Core Web Vitals and the UX Revolution to Come in 2021

Posted: in Pulse on the Industry , Website Optimization

The words digital revolution appear on a microchip background. Google has been moving beyond simple keywords as a ranking factor for about a decade; even before that, they rapidly gained market share on search engines like Yahoo! and AltaVista because Google didn't just rely on keywords in the content of the page to assess what was valuable. 

Back then, they used backlinks as an additional measure beyond keywords in content to create the most relevant search results. Backlinks are still here today, but Google has been looking forward to measurements that are less-easily spammed and provide even better insight into what users want to see. 

Computer Power = User Behavior Measurements

What's happened in more recent years overlays nicely with advances in computing power: the iPhone 11 is more powerful than the most powerful computers that existed in 1998 when Google was founded. This extra computing power allowed Google to start measuring more CPU-heavy data like user behavior. Google takes many things into account, but the most valuable information they can gather is to see how users engage with content. User behavior is a nearly foolproof method of telling whether content is valuable; content that is thin, poorly written, or auto-generated would necessarily be less valuable to users, and their behavior would reflect that. Objective measurement of value (in the form of user behavior) is the future search. 

Core Web Vitals

How this affects the search world has to do with recent updates to, what Google calls, its Core Web Vitals update.

In a nutshell, they're a new set of performance metrics that help highlight aspects of web page development that affect User Experience (UX): page loading, interactivity, and visual stability. The metrics center on when certain events complete, including what is interactive or visually affected as these events take place while pages load until a point of stability relative to user experience.

That means score values can change as users interact with your page. You achieve better scores when events occur faster along stop-watch time intervals. Performance metrics for each Web Vital statistic is graded according to three outcomes:

  • Good (passes)
  • Needs Improvement
  • Fail

What This Means

Search Engine Land points to a forthcoming 2021 Google Core update tentatively called the Page Experience Update. 

While it is very early for this announcement, what HLM can gather is that the recent updates to Google's measurements of Web Vitals will be more integrated into their Core Algorithm, meaning that user experience will be cemented as a core pillar of SEO optimization.

For DIY solutions like Wix, Weebly, and Squarespace, this spells trouble; while they all have had similar pitches of making "beautiful" websites in minutes, Core Web Vitals points to ongoing (re)assessment of visual elements to make the user's experience better over time. As SEL reports, score values change over time as users interact with a page - "beautiful" won't be enough if the actual experience of using the page is bad. Come 2021, Google will not only be able to tell if the experience is bad, but they will be able to penalize websites that previously might have had lots of search equity, but miss the mark on giving users what they want. 

As always, High Level Marketing will continue to monitor Core Web Vitals, as ongoing UX improvement is something that already is a core pillar of our SEO strategy.


Michael Cipielewski