Google 2021 Core Web Vitals Update: What Therapists and Counselors Need to Know

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Google 2021 Core Web Vitals Update: What Therapists & Counselors Need To Know | Practice of the Practice Blog | Dr. Ronit Levy | Google Tips for Mental Health Practitioners

As a website owner, you want your site to show up as high as possible in Google and other search engine results. The closer you get to being on the first page of a Google search result, the easier it is for potential clients to find you. Google is making a huge change to how it will rank websites. This major update is coming in May 2021. Here’s what you need to know about the update and how to make sure your website is ready for it.

What is the Google Core Web Vitals Update?

The Core Web Vitals Update, also called the Page Experience Update, is scheduled for May of 2021. Google wants to make the experience people have with your webpage even more of factor in how that page ranks.

This update falls under the umbrella of SEO or search engine optimization. SEO is a set of tools, scores, and processes that help search engines find your webpage and decide where to show it in search results. It is a lot like standing in line. The more positive SEO factors you have, the closer your webpages will be to the front of the line. Then, people are more likely to find and click on them.

Starting in May 2021, Google will measure how usable a webpage is with three scores called, “Core Web Vitals.”  These scores show how quickly a webpage loads and becomes usable. If your Core Web Vitals scores are poor, Google will think your webpage is giving visitors a poor experience. As a result, the page will rank lower and will be harder to find.

What is Page Experience?

Page experience is made up of a group of ranking factors that tell Google how quickly, easily, and safely a visitor can use your webpage on a desktop or mobile device.

Before the Core Web Vitals Update, page experience factors included:

  • How quickly a page loaded.
  • Whether the page could be easily used on a smartphone or tablet.
  • How safe it was for users to browse the site and enter personal information.
  • Whether the page had any annoying pop ups that blocked content (e.g., ads).

Starting in May 2021, Google will continue to take these factors into consideration.  However, Google will now focus a lot more on the three Core Web Vitals scores.

How Important Are Core Web Vitals For SEO?

After the May 2021 update, two key things will change:

  • What used to count as Page Experience and Core Web Vitals will now only make up about 50% of a webpage’s grade.
  • For the first time, Google will have cut off scores for the Core Web Vitals. If a web page fails to meet these cut off scores, its search engine ranking will decrease.

As a result, pages that ranked highly in the past can lose their place.

The Core Web Vitals Scores You Need to Know

Here are the three Core Web Vitals categories, what they measure, and their cut off scores:

Image representing Google Core Web Vitals Update | Core Web Vital Category | Largest Contentful Paint
Image Source: WordStream


Largest Contentful Paint (LCP)

LCP is a score that reflects the amount of time it takes from the second someone clicks on the link to your webpage until your webpage fully loads.

The ideal LCP score for a webpage is 2.5 seconds or less.



Image representing Google Core Web Vitals Update | First Input Delay
Image Source: WordStream


First Input Delay (FID)

FID is a score that reflects the amount of time that passes from when the page loads to when a visitor can actually take an action.  For example, clicking on a link and being taken to the right page.

Google will pay a lot of attention to FID because it measures how quickly the visitor can get something from your site. The ideal FID is less than 100 milliseconds.


Image representing Google 2021 Core Web Vitals Update | Cumulative Layout Shift
Image Source: WordStream

Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS)

Cumulative layout shift (CLS) has to do with how much the content on your page moves around while it’s loading. The more the content shifts while it’s loading, the harder it is for a visitor to see and use the page.

The ideal score for Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS) is 0.1 or less.



How do you check your website’s Core Web Vitals?

The easiest way to find your Core Web Vitals score is to use Google Page Speed Insights.

This is a free tool that Google created. The results are broken down into the three factors that make up Core Web vitals. You can quickly see whether your webpage or website passes or fails each cutoff score.

Can you improve Page Experience and Core Web Vitals scores on your own?

This update is very technical. If you are comfortable with the technical parts of your website, you can try this on your own. Otherwise, have an experienced technical SEO professional take care of it.

Next steps to prepare for this update

Unfortunately, many website companies that mental health professionals use don’t have plans to fix this. You’re going to have to do some of the leg work yourself.

  • First, go to Google Page Speed Insights and enter your URL (i.e., website address). Write down the three scores. Check to see if your site passes or fails the cut off scores in this post.
  • Second, if there is a problem, contact your web designer or website company. Ask what they are doing to prepare your website for this update. They may tell you that the Core Web Vitals they take care of are loading speed, safety, and ability to come up on a mobile device. Remember, that’s not enough anymore.

You want to know exactly what they will do to make sure that each of your web pages will be able to pass the Core Web Vitals cutoff scores. Any answer that doesn’t include that information isn’t enough.

  • Finally, don’t be afraid of the technical part of this. Now you know what to look for and how to ask good questions. If you get an incomplete answer, you can decide whether to hire someone to fix your site or change website companies.

Good luck!

Want to Improve Your Google Ranking? Check Out These Resources:

As a mental health practitioner here are a few resources just for you on how to improve your SEO for your website, as well as tips on improving your Google ranking:

Jessica Tappana on SEO for Online Counseling Services | Killin’ It Camp Speakers Series 2 of 4

Jessica Tappana on Why Improving SEO Starts With Your Ideal Client

Dr. Ronit Levy

Dr. Ronit Levy | Practice of the Practice Blog Contributor | Mental Health Professional | Therapist

Dr. Ronit Levy is a clinical psychologist in Newtown, PA. She is owner and director of Bucks County Anxiety Center, a collective for therapists who are anxiety and OCD experts. She is also an SEO specialist and founder of Simple SEO Systems, a consulting firm that helps therapists and coaches grow their business online. In her free time, Dr. Ronit Levy loves being with her family.