Google’s Core Web Vitals Explained
Google has introduced a new metric called Core Web Vitals that measures one of the most important aspects of your website: user experience. User experience used to have no bearing on how your website ranked on Google, but that is changing. We’ll look at why Core Web Vitals are so critical, Google’s latest metrics, its advantages, and how you can monitor and improve your own website’s vital signs in this article.
The Importance of Core Web Vitals
The transformation of Core Web Vitals into ranking signals represents a significant shift in how search engine rankings work. Now, user experience would have a direct impact on whether or not your website achieves the coveted top spot. A website that isn’t well-designed and doesn’t prioritize user experience isn’t going to cut it.
Google’s goal in including Core Web Vitals as a search engine ranking factor is to help website owners design pages with the user experience in mind, rather than just churning out content related to their topic with no thought for whether or not the user will have a good time or not. By no means ignore the content of your website. As Google points out:
The importance of having excellent, relevant content does not outweigh the importance of having a good page experience. When there are multiple pages with similar content, however, page experience becomes much more important for Search visibility.
Page experience optimization should go hand in hand with creating high-quality, relevant content. And the combination of the two will give you an advantage over your rivals. For example, if two pages offer similar content and quality, the page that provides a better user experience (as measured by Google’s Core Web Vitals) will win the fight and rank higher in search results. Now that you know how important it is to focus on your site’s Vitals, it’s time to take a closer look at them.
Google’s New Web Essentials
Google has released three new Core Web Vitals that measure loading, interactivity, and visual stability.
- Largest Contentful Paint is currently being loaded (LCP)
Largest Contentful Paint (LCP) is the time it takes for a page’s main content to load and is perhaps the most simple of the three vitals. An image, a video, or even a large block of text could be used. How long does it take for your website to start showing user-interactive elements? Do you see how this varies from the average page loading time?
There is a significant difference here. It’s standard practice, for example, to keep the most relevant information and eye-catching content above the fold. That won’t help anyone if it takes six seconds to load something interesting “above the fold.” When sites have pictures or videos above the fold, we see this all the time. They take up a lot of room and provide vital context for the rest of the content, but because they’re the last to load, they leave a big white space at the top of the screen.
Google is paying attention because they recognize that it is causing many people to bounce.
Google’s general benchmark is 2.5 seconds. This means that everything in the first frame (above the fold) should be visible in 2.5 seconds.
It’s important to remember that webpages are presented in stages. That will be your LCP when the final aspects of the top of your page load. It’s as simple as that: a slow LCP equals lower rankings and fines, while a fast LCP equals higher rankings.
Interactivity: First Input Delay (FID)
The second metric, First Input Delay (FID), measures the amount of time it takes for a page to become interactive. The time between a user entering your website and being able to interact with something on the page – such as clicking a link or choosing an item from a drop-down menu – is measured by FID.
Let’s break down this web vital, which may appear to be a little complicated at first. Let’s pretend you’re filling out a website form to get more information about a product. You complete the form and submit it. What is the time it takes for the website to start processing that request?
Your First Input Delay is now complete. It’s the time it takes for a user to take action and for the website to react to that action. It’s basically a measure of the user’s dissatisfaction. How many times have you yelled at a submit button because it’s taking forever? This is a critical UX metric so it can mean the difference between a lead and a sale.
Someone is probably taking action because they’re interested in what you’re offering. The last thing you want to happen is for them to get separated at the finish line.
Visual Stability: Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS)
Finally, Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS) tracks how stable the content on a page is during the loading phase, looking for any unforeseen layout shifts in the visual content. This one is easy, and I have an excellent example.
Have you ever been scrolling through a website, saw something interesting, and went to click on it, only to have a button load at the last second, and you end up clicking it instead? Now you must go back and find what you were looking for (hopefully) by clicking the correct link.
If you’re reading a paragraph and buttons, ads, or videos keep loading while you’re reading, the paragraph will keep moving down the page, forcing you to keep scrolling to read it. These are signs of a bad on-page experience, and Google is taking note of them as they work to improve the user experience.
In the future, the focus will be on simulating a “in-person” experience online. As more stores close and e-commerce grows, it’s up to store/site owners to provide their customers with that in-store experience.
The goal for CLS is to achieve a score that is as close to zero as possible. The fewer and less inconvenient page changes, the better.
