and industry research that indicate the correlation between good user experience and conversions. For example:

  • Pages that loaded in 2.4 seconds had a 1.9% conversion rate
  • At 3.3 seconds, conversion rate was 1.5%
  • At 4.2 seconds, conversion rate was less than 1%
  • At 5.7+ seconds, conversion rate was 0.6%

Longer page load times have a severe effect on bounce rates. For example:

  • If page load time increases from 1 second to 3 seconds, bounce rate increases 32%
  • If page load time increases from 1 second to 6 seconds, bounce rate increases by 106%

For the relationship between first contentful paint and revenue: 

  • On mobile, per session, users who experienced fast rendering times bring 75% more revenue than average and 327% more revenue than slow.
  • On desktop, per session, users who experienced fast rendering times bring 212% more revenue than average and 572% more revenue than slow (ALDO Case Study).

Here's a comment from Google on the reason for this page experience update:

“Providing a smooth journey for users is one of the most effective ways to grow online traffic and web-based businesses. We hope the Web Vitals metrics and thresholds will provide publishers, developers and business owners with clear and actionable ways to make their sites part of fast, interruption-free journeys for more users.”

Google

This page experience update will make it even harder for sites with poor user experience to rank highly and get traffic from the search results that matter most to their businesses. As previously mentioned, Google will be adding a badge directly in search results to sites with good user experience, so it will be interesting to see how users respond and whether they will be more likely to bypass or ignore sites without this endorsement altogether.

"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. 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 plan to test this soon and if the testing is successful, it will launch in June 2021 and we'll share more details on the progress of this in the coming months."

Google Search Central

How do you measure the Core Web Vitals?

You can monitor and measure Core Web Vitals data in three different places: the Google Page Speed Insights Tools, the Google Lighthouse Report, and in the Google Search Console Page Experience Report. Drilling down further, you can look at field data (looking at real-world user experiences) and lab data (looking at controlled environments with predetermined network and device settings) separately. 

Google Search Console Page Experience Report

For example, the Google Search Console Page Experience Report shows how your pages are performing across all 7 metrics (in addition to the Core Web Vitals) based on field data from the Chrome User Experience Report. By contrast, the Google Lighthouse Report shows performance data that comes from the lab. The Google PageSpeed Insights Tool is capable of showing both field and lab data, as well as an overarching page speed “score” on both desktop and mobile devices. 

Google PageSpeed Insights Tool

To see whether you are passing or failing the Core Web Vitals assessment in the Page Speed Insights tool, simply go to this URL, input your URL, and results will be returned that show scores for each of this individual Core Web Vitals and whether your site is passing the assessment, based on data collecting in aggregate over the previous 28 days. 

Google Lighthouse Report

To see your Core Web Vitals scores in Google Lighthouse, open up a URL from your website on a Chrome browser, right-click on the window and click “inspect”, then click on “Lighthouse” and “Generate Report” in the window that opens on the right-hand rail. Click on the performance score and it will open up a window displaying numbers for each of the Core Web Vitals, as well as links to how each is calculated. 

The overall page experience and Core Web Vitals report in Search Console can be accessed via the left handrail in Search Console nested under “Experience.” These will show the percentage of URLs on your site with a “good” page experience, as well as URLs that are “in need of improvement” or “poor” and what the specific details are.

How do you improve Core Web Vitals scores?

It should be noted that improving your Core Web Vitals requires technical chops. If you are not a developer yourself, consider assigning responsibility for these scores to a developer on your team, outsourcing the work to SEO experts, or using software designed to improve these metrics

The first thing you should do is understand the problems specific to your site. Perhaps, for example, your site is scoring well on Cumulative Layout Shift, but you have a lot of room for improvement on First Input Delay and Largest Contentful Paint. Run a quick audit of your site through Page Speed Insights or Lighthouse to see where you stand on all three and what strategies are suggested for improvement, and then dive into the Core Web Vitals report in Search Console to see which specific URLs need to be fixed.

If you are scoring in the “green” on all three metrics and therefore passing the Core Web Vitals assessment, simply continue to monitor these numbers on a weekly basis in the leadup to the update. Unless you are reliant on software, achieving good page speed is not usually a “set it and forget it” type endeavor. It requires vigilance. 

If you are scoring in the “orange” or “red” on any of the three metrics and therefore failing the Core Web Vitals assessment, dive into the recommended suggestions for improving each score and open up that Core Web Vitals report to identify which URLs need to be fixed.Of course, you could simply use Huckabuy Page Speed software to solve the problem. That said, in future articles, we will detail exactly how to improve Largest Contentful Paint, First Input Delay, and Cumulative Layout Shift scores if you want to approach this problem with developer time and resources.

