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Dave McAnally
M Posted 3 years ago
t 6 min read
Technical SEO

Last month we hosted a webinar on Core Web Vitals ahead of the Google Page Experience Update scheduled for May, 2021. With nearly 2000 registrations, we were prepared for a lot of questions and knew we likely wouldn’t get to them all. Following the webinar, we reviewed the questions, and felt there were some common themes that would be valuable to address more broadly.

Follow-up question 1: A majority of our visits are on desktop, and we are performing well there; is it still important to improve the mobile Core Web Vitals if most visits are coming from desktop?

There are searches and industries that are mostly driven by desktop queries, which makes it crucial to ensure your desktop experience is sound. We'll get to the Core Web Vital issue, but it’s also important to note that there are other updates happening beyond May’s Page Experience update that will be critical for sites with mostly desktop traffic. For example, Google announced mobile first indexing last year. The thing to keep in mind here is that if you’re serving a different experience, or your desktop experience has more content than mobile, you could risk that additional content not being included in a crawl. So Core Web Vitals aside, if your site is largely desktop-driven, you want to ensure your mobile experience is at least as crawlable as your desktop.

Core Web Vitals is based on browser data. The implication would be that if the majority of users are accessing your site via desktop browsers, then that would be fueling the data the Crux database has on your site. So you could be in a good position. In this case, we encourage you to make sure you’re assessing your site against your competitors with the desktop metrics to see how you’d stack up and that will give you a sense of how the page experience update will impact you. But make sure you’re paying attention to your mobile and desktop content regardless!

Follow-up question 2: Are there any recommendations for improving mobile site speed if the desktop version is already performing well?

We are definitely seeing that mobile pages are the most challenged from a speed perspective, and many BrightEdge clients have indicated the same. One solution could be to implement AMP pages, if you have not already. Accelerated Mobile Pages would provide a faster experience for mobile users that would address many of the challenges facing a slow loading mobile site. There have been some specific advancements with AMP for Core Web Vitals that could be extremely beneficial if your native site has challenges meeting mobile criteria. One common issue AMP pages can help with is if your site is in a sluggish hosting environment. Since AMP pages are cached, this could potentially provide a faster experience and help with issues like LCP. 

There are advantages and disadvantages to implementing something like AMP. If you would like to pursue building out AMP pages, then plan on having your brand and IT teams involved, as there will be design limitations in AMP that may need to be considered.

Follow-up question 3: Is it normal for LCP scores to shift daily?

It depends on where you’re looking. If you are using Page Speed Performance in BrightEdge, or Google’s Page Speed tool, you are essentially testing the performance of that page at that moment. So as you make changes to the page, or as network lags occur, you can expect that metric to drift a bit (and hopefully improve) as you make optimizations. However, it’s important to remember that this is not how Google will be measuring Core Web Vitals. Rather, they’ll be using their Chrome User Experience database which is essentially a 28-day average of these metrics across all the browsers it has captured loading that particular URL. This data is used to generate scores for the website. If you are a BrightEdge Instant customer, you can access this database’s metrics using the Core Web Vitals tab. You should expect this data to remain consistent as it is a monthly average. The workflow we recommend is to use the Core Web Vitals as benchmarks for you and your competitors. Then you can use Page Speed Performance to see if your optimizations are impacting the Core Web Vitals. After a month, run the URLs again in Core Web Vitals to see if the 28-day average has aligned to the optimizations you’ve been making.

Follow-up question 4: Have you seen any problems related to cookie banners and the way they are blocking some script/functionality depending on consent?

This can definitely impact input delay and depending on how the banner is rendered, it will increase the pages cumulative layout shift. Unfortunately, the cookie banners are required for many sites, so we need to be mindful of them. One suggestion is to look at the waterfall of how scripts are loading on your site. Chrome has a resource loading tool you can use to see exactly how this is impacting your site’s overall load time. Depending on where this script appears in the load, it could be blocking other elements of the site from becoming interactive. If you are seeing this happen on your site, then it’s a great opportunity to have a conversation with your Development team to determine a better load sequence that could reduce the input delay.

Follow-up question 5: Do you know if Google will look at a site as a whole (domain and subdomains together) for a ranking 'boost' possibility, or specifically on a URL by URL basis?

What we’ve found, and Google has verified this, is that the Crux database doesn’t have data on many URLs simply because there isn't enough traffic to them to create a statistically significant sample. The view on how this update will roll out continues to evolve, but as of this post, the latest from John Mueller is that Google will be using groups of pages to assess the overall score. This is useful in the sense that product pages that don’t get a lot of traffic may not be in the Crux database, but similar pages of more popular products may have data, and Google can use those to assess how product pages will perform. This also reduces over-reliance on the homepage. 

Knowing this methodology, there are two factors that we can expect to be at play:

  1. Competitors in SERPs -- are you over or underperforming against them?
  2. Do sections of your site consistently return high performance Core Web Vitals?

So it may be possible a specific URL will receive a boost for a specific query because, all things held equal, it delivers a faster experience with the same relevance.

We appreciate everyone who registered and joined us for the webinar and especially those who submitted their questions! If you are already using BrightEdge, we invite you to discuss the Page Experience Update with your Customer Success Manager. And if you are ready to learn more about the BrightEdge platform, please make sure to request a demo with one of our experts!