Changes to SEO Algorithm for Google 2021

By Joseph Marinovic | Managing Director
20 April 2021

I’m sure by now you’ve heard of search engine optimisation (SEO) and how powerful of a tool it has become in the marketing world. Understanding and implementing SEO for your business is critical to receiving traffic and converting this traffic into tangible results for your business. 

The digital marketing space is constantly evolving. I know by now you’re probably wondering why this affects you but with an understanding of how digital marketing and more importantly, how SEO works you can optimise how many people see your business when searching keywords. For example, if you’re a local bakery with the best pastries in the Auckland area but you don’t appear on the first page of results on Google. Based on data by WebFX, around 75% of your potential customers aren’t going to see your beautiful pastries.

For more information on the fundamentals of SEO. Have a read of SEO - What, How & Why

In November 2020, Google announced changes to their SEO algorithm and how individual pages would rank within this new algorithm based on new user-centred factors. The update is called Page Experience and will focus on how Google’s algorithm ranks your website amongst competitors using Core Web Vitals.

What are Core Web Vitals?

The core web vitals that Google have announced are Largest Contentful Paint (LCP), Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS) and First Input Delay (FID). Each of these elements has a focus on improving the results for the user’s experience. Prioritising fast initial loading speeds (LCP), rewarding websites that don’t shift after the initial load (CLS) and analysing the websites response time when the user begins to click around (FID). 

The first vital metric that we are going to touch on is Largest Contentful Paint (LCP). LCP focuses on how quickly the largest content on your website has loaded. LCP is an important metric as Google determines that the main content (the meat of your website) has loaded. Allowing the user to browse your website uninterrupted. According to Google, the minimum speed that should be strived for is three seconds from the results page to the web page, while an ideal time would be between one to two seconds. The Drum found that 40% of your customers will find an alternative if your website takes over three seconds to load. You may be thinking “that’s ok! I only need the other 60%”. But not so fast, isn’t increasing your conversion rate is the reason for optimising your website? Slow speeds will hamper your ability to draw in customers and Google will notice these slow speeds. Penalising your website by ranking you lower.

The next vital metric of Google’s update is Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS). This element is complicated in how Google’s algorithm determines the impact of CLS (that’s why we exist). CLS focuses on the visual stability of your website, whether the website moves without being interacted with while it is loading and how often this occurs. An example of this occurring would be an image that has taken time to load, causing everything below this image to shift down the page. As you would know, if you’ve ever been browsing a website and experienced this, it can be very frustrating to find where you were last reading. 

The final metric of the core web vitals in Google’s update is First Input Display (FID). This metric centralises around the response times for the inputs of your users. This metric is the delay between the user making an action and when the browser begins to respond to the action. For example, when a user clicks an image or a link on your website. Google calculates how long it takes for your website and the server that it is connected to, to provide the desired output for the user. Have you ever sat around wondering if you actually clicked on a link on a website? Only to find that by clicking it again it actually was loading and you’ve now made it even slower? That is exactly what FID analyses and Google is attempting to eliminate from their search results. 

What is mobile-first indexing?

In the last month you may have noticed a steep drop off in traffic to your website, maybe you’re not ranked amongst the top searches on Google. This update might be why. 

Mobile-first indexing focuses on the optimisation of the mobile version of your website. According to Statcounter, mobile market share has held a consistent market share of around 50-55% over the last few years. This means that more of your potential customers are browsing on mobile than ever before! As a result of this. In July 2020 Google announced an increased focus on how a website is developed for mobile devices. 

Google has made their statement that the content displayed on the mobile and desktop versions of your website should be consistent. Allowing the user to receive a seamless experience regardless of which device they’re using to browse. This consistency relates to the content displayed, displaying the same content on both desktop and mobile is crucial as the majority of the data that google sources comes directly from the mobile version of the website. 

An important area of interest is images. Google has made it clear with this update that the mobile version of your website should be prioritised equally, if not more than the desktop version. By ensuring that images are optimised to fit on your mobile website, rather than directly imported from the desktop version allows Google to enter (index) these images into their database like Google Images. If this data isn’t indexed into Google’s databases, users won’t be able to find it. 

Another important area relating to images and how these transition to the mobile version is the placement of both images and videos. Embedding images and videos in easy to locate places on mobile is critical to the updated requirements for Google’s mobile-first indexing. If these videos are pushed below other content unintentionally, Google may not include your website as a useful landing page if the user is searching for the video. 

If this sounds like it could be useful to you, we can help to move you up the rankings. 

Give us a call on 0800 032 248.

Do you want business
growth and need help?

Let's throw around some ideas and see where it takes us.