SEO is continuously evolving, and in a post-2020 world, things are no different for search engine optimization. Google will be undergoing a series of ranking algorithm shifts that are important to keep in mind when optimizing your posts and site in 2021. That’s where we come in! 

Now, before you panic and think this shift is coming from left field and your page will become obsolete, let me ease your worries by letting you know, the algorithms are in constant flux to help provide better user experiences, and therefore having an experienced SEO eye in your corner is so important. 

Your core website vitals play an enormous role in the functionality of your site. Everything from loading speeds to first input delays, mobile-firstness to safety & security plays a role in your website’s overall performance. So, Google will be using these user experience metrics they gather on engagement as ranking factors in Q2 of 2021.

What are these vital site metrics and their impacts on SEO?

Site Speed

Site speed is one of the largest factors in user interaction. Think about it, in today’s day and age, if a site takes longer than 3 seconds to load, we usually think something is amiss, and we click refresh. Site speed is the first impression a user has with you and your site, and first impressions matter. The LCP or largest contentful paint metric reports the largest asset’s loading time visible on the screen. Ideally, visitors typically shouldn’t have to wait more than 2-3 seconds when it starts loading to see these things. 

In the same vein as site speed, the first input delay (FID) is another vital metric we need to be aware of. This is where Google measures the amount of time it takes for users to interact with the page, whether they click a link, tap on a button, or use a custom, JavaScript-powered control. To provide an excellent UE, you want to aim for an FID of 1/10th of a second or less. 

Mobile-First Indexing

Even though most of us are still working remotely, mobile users comprise over 50% of all browsing sessions. Due to this, Google has been planning on officially migrating to utilizing a mobile-first test to rank websites on their search engine results page. This dates back to Google’s initial shift to mobile-first indexing in 2019, placing reactive and mobile-friendly sites higher in rankings. 

Website Safety & SSL certification

Not only is mobile-friendly important, but so is the user’s safety to Google. In Q2, Google will be placing user safety on websites in its indexing metrics. Sites will be flagged if they contain potential malware/hazardous downloads.  On top of that, sites not using HTTPS with an updated and valid SSL certificate will also be flagged. Beyond the desire to rank well, you want to have these things in place anyhow for your users and your safety! 

Layout Shifting

The last significant metric impacted by the algorithm shifts is the cumulative layout shifts (CLS) of the page. CLS looks at the proportion of the viewport affected by layout shifts and the moving elements’ movement distance. Think of the one time you scrolled to find a blog article, clicked to ‘learn more’ while the page was still loading, and then the page shifted, causing you to misclick on a different item. Assets without specified dimensions that are on the page are the usual suspects here. These interfere with the browser, making it hard to display the object on a page until it has fully loaded. This then causes the other assets on the page to shift. This can be summed up in one word: frustrating. 

What do algorithm shifts mean for you & SEO?

With algorithm shifts to one focusing on user experience and engagement, we are brought to a SEO fork in the road. Websites can either consider users and their engagement with/on their site or go the way of the dodo.

Instead of relying on a few well-placed keywords, setting & forgetting SEO, now is the time to have the content, design, and optimization experts in your corner. Experts ready to keep hands-on with your site to ensure the best for your users. You can turn to Position : Global and our team of experts to ensure you have an optimized, reactive, and overall engaging site for your users, not just for 2021 but beyond.

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