Conservative estimates believe that the ecommerce market will bring in close to $5 trillion this year. It’s a significant increase from $3.5 trillion in 2019, but pales in comparison to $6.5 trillion predicted for 2023.
Ecommerce is a lucrative industry and will continue to go from strength to strength. This is why the mention of a Google update causes seasoned webmasters sleepless nights.
In the past, the first sign of an update was the hit to your web traffic. Fortunately, today, Google gives us plenty of notice about significant updates and time to prepare.
With the latest one just a few months away, you’d think everyone would be prepared. You’d be wrong.
According to a survey in the United Kingdom, around 20% of respondents said they understood the update, but not how it would affect them. A staggering two out of three of those polled didn’t understand the concept at all.
With that in mind, we’re centering this article on what the latest update means and how to best prepare for it. Coming to a Web Search Near You in May 2021
Every year Google makes an update to its core web vitals. In 2021, the company is focusing on seeking out sites with the best user experience. It’ll introduce new ranking factors into its page experience signals. What Does Core Web Vitals Mean?
Core Web Vitals (CWV) are the factors that Google believes are essential to a great user experience. They encompass a range of metrics such as page load speeds, file size, interactivity, and overall site structure.
If your website performs poorly in these areas, it won’t rank well. Also of concern is that Google may start tagging poorly performing sites on search results. For savvy web users, this will give a clear indication of which websites to ignore within the search results. What Core Web Vitals Should You Focus on This Year?
The three new ranking signals this year are:
First Input Delay: Your page must become interactive in 100 milliseconds or less. In other words, the links or buttons on your site should become active in less than 100 milliseconds.
Cumulative Layout Shift: This is a measure of the unexpected shifts in layout and elements. Websites display differently on different-sized screens. If you’re not careful, this could lead to images jutting over text on smaller devices. The overall tally should be less than 0.1.
Largest Contentful Paint: This metric refers to how long it takes for your site’s main content to load. A few years ago, Google said it should be no more than three seconds. This year, it has shaved off another 0.5 seconds.
In the chart below, you’ll see what wiggle room you have with each of these statistics.
Data Sourced from Microsoft
These three new signals will greatly enhance the experience ranking suite. Each ensures that your site loads optimally, is stable, and highly responsive. How Does Your Website Measure Up Now?
Check how your website currently scores by opening up your Search Console. Access the Core Web Vitals Report, free of charge, and Google provides you step-by-step tips on factors with room for improvement.
To understand some of the tips, you should be conversant with programming or IT. Should you not feel up to the task, it’s worth having a professional perform a full site audit on your behalf.
We recommend drawing the report first and registering your website. That way, Google keeps track of your progress. How to Draw Your Core Web Vitals Report
You can also run a Google Page Speed Test but use it as a guide and don't be discourage if your site gets a poor score as it tends to be unrealistically strict. It is not uncommon to see sites that do well on GTMetrix.com (90% score) do poorly on the Google Page Speed test.
Go through this Google Support Page and click on “Open Report.”
You’ll see the following screen
If you’ve used the Search Console before, click the drop-down menu that says, “Select Property.” If your property doesn’t appear there, select “Add Property” at the bottom of the page and follow the instructions to add your website.
We added a test website to show you the next step.
As you see, Google provides several ways for you to verify the ownership of your website. Complete the verification process, and you’ll add your website as one of your properties. You’ll then be able to request your custom Core Web Vitals Report for each site you own.
The report highlights potential issues with high, medium, and low impacts. Work your way through the list and change what you can. From there, hand it over to a professional.
Some of the advice that you might encounter includes:
Changing any JPEG files to a smaller format such as JPEG 2000 or WebP. This one step can save you tons of space on your site and significantly improve load speeds. The image quality looks the same.
Checking on the initial server response time. Do you have a dedicated server? Is it an older model that’s a little slow? Consider upgrading it. If you make use of a hosting company, look at the stats for your site. Would an upgraded package improve your results? A VPS (Virtual Private Server) plan usually provides better performance than a shared hosting one.
Check that you’ve used schema markup and that each link is crawlable.
Check each link on your website and blog leading to third-party content or linking to your other pages. Are they still valid links, or are they broken? If the latter, be sure to fix them or delete them.
Now that we’ve covered the basic Core Web Vitals, let’s move on to Page Experience Signals (PES). What Are Google’s Page Experience Signals?
Page experience signals refer to components that impact the user’s experience on your website. This goes beyond load speeds and focuses on things that could detract from the experience.
