Google announced in May 2020 there would be a core update to their search engine algorithm. While this is vague, it is noteworthy that Google communicated this change and even went on to state that they will provide a six-month notice before launch date. We expect this update to happen sometime in early 2021.

There will be three new user experience metrics integrating into Google’s ranking algorithm. Known as the Core Web Vitals, this includes the scary names of Largest Contentful Paint, First Input Delay and Cumulative Layout Shift. The goal? To guide website owners into delivering superb user experiences on the internet.

There has never been true metrics behind the KPI’s of user experience. This all changes with these three new implementations. Let’s break them down.

Largest Contentful Paint (LCP): Defining User Experience Through Loading

This metric measures perceived load speed. It marks the point in the page load timeline when the page’s main content has likely loaded—so the faster the LCP, the better the user experience. The LCP can even measure what the largest piece of content on the page is and how it will change as the page loads. This is priceless information to developers because they have never had such accurate measurements on how the main elements of a page load and how it is visible to users before.

To improve your LCP score, start focusing on reducing slow server response times, minimizing render-blocking JavaScript and CSS, and optimizing the file size of images and other assets. These changes will set you on a good path of improving your LCP scores.

First Input Delay (FID): Defining User Experience Through Interactivity

The second update coming to Google’s algorithm is First Input Delay and it’s essentially a metric used to define the user’s first impression of a web page’s responsiveness. It measures the time from when a user first interacts with the page (typically a click) to when the browser can process that interaction.

To improve your FID score, focus on slimming down large JavaScript files in your website pages. This will help shorten the time a browser takes to process actions.

Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS): Defining User Experience Through Visual Stability

The final metric you will be able to utilize is one that measures unexpected page layout shifts. Google measures how dramatically and how often page elements shift as the page loads. This can include text or link movement, font that renders larger or smaller and third-party ads that resize themselves.

This metric is a little bit trickier to prepare for because you do have to rely on third-party personalization and content, as well as API calls that you may not be able to edit. However, you can start updating images, ads, embeds and iFrames that don’t have specific dimensions to ensure they don’t change their size as the page loads. Additionally, make sure to streamline all your webpage templates and clean up your web fonts.

How to Improve Holiday Shopping Experience & Get Ahead of Google’s Algorithm Update

It’s time to start focusing on a great user experience ahead of the Holiday season (which is creeping upon us earlier and earlier each year). Working on these three metrics now opens opportunity to those ahead of the game versus waiting until the update is made by Google.

Review Core Page Templates for User Experience Wins

Despite not being included in Google’s algorithm yet, these metrics can be used to make an impact across all channels. If you have a strong display holiday campaign driving users to your website, you want to ensure they don’t bounce immediately because of long loading times, slow browser responses or unstable visual content. Test out your top converting pages or page templates with Google’s Page Insights Tool to find if there is room for improvement across LCP, CLS and FID metrics. You may find that your pages with the highest bounce rate and lowest conversion rate is the one with the most obstacles!

Don’t Forget About On-Page Content

Additionally, ensure the content you have on your core landing pages is useful, relevant and easy to access as 72% of consumers plan to shop online rather than in-store for the holidays this year. Think about it—there’s no in-store staff to help shoppers quickly navigate their questions or provide gifting options. You must prioritize quick browser responses to user interactions, or you will lose your shopper to another distraction. An as always, think mobile. If content is visible on mobile, does it even exist? (No.)

Address Dropoff Points in Conversion Flow

Finally, work with your analytics team to run tests on user checkout experience and look to conversion flow for improvements. Identify areas where potential customers typically drop off and focus on user experience improvements in specific stages of the conversion path. You may find your cart page template has an overbearing header image causing frustrating layout shifts, or your shipping information page suffers from slow load speeds.

Bonus: Review YoY Search Trends for COVID-related Changes

Entire industries are changing in the wake of COVID-19. Shoppers have no need for dresses or formal attire while search interest for leggings and pajamas are soaring. Highlight COVID-19 and quarantine search trends, pull out trending products and take advantage of products that are eligible for free shopping fees under Google’s shopping tab.

While there is a plethora of tools to measure the vital updates (such as PageSpeed Insights, Chrome UX Report and Google Search Console), drop us a line to go a step further and optimize your pages. Let’s get your website up to speed with the new user experience metrics so you don’t get left behind when the Google algorithm update goes live.