How to Improve Your Website’s Core Vitals for SEO
If you want to see how your website is doing in terms of Google’s Core Web Vitals, the company has kindly given some helpful tools to help you understand your website’s vital signs and give it a regular health check [insert 36 CWVToolsGoogle]. These are some of them:
- PageSpeed Insights from Google Search Console
- DevTools for Chrome
- Web Vitals Extension for Chrome UX Report
Each of these can be used in a different way to help you keep track of your Core Web Vitals. We recommend diving deep into each of these tools to learn more about how they can help you improve your Core Web Vitals and increase your search engine rankings through SEO.
Furthermore, optimizing the user experience of your website may necessitate advanced coding and web development skills. If you’re not familiar with the ins and outs of website development, it’s a good idea to hire an experienced developer who can fully optimize your site and address any major issues that arise.
In the meantime, Google recommends a couple of simple ways to increase your vitals:
- Reduce the size of all pages to less than 500KB.
- The number of page resources should be limited to 50.
- Quality content, as previously mentioned, is also important in maintaining a positive user experience, and searchable keywords that fit naturally into your content are as important as ever.
- Furthermore, the WordPress plugin not only identifies the best keywords for your website but also helps you in managing them, making the process simpler – giving you more time to focus on the Core Vitals of your website!
How to Improve Web Core Vitals for SEO?
Is your website prepared for Google’s major algorithm update in 2021? Here are some aspects of the user page experience to consider and how to improve them. Google has revealed the various factors that go into determining a page’s overall experience. These are the following:
Track: One essential way to do that is by measuring and tracking Core Web Vitals. Doing so can detect web performance issues that need to be fixed so that search ranking doesn’t suffer once Core Web Vitals are considered as part of Google’s search algorithm.
Core Web Vitals: A combination of three key performance metrics that measure the visual loading, interactivity, and visual stability of a page as it loads for users – Largest Contentful Paint, First Input Delay, and Cumulative Layout Shift.
Mobile-Friendliness: Examines how easy it is to use and navigate websites on mobile devices, including content readability and the clickability and accessibility of links and on-page elements.
Safe Browsing: Checks for malware, phishing, and hacked content on a website to ensure that users can browse safely.
HTTPS: Determines whether or not a website’s connection is secure and whether or not the site is served over HTTPS, as recommended.
Non-Intrusive Interstitials: Ensures that users’ access to critical on-page content is not obstructed while they browse.
Solution: Choose a digital experience monitoring solution that lets you set up and measure Core Web Vitals as part of your existing web performance dashboard.
Metrics: The metrics are simply new ways of measuring applications in a manner that matters to the end user, resulting in the customer’s expectations being met. Different metrics provide different perspectives on performance, and the data from these metrics can help improve the end-user experience.
These cover areas such as faster and smoother visual loading, improved mobile usability, and enhanced website security.
1. To reduce visual load times, preload key resources.
The appearance of above-the-fold content is one of the first signs for a user that a page is loading. This is where the first Core Web Vitals metric, Largest Contentful Paint (LCP), comes in to measure how quickly the primary on-page element loads. Simply inspect the page in Chrome DevTools to see what the LCP element is, and it will be displayed in the Performance tab’s waterfall chart. Once you know what the LCP element is, you can use the Performance tab in Chrome DevTools to see the visual progress of how quickly it loads.
Make sure Screenshots is checked, and then begin profiling the page as it loads. When you’ve finished your profile, hover your mouse over the load chart at the top to see a screenshot of the page as it loaded over time. This will allow you to see how quickly various page elements load.
Consider using preloading to instruct the browser to fetch these resources first as a priority to help speed up the loading of the LCP element and above-the-fold content.
2. Minimize long tasks to improve main thread activity.
There are a variety of problems that can cause a user to have to wait for the browser to respond to their tapping or clicking on a page behind the scenes. This is what the second Core Web Vitals metric, First Input Delay, measures (FID). While this can be a frustrating experience for users, there are steps we can take to address the problem and minimize the time between human interactions and browser responses. Long tasks are a common cause of this problem.
When you go to the Bottom-Up tab on a long task, it breaks down the various tasks that took place within the task, such as compiling and parsing scripts. The solution needed will vary depending on the operations that are causing main thread blockages, but code splitting and serving scripts in smaller chunks is a common solution for resolving long tasks.
3. Make sure there’s enough room for images and embeds to load.
The third Core Web Vitals metric, Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS), measures how much a page’s visual layout shifts as it loads. This is to assess a particularly vexing aspect of user experience that we have all likely encountered:
- When a user attempts to click a specific link, the page shifts and they inadvertently click in a different region of the page.
