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Google Web Vital. It’s time to take UX seriously

Google gave advance warning before an algorithm update. That was a first!

Last week Google announced an update to their search algorithm planned for 2021 – actually giving us time to prepare.

The new signals, dubbed Core Web Vitals, will evaluate the quality of your site’s user experience when ranking it in organic search.

Google has this to say: “Optimizing for these factors makes the web more delightful for users across all web browsers and surfaces, and helps sites evolve towards user expectations on mobile. We believe this will contribute to business success on the web as users grow more engaged and can transact with less friction.”

Another push form Google towards making the web a better place.

Any investment in improving usability is an essential step towards increasing online conversions. And since Mobilegeddon, Google has only gotten more serious about cleaning up the deteriorating state of the web:

  • HTTPS: In 2014 Google announced that secure sites will get a slight ranking boost and by 2018 Chrome started marking non-HTTPS sites as non-secure.
  • Mobile-friendly: In 2015 Google released an update designed to give mobile-friendly sites a boost in organic ranking.
  • Google Safe Browsing: In 2016 Google introduced Safe Browsing, a service that helps browsers, ISPs and Apps protect their users from malware and other threats.
  • Intrusive Interstitials: In 2015 Google started penalising apps that displayed annoying pop-ups and by 2016 that penalty was extended towards websites as well.
  • Accelerated Mobile Pages: In 2018 Google announced AMP, an open-source project designed to help publishers deliver a faster mobile experience.
  • Mobile-first Indexing: In 2016 Google announced it will prioritise indexing mobile-versions of websites and by 2020 switched to indexing mobile-friendly versions of all websites exclusively.

How can you prepare for this update? 

Although the new Core Web Vitals measure metrics like load time, interactivity and stability of the content available on the page, usability is what it’s really about.

After being involved in several web development projects, I can assure you that there’s always a difference between how you thought people will use your site and how they actually use it. 

And the only way to improve usability is to pay attention to your users. 

That means paying extra attention to Service Design and User Experience. 

Where should you start?

In the coming months, you need to answer these questions: 

  • Is it happening? Is the site loading? How quickly?
  • Is it useful? How quickly does the content render so that the user can engage with it?
  • Is it usable? Can the user interact with the page?
  • Is it delightful? Is the user experience smooth and free of lag?

If you have a Service Designer or UI/UX expert on-hand, now’s the time to get them involved in usability testing.

If not, get yourself up-to-speed with Usability and Web Accessibility and other best practices.

Tools like Hotjar allow Session Recording and help you gather the much needed qualitative data to see how people really use your website.

For quantitative metrics, you can use Chrome’s Lighthouse Tools and brand new Web Vitals Chrome extension

A word of advice; don’t just look at speed alone to measure your website’s overall performance. Use testing and optimisation to improve the usability and usefulness of your website.

One thing you can count on is that Google will continue to prioritise pages with better content.

And when you and your competitors all deliver the same quality of content, whoever has the better user experience will be preferred by Google.

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Google wants Facebook advertisers to sit up and pay more attention

Last year Google introduced two new ad-formats, Gallery Ads and Discovery Ads.

The first didn’t make it past the beta but the latter was launched globally this April.

What are Discovery Ads?

Discovery Ads are a new automated, multi-channel ad-format available across YouTube, Gmail and for the first time ever in the Discover Feed on Android devices.

Automated Campaigns? Introduced in 2018, allow you to set your budget and ad-copies, then let Google take care of ad serving and optimisation.

Google wants a share of your social media budgets

For a long time, Google has wanted to grow past the search intent and offer more advertising across more touchpoints throughout the purchase funnel.

Google would like you to know that with Discovery Ads you can reach 2,9 billion people across YouTube, Android devices and Gmail.

Or roughly the same amount of users across all Facebook apps combined.

According to Google, 86% of people expect to discover new brands as they watch videos and browse the web – and Google wants you to know that they’re on it.

“With Discovery Ads, you can rely on Google’s understanding of consumers’ intent across our properties to engage these audiences as they scroll through their favourite Google feeds—no search query needed,” writes Jerry Dischler, VP of Ads Platforms & Google Properties.

Setting the bar high for quality

The biggest attraction in this new ad-format is the Discover Feed on Android devices.

While Discovery Ads are targeted based on Google Audiences (but advertisers can also use Custom Intent Audiences), Google only wants to show ads that are the most relevant and include high-quality images, one ad at a time, in the Discover Feed on Android devices.

Are Discover Ads expensive?

Google recommends setting a budget at least 10x your target CPA bid.

Basically, if the maximum you’re willing to pay for acquiring a customer is 10 €, the set up a daily budget of 100 € and get at least 40 conversions before making any changes to the campaign.

Are Discovery Ads a good alternative to advertising on social media?

While paid search is focused on capturing people in the knowgodo and buy moments, where the intent is expressed by the user through keywords, Discovery is about spontaneity. 

Besides YouTube and Gmail, the biggest charm of this new ad-format is really the Discover Feed on Android devices. People often habitually browse this feed the same way they browse Instagram or Facebook.

In markets where Android is the dominant device, we might see more advertisers testing Discovery Ads.

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