Unless you have been sleeping under a stone for the last few months, I’m sure you have heard of Core Web Vitals. But what are they? And what exactly could it mean for your website? The simple answer (like most upcoming Google algorithm updates) nobody knows until this is rolled out. We know and understand the technical factors and how they will impact your user’s experience. Core Web Vitals are specific data sets that Google will view as crucial in a web page’s user experience. They are made up of three-page speed and user interaction measurements: largest contentful paint (LCP), first input delay (FID), and cumulative layout shift (CLS).
Check out the Google Search Console under the enhancements tab if you want to see how your website performs under these new measurements.
So Why Are Core Web Vitals Going To Be Important?
As we mentioned earlier, it seems that all the chatter in the SEO and web design world is around Core Web Vitals and how Google plans to make these ranking factors. But the reality is no one knows just how this will impact your website. The good thing here is that, hopefully, this set of metrics will encourage developers and SEO to produce a better user experience. After all, as SEOs and web designers, that’s what we are here to do. There can often be a misconception that websites and content are built for search engines and not users as business owners. This isn’t and shouldn’t ever be the case. It would help build and develop your website and SEO with your user’s experience in mind. After all, they are an essential aspect.
So Page experience in its complete form will be a collection of metrics that Google considers necessary for user experience. These will include some metrics that you should already have in place, like a valid URL SSL cert (HTTPS), Ensuring your site is mobile-friendly and safe and not overusing interstitial pop-ups. Core Web Vitals will be at the heart of that score. It’s important to point out that an excellent page experience score won’t magically push you to the number 1 spot in Google. It’s only going to be part of the bigger picture, and Google has quickly pointed this out.
Largest Contentful Paint (LCP)
LCP, in a nutshell, is how long a page takes to load from an actual user’s point of view. So this is the time from clicking on a link to seeing the majority of your website content on the screen. LCP focuses on what matters regarding page speed, and you can check your LCP score using Google PageSpeed Insights. But if you want a more accurate look at your page experience scores, we suggest opening your website URL in Chrome under a new incognito tab and running the lighthouse test from there. This way, you won’t have any browser extensions that get in the way, and it should return a more accurate score which all site owners should measure. This is very helpful because you can spot areas to improve (thank you, Google). You can also view LCP data in the search console. The benefit of viewing here is you can see the data for your entire site rather than just one page at a time. However, we like to work on a page-by-page basis as some pages may need lots of images etc. Google has published some excellent LCP guidelines here.
The target for improvement here is you want each page on your site to hit LCP within 2.5 seconds. This can be a bit of a challenge for large web pages. Or pages with lots of features and images. So here is a few things you can do to improve that.
- Remove any unnecessarily third-party scripts.
- Upgrade your web host
- Use Lazy Loading
- Minify your CSS
First Input Delay (FID)
So Google’s second Core Web Vital is First Input Delay. FID measures the time it takes for a user actually to interact with your web page. This could be any on-page elements like choosing a menu option, clicking on the navigation or entering details into a field. It’s a fundamental metric because it looks at how real users interact with your website. So how can we improve this metric?
Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS)
And here we are at the third Core Web Vitals metric Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS). This metric measures the visual stability of a page as it loads. This is hate of mine. I’m sure we have all been there as we get a little eager to click on an element while the page is loading, but the page shifts, and you click on the wrong part of the site! That’s CLS at its best and is not a great user experience. If elements on your page move around during the page load, you’ve got a high CLS, which isn’t good. You want your page elements to be as stable as possible as it loads up so users don’t experience unexpected layout shifts. That way, users shouldn’t click on something by mistake. So what can we do to help our users here?
Why Page Experience is Important for a Business Owner
So to conclude, Core Web Vitals metrics are coming, and we think you would be foolish to ignore this page experience update as a ranking factor as a site owner or developer. Many reports show that Google may add labels in search results that indicate which web page results provide an excellent page experience. Google has provided excellent documentation to help web owners tackle these issues, so look at this page experience guide and the excellent Chrome Lighthouse Overview. Here you will find out how page speed insights, page experience criteria, and page experience metrics impact quality signals.
Google announced way back in May last year that page experience UX signals and core web vitals would be included in Google Search ranking. In fact, Core Web Vitals are becoming ranking signals for search results in May 2021. Make no mistake. All websites will be classed as needing improvement when this launches. These web vitals signals measure how users perceive the page experience of interacting with a web page and contribute to our ongoing work to ensure people get the most valuable and enjoyable experiences. Our advice is don’t get left behind. There has been a 70% uptake in the number of users engaging with Lighthouse and Pagespeed Insights. Many site owners use Search Console’s Core Web Vitals report to identify opportunities for improvement. The time it takes to audit every page on your mobile and desktop site should not be underestimated.
Google is paying a lot more attention to the on-page experience. A great way to start with tackling core web vitals head-on would be to request a user experience report from Digital Tepee; we can look at your existing page content, page loading speeds and loading experience. Is your website ready?