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What is the Google Core Update?

The Google core update is released every few months and enables changes in the metrics for SEO rankings. This new algorithm update will deal with users’ page experience using a set of metrics known as Core Web Vitals. Google will rank your page lower if there is reason to believe that users will have a poor experience on your pages. 

The global rollout consisting of two core updates (June 2021 and July 2021) impacts all languages and will take about 2-weeks to complete. Previously, the core updates have been a singular event, but Google states that it ran out of time, thus the reason for the June and July rollout. Google reassures users that any effects encountered by the June 2021 release could very well be reversed or mitigated by the July 2021 update. 

The following is a timeline of the June 2021 updates; 

  • June 2nd: Confirmed release of the broad core update.
  • June 4th: Update begins to affect the search results, and Google’s Search Engine Ranking Pages (SERPs) continue to change.
  • June 7th: The business sector continues to experience the effects of the broad core update. 

And the July 2021 core updates that we should anticipate;

  • July 2021: The second part of the 2021 core update will begin rolling out, and its planned improvements will produce more traffic for sites optimized for the page experience update.

Page experience and how Google determines value

Google has a detailed developer document on the page experience criteria. In short, page experience consists of several existing search ranking factors, including the mobile-friendly update, Page Speed Update, the HTTPS ranking boost, the intrusive interstitials penalty, safe browsing penalty, while refining metrics around speed and usability. These refinements are under Google’s Core Web Vitals.

  • Mobile-Friendly: The page is mobile-friendly. Check if your page is mobile-friendly with the Mobile-Friendly Test.
  • Safe browsing: The page doesn’t contain malicious (for example, malware) or deceptive (for example, social engineering) content. 
  • HTTPS: The page is served over HTTPS. Check if your site’s connection is secure. If the page isn’t served over HTTPS, learn how to secure your site with HTTPS.
  • No intrusive interstitials: The content on the page is easily accessible to the user. Learn how interstitials can make content less accessible.

When you group these all together, you get this page experience name for all these elements. Google said page experience is explicitly not a ranking score, but rather, each element within has its weights and rankings in the overall Google ranking algorithm.

What are Core Web Vitals?

Core Web Vitals include real-world, user-centered metrics that give scores on aspects of your pages, including load time, interactivity, and stability of content as it loads. Below are some of the metrics used:

  • Largest Contentful Paint (LCP): measure 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 a 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. CLS is a new metric that looks at if the page is stable when it loads (i.e., do images, content, buttons move around the page as it loads, or does it stay put and solid). Essentially, if the page’s layout shifts any, this will result in a poor user experience.

Google Core functionality

The Core updates begin by stirring up SERPs, and those that react quickly will reap the most benefits. Google states that none of its search algorithms for core updates are site-specific. However, it should be noted that some specific categories will see higher impacts of the update than others. A good example might be a site that only relies on one channel to acquire customers will be hurt more by these updates than another site that uses multichannel customer experience. For instance, social media, Google Ads, and organic traffic are multichannel customer experience.

Let’s keep in mind that Google purposely does not explain how its algorithms work. For two main reasons: 

  1. Revealing the algorithm would give competitors an edge in a trade secret, and
  2. It would be an open invitation to all spammers worldwide, thus resulting in an inferior web.

Therefore, it’s up to the users to try and figure that out. Hence the reason for the periodic releases. They are designed to consistently evolve as the users adjust their sites. 

Rudy Galfi, the product lead on the Google Search ecosystem team, stated that they are not discussing how much each factor is weighted. Galfi did say that great content will still be the more important factor, and great content with a poor page experience can still rank highly in Google search. Remember, content is king!

How the Google Core update affects you

Google also wrote a blog post to coincide with this 2021 core update to explain how and why it makes these changes to search. Google said it “receives billions of queries every day from countries around the world in 150 languages.” It has to continuously improve to stay competitive and serve its user base. “Delivering great results at this type of scale and complexity requires many different systems, and we’re always looking for ways to improve these systems so we can display the most useful results possible,” Google added.

Google said, “as new sites emerge and the web changes, continued updates are key to ensuring we’re supporting a wide range of publishers, creators and businesses, while providing searchers with the best information available.”

Staying ahead of these core updates will allow you to do damage control on your site. Without worrying about damages to your site, you are free to focus on the more important things, like running your business. 

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