How to Know If Core Web Vitals Are Affecting Your Search Rankings
Nov 22, 2021 | 4 MINUTES TO READ
Summary: With the introduction of Google’s core web vitals, many pages have experienced a drop in traffic. Learn how to tell if this is what is impacting your results.
If you follow marketing news in any capacity, you have probably heard about the new core web vitals update (also called the page experience update). This search algorithm update was built to encourage website owners to optimize their sites for visual stability, interactivity, and performance – all critical metrics with significant implications for user experience.
One website owner recently experienced a drop in traffic that they suspected to be linked with the launch of this update. They had the opportunity to ask Google’s Webmaster Trends Analyst John Mueller, about this development and how they might correct the issue. Mueller’s response shed more light on how this critical update works and underscored the importance of consulting a reputable SEO company when encountering search-related matters you cannot easily explain.
Explaining a Sudden 20% Loss in Traffic Post-Update
The website owner who asked the question that prompted this discussion had recently experienced a dramatic and unexpected drop in traffic to their site. Although they could not say for sure what had caused the problem, they suspected it had to do with the new search algorithm update that Google had just released.
This update prioritized user experience and used core web vitals as a significant set of criteria for determining search ranks. The website owner asked Mueller if updating their site to align with the new core vitals requirements would solve the problem, and if so, how long it would take for them to start seeing improvements.
Determining the Impact of the Page Experience Update
The first thing that Mueller asked the user was whether the drop happened immediately after the update was launched. When the user replied that this was true, Mueller immediately dismissed the idea that the decline could be linked to the update.
He explained that although the update was technically released on that day, it was only applied on a page-by-page basis over a long rollout period. It took several months for the update to be fully activated, and it is unlikely that it was responsible for any significant falls in traffic before then. The website in question was probably not subject to the new algorithm for several weeks following the initial release.
Gains and Losses Due to Updates Are Always Gradual
After receiving this answer, the website owner was curious to know if the same gradual rate of change applied to sites that saw increased traffic due to the algorithm changes. Mueller replied that it did. All websites that experienced any traffic change (whether positive or negative) due to the core web vitals update would have seen those changes slowly build up over time.
Any significant change that happened suddenly is improbable to have been caused by that update. It is impossible to say what the actual cause of this website owner’s problem was without further information. Still, the core web vitals update was almost certainly not responsible for it.
Remember: Updates Are Automatic
Mueller took care to highlight that there is no human decision-maker pulling the strings on these critical algorithm rollouts. They happen slowly and according to a pre-set automated schedule. When a new update is set to come out, marketers should not sit around waiting for one single massive shift in their website’s rankings – it simply will not happen like that.
Conversely, marketers should not assume that a lack of currently scheduled updates means that Google’s algorithms will continue to rank their site the way they always have. Even if there is no massive algorithm update looming on the horizon, previous changes are constantly taking effect in the background. Neglect to track your ranks for a few weeks, and you may end up seeing a steep drop that will take a lot of work to correct.
How to Know if the Page Experience Update Affected Your Rankings
There are two key lessons to be learned from this exchange.
The first major takeaway is that the only way to know if the core web vitals update affected your website is to use official tools to verify this. Check your website’s core web vitals report to see how well your site conforms to these new requirements. If any changes are needed, make them, then re-evaluate your score. This metric is fully transparent, and guesswork is more harmful than helpful.
The second is that SEO is more complex and multi-layered than it might appear at first glance. Marketers must be cautious when attempting to trace the first signs of faltering traffic back to their source. Even if there is a seemingly good explanation for the drop (like a big search ranking update at nearly the same time the fall occurred), it may not be the correct explanation.
SEO Companies to the Rescue
When in doubt, it is good to hire an SEO company to investigate the origins of these types of concerns. While not immune to faulty reasoning like this, the experts at an SEO company have a much deeper understanding of this discipline than most marketers do. This gives them the tools to investigate these issues thoroughly and devise practical solutions that address their actual root cause.
Throughout our over 20 years in operation as a national and local SEO company, we at WSI Comandix have helped our many clients through constant algorithm updates. With our assistance, they overcame the initial instability caused by the change and maintained or even boosted their site’s search ranks. If you are having trouble with the new core web vitals update, contact us today and let us do the same for you.
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