Website speed and Google’s core web vitals - are they related?
Since Google rolled out its core web vitals update in June 2021, there have been visible ranking changes for many websites. Numerous reputable websites that had previously had top rankings for their targeted keywords saw a decrease in ranking, on the other hand, smaller websites experienced an increase in how Google ranked them in June and July 2021.
This led to the question: are Google’s core web vitals influencing websites’ speed, and hence, affecting their ranking? John Mueller (Senior Webmaster Trends Analyst at Google) 'assumes' the two are not related, because page speed updates affect a certain aspect of ranking, while the core web vitals affect another one. In other words, one change resulting from either speed or core web vitals update won’t affect the other one.
However, both speed and core web vitals affect page rankings, but in different ways. Both of them are meant to improve page experience, therefore they both play a separate role in how algorithms perceive them to provide a qualitative user experience.
Google core web vitals are meant to improve users’ experience on the page, by offering the information that users are searching for (based on their search queries) at the top of the article. As Neil Patel, Founder of Ubersuggest said, “Google doesn’t like fluff”, so it will penalise websites that do not adhere to this new rule of thumb in how it is ranking them in its search engine result pages.
What does this mean for your business?
After listening to Google’s John Muller discussing how different updates affect Google’s ranking algorithms, one thing is sure: if Google doesn’t know it, it means they’re either not ready to disclose this information, or they really don’t know the full story of how the algorithms are evolving and ranking websites.
This shouldn’t mean that businesses like yours are left in the dark. Here’s what we know:
- Speed and core web vitals (the metrics that score users’ experience when loading a page and user interaction) are affecting websites’ ranking in search engine results pages.
- A page that loads quickly and contains the main information that the user is looking for at the top of the page, instead of in the middle or towards the end of the page, will be considered to provide a better page experience than others that don’t follow the same model for structuring their content, hence it will rank higher.
- Regardless of the page experience ranking system, Google also ranks websites depending on their SEO. However, SEO only gives websites that have applied good practice a seat to the table. Websites still need to go through a web speed optimisation process to increase loading speed. Here is where the three main Google core web vitals (largest contentful paint, first input delay, cumulative layout shift) need to be optimised.
For entrepreneurs who are still building their companies’ websites, this is good news, because they can start from scratch, applying these insights, and gradually start ranking, bringing their new websites in front of potential customers.
How to improve Google Core Web Vitals?
There are tools that can be used to inform developers how to fix the GCW, such as:
- Google Search Console: it provides admins with relevant information about what search queries people are searching to reach theirs or similar websites. These search queries can be used to optimise pages and articles across titles, headers, and paragraphs.
- Webpagetest.org: it shows developers what elements are impacting the entire web load experience, so that they can work toward fixing those.
In conclusion, this means that whilst you still need to assign your web developers the task to take the necessary actions to fix your website’s core web vitals and improve the speed, your website needs to be optimised so that it provides the answers to what users are looking for at the beginning of the article. And yes, SEO is still required in order to even be considered for ranking.