What Google's Core Web Vitals means for your SEO and how to improve your score
2021 marks another very big change for Google’s ranking algorithms and of course, as far as SEO goes, it means good news for some and bad news for a lot of websites and products.
In May 2020, Google published a post on its developer blog introducing Core Web Vitals — a set of metrics that will result in major changes to the way websites are ranked by the search engine. In May 2021, Google will officially add those Core Web Vitals to the various other “page experience” signals it analyzes when deciding how to rank websites.
Remember good old days with Google PageRank Algorithm, and what it meant for SEO, and then they changed it, for the better, and here we are, at another pivotal point. The good news is that it’s a major improvement for the Google Ranking Algorithm and it makes it relatively smarter and better, the bad news is that more than 70% of all websites will suffer from this ranking and will experience a much worse ranking.
There is good news for you since you’re here, the new Google ranking system is all about “Improving User Experience” and when you master that, you will be rewarded. Here I’ll list the opportunities on how to get rewarded and improve your SEO & Core Web Vital Score.
How to improve our Google’s Core Web Vital score?
The principal of Google hasn’t changed over the years and all of Google’s ranking systems are all heavily based on this core principle.
The first step to improve your website for Google is to understand Google’s purpose & principle. This purpose is to show people what they need when they need it. For Google, it involves two main parts:
First, you have to truly understand what people want when they use the search tools (not what they type in the search box, but what they “desire” to see as the result) and second, what results should come first, or in other words, “who” among the many relatively similar sources, has the right answer.
These two are the cornerstones of SEO and the new Google’s Core Web Vital follows the same purpose. If you truly understand these two, you’ll master SEO.
So basically, Google wants to show the “best and desired” results first, and no amounts of tips and tricks will change this. So don’t fall for SEO hacks! any attempts to fool Google are not only futile but will be resulted in your website being flagged and ultimately black-listed.
So the first step of SEO is amazingly simple: Give people what they need, what they desire.
So, once again, “content is king”. If you don’t have what people want, what people search, what people desire, Google won’t show you, even if you do every single thing in this article.
So let’s assume you do have what people are looking for, but so do many others, how to trump your competitors in Google search? How to become the first search result?
The short answer is this: Google will rank pages based on “Credibility & Popularity”, “User Experience”, “Performance”, “Security”, “Accessibility”, “Being Standard”, and “Update Frequency”. These Factors are the most important factors in Google’s search algorithm, but they’re not all of them.
Here are top tips on how to reach the best SEO possible on all of these factors:
Credibility & Popularity
The first one is probably the hardest, especially for startups and the websites that are just starting. It’s no secret that Google ranks a reliable source much higher than a new (=unreliable) website.
To improve your rank you have to gain credibility and avoid getting labeled as an “unreliable source”.
You can gain credibility by:
- Collaborating with more credible sources, as often as you can
- Creating truly original content, especially if they are industry-focused
- Creating a community around yourself (Social groups, use of social networks and forums, etc.)
- Getting people to talk about you and your products (In reviews, social networks, and other websites)
- Getting mentioned in the news outlets and blogs, as much as possible
- Being truly active on more channels such as social networks, app stores, plugin directories, etc.
- Having a broad global audience
How you might be labeled as an “unreliable source”? These are the most common mistakes:
- Copying contents from others
- Translating contents from other sources without adding any value
- Dumping loads of content on the website all at once
- Depending only on the paid advertisement to be mentioned in the news, blogs, and social media
- Creating fake pages, reviews, comments, and articles on other websites about your product
- Being present on many social networks, but not updating them frequently
- Buying or creating backlinks
Gaining credibility is hard and it doesn’t happen in one night. But if you avoid these mistakes and rely on other factors, it should build up pretty fast.
It goes without saying that popularity, like credibility, is very important for Google, but there is nothing special you can do about it. Promote topics that matter to you to increase your conversion rate and increase your popularity. It takes time, and if you do everything else, popularity will follow.
As mentioned, UX is the cornerstone of the Core Web Vitals. Basically, Google will rank you higher, if your own users enjoy their experience and find your product useful. crazy, right?