The Future of Core Web Vitals

While the Core Web Vitals include the three metrics we've discussed in 2021, that does not mean the Core Web Vital Metrics will not change in the future. The point of the Core Web Vitals is to ensure that websites are providing a quality page experience to users. If, for example, Google determines the cumulative layout shift is not actually that important to overall page experience for users, then they could get rid of the metric in the future. They also could add new metrics.

“And our goal with the Core Web Vitals and page experience, in general, is to update them over time. So I think we announced that we wanted to update them maybe once a year and let people know ahead of time what is happening. So I would expect that to be improved over time. But it’s also important to get your feedback in and make sure that they’re aware of these weird cases.”

John Mueller, Google

THE FUTURE OF CORE WEB VITALS

While the Core Web Vitals include the three metrics we've discussed in 2021, that does not mean the Core Web Vital Metrics will not change in the future. The point of the Core Web Vitals is to ensure that websites are providing a quality page experience to users. If, for example, Google determines the cumulative layout shift is not actually that important to overall page experience for users, then they could get rid of the metric in the future. They also could add new metrics.

“And our goal with the Core Web Vitals and page experience, in general, is to update them over time. So I think we announced that we wanted to update them maybe once a year and let people know ahead of time what is happening. So I would expect that to be improved over time. But it’s also important to get your feedback in and make sure that they’re aware of these weird cases.”

John Mueller, Google

Huckabuy Page Speed Software and the Core Web Vitals

The Latest on Twitter about the Core Web Vitals

SEO Expert Aleyda Solis Talks CWV

Aleyda Solis has been one of the many voices talking about site speed, Page Experience, and the new Core Web Vitals. She reminds us that while Page Experience signals will affect SEO, prioritizing site performance is first and foremost about the user.

Google has proven that users care about site performance more than any other user experience category.

Study finds only 4% of sites score "good" on Core Web Vitals

A study conducted in April 2021 by Searchmetrics revealed that only 4% out of 2 million domains were passing all of the Core Web Vitals.

Google June Algorithm Update Announcement

Google Announces New Rollout Date

On Monday, May 19th, 2021, Google announced that the Page Experience Core Algorithm Update — originally set to rollout in May 2021 — will now begin to rollout mid-June, 2021.

This news update also comes with more information about their Google Search Console page experience report.

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

What is a Google Algorithm update?

A Google algorithm update is a change made to Google’s search engine in order to improve the quality, relevance, and overall user experience of its search results.

What is a Google “core” Algorithm update?

A core algorithm update is one that is so significant to the algorithm, that Google is compelled to publicly announce the pending changes, usually well ahead of time to give webmasters sufficient time and opportunity to adjust. The June 2021 “Page Experience” update is an example of a “core” algorithm update.

How often does the Google algorithm change?

Google updates its algorithm quite often. Sometimes thousands of times per year. But most of these changes go unnoticed. Typically, when a significant change is made, Google makes a public announcement well ahead of time.

What is the latest upcoming Google algorithm update?

The latest pending (publicly acknowledged) algorithm update is the June 2021 “Page Experience” update, which will introduce new ranking factors tied to the quality of a site’s user experience (loading speed, responsiveness, and visual stability). 

What is the Google “Core Web Vitals” update?

The Google Core Web Vitals update is a core algorithm update that is set to launch in June 2021. It will introduce three new metrics into the algorithm that measure and help rank sites based on the quality of their user experience. Specifically, they look how quickly the largest piece of content in the initial viewport loads, how responsive the page is, as well as how visually stable the page is. The three metrics that make up the Core Web Vitals are Largest Contentful Paint, First Input Delay, and Cumulative Layout Shift. 

Why are Core Web Vitals important?

Core Web Vitals are important primarily because they are set to become a new ranking factor in Google’s search algorithm in 2021. They are also important because they measure the quality of a site’s user experience, which is important for all marketing channels and has a big impact on key metrics like bounce rates, conversions rate, and revenue.

How do you pass the Core Web Vitals assessment?

In order to pass a Core Web Vitals assessment, your web page must receive a passing score for each of the metrics. For the Largest Contentful Paint, you must be under 2.5 seconds. For First Input Delay, you must be under 100 milliseconds. And for Cumulative Layout Shift, you must be under 0.1.

How do you measure for Core Web Vitals?

There are numerous tools and reports that can be used to monitor and measure your website’s Core Web Vitals. We recommend using any of the following: the Google Lighthouse report, Google’s PageSpeed Insights tool, and both the Core Web Vitals and Page Experience reports in Google Search Console.

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