Google releases core updates a few times a year. These updates are more significant than the much smaller tweaks that are continually occurring: these are substantial changes that usually cause big fluctuations in rankings for property management websites, with the volatility of these fluctuations lasting for up to a few weeks.
The most recent core update was in May of this year, and the real estate industry saw some big changes from that update.
These significant updates are often rolled out without warning because the masterminds at Google are changing things that are part of the secret sauce that makes Google such a powerful search engine. Sometimes, however, they let us know when an update is coming and what it will involve. This is the case for the 2021 planned core update—and it's why you need to start preparing now.
What Is Going to Happen?
Google let us know that the 2021 update is focused on a user's page experience. Due to the major disruptions to businesses being forced to respond to COVID-19, Google has said there would be a six-month notice before this update is rolled out. When this update finally launches, property management websites that have not made upgrades will lose rankings to those that have.
Google made some changes in early May of 2020 to some Search Console reports. One of these reports (the speed report) was updated and renamed Core Web Vitals, accompanied by the Web Vitals Engine.
Why Is Google Making This Change?
Google understands that webmasters want to create good sites, and part of that is creating a site that has a good user experience. The trouble is, as webmasters, we have limited data—and we don't always know what we need to do to create these good sites and experiences that match the expectations set by Google. Google has so many reports and data points that it can be very confusing for property management website owners to wade through what really matters.
To simplify things, Google created a way for site owners to know the most critical metrics they need to focus on to provide an excellent user experience. This helps you meet Google's expectations, and thus have the opportunity to rank well if the site meets Google's other essential criteria.
What Do I Need to Update?
Nothing right now. Google is informing us of what's coming so we can take the time to learn about the changes, assess our websites, and then update them to perform well. It is interesting to note that this new measurement system was released one day after the most recent core update, so it might be useful to start working on this sooner rather than later. Additionally, if the changes you make aren't making the grade, you'll have more time to refine your changes to ensure your website shines in the 2021 update.
If you do decide to start making changes now, you'll need to work with a developer to make any updates as they run deeper than what a WYSIWYG editor can handle. How do you know if you need to look at making some changes?
- Access your Google Search Console account. If you do not already have one, now is the time. These are free tools provided by Google to help you succeed, and every website owner should use them and have a basic understanding of what they do.
- Scroll down to Core Web Vitals in your left-hand menu.
- Look for the issues listed and order fixes.
The issues listed will fall into three categories:
Largest Contentful Paint (LCP)
It is a weird name that basically stands for perceived page load speed.
- It is measured by the amount of time it takes for the largest element on the page to load, be that a block of text or an image.
- This should happen within 2.5 seconds of page load time for every page on your property management website.
- We're not just talking about the home page, though that is usually the most important page and the one you should start with.
First Input Delay (FID)
- First Input Delay measures the time it takes between when your Largest Contentful Paint occurs and when a user can actually interact with it, such as scroll or click and get a result.
- This means your property management website speed needs to be about more than loading text or images fast; the function needs to load quickly as well.
Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS)
- Cumulative Layout Shift measures how much the layout of the page moves and shift as all elements load.
- When things shift while loading, it can cause the user to accidentally click on something they didn't want to click on or lose their place as they are reading, which creates a poor user experience.
Overall, these three things need to be fixed together. You don't want to fix one but then cause the others to fail, so your developers will need to be looking at these together as a big picture.
If you need help making your property management website ready for 2021, RentBridge is your guide! Right now, we're offering a free site with specific packages. There is no obligation to learn more, just schedule a meeting, and we can go from there!