Why You Can’t Ignore Core Web Vitals

Why You Can’t Ignore Core Web Vitals

Every good website manager knows how important it is to keep up with Google’s constantly changing algorithm – and the Core Web Vitals update which is starting to roll out this month (June 2021) and won’t be fully rolled out until the end of August 2021 is an important one.

Google keeps updating its algorithms so that it delivers the best possible online experience to its users.  It wants website owners to focus on the things that are important to actual users – not those that matter to the browsers or the bots.  And that’s why it introduced this major update and why it has made ‘page experience’ one of its official ranking factors.

Google already has a range of Page Experience signals including mobile-friendliness, a lack of intrusive interstitial pop-ups, HTTP security and safe browsing.   Core Web Vitals comprise three metrics for measuring user experience, namely site loading speed, responsiveness and visual stability and these additional metrics are likely to make up the lion’s share of a website’s page experience score.

Although page experience is only one of the 200+ factors that Google uses to rank websites in the search results and you have until 2022 to improve your Core Web Vital scores, this is something you cannot afford to be left behind on.

The fact is, if your website isn’t properly prepared for Core Web Vitals, your search results are likely to suffer.

This article unpacks how Core Web Vitals will affect your website’s rankings and provides helpful information on what you can do to improve your performance metrics.

What are Core Web Vitals?

The official names for the three metrics are:

  1. Largest Contentful Paint (loading performance)
  2. First Input Delay (responsiveness and interactivity)
  3. Cumulative Layout Shift (visual stability)

Google assesses each webpage in terms of these metrics and grades them as either ‘Good’, ‘Needs Improvement’ or ‘Poor’.   Sounds like a school report!

Here’s a brief explanation of each of the metrics plus some helpful tips for improving your ‘grades’.

  1. Largest Contentful Paint (LCP)

Google measures the time taken for the primary content of a page to load.  This could be text, an image or a video.

LCP is the elapsed time from clicking on the link to seeing the complete content on the screen (on any device).  Importantly, it represents loading speed from the perspective of an actual user opening up a web page.

A timeframe of 2.5 seconds or less is an acceptable LCP score.

These are my favourite tips for improving a site’s loading performance:

  • Remove any unnecessary third-party scripts
  • Optimise images
  • Set up lazy loading
  • Remove large page elements (eg oversized media content)
  • Check for bloated code
  • Check for bulky CSS code
  • Upgrade your web host
  1. First Input Delay (FID)

Google’s intention with these new metrics is to evaluate the actual user experience.  It wants to put itself in the user’s shoes (or rather, at their fingertips!).  Even if a site loads quickly, Google wants to know that the users can actually interact with it.

FID measures site responsiveness.  It works out the time between a click being processed and the user actually doing something on the page (eg choosing a menu option, entering information into a form, clicking on a link in the content).

The ideal result is less than 100 milliseconds.

Of course, FID isn’t a big deal for sites that don’t require user interaction.  But if your site has a login page, a sign-up page or anything else which requires action from your user, your FID score is crucial.

My tips for improving your site’s FID:

  • Check the coding
  • Minimise JavaScript
  • Remove any non-essential third-party scripts
  • Use a browser cache
  1. Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS)

How often have you clicked on something only to find you have been taken somewhere else?

Clicking on the wrong thing because the page hasn’t stabilised properly or hasn’t stabilised quickly enough is frustrating and irritating – and that’s why Google has introduced this ‘reward’ for web pages that remain stable as their page elements load.

You want your CLS score to be as low as possible.  The ideal measurement is less than 0.1 seconds.

Tips for minimising your CLS:

  • Use set size attribute dimensions for any media on the page (such as images, video, infographics and GIFs)
  • Place ads in a reserved space
  • Add any new UI elements below the fold
  • Optimise the font

Where can I find my Core Vitals data?

Tracking your Core Web Vitals is easy.

Firstly, have a look at the Google Search Console to find your new Core Web Vitals report.  This shows you how your pages are performing using real-world data.

It shows you all the URLs that have been indexed by Google and how they have been classified.  As mentioned earlier, they will be graded as either ‘poor’, ‘need improvement’ or ‘good’.

You should also look at Google PageSpeed Insights which is linked to every report in the Search Console.

As an SEO and digital marketing specialist in Perth, I know how critical it is for websites to do what Google wants.  It is the biggest player in the search engine arena by a long way and in this highly competitive and ever-evolving digital space, online success depends on doing the right thing by Google.

Many website owners do their own SEO and will make any changes and upgrades when required.  However, I’ve been working with Core Web Vitals from the outset and I know that getting on top of this update involves some pretty advanced technical skills.

I started Blue Cherry specialist SEO and Google Ads Agency nearly 20 years ago and have helped thousands of websites climb up the search engine rankings and achieve remarkable online visibility.

If you need a helping hand to get your website firing on all cylinders in terms of the Core Web Vitals update – or for any other aspect of SEO, website design or digital marketing – please get in touch through my website www.bluecherry.com.au or on 08 6313 3935.  I’d love to help you get found online!