The next Google update is approaching fast. June 2021 will see Core Web Vitals (CWV) become a ranking factor for search. Becky Simms, founder and CEO at Reflect Digital, looks at how accountancy practices should prepare


 

 

The imminent update can seem rather daunting, as it is expected to have a notable impact on search visibility, which many corporations are feeling unprepared for.

However, it is also a revolutionary update in search history, providing companies with an incentive to improve their websites. By creating better website experiences, the relationships that companies build with their audiences become stronger.

The update

The new Google update focuses on the first interaction people have with a website, the time it takes to load and what happens when it is loading, which is all vital to the first impressions of a website. Core Web Vitals are three metrics used to measure the user experience (UX) and performance of each web page, based upon three foundations of page experience:

Largest Contentful Paint (LCP) – Loading: The time to render the largest content element visible in the viewport, from when the user requests the URL;

First Input Delay (FID) – Interactivity: The time from when a user first interacts with a page (when they clicked a link, tapped on a button and so on) to the time when the browser responds to that interaction;

Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS) – Visual Stability: The sum total of all individual layout shift scores for every unexpected layout shift that occurs during the entire lifespan of the page.

This revolutionary change in search metrics is key to building a high-performing website. Audiences are becoming increasingly impatient, with smarter and faster interactions with technology, visitors want fast loading, easy-to-use websites – all of which the CWV metrics will be measuring.

The new update encourages companies to build websites with people front of mind. And most of all, it enables us to quantify the UX and understand how good a page experience is. Better page experiences inevitably lead to happier visitors, resulting in increased conversion.

Sector performance

Here at Reflect Digital, we explored how prepared the accountancy industry is for the new CWV update by interrogating URLs for the top 100 accountancy websites.

We successfully managed to complete tests for 69 websites. The top 10 sites ranked by their combined PageSpeed Insights score were: Shaw Gibbs, Raffingers, Garbutt Elliott, Lovewell Blake, Armstrong Watson, PM+M, Shipleys, Bennett Brooks, DSW Capital and Critchleys.

Overall, 97% of the accountancy firm sites tested needed improvement or failed on the LCP metric. Only one of them reached the ‘good’ range, with all other scores either needing improvement or failing the test. This demonstrated how the vast majority of LCP scores within the industry are poor and need improvement. It is important to note, however, that the accountancy sector does tend to have larger-scale websites that therefore often take longer to load.

The average score for LCP was a slow 9.47 seconds, 6.47 seconds slower than the 2.5 score that Google deems acceptable. It appears that much work needs to be done on accountancy websites to improve loading time, such as optimising the server and introducing a cache-first HTML page.

No website achieved a ‘good’ score on the FID metric, with 59% of the sites needing improvement. The lowest score measured 1,800 milliseconds. Low scores such as this are due to poor interactivity caused by heavy JavaScript execution, as the browser cannot respond to most user input while its executing JavaScript on the main thread.

The average score measured against FID was a mere 434 milliseconds. Google considers any score below 100 milliseconds to be ‘good’ for this metric. With 41 websites in a worrying position of only reaching the ‘poor’ range, there is much work to be done around usability and creating an interactive interface to generate a positive user experience.

Finally, on the CLS metric, we found a range of scores from 0 to 1.59. Five companies achieved the top score of 0 on the test. These sites were Anderson Anderson Brown, Shipleys, Grant Thornton UK, Jeffreys Henry and Smith and Williamson. These sites had likely ensured that all images had dimensions and prevented layout shift by ensuring no new content was added above existing content to prevent layout shift.

There were another 24 accountancy sites that achieved a ‘good’ score of 0.1 for CLS, meaning that there was very little layout shift in their content.

The lowest score visible was 1.59, missing the 0.1 ‘good’ category by 1.49. It was not only this firm which struggled with this metric, another 23 sites also rated ‘poor’.

To improve low scores, sites should ensure that all images, embeds and ads have dimensions as well as using specific tools to help minimize FOIT/FOUT and use a font loading API to reduce time taken to find fonts. It is important for companies to also look into and adapt their implementations of cookie disclaimers, pop-ups, and image and video uploads in order to create a visually stable website.

Conclusion

CWV is happening whether we like it or not, so preparing for this June 2021 update is essential.

This is an opportunity for accountancy firms to evaluate their website performance and evolve their site’s UX to create a human-centric, memorable page experience. They need to ensure that all aspects of a user’s journey through a website seem logical and thought through.

The update focuses on making websites fit for human consumption to make them better for customers and even better for firms’ search visibility and site performance. <

The full report is available at www.reflectdigital.co.uk