Google’s John Mueller discussed various scenarios of how the page experience ranking factors did and did not influence rankings. He didn’t downplay Core Web Vitals (CWV) as a ranking factor but rather he added context for the kinds of situations where the Page Experience ranking factor makes a difference and examples of why it would be eased off on.
Mueller’s answer is wide ranging and he touches on multiple interesting topics.
How Important is the Core Web Vitals Ranking Factor?
The question that Mueller answered in a recent Google Office Hours video was an answer to someone who noted that their website recently dropped due to what they believed was the influence of the Core Web Vitals ranking signal.
The person asking the question wanted to know how important is core web vitals as a ranking factor.
Here is the question:
“My website had a drop in visitors due to poor core web vitals.
Now I’m back on track but came to know that the page experience update is now rolling out also for desktop.
What is the page experience ranking to desktop and how important is it compared to the other ranking factors?”
John Mueller Discussing Page Experience Ranking Factor
When a Ranking Factor Does Not Help Rankings
John Mueller began his answer by talking about how Google might not apply the page experience ranking factor.
This is an interesting answer because one thinks of ranking factors as always applying but Mueller provides a scenario where a ranking factor is “eased off” in order to provide the right search result.
But Mueller shows an example of a situation where this ranking factor is set aside in order to give a Google user what they’re searching for.
John Mueller provided this example:
“So like on mobile, the page experience ranking factor is essentially something that gives us a little bit of extra information about these different pages that could show up in the search results.
And in situations where we have a strong clear kind of intent from the query, where we can understand that they really want to go to this website, then from that point of view we kind of can ease off on using page experience as a ranking factor.”
This is interesting because it’s easy to think of the search engine results pages (SERPs) as ten links to sites that are ordered by ranking factors.
But there are many things that influence why a site ranks and this is an example of how ranking factors can be set aside for certain reasons.
When the Page Experience Signal Helps
Mueller next explains how the Page Experience ranking signal works.
He has previously said that this ranking signal is not a tie breaker.
Now he provides an example of the kind of scenario where the ranking signal kicks in and helps a site rank better.
“On the other hand, if all of the content is very similar in the search results page, then probably using Page Experience helps a little bit to understand which of these are fast pages or reasonable pages with regards to the user experience and which of these are kind of the less reasonable pages to show in the search results.
And that kind of situation helps us there.”
Desktop Page Experience Update Won’t Cause Drastic Changes
Mueller next talks about the desktop version of the Page Experience update that was announced on February 22, 2022 that was announced by Google to be finished on March 3, 2022.
He says that he believes the rollout will take about a month.
His statements however were made only three days after the update was announced and the video itself was not released until two days after the update was finished.
John Mueller’s estimate of how long the update would take should be considered in the context within it was made, which was as an estimate and not a definitive statement.
Mueller focuses on ranking changes from the desktop Page Experience ranking factor and says that publishers shouldn’t see big ranking changes due to that ranking factor.
“So from that point of view with the desktop ranking change, like with the mobile one, I wouldn’t expect a drastic jump in the search results from one day to the next as we roll this out.
At most, if things are really bad for your website you would see a kind of a gradual drop there.”
I think the important takeaway is that if publishers experienced “drastic” changes in the search results during the rollout of the desktop Page Experience update, that it would be a mistake to assume that those changes were related to the update.
Websites Don’t Drop From Poor Core Web Vitals
Mueller next addresses the topic of Core Web Vitals in the context of understanding why a site dropped in the search results.
The point he makes is that the core web vitals ranking signal might account for small changes but it’s not the kind of signal that would result in a huge change.
Mueller continued his answer:
“The other thing I might kind of caution against is kind of the first sentence that you had there, that your website dropped due to poor Core Web Vitals.
I suspect, for the most part, websites would not see a big visible change when it comes to Core Web Vitals.
Even if your website goes from being kind of reasonable to being in that poor bucket in the Core Web Vitals from one day to the next, I would not expect to see that as kind of a giant change in the search results.
Maybe changing a few positions, that seems kind of the right change there.
But I would not see it as a page going from …I don’t know… ranking number two to ranking number fifty like that just because of Core Web Vitals.
If you are seeing a drastic change like that, I would not focus on purely Core Web Vitals.
I would try to take a step back and look at the overall picture and see what else could there be involved.
And try to figure out what you can do to improve things overall rather than just purely focusing on Core Web Vitals.
Because Core Web Vitals is something that does take a lot of work to get right.
And it is sometimes hard to get all of these things lined up.
But it’s also, like I mentioned, something which is more of a subtle ranking factor and not like a super strong one.
So it’s something where if you’re seeing strong changes I would recommend not spending too much time on the Core Web Vitals side and rather trying to figure out what is the bigger change or where is that coming from for your site.”
