Using Google’s June 2021 update to your advantage

Google made a change in June 2021 that may let you jump ahead of your competition in search engine results.
Man surfing fast website

SEO—Search Engine Optimization—is essential to a lot of organizations. Why? Because for most people, it’s really important where you show up and how you look in Google’s results. If where or how you show up in Google is important to your organization, you need to know about the June 2021 Google update, which they refer to as the Page Experience algorithm update.

The short version: Google is putting more emphasis on speed. Most websites score horribly on Google’s tool that measures how well you’re doing, which means there’s a huge opportunity to outscore your competition and potentially jump above them in Google’s results.

Let’s take a look at what the update involves, how to test your website, and how you might be able to use this to your advantage.

An emphasis on speed—Core Web Vitals

For years now, Google has said that how quickly pages on your website load is important and that they factor that into your website’s ranking in their results. The Page Experience update takes that a step further. Now they’re saying it’s even more important before, and they’re focusing on something they’ve called Core Web Vitals, or CWV.

Super high-level, that is all about the individual pages on your website loading quickly and responding quickly to input, which is a part of technical SEO. The Core Web Vitals are three metrics they recommend focusing on:

  1. Largest Contentful Paint, or LCP
  2. First Input Delay, or FID
  3. Cumulative Layout Shift, or CLS

Scoring well on the Core Web Vitals involves some up-front work as well as ongoing monitoring and maintenance. Let’s do a brief dive into each of the three metrics.

Largest Contentful Paint

LCP is all about how long it takes to load the biggest content element of your website. Not your website header or footer, but what appears to Google to have most of the page’s content in it.

First Input Delay

FID refers to how long it takes your page to respond when someone first clicks on a link, taps a button, or tries to interact with anything on the page. FID is mostly about having a quick, responsive server. A quick tip: If you’re only paying $5 a month for your hosting, you probably don’t have a quick responsive server.

Cumulative Layout Shift

CLS measures how much the layout moves after a user loads the page. This means that animated elements and slow-loading elements that move enough to change the layout are no longer a good idea.

How to test your website

Wondering how well your website is set up? Google provides a tool known as PageSpeed Insights. It gives your site an overall speed score: one for the mobile version and one for the desktop version. Then for the person helping you with technical SEO, it goes into details and even shows how well you’re doing in terms of CWV

While the score is percentage-based, don’t compare it to grades on exams. Sure, a score in the 90s is excellent, but a score in the 70s is better than most we’ve seen. On the other hand, a score in the teens should still worry you.

Let’s look at some examples without giving away any identities.

We tested one international B2B company that scored in the teens for mobile and in the 30s for desktop. When I told their VP of marketing, she was not happy, and they’re working with their web team to fix it.

We have a nonprofit client whose website we built without any specific investment in SEO. They scored in the 40s for mobile and in the 60s for desktop. Believe it or not, that’s much better than most websites I’ve seen. In my experience, sites with scores like that have actually experienced a slight uptick in traffic due to the Google update.

If you have someone do technical SEO work for CWV to your website, expect to see a score for desktop in the 90s and for mobile anywhere from the 40s to the 90s. The mobile score seems to be a lot more variable in our experience. There’s also more improvement possible on a site built with WordPress than one built on a proprietary platform like Squarespace.

Using this to your advantage

I’ve run a lot of websites through this tool, and they generally have a horrible score. So while this certainly isn’t the only thing you should worry about in terms of SEO, a relatively minor investment can potentially make a difference in how you rank in Google compared to your competition.

Run your website through the tool, then run your competitors through it. If you’re already scoring higher than them, you may not need to do anything. But if they score higher than you, it may be worth investing in.

Historically, Google also rewards sites that have done well on different metrics for an extended period. So if you get ahead of the game on this quickly, you may reap long-term benefits for years.

If how and where your organization shows up in Google is important to you, then take a look at your competition and decide for yourself if you should invest in using this change to your advantage.

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About Tim Priebe

Tim is a public speaker, author, publisher of Edmond Business, and the owner of T&S Online Marketing. He helps businesses that are worried they don’t have the expertise or time required to invest in doing their own digital marketing. He helps them plan where and how much to invest and often helps execute the plan.

Tim started the Edmond Business online magazine in May 2020 to fill a need in the community when The Edmond Sun shut down and stopped publishing their monthly magazine, The Business Times.