Google expands its core web vitals and page experience update FAQs

Google explained it “will continue to prioritize pages with the best information overall, even if some aspects of page experience are subpar.”

Google updated its FAQs around the Core Web Vitals and the page experience update. This page is accessible in the Google support forums and was initially posted in December 2020 but was updated today with a lot more details.

What is new. Quite a bit has been updated compared to the original version. You can compare the old to the new by scanning both documents. Malte Ubl, Technically a Software Engineer at Google, said on Twitter, “We published an FAQ on Google’s page experience ranking answering questions like: Where does the Core Web Vitals data come from? How is a score calculated for a URL that was recently published & hasn’t yet generated 28 days of data? …and many more.”

“In December last year, we published a set of Core Web Vitals & Page Experience FAQs based on the questions you wanted us to answer. We received a lot of positive feedback, and many wrote to us saying they found the answers helpful. We are back with more answers to the questions we received meanwhile.  We’ve organized the questions in this post into three sections: Metrics & Tooling, Page Experience & Search, and AMP.  We hope you find these useful,” said Google.

What stands out of the Core Web Vitals

The one big item that stands out to me is the one on how Google will still rank the most relevant content despite how poorly it might do with its core web vitals scores. “Our systems will continue to prioritize pages with the best information overall, even if some aspects of page experience are subpar. A good page experience doesn’t override having great, relevant content,” Google wrote.

Google also said that those pages are still “eligible for Top Stories carousel if my webpage is not clearing Core Web Vitals.”

Why we care. With the Google Page Experience Update coming in May, we are all getting ready to ensure our sites fair green with this update. We are not sure how big of a ranking factor this will be, but even if this is a small ranking factor, making these user experience changes to your site can help make for happier users and potentially increase site conversion rates and performance.

The FAQs: Here are some of the top FAQs we think search marketers should focus on today:

Q: Where does the Core Web Vitals data that Search considers come from?

A: The data comes from the Chrome User Experience Report, which is based on actual user visits and interactions with web pages. To be clear, the data is not computed based on lab simulations of loading pages or based on the visits of a non-human visitor like Googlebot.

Q: A 3rd Party service I utilize (such as client-side A/B Testing, Social Embed, Personalization Engines, Comment Systems etc.) is slowing down my site.

A: Sites may choose to utilize a variety of third-party code and services. Core Web Vitals metrics don’t make a distinction in these choices but only look at the total observed experience of the page as seen by the end-user. Like all other features on a page, it may help to regularly assess the impact of third-party components of the experience on the Core Web Vitals. There may be an improved form of integration or configuration that improves the user experience and will be reflected with improved Core Web Vitals metrics. Check out these resources from web.dev on how to optimize third-party JavaScript on your pages.

Q: Why does Google’s guidance use the same thresholds for CWV for all types of pages? For example, a home page for a newspaper is not the same as an article and not the same as a comments page.

A: Core Web Vitals are meant to be foundational metrics that apply to all types of pages. To determine the threshold ranges, we analyzed a wide variety of pages and drew upon research that focused on core user experience requirements agnostic of the page type.

Q: What is the page experience update and how important is it compared to other ranking signals?

A: The page experience update introduces a new signal that our search algorithms will use alongside hundreds of other signals to determine the best content to show in response to a query. Our systems will continue to prioritize pages with the best information overall, even if some aspects of page experience are subpar. A good page experience doesn’t override having great, relevant content.

This is similar to changes we’ve had in the past, such as our mobile-friendly update or our speed update. As with those signals, page experience will be more important in “tie-breaker” types of situations. If there are multiple pages of similar quality and content, those with better page experience might perform better than those without.

In short, publishers shouldn’t worry that when we begin using page experience, that they may suffer some immediate significant drop, if they’re still working on making improvements. But publishers should be focused on making those improvements a relative priority over time. This is because as more and more sites continue to improve their page experience, it will be the norm that publishers will want to match.

Q: Are Core Web Vitals a ranking factor when using Google Search on non-Chrome browsers?

A: Yes. Page experience ranking signals, based on Core Web Vitals, are applied globally on all browsers on mobile devices.

Barry Schwartz a Contributing Editor to Search Engine Land and a member of the programming team for SMX events. He owns RustyBrick, a NY based web consulting firm. He also runs Search Engine Roundtable, a popular search blog on very advanced SEM topics. Barry’s personal blog is named Cartoon Barry and he can be followed on Twitter here.

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