Takeaways About Page Experience as a Ranking Factor
John Mueller provided multiple insights in his answer:
- Page Experience ranking factor is “eased off” when a searcher expects to see a specific website
- Page Experience ranking factor is helpful when multiple sites have similar answers
- Desktop Page Experience update isn’t responsible for big ranking changes
- Core Web Vitals aren’t responsible for huge ranking changes
- Core Web Vitals might influence small ranking changes
How Core Web Vitals Works as a Ranking Factor
Watch the video at the 42:21 minute mark
Biggest Challenges Facing SEO In 2023
When you’re preparing your strategy for next year, it’s vital to plan for potential upsets and challenges ahead.
This year, SEO practitioners overcame challenges posed by a lack of resources, issues with strategy, and the ability to scale processes.
Looking ahead to 2023 and beyond, our State of SEO report finds practitioners anticipate machine learning and AI, Google updates, and the deprecation of third-party cookies to lead the way as the greatest shifts in SEO.
In this article, we’ll summarize key data points from our report, highlight three major challenges in particular, and look at relevant SEO trends that can aid in your strategy development.
Lastly, we’ll discuss the implications advancements in machine learning and AI has on search marketing. Will this new search technology pose a challenge for you and your business? Continue reading to learn what our experts say.
All of the insights here are driven by our first-party survey data in the annual State Of SEO Report.
Summary Of Report Findings
When asked what were the biggest SEO challenges over the last 12 months, respondents stated:
- Lack of resources (14.9%).
- Strategy issues (12.3%).
- Scaling processes (11.9%).
- Pandemic-related issues (11.2%).
- Alignment with other departments (10.7%).
Budget cuts fell from the number one challenge SEO professionals faced in 2021 to number six this year.
However, the fact that lack of resources and scaling processes were top challenges in 2022 suggests that 2021’s budget cuts had a lasting impact.
Looking ahead to potential threats in 2023, we asked respondents to select up to three “biggest shifts” and industry changes in SEO. Here are their top responses:
- Machine learning and AI (18.7%).
- Google updates (18.0%).
- Third-party cookie deprecation (13.9%).
- Google zero-click pages (12.9%).
- Competition for talent (11.5%).
Factors SEO professionals are watching as emergent factors are:
- Machine learning and AI (11.3%).
- Core Web Vitals (10.8%).
- EAT & trusted sources (10.2%).
- Mobile SEO (9.8%).
- SERP features (8.3%).
SEO Pros Often Work With Limited Resources
Lack of resources came in as the top challenge faced by SEOs in 2022.
There’s little doubt that the industry is feeling the effects of budget cuts incurred in 2021, though another reason for the limited resources is that many SEOs aren’t working with large teams.
Over 40% of respondents report working with a team of 10 or fewer members, while roughly 5% said they work by themselves.
Adding new team members may prove difficult in the next year or two.
The State Of SEO Report goes into deeper detail about the challenges facing SEO professionals and what they’re worried about next year.
Recent And Continuing Growth May Prove Challenging
Several of the SEO shifts predicted for 2023 and beyond are potential impediments to growth.
Recent and continuing growth may prove challenging without the ability to scale as a team, and competition for talent is expected to be a major cause for concern over the next two years.
Deprecation of third-party cookies makes it difficult for SEO pros and marketers to sustain recent growth, as they’ll be expected to deliver the same or better results with fewer data.
Strategy Is A Concern For Many SEO Pros
SEOs listed strategy issues as one of their greatest challenges over the last 12 months.
Strategy issues may indicate that SEO professionals are struggling to prove their ROI (return on investment).
While over half of SEO practitioners (58.0%) we surveyed reported an increase in the ROI for their work, many struggled to prove ROI, and 29% of SEO professionals reported feeling ambivalent about their ROI.
In our chapter on Winning Strategies And Measuring SEO Success, we discuss how ROI problems are often the result of a disconnect between a brand’s target goals and the data being tracked.
SEO Pros Expect Machine Learning And AI To Have A Big Impact
Topping the list of biggest shifts over the next two years, as anticipated by SEO pros, is machine learning and AI.
Additionally, machine learning and AI were the top responses when SEO pros were asked to rank what they think will be the most important emergent factors in 2023.
To understand better why machine learning and AI are at the top of everyone’s minds, we turned to our in-house experts to get more context.
Shelley Walsh, the SEO content strategist at SEJ, doesn’t see AI and machine learning being able to replace human decision-making any time soon. Further, she doesn’t advise relying too heavily on AI-powered tools for creating content:
“As a disruptor, I can’t yet see AI being able to replace critical decisions and choices where there are several routes to take, and you have to make a choice based on expertise. The tool is only as good as the person driving it. At the moment, there is a flood of tools powered by GPT-3.
These are great for low-end volume content, such as product descriptions, but they widen the divide and elevate well-researched thought leadership quality content. As niches online become saturated by AI-spun content, the quality will be the only way to stand out. Ultimately, overuse will only have a detrimental effect.”
To see all of the first-party survey data and read more insights, download the State Of SEO Report.
Featured Image: Paulo Bobita/Search Engine Journal