Annoying pop-ups, malware injected into the website, and using outdated security protocols are all things that could earn you a smack from Google.
We’ll go through them in a second, but none of them are new. Intrusive Interstitial Guidelines
Is there anyone that likes pop-up ads? Not really, considering that 25.8% of Americans use ad blockers. Certainly not the world’s largest search engine. Google will penalize you if you have any large advertisements that pop up and block the screen. Ensure that your users can see the page and steer clear of gimmicky attention grabbers.
Let’s be honest here, if you’re relying on huge pop-ups that block off most of your page, maybe you should consider upgrading your content. If around a quarter of your visitors block pop-ups, are they even doing you any good? Mobile-Friendliness
Do you remember when Google added this metric? Did your traffic take a tumble? While most webmasters have already made allowances for this signal, it pays to recheck your site.
Things to consider when checking for mobile-friendliness are:
A responsive design: Initially, using a responsive design was a lot more expensive than running a separate page for mobile. That’s changed, and today having two pages is the exception rather than the rule. Check your design and take into account technological advances in phone tech since you first developed your website.
One column rather than multiple: Visitors on mobile devices have to scroll up and down. Making them also scroll across because there are too many columns on the page annoys them.
Clear fonts on small devices: There are some lovely, elegant fonts available. They look perfectly acceptable when someone has their laptop in front of them. What about when they’re using their iPhone? It’s better to use a simpler font that translates easily across small screens as well.
Reduce the file size: Page load speed is more important on mobile than it is on laptops. Considering that the typical smartphone has a lower capacity than the average computer, page loading takes longer. Speed things up as much as possible so as not to lose clients.
Design for mobile first: It’s better to design for the smallest screen first. If a page is clear and attractive on a small screen, it’ll look better on a big one. Save yourself some time and effort, and consider developing your site with a mobile-first approach.
Consider developing an ecommerce app: This isn’t for the search engines but rather for your client’s convenience. A clever app allows you to make recommendations, engage with clients, and provide them with an alternative contact method.
An ecommerce site is a delectable target for hackers. They get a wealth of client information and plenty of traffic. Injecting malware allows them to mine your client’s computers or even use them as part of a bot army.
If you haven’t already done so, install some anti-malware and anti-spyware software to protect your website. You can end up on Google’s naughty list even if a hacker injects malicious code. Run at least one security test a year and ensure that you have the most up-to-date protection.
Regularly check the messages on your Google Search Console in case you miss a warning that malware is detected. If you get that dreaded message, act immediately. The sooner you get rid of the malicious code, the sooner you can get back to business as usual. HTTPS Security
What’s your excuse for not getting your SSL certificate? They’re no longer as expensive as they once were and have become a vital ranking factor. LetsEncrypt.org offers free ones.
Google prioritizes sites with HTTPS protocols in place. More importantly, clients have learned to check for this before buying anything on an ecommerce site. Work With Google
The company gets a bad rep because of its extensive data-gathering capabilities. If it starts adding labels in search results about how sites measure up to its criteria, it’ll be even less popular.
The thing is, however, that Google’s playing nicely with webmasters. It gave ample warning of the upcoming update and even provided a guide detailing the free tools available to help you prepare your website.
If you’re not ready in time with this assistance, you can’t blame Google. Fortunately, with the change about two months away, you’ve still got plenty of time. Just don’t drag your feet any longer! What Else Is Interesting in 2021?
Google has always suggested that webmasters use an AMP framework for their websites. The search engine giant feels that it’s the simplest and most cost-effective way to optimize every page.
For those who chose to use a non-AMP framework instead, this attitude proved troublesome. Such pages weren’t able to appear in Google’s Top Stories. The good news is that Google’s changed this policy.
It still recommends using an AMP framework, but from May, not doing so won’t exclude you from the Top Stories feature. What About the Search Result Labels?
As of now, it’s more of an idea than a reality. However, it would make sense for Google to do this if possible. The company may label each site listed in a search result with a label showing how well the pages perform in terms of the visitor experience.
What form these labels will take is not something we know yet, but our feeling is that they’ll be a simple series of icons or a score. We’ll simply need to wait and see if Google can pull it off.
It won’t really matter whether the label is there or not. Google still decides where you rank. So pay attention to the visitor experience on your website. Final Notes
Will this Google update leave the web reeling? It’s possible, considering that some webmasters don’t understand the Core Web Vitals at all. At the same time, however, these changes are all performance-related.
Site owners who’ve regularly tweaked their pages and worked on presenting the best customer experience will pass with flying colors.
Now that you know what to look for, you can make sure that your website is safe.