Google’s Danny Sullivan recently discussed the expected ranking impact of the May 2021 Page Experience Update that will integrate Core Web vitals as a ranking factor.
Danny commented within the recent Search Central Live Fireside Chat and later he clarified some more on Twitter.
Search Central Live Fireside Chat
Someone asked a question about the impact that the Core Web Vitals will have on rankings and at first nobody answered but Danny stepped and explained what to expect.
“Do we expect the impact on the metrics to be significant or more subtle?”
Martin Splitt answered that he didn’t know.
Then he continued reading:
“How do you expect the impact to be from the Page Experience Update?”
Martin Splitt broke the silence by pulling out the “it depends” card which prompted Ashley Berman Hale to quip that she’d hoped they could get through the session without that.
Danny Sullivan then answered in a way that reassured publishers and the SEO community not to expect a big disruptive change.
“I think if you go back and look at how we’ve had these sorts of things over it really isn’t that okay, then the next day everything completely changes.
There’s no intent to try to do that, even though we might say we start using this as a factor.”
Danny next explained why the new ranking factor will not cause significant pain, saying that it’s just one ranking factor out of many and that the goal of ranking relevant sites is the goal of the ranking algorithm.
“First of all, it remains one of many things.
Secondly, it’s always the case that we’re going to try to return the best content based on this basket or bucket of things.
So, maybe you don’t have the best page experience… But if you’re still the most relevant content, that is going to you know overall on various things we’re looking at.
I think it’s not a case of start being all super concerned. And understand that we want to make sure that this is coming in a moderated fashion…
But over time what will happen is, as more and more content is coming up in page experience and if you’re in a situation where things are all relatively equal, the things that are more page experience and oriented are likely to start doing better.
So it’s not… I don’t think freak out but do pay attention to it, do understand that it’s a new thing that you need to keep in mind.
That’s why we’re highlighting it.”
The overall point that Danny seemed to be making is to pay attention to Core Web Vitals but don’t expect it to be a big impact in the search results.
Danny Sullivan on Twitter
Later on a question was asked on Twitter.
“Did @searchliaison say that something along the lines that the page experience update will have a softer impact initially, and then overtime it will grow in its impact on rankings? I need to review the recording once it’s live.”
“I said it shouldn’t be the case that overnight, we flip some type of switch and there’s a massive change.
That’s not typically how rollouts of this nature (such as speed, mobile-friendly) have worked. And also that things tend to be relative…”
“Consider when mobile-friendliness began, plenty of pages still needed to become that way. So while it was a factor, using it more heavily as a factor initially doesn’t make much sense. But over time, it (like any factor) might become more valuable….”
Then he added:
So with page experience, it could become a more important factor over time than with an initial launch as a great page experience becomes more common to pages. But also, and as we've kept saying, it's one of many factors: https://t.co/9halYfBgi3 pic.twitter.com/nbvGpxquxp
— Danny Sullivan (@dannysullivan) February 24, 2021
Search Community Reaction to Page Experience Update
“Core Web Vitals is not a requirement for better rankings. It won’t affect most sites’ rankings. That isn’t what it’s all about.
The SEO blogging community has over-hyped this transition.”
Reading various social media discussions, it seems that the SEO community is evenly split on the issue.
Some people say they are taking it very seriously while the other side downplays the ranking factor aspect of Core Web Vitals and encourage publishers to do their best and no more than that.
There are even some in the community who speculate that Google is imposing Core Web Vitals onto publishers to benefit Google itself.
The claim is that Google has data showing that it makes more money when users are able to quickly return from a website back to Google.
Regardless of what Google’s motivations are for imposing Core Web Vitals on the entire Internet, Danny Sullivan said to not expect the Page Experience update to cause massive ranking changes.
I think Barry Schwartz’s humorous response sums things up nicely: