Get ready for Google’s Core Web Vitals

If website traffic is essential to your business, then you will want to ensure your site is ready for the Google Page Experience update expected in May 2021. Core Web Vitals will be crucial to this update.

May might seem far into the future, but the mere fact that Google has announced this in advance suggests it will be a key ranking factor. If your site falls short of the requirements it will likely result in a loss of keyword rankings and subsequently less traffic.

But, what are Core Web Vitals?

What are Core Web Vitals?

Core Web Vitals (CWV) concerns real-world experience metrics. Things like: How fast does the page load? How fast is it interactive? How fast is it stable? So basically, when visitors are using your web page on a mobile or a desktop device, what’s that experience like in terms of speed, how fast can they interact with it, things like that.

That’s one element. CWV is grouped in with Page Experience metrics such as mobile-friendliness, HTTPS and intrusive interstitials, which are those pop-ups that come on and appear.

It’s not so much about the text of the page, which is a traditional ranking signal, but more about the user experience and what it’s like, how pleasant it is to use the page, how useful it is.

How to test your website's performance?

Google has made it very, very simple to discover. The first thing you want to do is look in Google Search Console. They have a new report there — Core Web Vitals. They will tell you all your URLs that they have in their index, whether they’re poor, needs improvement, or good.

If you do not have your site set up in Google Search Console – which you really should -, you can use Page Speed Insights to test individual URLs.

The three signals for Core Web Vitals which you will want to review in the report are:

  • Largest Contentful Paint: The time it takes for a page’s main content to load. An ideal LCP measurement is 2.5 seconds or faster.
  • First Input Delay: The time it takes for a page to become interactive. An ideal measurement is less than 100 ms.
  • Cumulative Layout Shift: The amount of unexpected layout shift of visual page content. An ideal measurement is less than 0.1.

How to improve your website's Core Web Vitals score!

The report will highlight the areas for improvement. For the purpose of Core Web Vitals, you will want to improve your sites score in the following areas. 

Largest Contentful Paint (LCP)

LCP is how long it takes a page to load from the point of view of an actual user. In other words: it’s the time from clicking on a link to seeing the majority of the content on-screen.

Core web vitals LCP

In the screenshot above, you can see this particular website has a bad LCP score – the desired score is to hit LCP within 2.5 seconds.

Here are some things you can do to improve your site’s LCP:

  • Remove any unnecessarily third-party scripts
  • Upgrade your web host: Better hosting=faster load times overall (including LCP).
  • Set up lazy loading: Lazy loading makes it so images only load when someone scrolls down your page. Which means that you can achieve LCP significantly faster.
  • Remove large page elements: Google PageSpeed Insights will tell you if your page has an element that’s slowing down your page’s LCP.

LCP element

First Input Delay (FID)

According to Google:

“First Input Delay (FID) measures the time from when a user first interacts with your site (i.e. when they click a link, tap on a button, or use a custom, JavaScript-powered control) to the time when the browser is actually able to respond to that interaction.”

This is the First Contentful Paint metric in PageSpeed Insights.

First contentful paint

  • Minimize (or defer) JavaScript: It’s almost impossible for users to interact with a page while the browser is loading up JS. So minimizing or deferring JS on your page is key for FID.
  • Remove any non-critical third-party scripts: Just like with FCP, third-party scripts (like Google Analytics, heatmaps etc.) can negatively impact FID.
  • Use a browser cache: This helps load content on your page faster. Which helps your user’s browser blast through JS loading tasks even faster.

Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS)

CLS measures the layout stability of a webpage, to ensure that user experience runs smoothly and interactions flow as naturally as possible, without any interruptions or unexpected jumps. 

According to Google, there are 5 reasons why Cumulative Layout Shift happens:

  1. Images without dimensions
  2. Ad embeds and iframes without dimensions
  3. Dynamically injected content (YouTube, Google Maps, & portable social media posts are all categorised as dynamically injected content)
  4. Web Fonts causing FOIT/FOUT
  5. Actions waiting for a network response before updating DOM

Key takeaway

Core Web Vitals (and Google’s “Page Experience” metric in general) are trying to quantify the user experience. So the better your UX is in general, the better your page experience scores will be. 

If you are not able to improve your website’s performance metrics, Get in touch.

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About the author

Rory has worked as an SEO consultant for 7+ years. He founded Parlez Creative in 2017 after living in Malawi for 2 years. When he isn't working on client campaigns, you will likely find him on the golf course working on his swing! Or exploring the great outdoors.

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