Over the years, SEO has developed into more than just keywords and content creation. Now that isn’t saying that we should forget about the core principles and start writing poor content with no direction, it just means that we need to develop our strategies.
In 2021, you have to consider other engagement aspects like user experience (UX) and conversion rate optimisation (CRO). These can be done with a combination of a skilled web developer, a strategic launch copywriter and of course, an SEO like me.
One key area that will continue to be a focus in the coming years is the development of user experience. Last year, Google announced a new ranking factor called Core Web Vitals that will go into effect in 2021.
As of writing this blog post, we are anticipating the update to live in June 2021, although it may be delayed again (it was originally planned for May 2021).
What is Core Web Vitals?
Core Web Vitals are three specific ranking factors that combined with other web vitals (mobile-friendly, safe browsing, HTTPS and no intrusive interstitials (e.g. no pop-ups) will impact well your website ranks.
Largest contentful paint
Largest contentful paint or LCP is how long it takes your webpage to load. The recommended metric is 2.5 seconds or faster.
You can negatively impact your LCP score by the following:
- Having slow service response time
- Using coding languages (like Java and CSS) that block rendering (this is the process Google uses to access your content)
- Slow loading resources like images and videos
As you can tell, a lot of this factors rely on page speed so focusing on a cleanly coded website template is a must have for any online business.
You can improve your LCP score by doing the following:
- Removing any unnecessary third-party scripts and using Google Tag Manager
- Upgrading your hosting
- Using lazy loading for your images
First input delay
First input delay (or FID) is all about interactivity on your website. Essentially, how long does it take for your page to be interactive? (hint, it should take less than 100 ms).
What exactly does Google consider as an interaction?
It could be any of the following:
- Selecting an option from a navigation bar/sidebar
- Typing information into a form
- Clicking on a jump link
This is important because it takes into account how your real-life audience interacts with your website. It combines page speed with how long it takes for someone to do something on your website.
FID doesn’t necessarily have to be important for every page on your website, only the ones that you expect people to interact.
Now usually, I’d recommend adding noindex to your thank you page so it doesn’t appear in Google but for the purpose of this example, we are going to pretend your sales page and your thank you page are both indexed.
You would want your audience to take an action on your sales page. You could want them to watch a video, click a button to review your FAQs or apply/buy your services. This is where FID is huge and you’d want to focus your efforts.
Your thank you page on the other hand, more than likely has some next step guidelines but has zero need for interaction. While it’s an important page on your website to track conversions, it doesn’t need to be optimised for FID.
Similar to LCP, you can improve improve your FID score by:
- Removing any tasks that take too long to load
- Removing any third-party scripts
- Using browser caching
Cumulative layout shift
Cumulative layout shift or CLS is the visual stability of your webpage when it loads. You may have seen it yourself when a webpage has loaded and the visuals start to bounce around while it’s loading.
A good CLS score is under 0.1 and can be negatively affected by:
- Ads including banners
- Cookie banners and notices
- Content such as images and videos that do not have specific dimensions
- Embedded content such a iframes
CLS is one of the trickiest factors in this new update and I recommend working with a technically savvy web developer to help you with this.
How to audit your own website
There are plenty of tools that can help you help your own website. I recommend using either GTmetrix (remember to create an account and change the location to one near you) and Google’s PageSpeed Insights.
Here is an example of my own website stats using GTmetrix:
Each of these tools will give you an insight into which factor may holding you back so you know what to focus on.