In November 2020, Google announced that the Page Experience Update was coming, and the SEO community was immediately thrown into turmoil. “Yet another thing to worry about”, everyone thought, “as if technical SEO, E-A-T, and MUM weren’t enough”.
At first, the SEOs’ concerns weren’t unreasonable. After all, Core Web Vitals -a critical component of the Page Experience Update- were new territory for SEOs and developers alike. Literature was scattered, tooling was limited, and the topic was highly technical.
Over time, however, Google started to downplay the importance of page experience signals as a ranking factor. “They are just one of many”, they said, and referred to Core Web Vitals as “lightweight ranking signals”.
As Google released more details about the Page Experience Update, it became more apparent that this update wouldn’t produce a major disruption in SERP. In fact, some of the page experience signals had been ranking factors since long before the Page Experience Update (mobile-friendliness, HTTPS serving, some user-centric performance metrics).
As of September 2021, a month after the Page Experience Update fully rolled out, we haven’t noticed a significant impact for airlines in search. Some of our customers who passed Core Web Vitals have seen a minimal increase in rankings, but that’s about it. This is consistent with Sistrix’s findings on the impact of the Page Experience Update.
Even though everything indicates that the initial anxieties were overstated, the truth is that the page experience signals are here to stay. At any point, Google can calibrate its ranking algorithm and assign more weight to page experience factors. Besides, just because they are minor ranking factors does not mean you should ignore them. Otherwise, SEOs wouldn’t be so worried about URL length or what words to use in URLs.
But it’s not only about SEO. Page experience goes beyond rankings and can hit the bottom line of airlines. Several studies have shown that better Core Web Vitals translate into higher conversion rates and online sales. Thus, page experience signals will continue to be an area of attention for conversion rate optimization specialists, digital marketers, SEOs, and developers.
In this guide, we will talk a lot about page experience and its impact on SEO. We cover absolutely everything you need to know and answer your most burning questions:
- What signals include the Page Experience Update? How do they impact SEO?
- What are the Core Web Vitals?
- What is Lab Data and Field Data? Why are there discrepancies?
- Does the Lighthouse Performance Score affect SEO?
- What tools to use to measure and debug Core Web Vitals?
- How to conduct an audit of Core Web Vitals using a proper workflow?
- How to measure and optimize Largest Contentful Paint (LCP)?
- How to measure and optimize First Input Delay (FID)?
- How to measure and optimize Content Layout Shift (CLS)?
As you begin your journey to optimize your airline’s website for Core Web Vitals, you will encounter many challenges and face tough realities. Don’t despair, though. It’s part of the journey! Here is some additional advice you might find helpful moving forward.
Dive into the technical documentation. Each section of this whitepaper teaches advanced concepts and techniques connected to Core Web Vitals. However, we can’t (and we don’t want) to write everything there is to write about each topic. Therefore, we included a list of valuable tools and resources at the end for further information.
You can’t do it alone. Optimizing Core Web Vitals can become highly technical. Most techniques and concepts go beyond traditional technical SEO. You will need to involve the airline’s web developers or hire a performance engineer if necessary.
Invest in proper tooling. Google’s free tools to measure and debug Core Web Vitals won’t be enough for a complex site such as an airline’s website. You will most likely need to invest in RUM tools to monitor Core Web Vitals and proactively identify optimization opportunities. We will mention some of the most popular RUM tools in later sections.
Test, test, and test. Unfortunately, there are no easy answers or fixes to performance issues. Some cookie-cutter solutions might just not work for your site. Don’t implement blanket recommendations, not even the ones we propose in this guide. You will need to test the optimization ideas in advance. WebPageTest is a powerful synthetic tool where you can test the potential impact of your code before it goes into production.
One solution can lead to a different issue. You fixed Largest Contentful Paint (LCP), and now First Input Delay (FID) is an issue? Well, it can happen. That’s because Core web Vitals is not a single-metric approach to page performance. Optimizing Core Web Vitals is an iterative process and will require you to make continuous improvements.
Be patient. It can take a while before you start to see the impact of the implemented solutions. That’s because Field Data, the data you should care about, is based on 28 days’ worth of data and the 75th percentiles. We will talk a lot about Field Data later on, but essentially, you need to know that several weeks can pass before you see meaningful results.
Keep up with the changes. Core Web Vitals will continue to evolve. For example, the method to compute Content Layout Shift (CLS) recently changed, and Google is redefining First Input Delay (FID). Page experience is a fast-changing subject, and you will have to stay on top of it.
With these caveats in mind, let’s start optimizing!