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The history of Google Algorithm Updates dates back to the year 2000. Between then and now, they’ve released hundreds of updates, each one allowing Google to tweak their ranking factors and improve the way search engine results are displayed.

A lot of digital marketers and SEOs dread the release of a new update because they can have significant effects on the rankings they’ve built over the years, and might mean they have to completely change their strategies.

If you’ve always stuck with Whitehat SEO tactics, you shouldn’t worry, just take note of anything new you need to focus on.

The good thing about the updates is that Google gives plenty of notice before implementing them. For example, Google first announced the updates taking effect last month (May 2021) as far back as May 2020. They provided more information about the updates in November 2020, giving webmasters enough time to prepare to implement.

What you should know about the May 2021 Algorithm Update

With this new algorithm update, Google makes it clear that page experience plays an absolutely essential role in Google Search ranking.

This new page experience signal is a combination of Core Web Vitals and the existing User Experience related signals.

The existing UX signals include safe-browsing, mobile responsiveness, HTTPS security, and intrusive interstitial guidelines- more commonly known as pop-up ads. (Nobody likes those.)

The Core Web Vitals include user-centric metrics like page load time, user interactivity, and how visually stable the page is as the content loads.

If this is all too techy for you, the main takeaway is that Google is continuing to reward web pages that are easy to use. Google wants users to have a good experience when they use the search engine, so the changes make sense.

How to prepare for the new Algorithm Update

Now you know what Google will be focusing on, here’s how to prepare for the update.

It doesn’t matter if you caught the update in May 2020 when Google made the initial announcement or you’re hearing about it for the first time. What matters is that the updates are here to stay and the earlier you start preparing for it, the better for you.

Pay attention to important details

This new algorithm update is all about improving experiences. And quite interestingly, Google shared a comprehensive detail about the key metrics that impact rankings.
So you know what to focus on.

Let’s take a closer look at the Core Web Vitals and what Google considers acceptable:

  1. Page loading speed. The ideal loading time for pages is 2.5 seconds. Anything slower than 4 seconds is an issue.
    If your pages are loading slowly, try compressing images and videos, utilising page caching, and using a consistent image width and height will help to stay within the acceptable range.
  2. Interactivity. To achieve great user interactivity, you must work towards making your pages respond to user actions within 100 milliseconds. If someone on your website wants to do something and they have to wait longer than 100 milliseconds- that’s too long.
  3. Visual stability. Your website should have visual stability of 0.1. What does that mean? As the content on your website loads, it should load smoothly. Nothing jerky, abrupt, or shifting around.
    Include size attributes in your images and video elements so the browser can allocate enough space while the page is loading, and be careful with using excessive animations.

Perform the necessary checks

As you already know, User Experience was a big one in the new ranking algorithm. One way to ensure that your website delivers the best possible user experience is by performing the necessary quality checks.

  • Test your website for mobile compatibility.
  • Scan your web pages for malware
  • Secure your site with an HTTPS certificate
  • Check that your website doesn’t have any disruptive pop ups

They might not feel like traditional SEO (where are the keywords!) but they are necessary to boost your search engine ranking and should be factored into your overall SEO strategy.

What you need to do moving forward

Although we don’t know yet how much impact page experience will have on search results, we do know that they should be considered as important as other ranking factors. If you’ve been relying solely on great content and off-page ranking factors for SEO before now, consider this your sign to add page experience to the mix.

According to Google, “A good page experience doesn’t override having great, relevant content. However, in cases where there are multiple pages that have similar content, page experience becomes much more important for visibility in Search.”

Keep an eye on your Google Search Console going forward to find information about your site’s page experience and how you can improve its performance.

Need some help optimising your website? Contact our team today – we’d be happy to get you ‘Google Ready’!