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Google Update In June Could Hurt Thousands Of Kiwi SMEs

The last time Google signalled a significant adjustment to its algorithm back in 2012, many Kiwi SMEs disappeared from the rankings at a substantial financial cost. And it's happening again.

CEO of Auckland digital agency Insight Online, Kim Voon, says Google has announced a core update to its algorithm coming in June 2021. It was originally slated for May but has since been pushed back.

"It's a rare occurrence when Google makes such an announcement. The last change forced websites to become mobile-friendly. Those that didn't disappeared."

Voon warned that one of the factors Google would penalise is something many New Zealand sites are guilty of doing.

"Sites that have a lot of cumulative layout shift (CLS) will be penalised. With CLS, we're talking about websites that shift or move around a lot when the page is being loaded. This is particularly apparent on mobile devices."

Voon says the update mainly affects page experience factors and will be accompanied by new functionality and tools.

The three main technical factors to note are:

1. Largest content panes (LCP)

How long does the biggest block of content on your website take to load? LCP is essentially a metric for site speed.

2. First input delay (FID)

FID is the time it takes between a user loading up your website to the point where they can interact with the site.

3. Cumulative layout shift (CLS)

CML is a how much your layout changes while the website is being loaded.

"It can be frustrating when you're loading a website on your mobile, and the content keeps on shifting around, up and down.

"The new update will not favour websites that are heavy on any of these three factors. It is important to take note of this update because Google rarely signals a change unless it's important."

Voon says that the 2021 update aims to force website owners to consider the mobile experience because mobile is the growth market and the largest 'user device' accessing the Internet.

"There are online tools that can help you determine whether or not you are going to be hit by this. For example, the Google PageSpeed Insights tool will test experience and speed factors on your pages.

"I suggest testing your website, as well as your competitor's websites to compare performance - make sure you click on the mobile tab. If all your competitors are poor, nothing will change. If your competitors update and you don't, that's a worst-case scenario because you will have to work hard to get back up the search rankings."

Voon says that websites that comply can expect a nice bump to their rankings and visibility.

"Talk to your developer. Ask them about tools that tell you your score," says Voon.

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