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What Google's Latest Update Reveals About the Most Important Ranking Factors

The latest Google algorithm update shook things up. Here's what we learned.

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Google updates often drive fear into the hearts of every SEO and marketing team across the globe. The most recent update in July 2021 has certainly rocked everyone's world, yet the focus is still on the user experience. There are many rules and guidelines to ensure your SEO is on top, but SEO still relies on how well a user receives the site. Clunky, boring and hard-to-use web pages will not do well, no matter how well they score in SEO, because people will stop visiting your site.

Core web vitals, website design and loading performance

Macmillan Dictionary is a site that saw a 50% growth in visibility after the core web vitals update. When visiting the site, you can see why their ranking factor improved. It has amazing visual stability, and no videos are waiting to upload. You find what you need at the top bar, and scrolling down provides plenty of interesting information. There is a video you can watch, but you must click on it to play. Overall, the page experience is pleasing and invites users to return often. The site owners have certainly stayed on top of the functionality.

Detroit News saw a drop of nearly 98% because of the page experience. While it has been improved since the Google ranking algorithm was updated, it still takes a moment to load all details. The site is cluttered, and finding pertinent information requires several clicks. It's simply not a pleasant user experience and tanks on ranking factors.

Page speed, website design and being mobile-friendly are very important to the core web vitals. Ranking changes when any of these factors fail because of the effect on user behavior it has. Speed index measures loading performance, specifically when a user believes the site is done uploading. Things that slow down a page load are media. Largest Contentful Paint is a metric resource that tells you how long it takes for photos and videos to load on a page. Adding APIs to your headers can help hurry things up, especially for static photos across other pages. This is one of the places to start to enhance results directing to your site.

Clunky websites contribute to the user's poor experience. Pop-ups and intrusive ads are still frequently used and are one of the most hated occurrences among visitors. Autoplay on videos is also a major annoyance that will cause a person to leave quickly and lower traffic. All elements on a site are to assist the users in finding the knowledge and information they want. This is especially true for being user-friendly on mobile devices. If you want to rank on mobile search results, evaluate the mobile SERPs.

Related: Become an SEO Expert and Make Your Business Stand Out Online

Cumulative layout shift

When were you last checking on your cumulative layout shift (CLS)? Ultimately, you don't want any shifts during page loads because it causes people to leave. If you are unsure of what CLS is, have you ever had a button on a web page disappear as you try to click it? This has happened to several ecommerce sites, where the cart button disappears when users are trying to check out. If there is a time not to have a button disappear, it's when a sale is about to happen. You can check on your performance metrics through the Core Vitals link in the Google search console. Make all necessary changes, and rankings in the Google algorithm will improve.

First input delay

The first input delay is an important element to your ranking score. It is a web functioning metric that tracks the time between the first user interaction and when the browser processes that information. When the site performs well, the browser can process the information within 100 milliseconds. It's important to know that it only processes clicks on a link or a button. Scrolling and zooming in or out is not measurable by this metric. Most sites that did well with the new ranking factors did so because of quick response time.

Google search should match your expertise

Another method to improve user experience is to ensure that a Google search will match your expertise. Some marketers will use less-than-honest tricks to try to gain rank for a keyword or phrase. Perhaps they are a furniture store that tries hard to come up in searches for buying a new car. This will hurt their search ranking. Whenever Google algorithm updates, they will be red-flagged, if not sooner. In other words, be relevant to the search results.

Related: 7 Ways to Use Google Trends for SEO

Excellent page experience needs enticing content

Part of the user's experience is engaging with great page content. Relevant content has evolved into videos, articles and good photos. Your content will engage the future consumer, instill trust and create brand loyalty. Great content is easy to read and educational. Photos need to be clear and quick to load. Videos should never autoplay and should not cancel out your calls to action. Search bars should be large and easy to find, and tools to subscribe to newsletters and emails should be easy to find too  without interrupting the user experience.

It is a good practice to schedule checkups regularly on your websites. Site speed, mobile-friendliness and user-centered metrics are important factors to keep up-to-date on.

Related: 7 Best SEO Tools to Help You Rank Higher in Google

George Kocher

Written By

Entrepreneur Leadership Network Contributor

George Kocher is a data-driven marketing leader with experience building and managing high-performance teams. He is the founder and CEO of Brand North, an exclusive demand-generation agency that focuses on applying sophisticated data-science methodology to drive marketing growth.