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With just three months to go until Google rolls out its highly publicised Core Web Vitals (CWV) update, a new study by digital marketing agency Impression has revealed that one-third of marketers are still in the dark about what the update is, or what it means for them.

Google announced the change to its ranking algorithms back in 2019 and has since been educating webmasters on the necessity of fast load speeds and positive user experience in being treated favourably in the search engine results pages (SERPs).

While many of those working in the SEO industry are in agreement that the changes are positive for web users, the potential impact to businesses who fail to make improvements to their websites prior to the May rollout could be hugely detrimental to their online visibility and therefore a risk to their ability to earn clicks and revenue.

Dave Cain, previously digital marketing manager at Boots and current senior digital marketing manager at Arriva Group, provided the executive summary to the Marketing Census study and noted the change in user behaviour since 2020 and the importance of a focus on the end-user in effective marketing.

“Marketing is never straight forward. As much an art as a science, marketing in 2020 thrived on creativity, agility, and ability to adapt to communicate a clear message – those marketers who were able to pivot their strategies and customer communications to the changing times inevitably came out on top,” said Cain.

“What’s clear as we move into 2021 is that, as marketers, we need to be even more focused than ever on the customer. In order to earn the interest and trust of our target audience, we must be interested in them first, to invest in a deeper understanding of who they are, what makes them tick and the topics that are most likely to engage with them and lead them eventually to a desire for our product or service – we need to have engaging conversations and we need to show we listen and care.”

Edd Wilson is an SEO consultant at Impression with over a decade of experience in the fields of technical and content-driven SEO. Speaking on a recent podcast episode, he spoke about the changes that businesses need to make and how important it is to make those changes sooner rather than later.

“Businesses need to address their Core Web Vitals stats now. The actions required to get websites up to speed and in line with the minimum standards could be relatively extensive - so waiting until May could mean waiting until it’s too late,” stated Wilson.

On 17 February Impression is hosting a free live webinar to help businesses understand what they need to know about Core Web Vitals and what they need to do to prepare. Sign up for the webinar here or find out more information below.

What is “Core Web Vitals”?

Core Web Vitals is an update to the way Google assesses the quality of websites when making decisions about which should rank highest in the search results pages. The focus of CWV is user experience, where the better the experience for users, the higher the website is likely to rank.

The specific factors assessed within CWV are:

Largest Contentful Paint – LCP is the measurement of how long it takes for the first complete content element to load on the screen.

First Input Delay – FID measures the responsiveness of a website as it’s loading, for example the ability to click.

Cumulative Layout Shift – CLS refers to the visual stability of a page while it’s loading.

Webmasters can view Google’s own report on their status against those factors in Google Search Console as a first port of call. You can view more detail in the Chrome User Experience Report (CruX - learn more in this guide).

What marketers need to do ahead of May’s update rollout

The following tips have been provided by the SEO team at Impression to help businesses thrive post-Core Web Vitals update:

1. Let Google tell you how you're doing

The first tip is to check in on your CWV health via Google's own tools. Google Search Console, for example, will show you how your site is performing against the key metrics in Core Web Vitals and advise you on how best to improve.

2. Don't wait until May

The rollout of CWV may not be happening until later in the year, but savvy marketers will appreciate the importance of making improvements to their site now. That's because Google's latest update isn't just about helping Google but, more importantly, making the online experience better for users – so improving your website now will have positive impacts on the experience your potential customers have on your site.

3. This is just the beginning

Google's ongoing mission to organise the world's information has led it through many iterations and arguably, the Core Web Vitals initiative is one of the strongest moves in showing how important Google views user experience to be. So, while the initial CWV rollout focuses on specific metrics relating to load speeds and so on, the focus for marketers through 2021 and beyond needs to remain on what they can do, across every aspect of their digital presence, to improve the experience for their audience.

Laura Hampton is head of digital PR for Impression.