February 2022 will see Google bring the page experience ranking factor & Core Web Vitals to desktop search results. The blog post below shows what this could mean for search results and how prepared U.S. websites are for the rollout of the new desktop ranking factor.
Page experience desktop rollout to be completed by March 2022
Google hopes to fully roll out the page experience ranking factor by early spring 2022. One key part of the page experience update is the Core Web Vitals. The three metrics that quantify the user experience on a website:
- Loading performance: Largest Contentful Paint (LCP)
- Interactivity: First Input Delay (FID)
- Visual stability: Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS)
Following the rollout of the page experience ranking factor for SERPs on mobile devices from June to August 2021, the rollout for desktop SERPs is set to begin in February 2022. According to the Google timeline, rollout is scheduled to be complete by the end of March. What remains to be seen is how it will impact desktop search results on Google.com?
One in three US desktop domains failing on Core Web Vitals
The Searchmetrics Core Web Vitals Industry Dashboard, a monthly updated website performance report for the relevant Core Web Vitals, shows a clear improvement in user experience on U.S. websites over the last two years:
The dashboard results show that, in early 2020, as few as 22 of the top 100 ranking desktop websites were meeting the requirements for all three Core Web Vitals on Google.com. This figure has since improved, with 57 of the 100 U.S. domains with the highest SEO visibility now meeting all three requirements of the Core Web Vitals. And while this may be good news, there is still room for improvement on the Core Web Vitals front. At the end of the day, almost half the 100 biggest domains in the U.S. are not passing the Core Web Vitals test for all three metrics in their desktop results.
When it comes to mobile search results, recent data showed that 62 of the 100 top mobile domains in the U.S. are meeting all three requirements of Google’s Core Web Vitals. Surprisingly, domains are now performing better in mobile searches than in desktop searches, despite website optimization for mobile devices usually being more difficult and more complex than desktops.
Winner & loser industries: Huge differences in the Core Web Vitals for U.S. websites
The top performing websites are B2B, healthcare, and dictionaries/reference sites. This is not entirely surprising, given that dictionaries and health sites focus mainly on thin text content and less on large images or videos. This, along with their fast LCP times, is what helps these sites perform so well.
On the flip side, the worst-performing websites are fashion and travel sites — areas that tend to place a strong emphasis on images and videos. Besides the poor load speed (LCP), mobile fashion and travel websites in the U.S. also need to improve their visual stability (CLS), where cumulative layout shifts can occur due to the dynamic content on these sites.
How will the Google update impact SERPs?
Are we going to see domains that are not passing Core Web Vitals plummet in the rankings after the rollout is complete in March?
Page experience has been a ranking factor for mobile SERPs in the U.S., since summer 2021. Yet it quite clearly didn’t result in massive changes in the search results. That said, the rollout was a soft launch spread over three months from June to August 2021. In the same period, however, the Google Core Update June/July 2021 did cause major disruptions in the SERPs.
Even Google themselves have stressed that the new page experience ranking factor will not have a significant impact on search results:
“While page experience is important, Google still seeks to rank pages with the best information overall, even if the page experience is subpar. Great page experience doesn’t override having great page content. However, in cases where there are many pages that may be similar in relevance, page experience can be much more important for visibility in Search.” — Google Developers Blog
In other words, the page experience and Core Web Vitals is a soft ranking factor that may mean a ranking boost, provided other factors, especially content relevance, remain unchanged. As with the majority of major updates announced by Google, it is not likely to have any huge effect and is presumably more about educating the market. A similar scenario was seen with Mobile First Index, Mobilegeddon and Speed Update.
Based on the experiences with the rollout of page experience as a ranking factor for mobile SERPs, there is no reason for any website operator to be concerned about the rollout for desktop that Google is looking to complete by the end of March 2022. The page experience and Core Web Vitals is a soft ranking factor that may result in a ranking boost, provided other factors, especially content relevance, remain unchanged.
U.S. websites are already doing fairly well on Core Web Vitals, although there is still room for improvement, with 43 percent of the top-100 desktop sites and 38 percent of the top-100 mobile websites not passing the three Core Web Vitals test.
Good user experience, which is what Google’s page experience ranking factor and Core Web Vitals are all about, is what all website operators want to deliver. And while it may not happen with this new soft ranking factor, websites that don’t deliver a good user experience will lose out sooner or later — at the very latest when users start jumping ship because competitors are better.