- Not reserving spaces for images and embedded resources to load into is one of the most common causes of a high CLS score and therefore bad UX.
We can see, for example, that the BBC Weather cookie consent banner does not have an allocated space to load into using the Chrome DevTools screenshots feature in the Performance tab. As a result, after it loads, it lowers the visible content in the viewport around the 3-second mark.
The featured video on CNN’s homepage, on the other hand, has a reserved space in the page’s structure, so the rest of the page layout remains untouched after the video has been loaded in.
4. Make certain that the main page templates are mobile-friendly.
After mobile traffic surpassed desktop traffic in 2016, it became critical to ensure that websites were optimized for mobile devices, which were being used by an increasing number of users. On a mobile device, the layout and usability of a website can make or break the user’s experience.
There are two main methods for evaluating your website’s mobile usability.
- The first step is to keep an eye on Google Search Console’s Mobile Usability report. This report will highlight issues such as content that doesn’t fit on the screen and text that’s too small, as well as provide a list of URLs that are affected by each issue.
- The second approach is to use Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test to test key page templates. This is a convenient way to double-check individual pages.
5. Examine your website for security flaws.
Along with page load time and mobile usability, website security will be a factor in determining the page experience. Google wants to make sure that the websites that appear in the SERPs are safe for users to visit and do not pose a security risk.
- Malware, unwanted software, phishing, and misleading content are the primary security concerns to be aware of.
- Take a look at the Security issues report in Google Search Console to see if your website has any problems that could put your users at risk.
- Under the heading Security & Manual Actions, you’ll find this report.
6. Ensure that all forms and embedded resources are served through HTTPS.
Another way Google is attempting to ensure user safety while browsing is by –
- Incorporating HTTPS as a page experience signal. Serving content that requires user interaction and feedback over an insecure HTTP connection puts users at risk and puts their data at risk.
- This is especially important to remember when filling out forms that require users to enter any personal information, such as checkout forms that require payment information to be shared.
- The number of examples of forms served on HTTPS URLs, as well as mixed content problems where a mixture of page resources are served over HTTP and HTTPS, are shown in this report.
- Make sure your site has an up-to-date SSL certificate and migrate any URLs and on-page resources to HTTPS to ensure your users can browse safely.
7. Make sure interstitials don’t get in the way of important content.
- Users may have negative and frustrating experiences if a website has intrusive interstitials that take up a lot of space on a page and make it difficult for them to get to relevant on-page content.
- You can see how interstitials are affecting your users by manually checking your pages on different devices or using the Chrome DevTools screenshots feature.
- Consider redesigning pop-ups and interstitials so that they don’t obstruct important on-page content and users don’t have to physically close them to continue their trip on your site.
In other words, if your page contains core web vitals field data, it may benefit you over pages that do not.
Yes, not every page on the internet will have core web vitals field data; in fact, it is suspected that the vast majority of pages on the internet don’t have one. Google employs algorithms to estimate the number of other pages that lack core web vitals field data.
Why, then, would a page containing core web vitals field data have a sliver of a ranking advantage?
- It is because the page experience is made up of a variety of signals, including CWV. If the CWV label launches (and that’s a big if), it may have a non-ranking advantage if users prefer those pages to others.
- The success of a business is influenced by its SEO ranking. Companies can make a lot of money — or lose a lot of money — by optimizing these specific metrics. Using Core Web Vitals to ensure that your company’s webpages are performing well can mean the difference between a steady stream of new web visitors and radio silence, as your low search ranking makes it nearly impossible for people to find you. Make these new search ranking factors a top priority now to reap huge rewards later.
- Google’s Core Web Vitals are poised to become the go-to metric for gauging user satisfaction.
- Core Web Vitals will debut with three core metrics: site loading (Largest Contentful Paint), site interactivity (First Input Delay), and visual stability (Visual Stability) (Cumulative Layout Shift). Furthermore, Google’s all-new ranking factor, Page Experience, will be combined with existing ranking factors such as mobile friendliness and HTTPS.
Final Thoughts on Web Essentials
User experience is becoming increasingly valuable when it comes to search engine rankings. While high-quality content and a well-thought-out SEO strategy should always be at the top of your priority list, it’s also critical to consider user experience and how you can improve it on your own site.