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How to prepare your site for the arrival of Google’s Core Web Vitals?


SEOs must work harder to stick to Web Vitals, Google’s new signals that come into play… on May 1st.

In Google’s algorithm, the positioning criteria are numerous, weighted by variables, and difficult to identify. The official integration of three new criteria from the 1is May 2021 is a rare and important event for SEOs. What’s more when it comes to technical and quantifiable signals: Core Web Vitals. Their mission: to encourage site owners to take user experience into account, especially those who do not have a good Internet connection, or risk losing places in the SERPs. Don’t panic though, with the help of a developer, a few actions can help a site prepare for it.

“Google announced the addition of a new brick (Core Web Vitals) in a ranking algorithm dating from July 2018, relates Matthieu Lenézé, SEO consultant at Resoneo. This algorithm only applied to the slowest sites. Resoneo, we believe this new brick will apply to all sites “. However, the revolution will initially be invisible according to Virginie Clève, expert in digital strategy and founder of Largow. “As with the move from Google’s crawl to mobile first, there will be no Armageddon on the 1stis May since the change will extend over one or two years, but the impact will be major. “And to clarify:” Google will undoubtedly prioritize the sectors where web performance is the most important, such as local or mapping. In addition, the impact will be sectoral, that is to say more pronounced for sectors which are already well advanced. “First step, therefore, a benchmark to set objectives in line with its environment.

“The less good at webperf risk being very strongly impacted as soon as the sector is concerned.”

Regarding media sites, the expert is cautious: “It is not certain that Google starts with them, because its relations with the press are already strained. On the other hand, media sites have been working on the webperf for a long time, and are already good. The proof is that more and more of them are at the top of the webperf rankings. The less good therefore risk being very strongly impacted as soon as the sector is concerned. ” Questioned by the JDN, some media admit to being aware that the deadline is approaching, but not to have started to optimize their scores on the three signals. Others, like Ouest France, have made it their priority since the start of 2021 and have been working on it since the end of February. The title has aligned its objectives with Google’s thresholds, hoping to get a little below. He sees further ahead and is also targeting an inflection in the Chrome UX Report metrics, which are an average of the last 28 rolling days.

LCP (Largest Contentful Paint): the loading time of the main content of the page

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The web performance is not a new concern, but “before we took indicators a bit at random, without being able to prove why this or that indicator was important. There, we finally know which indicators to look at and therefore how to work on them: Google has put all the tools available free of charge in the Search Console and the Page Speed ​​Insight “, rejoices Matthieu Lenézé.

A web performance can be dizzying, because “a lot of things are done globally”, emphasizes Virginie Clève. “And there, we will have to go over all the templates that do not pass the tests, and therefore stagger the project so as not to get lost, she adds. Fortunately, now that Google has given a deadline, this old problem will finally have a ticket for the first place with the technical teams “.

“Sorting and optimizing images is a very good entry point into web performance optimization.”

The first simple, fast and efficient action is sorting and optimizing images. A very good entry point into web performance optimization: “The images concern all the pages of a site, so with a tool that sorts them and lightens them, the gain is really noticeable. The same for JavaScript extracts or any other element common to all the pages “, advises the SEO expert.

CLS (Cumulative Layout Shift): page stability

The CLS, for Cumulative Layout Shift, is, in the opinion of Virginie Clève, “the signal that fails most often”. This 0 to 1 index reflects the rate of visible content that changes dimensions while browsing, such as images and advertisements without specified dimensions, which can have a negative influence. Just like the injection of dynamic content or certain fonts. So “if the dimensions have not been mentioned in the scripts of each template, it is a real problem to take head on”. From experience, she considers this situation to be frequent. Especially for media sites. Ouest France also confirms having placed this signal at the top of the priorities: “We prioritized according to what Google has set as the weighting rules between the three indicators, so plus the CLS which was in any case also the most degraded for us “, comments François Mouton, SEO technical manager at Ouest France. Most often, the problem comes from “advertisement tags in JavaScript, which load at the end, in the middle of HTML blocks, but since you never know their size in advance, the content moves when the side bar appears. , “analysis Virginie Clève. The imperfect but inexpensive solution recommended by Matthieu Lenézé: “provide an empty space calculated in advance as close as possible to the final version on the page.”

