Google and Website Performance - SiteDistrict

Google and Website Performance

Understand Google search ranking signals, and the role of website performance

With Google being the number one search engine in the world, and a way that many people find what they are looking for on the web, it doesn't hurt to familiarize yourself with some of the basics regarding Google and search rankings.

When you or someone else searches for something using Google, a list of results is returned. Google attempts to figure out what the "best" results are to display for you.

Google ranking systems are designed ... to find the most relevant, useful results in a fraction of a second, and present them in a way that helps you find what youโ€™re looking for.

There are a lot of factors involved in this split-second decision.

Google lists the key factors on its website page, Google's Search Algorithm and Ranking System.

The key factors included are:

Meaning of your queryRelevancy of webpagesQuality of contentUsability of webpagesContext and settings

As you can see, there are many factors involved in how Google decides what to return for a given query.

Under the Usability of webpages section, there is some mention of website performnace, using the terms "page loading times" and "page speed".

Reference to slow internet connections and mobile are mentioned. But not a lot regarding website performance there yet.

Page Experience

In May 2020, Google posted on their blog that new signal, Page Experience would be making its way into Google's search ranking algorithms, along with existing user experience criteria.

Through both internal studies and industry research, users show they prefer sites with a great page experience. In recent years, Search has added a variety of user experience criteria ... Today, we're building on this work and providing an early look at an upcoming Search ranking change ...

The page experience signal measures aspects of how users perceive the experience of interacting with a web page.

There are several component signals that comprise Page Experience, which are shown below:

The performance related signals are named Core Web Vitals:

We will introduce a new signal that combines Core Web Vitals with our existing signals for page experience to provide a holistic picture of the quality of a user's experience on a web page.

It's important to note that Core Web Vitals (CWV), make up only one part of Page Experience, and Page Experience itself is just one additional factor to be included along with the other factors listed above, and explained on Google's website. Google specifically says that page experience is just one of hundreds of signals:

By adding page experience to the hundreds of signals that Google considers when ranking search results, we aim to help people more easily access the information and web pages they're looking for, and support site owners in providing an experience users enjoy.

What Drives Your Business

Before we talk more about Google, page experience, core web vitals, and page performance, let's back up a bit, and look at the big picture.

If you have a business and/or website, it's good to understand where your business comes from. Some sources of traffic and/or business might include:

ReferralsPaid AdvertisingMeetupsYelpEmail campaignsNewsletters
Word of MouthBlog posts by other sitesGoogle searchesTV mentionsSocial Media... and more

Out of all those, and others not listed, it seems that it would be smart to make sure you have a good and accurate picture how much each of these sources of business are important to your own business or website's success.

Even for Google searches, it's good to know how those referrals breakdown. How much are due to:

  • Searching for your name or your business name
  • Location-based relevancy
  • Searches for keywords

While Google might be responsible for some of your business, you should step back and take a honest look at how much can be attributed to Google, and why.

Only 10 spots

Organic SEO and search ranking on specific terms is only important to a tiny percentage of websites and businesses, for any given search.

That's a bold claim to make.

But it's also easy to prove and understand. Take "web development" for example. As one of our own customers put it:

I know there are a lot of web developers and only 10 spots on page one in Google.

It's estimated that there are millions of web developers worldwide. Obviously, there's more to their success than ranking on page one of Google for "web development", or there would only be ... ten.

Google and Your Site

Even if your website or one of your pages happens to rank on Google, it's probably for a specific niche. And even then, how important is the Google traffic to those pages to your business?

Or to put it another way: What would happen to your business if Google's keyword search completely stopped working?

For Google - or more specifically, competitive organic search ranking for certain keywords - to be really important to your website and business, it likely means that:

  1. You need to rank very highly for those terms
  2. The leads from that traffic need to contribute to a signficant amount of your business

We are not going to answer whether these apply to your business or your website, but we think these are the questions you should ask yourself first, and how you should think about Google, especially before it comes to making decisions regarding investments in content, performance optimization, SEO, and other marketing.

If it turns out that Google is truly that important to your business, you might actually want to consider ways to decrease your marketing reliance on Google, rather than becoming more codependent on Google (though psychologists may argue that isn't the best term, as Google isn't a "person").

What Google Cares About

Google's documentation has a page titled Understanding page experience in Google Search results, where they say this:

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.

Said another way:

Unless you're part of the small minority that ranks highly enough with Google for specific competitive search terms, and your business depends on it, then you might very well want to ignore Google's algorithm update and focus on your customers.

If your website is an important part of your business for your customers, talk to them. Load the website up and use it. In terms of performance make sure that it consistently loads quickly for you and the actual users of the site.

Core Web Vitals

Although the best strategy for your business might actually be to ignore Google's update, or at least not fixate on it, additional discussion of Core Web Vitals is both interesting and useful.

To learn about web vitals in more detail, we suggest you start with the Web Vitals page on web.dev.

For the purposes of this blog post, we'll focus on a few key points about web vitals, and core web vitals in particular. Our first and main point is this:

Core Web Vitals are metrics that were created to better quantify website experience for real users.

Let us say that again: these are not arbitrary metrics, but rather an attempt to measure things that actually matter to people.

There's that word again: People.

It has always been difficult to assign numbers that represent page speed and user experience (UX) on websites. For a long time, many tools would report numbers such as "Page Load", "Bytes Downloaded", "Number of Requests", "DOM Interactive" that were availeble in browsers, but actually had no real correlation with actual user experience.

Core Web Vitals are an effort to change and fix that.

In this respect, moving the focus of people that actually look at such metrics from numbers that are either meaniningless or misleading at best, to a new set of metrics, that hopefully better quanitify user experience, is a good thing.

Should you spent time understanding web vitals, including what they mean, what affects them, how to measure them, how to analyze the data, and how optimize your site to improve them?

We believe we've already provided some of those answers above.

Our opinion about Core Web Vitals is this: For the vast majority of sites, nothing is changing

Remembering, yet again, that core web vitals are meant to measure user experience of actual people, we can say this another way:

If your website is currently slow or has user experience issues, you already have a problem. If your site is fast, interactive, and the content doesn't jump around while a user browses it, you're doing a good job. Core web vitals doesn't change any of that.

Don't create a new problem where one doesn't already exist. Focus on your users and site visitors.

Understanding Core Web Vitals

See our Understanding Core Web Vitals for additional information about Core Web Vitals, including how Google measures these metrics, and what thresholds and percentiles are important to Google.

SEO Blog Posts & Hysteria

We've tried to keep this post focused on information that comes both directly from Google, and also points are difficult to dispute or argue.

There are a lof of blog posts on the web - especially now in early and mid 2021 - talking about Google's Page Experience update and Core Web Vitals.

Remember a few points before you get sucked in to any of these:

  • Many of these posts exist to get readers. Writing about something brings more readers than saying "just ignore it", or "focus on this instead".
  • No one in the SEO community really knows nor understands how Google's ranking algorithms work.
  • No one can actually tell you how core web vitals or any other updates will affect your specific pages, site, or a person's search queries.
  • SEO is just one element of any successful online buiness, and possibly an insignficant one. See our points above.

You should be dubious of any claims about how Google's ranking algorithms work, that aren't directly from Google's site. Anyone that definitively claims they know how something will affect your Google ranking is either:

  • Lying
  • or
  • Going to lose their job as a search engineeer at Google for revealing it

Plus, Google's search ranking algorithms are likely so complex that it would take a Ph.D. and several years of experience in the field to even start to properly understand them.

That's just your opinion, Man.

John Mueller, Search Advocate at Google, has this tweet pinned at the top of his Twitter feed:

We don't think it's a coincidence that someone in his role at Google has this tweet pinned to the top of his Twitter. Rather, we think it's a message to the entire SEO community, and something to keep in mind any time you're reading, thinking about, or working on optimizing your site for Google.

Summary

Website performance is important, but it's important to remember that websites are built for people, and this is the context in which Google ultimately cares about website performance.

When thinking about your website performance in terms of Google, here are some things to ask yourself:

  • How is the speed and performance for yourself and actual visitors on your site?
  • What importance, if any, does Google really have on your business?
  • Are there other things that are actually more important to your business that deserve your time, focus, and money?
  • Is something I read online actually about SEO actually coming from Google, or just someone's opinion?

We hope this post helps you to better understand how Google and website performance go together, and avoid getting stuck on some things that might not matter.

 

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