Core Web Vitals: Coming Soon to a Website Near You
April 7th 2021 | By Emma Grant
Google’s mission has always been to make sure its users enjoy the best possible online experience. It’s precisely why a website with a great user experience, on any device, is rewarded with top rankings. And from May 2021, the metrics used to measure user experience will form part of a new ranking signal, known as the Page Experience Signal. Those metrics are known as Core Web Vitals, and their combination with mobile friendliness, safe browsing and intrusive interstitials (i.e. pop-ups) will form a major Google algorithm update for 2021: the Core Web Vitals update.
There are a number of things that you will need to be aware of around Core Web Vitals if you rely on your website to drive enquiries and sales. Because if your site isn’t ready for them, it could suffer in the search results.
What are Core Web Vitals?
Core Web Vitals are mostly centred on the subject of how long things take:
- How fast does the page load?
- How quickly does the page become interactive?
- How long does it take for the page to stabilise?
Let’s take a closer look at the three metrics under their official names.
1. Largest Contentful Paint (loading performance)
Largest Contentful Paint (LCP) asks: How fast does the page load?
Here, Google is looking at the largest thing in the viewport. It could be text, image or video. Whatever it is, Google will measure how long it takes to load.
Problems that may affect loading performance could be bloated code or oversized media content.
An ideal LCP measurement is 2.5 seconds or faster.
2. First Input Delay (interactivity)
First Input Delay (FID) asks: How quickly does the page become interactive?
This metric looks at how quickly the browser starts to process a user click and produce a result.
Problems that may affect interactivity time could again be code-related.
An ideal FID measurement is less than 100 milliseconds.
3. Cumulative Layout Shift (visual stability)
Finally Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS) asks: How long before the page becomes stable?
This metric is concerned with that frustrating experience that we’ve all had at some point, where we go to click on something, and then it moves and we end up being swept off somewhere we don’t want to go.
Issues affecting visual stability may be failure to define image sizes in the HTML, and problems with animations.
An ideal CLS measurement is less than 0.1 seconds.
All in all, Google wants happy users. Happy users like fast loading pages. They want to start interacting quickly. And they don’t want to accidently click on the wrong thing because the page is taking ages to stabilise. And this all applies to both desktop and mobile browsing.
The Core Web Vitals metrics are joining forces with Google’s Page Experience signals. How friendly a site is on mobile. How secure it is to browse. And how much it’s affected by the likes of pop-ups.
As we’ve already said, and as you can see, this Google update is all about user experience.
Is the Core Web Vitals update going to affect Google rankings?
The algorithm update is set to affect regular search results on mobile and desktop. But crucially, Core Web Vitals are going to become criteria for web pages to appear in Google Top Stories. These are the news snippets that usually appear at the top of the search results, and which of course attract a lot of clicks.
If you want to get into Top Stories, then you will need to meet a minimum level for Core Web Vitals.
Generally though, it is important to bear in mind that there are a LOT of ranking signals. Hundreds. So the impact of a single signal may not be all that significant. However, if a site seriously falls down on Core Web Vitals, then it could change things. Especially if you operate in a highly competitive arena where you are fighting over top spots for the most-used keywords.
Google says that for pages that meet the minimum levels for Core Web Vitals, visitors will be 24 per cent less likely to abandon the site.
There is a possibility that Google may add labels into search results indicating which of them provide a good page experience. The search engine is working on visual indicators that will show which pages have met all the page experience criteria. If successful, it will roll out in May alongside the page experience update.
As things stand currently, a lot of pages would not qualify for such a label, with less than 15 per cent of websites well enough optimised to pass a Core Web Vitals test.
How to measure and fix issues with Core Web Vitals?
Even though the Core Web Vitals algorithm update hasn’t yet broken ground, you can still take a look and see how your site is doing with these metrics.
Google Search Console has a new Core Web Vitals report. This shows all the URLs that are indexed by Google, and whether they are classed as poor, need improvement, or good.
If you discover that you have URLs that are poor or need improvement, then you are well-advised to start looking at how you can deal with them. Being honest, this can get a little technical, so if there’s a problem, then it’s advisable to talk to an SEO agency that has been on the case with Core Web Vitals since they were first introduced a year ago.
It is apparent that website owners are putting a lot of effort into preparing for the forthcoming update. Google has reported a 70 per cent median increase in the number of users engaging with its page experience metrics reports.
Are you ready for the Core Web Vitals update?
At Figment, we’ve been hot on the case with Core Web Vitals since they first came on the SEO radar a year ago.
Getting it right with Core Web Vitals and website user experience is crucial to business success. It’s precisely why when we build websites, we do so with crucial SEO considerations like these built in from the ground up.
If you’d like to ready your business for success in light of the latest Google algorithm update, talk to Figment. We’re ready to get you on track to make sure you don’t lose out to the competition.