Core Web Vitals: Google’s Page Experience Update and What it Means For Law Firms

Core Web Vitals

Technical SEO probably isn’t a top priority for most law firms—but it should be. Mastering SEO will drive more traffic to your site, add credibility to your legal practice, and ultimately help you retain more clients. 

Staying informed with updates to Google’s ranking algorithm will put you in a position for success—and there’s a HUGE update rolling out soon.

Google officially announced that the page experience update will go into effect in May 2021.

“Core Web Vitals” are a significant component of this update. If you can prepare your site accordingly in the coming months, you’ll have a massive advantage over law firms that don’t have their finger on the pulse. 

While technical SEO and search ranking algorithms might sound a bit intimidating, this guide will explain everything you need to know about the update in simple terms.

What is the Google Page Experience Update?

Before we dive deeper into Core Web Vitals, let’s start with the update itself. Page experience is exactly what it sounds like—Google wants site visitors to have a good experience when they’re browsing your site, and this factor will impact SERPs.

Google’s existing page experience signals include:

  • Mobile friendly
  • Safe browsing
  • No intrusive interstitials

These signals measure the perception of how real site visitors would engage with a web page. The 2021 update will include three additional search signals, known as Core Web Vitals.

Core Web Vitals

As you can see from the graphic above, Core Web Vitals are LCP, FID, and CLS. We’ll discuss each of these in greater detail below.

Google Core Web Vitals

Core Web Vitals were initially introduced by Google back in May 2020. While they haven’t officially started to impact rankings just yet, Google is giving everyone plenty of time to prepare and get ready prior to the May 2021 update.

“User experience” is obviously a broad term. But Google simplified this by naming three new signals that are vital to everyone’s web experience—loading, interactivity, and visual stability.

Each of these three Core Web Vitals can be measured with the following metrics:

  • Largest Contentful Paint (LCP) — Perceived loading speed marking the point in the page loading timeline when the main content of a page has likely loaded.
  • First Input Delay (FID) — This metric measures responsiveness. FID quantifies the way visitors feel during their first interaction with a web page.
  • Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS) — CLS measures the visual stability of a web page. It quantifies the amount of unexpected layout shifts of visible content on the page. 

Here’s a look at the benchmarks you should be trying to reach for each of the Core Web Vitals metrics:

Core Web Vitals metrics

In short, these signals measure how long it takes visitors to access your page, how easy it is to interact with the page, and whether or not the page has design inconsistencies that could disorient the visitor. 

To make things easier for webmasters and site owners, Google is eliminating the old speed report from Google Search Console. That report is being replaced with a Core Web Vitals report, so it’s easy for you to see how well your site is doing as it pertains to this new aspect of page experience.

Page experience goes beyond just how fast a website loads, and the Core Web Vitals update confirms this.

How to Prepare Your Law Firm Website For the Core Web Vitals Update

Now that you have a firm grasp on the basics, let’s talk about what’s really important—your law firm website. 

The first thing you should do is run the report that we mentioned above. Simply head over to your Google Search Console, and click “Core Web Vitals” under the “Enhancements” menu on the left side of your dashboard.

Google Page Experience Update

You’ll see two graphs—one for desktop and one for mobile. Each will contain the number of URLs on your site that are “good,” “poor,” or “needs improvement.” The results will be based on the LCP, FID, and CLS metrics that we discussed in the previous section of this guide.

Identify the URLs that fall into the “poor” or “needs improvement” categories. Figure out how you can improve those pages based on the Core Web Vitals metrics. You’ll see one of the following issue validation statuses for URLs:

  • Not started
  • Started
  • Looking good
  • Passed
  • N/A
  • Failed

Google will tell you exactly what’s wrong in those reports. Google has a detailed guide on how to read those reports and how to validate fixes. 

Here are a few examples, tips, and best practices to prepare your law firm website for Core Web Vitals:

Largest Contentful Paint (LCP)

The most important aspect here is page loading speed. Focus on the loading time for the largest image on your page, videos, render time, and text in the visible area of a web page (aka viewport). Your web servers, JavaScript, CSS, and more, can all impact LCP.

Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS)

Think about your personal experiences browsing websites, especially from a mobile device. I’m sure you’ve clicked on something, and the layout shifts unexpectedly. That page isn’t stable, which is what Google measures with CLS. One of the best ways to ensure page stability is by defining image sizes in your HTML. Animations and other factors can impact CLS as well.

First Input Delay (FID)

FID basically measures how fast your web pages become interactive. If a visitor clicks on a button and nothing happens right away, they’re not having a good page experience. Third-party code, your server, and JavaScript can play a role in your FID score.

How Important is the Page Experience Update For Law Firms?

I know what some of you are thinking. You run a small, local legal practice—do you really need to worry about this? 

If you do absolutely nothing and ignore the update, you probably won’t lose any sleep over it. But with that said, you’re definitely not putting enough emphasis on SEO. 

We live in a world where everything has gone digital, and Google is at the epicenter. When someone wants to find information or search for a service (like legal services), they go straight to Google. If your law firm site isn’t one of the top results of that particular search, you won’t retain that customer—plain and simple. 

The fact that Google has given us about a year to prepare for this update is telling as well. Anytime Google comes out and tells us about an update and gives us details to prepare for it (including new reports on Google Search Console), it’s hard to imagine that the update won’t be significant.  

Content is still king, and Core Web Vitals won’t surpass the importance of producing high quality content on your law firm website. Here’s an exact excerpt from Google comparing page experience to content:

Excerpt from Google Comparing Page Experience to Content

But as you can see from this explanation, sites with a higher page experience will rank higher in situations when content is similar. 

Look at yourself compared to competing law firms in your region. If you focus on Core Web Vitals and they don’t, you’ll have the opportunity to outrank them in nearly every relevant category. 

Final Thoughts

Technical aspects of Core Web Vitals aside—making changes to your website based on these metrics will ultimately improve the user experience. Isn’t that what you’re after anyway?

The last thing you want is for people to visit your law firm website and get frustrated because the pages are loading slowly or the layout shifts unexpectedly from a mobile device. This type of negative experience will ultimately become a poor reflection of your legal practice. 

So even if you’re not worried about your rankings, you should be worried about how current and prospective clients interact with your site. That alone should be enough for you to make changes.

Preparing your law firm website for Google’s page experience update can be a bit technical. So if you’re not comfortable handling this on your own, consider reaching out to a professional.

Contact our team here at Legal Marketing Review, and we’ll be happy to provide assistance.

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