Google: Incremental Improvements May Not Impact Rankings

In a recent episode of Google’s Search Off the Record podcast, John Mueller, a Search Advocate at Google, cautioned site owners against overly fixating on incremental improvements to their Core Web Vitals scores.

Mueller suggested that these minor optimizations may yield few visible search ranking changes.

Core Web Vitals, a set of user-centric metrics measuring website performance, have been a focal point for many since Google announced they’re used in ranking systems.

The metrics, which include Largest Contentful Paint (LCP), Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS), and the recently introduced Interaction to Next Paint (INP), have driven site owners to optimize their pages for better scores.

However, Mueller’s comments highlight the potential pitfalls of over-optimizing for these metrics:

“I think a big issue is also that site owners sometimes over-fixate on the metrics themselves. They see some number, and it’s like, ‘Oh my gosh, I have to get this to like some other number, some higher state.’ And then they spend months of time working on this. And they see this as they’re doing something for their Search rankings. And probably a lot of those incremental changes are not really visible in Search.”

Mueller acknowledged the temptation to focus on metrics, given the scarcity of concrete SEO measurements:

“There are very few metrics with regards to SEO that you can look at explicitly and say, ‘Oh, it’s like 17, and I can make it 15. So it’s, I don’t know, like human nature to almost focus on them. But, at the same time, you have to be careful that you don’t over-fixate on them and spend an inappropriate amount of time.”

While Mueller didn’t entirely dismiss the importance of Core Web Vitals, his comments suggest being strategic in your optimization efforts, focusing on meaningful improvements rather than chasing incremental gains.

You can hear the full discussion in the episode linked below, starting at the 24:04 mark:

Why SEJ Cares

Mueller’s comments provide insight into Google’s perspective on Core Web Vitals and SEO.

While these metrics are important, it’s crucial to maintain sight of the bigger picture. Overinvesting time and resources into chasing minor improvements may not yield the desired results in search rankings.

How This Could Help You

Here are a few key takeaways from Mueller’s advice:

  1. Prioritize impactful optimizations over incremental gains
  2. Use tools to identify areas for improvement, but don’t get caught up in chasing perfect scores
  3. Balance Core Web Vitals with other crucial SEO elements, such as content quality, relevance, and user engagement
  4. Remember that not all optimizations will directly influence search rankings, but they can still contribute to a better user experience.

By considering these points, you can develop a well-rounded strategy that balances Core Web Vitals with other factors, driving better results for your website.

See also: Get Ready For Google’s INP Metric With These 5 Tools

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