Core Web Vitals what you need to know
Google has released Core Web Vitals as part of its Page Experience algorithm update. This may become an important ranking factor for sites in the future. However, you don’t have to worry about the update if your site already provides a high-quality on-page experience and excellent content for your target audience.
If you are confused as to what Core Web Vitals are, here is a simplified breakdown. They refer to a set of metrics that Google uses to evaluate the page experience of your users.
This page metric allows Google to gauge aspects of your page loading times and to examine its effect on your bounce rate. This means Google may reduce your ranking if you have slow loading times and may substitute your page for your competitor’s if you don’t keep up.
Page experience criteria
Here are the criteria Google uses to determine if a site provides the best page experience for users:
Core web vitals
Page load speed, visual stability, and browsers response time to users’ first interaction
Make sure the content of your page is not being hidden or difficult to navigate as a result of a pop-up for example.
Checking if you have optimised your site for mobile browsing – mobile responsiveness
Easy and safe browsing
Ensuring your page contains no malicious software or misleading content.
Core web vitals are considered a ranking factor
While Google announced, years ago, that mobile-friendliness and page loading speed are ranking factors for websites, it has now also looks at page experience as a ranking signal.
Core web vitals updates for your site
For website owners or developers, these are the Core Web Vitals you need to consider when optimising your pages in the future. Below highlights how to improve your Core Web Vital scores.
Largest contentful paint (LCP)
Largest Contentful Paint (LCP) is a performing metric for measuring perceived load speed. It notes the point in the page load timeline when the main content has loaded. As a result, LCP measures more than the standard page loading speed, which refers to the time necessary to load the whole page.
Therefore the LCP metric refers to the loading time of the first part of the webpage a user sees. This is referred to as “above the fold”.
The above the fold content should contain the most important information. This is to provide context for your web page. Often sites have videos or images above the fold.
The problem with this is that Google has noted this type of content above the fold can lead to a higher bounce rate and therefore views this as a negative signal.
To optimise your site you should display your most important and relevant content above the fold. Additionally, this information needs to load within 2.5 seconds of the user landing on your page. As webpages are displayed in stages, the LCP would be measured when the final elements “above the fold” load.
As expected, a slow LCP could result in lower rankings and penalties; a faster LCP could lead to higher rankings.
First input delay (FID)
FID answers the question “How responsive is a webpage?” FID measures the time between when a user interacts with something on your webpage, and the time it takes for the browser to respond to the action. In other words, the time the browser takes to perform the task of the requested interaction.
Are you still confused about this update? Let me break it down for you below.
Let’s suppose you are on a page filling out a form. As you get done with the whole process, you click on the submit button. Then the browser starts processing your request.
For Google, how long the site takes to process your request is your First Input Delay. It is the delay occurring between the time when a user takes a certain action on a site, and the time the site takes to actually allow that action to take place.
For marketers, FID is such an important UX metric as this can lead to either capturing a lead or converting a prospect into a buyer. Anytime you have a visitor interacting with your page, chances are that they find your content or anything you offer interesting; you don’t want to lose them to your competitors when they were ready to convert only because of a delay in loading.
Cumulative layout shift (CLS)
CLS measures the frequency of unexpected changes to the layout and the overall visual stability of a page. While this metric is fairly straightforward, the below will make it even clearer.
As a user, you might have scrolled through a webpage and found something interesting that you decided to click on. But you ended up clicking on something else unintentionally because of extra information popping up on the page. As a result, you have to reload the page or go back to the previous page to click on what you wanted.
At times, you may have a hard time reading a paragraph on a webpage because of too many ads, videos, and buttons appearing on the screen. As a result, the paragraph you’re reading may jump up and down and thus keep you busy scrolling to find that particular paragraph.
Well, these are red flags for poor on-page experience. To provide the best experience for users, Google is paying close attention to these factors. To help with this, your site needs to avoid making unnecessary and unexpected changes to its layout. Therefore it is crucial to maintain the visual stability of your webpage. Only then will your score for CLS be as close to zero as possible, which is the goal. If the page really needs to make changes, go for the less intrusive and frustrating ones.
How Core Web Vitals impact web development and content strategy
Now that we have looked at the core web vitals metrics above, it’s time we focus on where you can find these pieces of information and what you’d do to improve these metrics.
You can visit Google Search Console, you will see “Core Web Vitals” where the speed test used to be located.
To see your site report on mobile and desktop, click on Core Web Vitals and you will be greeted by a list of URLs; some are good URLs and others are poor, crying for improvement. Here you need to remind yourself of the factors we discussed earlier, which Google uses to determine the quality of a URL.
With these in mind, check if you have poor URLs. If you find some, this might mean a few things: you may have an issue with the page loading times; the page takes some time to load the most important content to users; it displays an intrusive layout too frequently or takes forever to process actions taken by users.
For the most part, a poor URL indicates a combination of these issues needing to be fixed. Unless a URL has issues, it will pass the test. Such is the case with a good URL.
For mobile, the page loading speed has to be 2.5 seconds and 0.25 for desktop. With the above Google’s metrics, it is easy to locate and fix any issue with URLs.
Once you have solved the problems indicated by the Core Web Vitals, you can inform Google about the changes made by clicking on the validate button in the Google Search Console. Then, Google will update the report after verifying your process.
How to keep track of your site’s Core Web Vitals and fix issues
As seen above, Google has made tracking your site’s Core Web Vitals easier. You can get all the information about your webpage performance by simply logging into the Google Search Console and taking a close look at each web property. For great results, you should play around with these metrics to familiarise yourself and to learn about your site’s issues.
How to make improvements to your Core Web Vitals
You have already checked for issues in the Google Search Console and now what’s left for you to do is make the necessary changes.
To eliminate the issue with LCP, keep only the most critical information above the fold of the web page and move the rest further down. If you notice information that doesn’t necessarily help a visitor solve a problem, the best thing to do is keep such information at the bottom of the page.
To get rid of the problem with FID, address the following primary issues:
- Minimise the impact of third-party code: your page may take longer to load if has to run a lot of code at the same time, so minimise it;
- Keep the main thread work to a minimum: it’s important you entrust all the work to the main thread and keep your site’s layout and style simple;
- Reduce the transfer sizes and lower request counts: whenever you send files, make sure you are transferring small files;
- Solve the issue with CLS: pay much attention to video elements and size attributes on all of your media files. This will allow you to attribute the correct amount of space to these files to eliminate issues with page shifts when loading the content;
- Reduce transform animations: this will help avoid unnecessary layout changes as users interact with your webpage.
Nobody knows for sure how much of an influence these metrics will have on our rankings. What we do know is that Google is paying close attention to the on-page aspect of a website including good page content. When you consider site SEO improvement, you really should think about how Core Web Vitals can help optimise your page.