Google’s John Mueller recently sought to answer a question expressing doubtfulness of Google’s Core Web Vitals as a ranking factor. Muller’s answer on Reddit affirmed the importance of Core Web Vitals as a ranking factor and he went on to say that it’s far more than just another tie-breaker. 

Ranking Factors

In the 2000s, Google would use ranking factors tied to keywords in order to understand the contents of a web page. Certain factors such as anchor text, keywords in headings and titles, and the number of links all assisted web pages in ranking at the top of the search results page. Websites could cheat the system and acquire over a thousand reciprocal links and do on-page SEO in order to rank at the top. 

However, this was before the invention of natural language processing, AI technologies, and advanced machine learning which put a stronger emphasis on relevance signals. 

Expectations of Core Web Vital Ranking Factor lowered

It is no surprise that people are skeptical about the Core Web Vital Ranking factor since Google has been downplaying how powerful it truly is. 

“…relevance is still by far much more important. So just because your website is faster with regards to Core Web Vitals than some competitors doesn’t necessarily mean that …you will jump to position number one in the search results.”

– John Mueller himself said this about Core Web Vitals

Additionally, Google has published a Core Web Vitals FAQ which also shows that expectations have been lowered. 

“Page experience is just one of many signals that are used to rank pages. Keep in mind that intent of the search query is still a very strong signal, so a page with a subpar page experience may still rank highly if it has great, relevant content.”

– The FAQ stated:

Google has mentioned that it will be simplifying the Page Experience Report as it will be removing the Safe Browsing and Ad Experience widgets from the report. 

Removal of the Safe Browsing and Ad Experience widgets

The Safe Browsing system at Google is designed to keep users on the internet safe. However, sometimes sites may be hijacked by third-party sites which causes Safe Browsing warnings to surface. Google has recognised that these issues are not always within the control of the site owner, hence Google is now clarifying that Safe Browsing is not used as a ranking signal. 

Similarly, Google is removing the Ad Experience widget to avoid serving similar information on two separate parts of the Search Console. Users should not be too concerned as the Ad Experience report will still be available as a standalone tool that can be used to review the status of one’s site and identify any ad experiences that violate Google’s Better Ads Standards. Google has made it clear that the Ad Experience report was never and will never be a factor for page experience, therefore this change will not affect a site’s page experience status. 

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(Image Source: Google – Updated graphic of the factors that make up page experience signal, namely Loading (LCP), Interactivity (FID), Visual Stability (CLS), Mobile Friendliness, HTTPS, and No Intrusive Interstitials.)

Core Web Vitals is not another tie-breaker 

“Anyone else not buying Core Web Vitals? I just find it hard to believe that this actually becomes a greater part of the ranking algo. Has anyone seen dramatic gains or decreases based on it so far?”

– One user published on Reddit:

Muller replied and insisted that is more than just a tie-breaker and it could be felt more strongly in some sites compared to others.

“It is a ranking factor, and it’s more than a tie-breaker, but it also doesn’t replace relevance. Depending on the sites you work on, you might notice it more, or you might notice it less. As an SEO, a part of your role is to take all of the possible optimizations and figure out which ones are worth spending time on.Any SEO tool will spit out 10s or 100s of “recommendations”, most of those are going to be irrelevant to your site’s visibility in search. Finding the items that make sense to work on takes experience.”

-John Muller 

Core Web Vitals has value far beyond being a ranking signal

Core Web Vitals has a value that extends beyond ranking signals, Muller went on to state. He continued to point out that speed-related user experience can affect how much a site earns. Furthermore, he points out that the self-defeating nature of promoting a site to the top of the search results is only to have the earning never reach their potential due to low page experiences. 

“The other thing to keep in mind with core web vitals is that it’s more than a random ranking factor, it’s also something that affects your site’s usability after it ranks (when people actually visit). If you get more traffic (from other SEO efforts) and your conversion rate is low, that traffic is not going to be as useful as when you have a higher conversion rate (assuming UX/speed affects your conversion rate, which it usually does). CWV is a great way of recognizing and quantifying common user annoyances.”

– John Muller

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Why should you care?

As we can see from Muller’s comments, he expressed that Core Web Vitals is stronger and far more important than a tie-breaker. He also managed to point out that speed and page experience are important factors for monetising a website to the fullest of its potential. As we know, the page experience ranking update started rolling out on June 15, 2021 and the rollout will be completed by August 31, 2021. 

And yes we know, we harp on about Core Web Vitals but we would rather keep you up to date than out of date. If you are still confused about Core Web Vitals, read about it here. 

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