There are many great articles on principles of UX and we can’t go deep on it here, but I want to mention 3 tools to help you measure your own UX data and use it to improve your SEO.
First, Product Analytics, we have Mixpanel. It helps you understand what exactly are your users doing with your product, which sections they understand, which sections they're struggling with. It helps you understand every user’s journey through your product and the main “obstacles” you have. This analytics is better suited for startups and SaaS companies. Alternatively, you can check out Heap orAmplitude.
Second, Customer Analytics, we have Formaloo. It helps you understand your audience and customers. You can see their pattern, track their behaviors and segment them based on that. You can see who’s about to leave your product, who’s not satisfied, who is a promising customer, and so much other useful information. The goal is to turn your visitors into customers and to turn your customers into loyal ones. This analytics is better suited for e-commerce businesses and startups. Alternatively, you can check out Zaius or Exponea.
Third, Behaviour Analytics, we have Hotjar. It helps you “see” what your visitors are doing on your website. Features like heatmaps, user recording and click & scroll analytics will show you which part of your website or product needs fixing, which part your users are seeing and which part they’re ignoring. This analytics is better suited for early-stage startups and products, where the number of users is not that high. Alternatively, you can check out Microsft Clarity.
If you combine two or three of these analytics, you can use your own data to improve your UX dramatically.
The best news is this is the part that most of your competitors are not doing, if you master it, you will own your SEO in Google’s Core Web Vitals.
If you’re website loads faster than others, you’ll rank better. That’s it. It’s critical to reduce your website load to less than two seconds, even if that's not your whole page (First Contentful Paint).
There are many ways to improve your website speed. Here are the most important ones:
- Reduce your server load time (allocate more resources, use a better cloud service, etc.)
- Images kill your speed. Use the lightest version possible, use lazy load whenever possible, for where it’s not, like your logo, use new formats like SVG and make sure to have very few images on each load of a page
- Use CDN and cache technologies
- Remove Unused CSS & JS, minify the rest
- Make sure all of your pages are coded standard and without bottlenecks (Render blocking resources, network issues, etc.)
- Monitor your uptime constantly
- Avoid having annoying pop-ups, ad banners, and anything that people imminently dismiss, as much as possible
Google’s core web vitals demands for performance are very strict, especially for loading time in mobile phones. You can check your performance via these criteria in Google’s own webmaster tools.
Most of the websites can lose 95% of their fat without losing anything valuable.
You must check your performance every few weeks and find new bottlenecks that you can solve.
It’s not a matter of SEO, really, but it’s an important factor here. I saw many online businesses fall because they didn’t pay enough attention to it and became victims of hackers, leaks, and spammers. Take good care of it for the business itself, SEO impact is just a cherry on the top.
Here are the most important tips about SEO related security:
- Make sure your servers, domains & IP addresses are protected
- Hire a DevOps expert to manage and upgrade your infrastructure
- Use CDNs to add an extra layer of security
- Make sure all of your domains and subdomains have valid SSL certificates and are HTTPS only
- Avoid using unverified plugins, libraries, and frameworks in your code
- Regularly check your DNS records, Mail servers, IP addresses, etc. for any sign of exposure or weakness
- Make sure you have 3 secure routine backups at all times
The impact of security on SEO is subtle but very important. It’s very common to get black-listed because of a lack of security.
This is the other half of UX. Your pages should be easy to read, everywhere. In desktops, mobile phones, tablets. Your website should be not only completely responsive but easy to read and navigate. Chances are 80% of your visitors are looking at your website via the screens of their phone.
The era of making websites for desktops and getting them to be responsive on mobile screens is over. Now, the best websites have a “Mobile first” design.
Delivering the same great experience through all different screen sizes is very important for your SEO, not to mention for the success of your product.
Google knows this and rewards websites with the best interfaces across all screens. You can even get bonus points for your SEO if you develop a PWA (progressive web app) for your website!
For Google, being standard is much more important than being a pioneer of the new technologies. Google wants you to code your pages within the standards of the web and keep them updated, nothing more.
