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 with most upcoming Google algorithm updates) nobody knows until this is rolled out. What we do know and understand is what the technical factors are and how they will impact your user’s experience. Core Web Vitals are specific data sets that Google will view as crucial in a webpage’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).
If you want to see how your website performs under these new measurements, check out the Google search console under the enhancements tab.
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’s to produce a better user experience, after all as SEOs and Web Designers that’s what we are here to do. As a business owner there can often be a misconception that websites and content are built for search engines and not users. This isn’t and shouldn’t ever be the case. It would help if you always 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 full form will be a collection of metrics that Google considers necessary for user experience, these will include some already existing metrics that you should already have in place, like a valid URL SSL cert (HTTPS) Making sure 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 been quick to point this out.
It can seem very daunting for site owners who don’t have in house SEO services or a dev team to start work on this but don’t worry, there is excellent documentation out there, and Google said that you have until around May to improve your site’s scores. So let’s take a look at how we do that.
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 when it comes to 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 would 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 should be measured by all site owners. This is very helpful because you can spot areas to improve (thank you, Google). You can also view LCP data in 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
If your website is built in WordPress, some fantastic plugins can help with many aspects of this like WP Rocket. But if your unsure about applying this then speak with a technical SEO consultant or web developer to help you out.
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?
- Remove any non-critical third-party scripts: This can include Google Analytics, heatmap scripts etc.
- Use browser caching: This can help load content on your page faster, which allows your user’s browser to blast through script loading more quickly.
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 is as it loads, this really is a 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?
- Use Set Size Attributes For Media: This allows browsers to know precisely how much space that element will take up on that page. And won’t change it as the page loads.
- Make Sure Ads Have Space: As we discussed, as they appear on the page, they can push content around, giving users a headache.
- Add UI Elements below the fold: This could avoid them pushing content around.
Why Page Experience is Important for a Business Owner
So to conclude, Core Web Vitals metrics are coming, and we think as a site owner or developer, you would be foolish to ignore this page experience update as a ranking factor. Just how it will impact we don’t know, but we would definitely recommend you start working on them now. Google has provided some excellent documentation to help web owners tackle these issues, so take a look at this page experience guide and the excellent Chrome Lighthouse Overview. Here you will find out more on how page speed insights, page experience criteria and page experience metrics impact quality signals. There have been many reports that Google may add labels in search results that indicate which web pages results provide a good page.
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 needs 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 helpful 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, and many site owners using 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.
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. Google is paying a lot more attention to the on-page experience, is your website ready?