How to Prepare for Google’s New Algorithm Update

Blog // 02.03.2021 // How to Prepare for Google’s New Algorithm Update

Google Search can be an overwhelming topic and deservedly so because it is, well, quite complicated.

First before we get into the details, you should understand what exactly Google is trying to do. Google wants to provide the best experience possible for the consumer, for whom the goal is finding the most relevant information the quickest. That means Google goes through BILLIONS of tidbits of information every time you do a search. That’s why they add things like the Knowledge Panel, added features with Google My Business, map information, featured snippets and more.

The process of search is always evolving and constantly updated. For more information from Google on how they manage it, check out this “home video” from Google specifically about search.

Now, the technical stuff. These updates result in changes to search and ultimately the algorithm that pulls data. Different kinds of updates are rolled out depending on what happened. For example, the most recent one that may have affected your online presence happened in December. That particular update is called a core update.

There have been may other core updates and they are never the same. Google doesn’t give us a heads up on those and they generally don’t tell us what was changed. We can make some assumptions based on data but this last one has been tricky to figure out and has caused a lot of lost traction in ranking. Some think it has to do with Q&A format (BERT), and others think it might be a precursor to the Core Web Vitals update coming in May 2021. Learn more about other people’s thoughts on the Core Update from this great article by Search Engine Journal. One thing to note, a vast majority saw a decrease in ranking or web presence but have recovered some now.

So, what’s the next update coming? We actually DO know about the next update coming and it will be here before we know it. (Side note: this doesn’t mean there won’t be other updates before May, but this will be a big one.)

This May update is going to use Core Web Vitals as a ranking signal. You should now have a report available in Google Search Console, but you can also run a Lighthouse Report. There are a ton of technical terms and a lot of separate pieces associated with this update, so let’s go through them one by one.

Core Web Vitals

This is information direct from Google:

  • Largest Contentful Paint (LCP): measures loading performance. To provide a good user experience, LCP should occur within 2.5 seconds of when the page first starts loading.
  • First Input Delay (FID): measures interactivity. To provide a good user experience, pages should have an FID of less than 100 milliseconds.
  • Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS): measures visual stability. To provide a good user experience, pages should maintain a CLS of less than 0.1.

For each of the above metrics, to ensure you're hitting the recommended target for most of your users, a good threshold to measure is the 75th percentile of page loads, segmented across mobile and desktop devices.

LCP, FID, CLS

Tools that assess Core Web Vitals compliance should consider a page passing if it meets the recommended targets at the 75th percentile for all of the above three metrics.

The gist of all of this is how well does the web page load?

  • What shows up first (first contentful paint)?
  • What shows up first and then how do the next things show up largest (contentful paint and cumulative layout shift)?
  • When does the page become interactive and usable (time to interactive)?
  • The collective speed of all those things is how you will be measured. These all provide the user with a better, faster experience. Which, as we discussed earlier, are Google’s main goals.
  • We don’t have more specific information the weight of each item or how much it will affect ranking compared to previous or current ranking factors, but we do know it will have an impact.

How will your site fair? Contact us for a free assessment.

McD Marketing
SEO, google