Many developers are tempted to create websites and products using the latest experimental frameworks, libraries, and languages. There is a dangerous pitfall in this practice. Google might deem the result as “not standard” and they will receive a very low SEO score and they often wonder why.
One example was that Google had a problem with one of React libraries for years and couldn't even index the pages written in that technology correctly and that caused many products to have very poor SEO scores.
So, avoid using anything too experimental, especially in parts of your product that’s public and indexable by Google. Always check the other products using those technologies and research the effects on their SEO. New is not always better.
Websites that are updated more frequently, experience better ranking. Basically, Google will check your website from time to time and if a page is updated, it will increase its frequency to check your website and index you faster. It shows that you’re more active and Google's indexing speed will adjust to your updating speed.
That’s why you see that a piece of news posted one minute ago is already indexed by google but some websites don’t get indexed in 4–5 days even. It’s because in the eye of Google, that website is very active and should be indexed as soon as possible and the other, is not so important.
Avoid dumping all of your content all at once, it’s a form of spam. Maintain a regular frequency when you’re updating your website or blog. Regularity in frequency is very important in SEO and results in better scoring, even if the content creation is not as much as other websites.
How can I measure my SEO score and improvements?
After you have done all these basic steps, it’s time to measure and improve more, every day. SEO is not a one-time task, it’s a regular process. If an SEO expert told you that they can fix your SEO in few days, they’re liars. You only maintain your top rank if your SEO score constantly improves, months after months.
There are many great tools you can use to regularly check your SEO and find new ways to improve it. Here are my favorite top 5 tools to improve your SEO:
- Google’s Core Web Vital itself! That’s right, there is an official source that shows if you pass Google’s Core Web Vital or not and how’s google ranking you.
There are two ways to access it: first, from your Chrome browser, click on inspect elements and then go to Lighthouse. Then click to audit your page, remember to do it twice, once for desktop and once for mobile phones.
Second, you can go to Web.dev official website to scan your pages for more detailed reports:
It gives you a pretty decent report about your performance, accessibility, being standard, and a little about security. It shows you how Google sees and ranks your pages.
Alternatively, for performance & being standard factors, you can check out GTMetrix as well.
2. Keywords, links, and content analytic tools: You need to constantly analyze every piece of content you produce and put on your pages. You also need to audit every single page of your website to make sure everything is up to code.
The three main tools that I recommend for these are MOZ, Ahref & Semrush. All of them provide you with a toolkit of what you can do to improve your ranks in a specific keyword, how to audit and improve every page, and what needs to improve in your website, content-wise. My favorite is Ahref.
3. CX Analytics: User experience and customer experience is the most important change in the new Google’s ranking algorithms. So if you nail this, you’re at the top. CX Analytics helps you find the pain points of your websites and the ways to improve them.
The goal here is two things: Increase conversion rate and reduce churn at the same time. My favorite tool for this is Formaloo, it gives you regular reports on where in your products or pages need to be fixed or improved in three steps: “What” segment of my audience is experiencing a pinpoint, “why” they’re not satisfied, and “how” to fix it.
Alternatively, Mixpanel, Hotjar, Medallia, and Heap are all very great tools that can help in creating a better CX.
4. Google webmaster tools: Google is an open book, it’s not shy about how it ranks your pages and how it sees them. So use the official tools to track the status of every aspect of your product and see how they perform.
Google webmaster tools don’t provide many insights, but they’re essential and can’t be ignored. Master this tool first before using anything else!
5. Google Analytics: The last tool belongs to Google again. You need to explore how your visitors are reacting to your content, keywords, and your goals. You can see how your content strategy and the end results match here.
Google Analytics acts as a mirror, it shows you what is what, nothing more. You can use this mirror to make your product and your content better, prettier, and more impactful.
Once again, the new Google ranking algorithm is all about “Improving User Experience” and when you master that, you will be rewarded. Use all of the tools and tips above to ensure that your audience, your customer, and your visitors have a great experience when they’re using your product, and your SEO will be set.
Thank you for reading this post, I would love to hear your feedback and your experiences regarding this post. If you want to contact me or ask me any questions, here is my LinkedIn, I would be happy to hear from you