Google’s recent announcement that it will soon highlight “high-quality user experiences,” and give links to pages that have met certain metrics a new Fast Page label, has some publishers wondering what sort of impact they might see. Will search traffic drop as a result of these new changes? Could their search rankings rise?
The answer, as always, is that it’s complicated.
Google’s decision to implement these changes in search were announced on its Chromium Blog earlier this month. In the announcement, the company said Chrome will soon highlight high-quality user experiences on the web, beginning with the labelling of fast links. The move is designed to help users identify better experiences as they browse on the web. The change is expected to roll out starting in Chrome 85 beta for Android.
Once the change rolls out, links to pages that have met or exceeded all thresholds for Core Web Vitals will be displayed with a Fast Page label. That label will be shown anytime a user long-presses a link before navigating to the webpage. It’s meant to indicate to the user that most people who visit that webpage have a good experience.
Core Web Vitals have been coming up more frequently in digital publishing circles, but many people still aren’t aware of what Core Web Vitals are or what impact they might have on overall search traffic in the coming years. Core Web Vitals are metrics that are meant to measure the “dimensions of web usability.” That includes things like page loading time, responsiveness, and the stability of website content as it loads. Google has also set to define thresholds for those metrics, in an effort to set a certain standard for what makes a good online experience.
Publishers who have built their websites with best practices in mind, using the latest platforms and search engine optimization strategies, have little to worry about with this update. Google has already encouraged publishers to adopt best practices, like using HTTPS by distinguishing secure from insecure browsing in Chrome’s user interface. If anything, publishers that offer web visitors high-quality user experiences should see an increase in traffic. Google is looking to reward these publishers with its new labelling feature.
In the Chromium blog post, Google’s own Addy Osmani, Ben Greenstein and Josh Simmons said introducing the Fast Page label is about maintaining alignment with Core Web Vitals, so Google is always labeling pages that have optimized against the metrics that are most representative of a user’s complete experience.
One area where publishers may want to pay particularly close attention is with the upcoming change in search rankings that Google has announced, which will incorporate Core Web Vitals as a ranking signal. Core Web Vitals will likely become a criteria that Google uses to choose which publishers will appear in Google Top Stories, and those are the news results that typically appear at the top of search results. While this ranking signal is still in development, it’s anticipated that it may affect a lot of search ranking results, including mobile and desktop search, when it eventually debuts.
For now, Google’s recommendation seems to be that publishers invest in improving page quality if they want to stay on top of search results. That means investing in user-centric metrics and improving usability, first and foremost. Google has updated its developer tools to include information about best practices, however most online news and magazine publishers will want to consult with a developer for more specific information about any changes they need to make in the coming weeks.
To find out if your website is prepared for Google’s new Fast Page label and other forthcoming updates, contact Web Publisher PRO.