Google’s latest round of changes could impact many small businesses, particularly those with slow or unresponsive websites, according to a local expert.
Kynan Albassit, founder of the Australian Institute Of Internet Marketing Services, a digital marketing thought leader, says when Google changes the way it does things, it usually impacts businesses in a big way.
“Not too many people realise, but while we have all been dealing with COVID, Google has implemented one of the biggest changes to its search engine algorithm methodology in years – and the changes are going to affect a lot of people,” Albassit said.
“Think about it – over 90 per cent of people in Australia and across other parts of the world use Google to undertake everyday search activities and to navigate and support their use of the internet,” Albassit added.
Albassit says from consumers to businesses, Google is the biggest ‘must use’ tool in the world.
“If a business wants to reach new customers, it optimises its website to rank well ‘organically’ on Google. In fact, many businesses rely 100 per cent on the arrival of traffic to their website from Google. If businesses spend money on advertising, many only advertise on Google; they don’t advertise anywhere else.”
“So imagine what would happen to all these businesses and their revenue, if changes are made by Google that penalise business owners for poor performing websites. The impact would be disastrous.”
Google to use new metrics to rank pages
Unfortunately, according to Albassit that is exactly what Google has done by rolling out its latest updates.
“It has introduced a new set of parameters to determine how well a website ranks based on page experience factors.”Albassit states that page experience factors are a set of considerations called ‘core web vitals’ that determine how ‘website friendly’ a site actually is.
“In summary, Google is now judging websites on three new metrics including their speed to load and speed to respond to customer engagement,” Albassit added.
User experience is now a main focus
“While Google already uses some elements of user experience to assist in ranking websites such as safe browsing, mobile-friendliness and security, these three new metrics will address the user experience in a more defined way, Albassit said.
The three new areas of Google focus are, Largest Contentful Paint (LCP), First Input Delay (FID) and Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS). If that all sounds like geek speak to you – here’s the lowdown.
Largest Contentful Paint (LCP)
“This addresses the loading experience. LCP measures the time it takes for the most important and relevant content on a website to load,” Albassit said.
“LCP is measured in seconds and a load time of 2.5 seconds or less is considered ideal. If elements of your website are slow to load, this will now impact your site’s Google ranking.
“So, if your website hosting is poor quality, your site contains coding that delays loading, or you have too many big images on your site and this affects loading times, you are going to be punished.”
First Input Delay (FID)
“This measures the length of time it takes for your site to respond to a visitor’s action. For example, if a site visitor clicks on a link, how quickly does the page respond,” Albassit explained.
According to Albassit FID is measured in milliseconds and the ideal response time is 100 milliseconds or less.
“If you have multiple activities on your site such as products, sign up boxes, log in sections – all of these must respond in milliseconds or less in order to meet Google’s new user experience requirements.
Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS)
“The third and final new factor relates to visual stability, measured with cumulative layout shift (CLS),” Albassit said.
“This is an interesting element as it monitors how well your website performs when each page loads. Do images and other elements jump around or shift as a page loads? If they do, this means your CLS will be high. Google considers a CLS score of below .1 to be ideal.
“While page loading is also affected by internet speed and device grunt, which are all out of the control of the website owner, there are things you can do to streamline things at site level.”
“Poorly designed websites will be affected here again. If images or any elements on a site have been embedded without specific dimensions, this will impact the way content loads and affect the way it appears on the user’s screen.”
Changes are a win for consumers
According to Albassit, people who use the search engine are the winners.
“The upshot of all of this is – consumers are the winners. Anyone browsing the internet using Google will get to see the sites at the top of their search page that Google considers are not only safe and full of appropriate content, they also deliver the best customer experience possible,” Albassit added.
“The reality here is that for many businesses that have not invested a lot of time or resources into their websites, and the sites are less than perfect – these sites will be punished big time under Google’s changes.
“In essence, Google is saying – to be on our platform, the best of the best websites will be given premium placement – because Google wants to deliver the best experience possible for its users.”
“What can businesses do before these changes destroy their business? Start searching for good help. Your website is going to need some changes, and you may have to change or upgrade your hosting. Don’t wait for the changes to impact you. Act fast. It doesn’t take long to be pushed down Google’s pages – but it can take a while to climb back up depending on how you approach things.”
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