Google’s Core Web Vitals: What Are They and Why Should You Care?

Core Web Vitals are a hot and important topic in the SEO community right now. And being a marketing professional, I hear that term multiple times a day. 

But according to a recent marketing census, over 80% of respondents didn’t know what Core Web Vitals were or how they are important for their business and their site.

If that applies to you, stick around to learn more about Core Web Vitals and how they affect your site because improving them not just makes for a better user experience, but also because as of mid-June 2021 they will become a ranking factor for Google Search.

This means that page experience metrics will form an important part of the criteria that Google follows for ranking websites. 

By implementing this, Google aims to provide a quality experience to its users along with high-quality content related to their topic. 

 

Why are Core Web Vitals Important? 

Optimizing your site for better speed and improved user experience matter for your business because:

  • it can give you an edge over other competitors on the SERPs (Search Engine Result Pages). For example, if two websites have high-quality content, then the page experience becomes the deciding factor for ranking higher.
  • slow page load times mean higher bounce rates, which hurt your bottom line. Potential customers will simply bounce back and jump to a competing site if yours is slow to load.


But if you know the right metrics to hit and start improving your pages, Google will reward you with better rankings in search. 

Now with that covered, let’s first quickly understand where the Core Web Vitals fit into Google’s ranking algorithms before we dive deeper into them. 

Currently, Google determines the quality of user experience with a website based on whether that site:

  • is mobile-friendly
  • provides safe browsing
  • serves pages in HTTPS
  • is free of intrusive interstitials

The fifth and latest addition to this list of Page Experience factors is the Core Web Vitals, as illustrated below:

Page experience and the included Core Web Vital metrics will officially be used for ranking pages in June 2021.

 

Core Web Vital Metrics

Core Web Vitals are a set of speed metrics that are part of Google’s Page Experience signals, to help website owners measure user experience.

The three current Core Web Vital metrics to measure user interaction with the website are – Largest Contentful Paint, First Input Delay, and Cumulative Layout Shift.

Let’s review each metric, what affects each metric, and how to optimize for Core Web Vitals.

 

1. Largest contentful paint (LCP) – It measures the time in seconds from when the page’s main content starts loading to when the largest text block or image element appears on the screen.

It’s important to understand that this differs a great deal from regular page loading speed.

Here’s a quick example: ideally we try to keep the most important information and eye-catching content like images and videos above the fold to grab our visitors’ attention the second they land on our site, so that they stick around longer, right?

But that’s no use to them if all that interesting “above the fold” is the last to load, and all a user sees for the first 5-6 seconds is a big white space at the top of the screen.

Google is paying attention to this because they realize it’s resulting in a lot of people bouncing from sites.

An ideal LCP benchmark for Google is 2.5 seconds, meaning that your site should display everything in the first frame (above the fold) in 2.5 seconds.

If your page is taking more time, then you must improve the LCP to have a fast server response and resource load time (which can be an image or text).

It is quite helpful in finding areas to improve. You can improve your LCP score by:

    • Upgrading your hosting to have a faster loading time.
    • Removing unnecessary third-party scripts.
    • Setting up lazy loading for images.

 

2. First Input Delay (FID): This metric measures the interactivity of the user with the page. For example, it measures the time between when the user clicks a button on a page and when the web browser processes that click.

In that sense, it is a type of page speed score but then it also determines the time taken by the user to do something on the page. FID less than 100 milliseconds is considered to be good.

In order to optimize your FID you can try: 

    • minimizing or deferring your Javascript 
    • Use web workers
    • Break up long tasks

 

3. Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS): It measures the visual stability of the elements that are there on a website, that is, how elements move around or how stable the page layout is.

Have you ever tried clicking something on a page that shifts and you end up clicking on something you didn’t intend to – it is really annoying as a user. For example, you click on one thing, and suddenly, you’re clicking on an ad and not even on the same website – it clearly is a poor page experience.

With CLS, you should ideally be aiming for a CLS of 0.1 or less to provide a good user experience. You can optimize your CLS by:

    • Removing web fonts that cause FOIT/FOUT.
    • Updating embeds, ads, and iframes without dimensions (instead, use set size attribute dimensions)
    • Making sure ad elements have a reserved space.

In order to pass the Core Web Vitals assessment, you need to score “good” for all three Core Web Vitals.


Tools for Measuring Core Web Vitals: 

With that out of the way, let’s go through some of the most popular tools that can help you diagnose and see what your Core Web Vitals look like, and fix your user experience issues:

These are some of the most convenient tools that can help you in analyzing your site’s web vitals and monitoring your performance.

 

Take Action Now

Google’s job is to deliver the best and most relevant search results for the millions of questions asked daily. The Core Web Vitals as a key ranking signal is the latest way Google is working to make sure the search results they deliver to users are the best they can be.

It’s important to remember here that there are over 200 “ranking factors” that Google uses to make those fraction-of-a-second decisions, and any impact won’t happen instantaneously.

But Google is paying a lot more attention to the on-page experience, and we all know that we can’t ignore any single ranking factor if we want to outperform our competition and keep our rankings.

The need of the hour is really to take proactive steps to keep your website rock-solid to meet Google’s – and your user’s – expectations.

We are helping our clients in assessing and improving their core web vitals so that they can take benefit of this opportunity to rank higher on organic Google search results. 

If you would like us to take a look at your core web vitals and help you improve the page experience for your users, give us a holler at hello@dignitas.digital.

Till then, Happy Optimizing!