“For Google, 75% of users of a must have a great experience.”

Matthieu Lenézé, also points to AB testing as the culprit as regards the stability of the page. “These are the last elements that load on the page: elements appear, disappear, change size, it’s inevitably unpleasant! Paid solutions exist to supervise and discipline AB testing.” For sites that do not have the budget to afford this service, the SEO expert advises to limit the tests to very small samples of users, over shorter periods. “Google bases its results on a proportion of the site’s population: 75% of users must have an excellent experience. So the more a site offers a good browsing experience, the more it can afford to degrade the experience by a significant portion of its users with ABtesting. “

The Resoneo consultant also warns SEOs: “Popups that block pages will become indicators taken into account by Google as negative ranking criteria, so we will quickly have to improve this part of the user experience as well.”

FID (First Input Delay): the interactivity of the page

The response time of the browser to the first click of the Internet user, more briefly called FID (First Input Delay) is influenced in particular by the presence of external scripts, that is to say elements external to the page that come in. add at download time. “Apart from sorting, there is not much to do since SEOs generally do not have a hand over it”, deplores Matthieu Lenézé. He is however optimistic: “The authors of these scripts, the teams of developers who added not at all optimized JS and the marketing teams who demanded the addition of elements, will finally have indicators proving to them that these elements degrade the system. user experience, and therefore the ranking. They will have to improve. ” It is not a question of removing JavaScript from websites but of generalizing its optimization. Educational work awaits the SEOs, who now have new cards in their game.

AMP

Previously, to send pages to Google News, a site had to use AMP. “There, Google dropped a disturbing clue: all the sites will be able to conquer this space if they are fast enough”, explains Matthieu Lenézé, who wonders: “Are any sites less efficient than the AMP, which is excellent, will they start to appear in Google News feeds? ” AMP technology is restrictive. It would then have less wind in its sails, provided that the conversion rates and the quantity of displays obtained remain stable. The technical SEO expert plans to perform AB tests in the coming months to monitor this point. Realistically, he recalls, however, that it would still be necessary to be really very good to exceed the performance of the AMP.

What the SEO can do

Google has included extremely technical signals in the list of its positioning criteria. Few of the SEOs have the technical background to carry out such a project, and it is cross-functional enough to mobilize administrative, technical and marketing departments, which are not always used to working together. At Ouest France, a frontend developer leads the project with the help of his team by proposing audits and actions to be taken organized according to an effort / priority ratio, but it is an SEO who operates the day before, the follow-up and ensures the mobilization of teams. The management took part to get everyone started and the management had to adapt to new constraints.

“You have to have completed the site within twelve months, with progress month by month to stay in the race compared to the competitors.”

This time, the SEO is therefore playing the role of conductor. With a good understanding of the subject, he can help define goals and monitor them. For the first mission, Virginie Clève suggests a point of reference: “For an advanced site, the objective is to arrive at 100% of the site’s pages in the green in the Search Console, but initially, 90%, That’s good! You have to have completed the site within twelve months, with progress month by month to stay in the race compared to the competitors. ” The project mainly concerns the mobile, since as explained by John Mueller, Web Trend Analyst at Google, the Core Web Vitals signals are only intended for mobile for the moment. However, according to Virginie Clève, it is not often which of the two versions of the site has the best results.

To follow the progress of the site, Virginie Clève has installed an extension on Chrome which puts a Core Web Vitals rating for each page viewed: “A colored square is displayed in your browser according to the CWV rating”. The paid version of Screaming Frog allows you to connect to the Page Speed ​​Insight API in order to obtain a page by page note aggregated in an Excel file. “Very useful for telling developers the worst templates to prioritize.” At Ouest France, in-house monitoring tools for indicators connected to Chrome UX Report data and audit and analysis tools such as Dareboost, Lighthouse, Pagespeed Insight or even the Chrome console, which presents performance and CWV, have taken up residence in the toolbox.

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