Last Updated in March 2021 by Lukasz Zelezny
Google continuously updates the way it ranks our websites to decide where they’ll appear in the SERPs, sometimes without anyone knowing, and sometimes, with a big reveal to the world at large.
The news of Core Web Vitals is one such announcement. Google doesn’t want to panic anyone (there’s been enough panic over the past year without them adding to the pot) so have warned site owners and developers that they won’t implement these new metrics until 2021, and will give everyone involved at least 6-month’s notice.
What are the new Core Web Vitals metrics?
In this blogpost
Introduction to Google Core Web Vitals. The three new items aren’t all that new as it turns out. They’re already measured, and you can find their metrics in a selection of developer tools. What is new is that all three will be considered as part of the page-ranking process.
- Loading – Largest Contentful Paint (LCP)
- Interactivity – First Input Delay (FID)
- Visual Stability – Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS)
The new metrics are included as part of your page experience data.
Slow loading speeds lose traffic
According to Google,
Pages that meet these thresholds of Core Web Vitals, visitors are 24% less likely to abandon the site.
Who wouldn’t want to boost their traffic by such a significant amount, just by making sure they’re offering a decent web experience?
You should already be aware of your page experience, as it adds to both your visitor satisfaction and your overall data and efficiency.
For example, Google tells us,
If page load time increases from 1 second to 3 seconds, bounce rate increases 32%.
So we already know that slow load times will lose you a lot of traffic. Can you afford to lose traffic just because your page is a little slower than most to load?
They go on to tell us,
If page load time increases from 1 second to 6 seconds, bounce rate increases by 106%.
If your page is taking more than 6 seconds to load, then you deserve to lose that traffic, and by introducing these new metrics, that’s what Google is telling us.
Sort out your pages speeds, or we’ll punish you. But, as it turns out, they won’t punish you all that much.
Content is still king in the SEO kingdom
They also indicated that the Core Web Vitals are only likely to be used as a kind of tiebreaker where several sites have very similar ranking content.
Page experience will never rank you higher than a page with great content. So, if you’re considering Core Web Vitals SEO impact, then it’s not hugely impactive so far. However, as far as good health best practices go for maximising visitor experience and conversions, it’s understandable that Google is giving us all a nudge towards taking care of what they consider are important metrics.
Does Core Web Vitals effect ranking? Well, for now, it seems only if you’re going head-to-head with a very similar page of content.
Loading, Interactivity, and Visual Stability – what do they mean?
When it comes to measuring these new metrics, Google Search Console should have you covered, with PageSpeed Insights playing a big part.
If you need more tools for your Core Web Vitals test, there are plenty on hand directly from Google itself. Lighthouse, Chrome DevTools or UX Report—are all worthy tools to help work on your Core Web Vitals ranking and development. There will also be a Core Web Vitals extension/plugin for Chrome, or you can look into how to use PageSpeed Insights API for Core Web Vitals metrics.
Largest Contentful Paint (LCP)
LCP considers how long it takes for your page to load. This specific measure is concerned with the largest element on your page—often some type of image format or video file.
Again, this is measured in your Google Search Console using PageSpeed Insights.
First Input Display (FID)
FID is the time it takes for you page to be ready for your users to interact with it. Actions such as when a button is available to click, a dropdown menu can open, or a form field is ready for input.
Google Search Console holds data for these metrics too and will let you know in its three easy to understand levels if you’re good (green), need improvement (orange), or poor (red).
Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS)
CLS is how stable your page is as it loads. In technical terms, it’s the measured distance and fraction of viewport, shifting due to DOM manipulation or the lack of dimension attributes for major media elements. In laymen’s terms, it’s those annoying jumps your pages make as elements continue to load when you’ve already started browsing.
Having a page move around (far more typical on mobiles than other devices) is frustrating. So Google wants you to fix it.
How to improve Core Web Vitals
Using the tools we’ve mentioned already is your first step to measure your Core Web Vitals. You should use the various options to find out how well you’re operating and how much work you may have to do or not. They can also help pinpoint exactly where your failing measures are.
Improving your Largest Contentful Paint metrics
Let’s take the first of the new selection.
If your LCP is pulling it at less than 2.5 seconds then good work—you’ve got nothing to worry about. Times between 2.5 and 4 seconds need some work, and over 4 seconds, well, let’s consider where your problem areas could be.
- Are there unnecessary third-party scripts on your page?
Each additional script will add time to your loading speed.
- Is your web host to blame?
More efficient hosting translates to faster speeds and loading times.
- Consider trying lazy loading.
Lazy loading judges when to load each image, as users scroll towards new elements. This technique can significantly improve your LCP.
- Do you really need your biggest page elements? Could they be optimised?
When you work out which elements are the biggest on your page and the main offenders for LCP, are they essential to your page experience or could you get rid of them altogether? If they have to stay, have you optimised them for each platform or format, or to create the smallest file sizes?
- Clean up your CSS.
Bulky and clumsy CSS can also delay LCP times. Is your code clean and well organised? Or could this be the area to get you out of the red and back into the green?
Refining First Input Display metrics
If your FID metric is under 100ms, then you’re in the green and good to go. Between 100ms and 300ms, then Google needs you to make a few changes. If your results are longer than 300ms, then you’re in the red, and you need to take stronger steps.
What can you try?
- Strip out unnecessary third-party scripts
Again, just as with your LCP metrics, third-party scripts can have quite an impact on your results. Are there scripts in your code that you don’t need?
- Use a browser cache
A browser cache will help your page content load faster, dealing with scripts quicker and boosting your FID score.
Minimizing Cumulative Layout Shift
Does your CLS need work? Well, if your score shows 0.1 or less, then you’re in Google’s ‘good’ zone. Between 0.1 and 0.25, though, and your page needs work. Over 0.25 and your page score is ‘poor’.
Here are a few suggestions into how you might be able to tighten things up to attain a healthier score.
- Use set size attributes for your media dimensions
For images, videos, and other visual elements, you can pre-set dimensions using size attributes. By doing so, the browser knows exactly how much space it needs and applies it while the element is loading. No more jumping page—and an easy fix.
- Reserve space for your ads
If your page includes advertising elements, make sure your code contains the correct reserved space for them. Ads can take a little longer to load, and their sudden appearance is likely to affect CLS.
- Can you put slow-loading elements below the fold?
Items below the fold have a better chance to start downloading before the user gets to them, and won’t visibly push any loaded items down the page. If you can organise your page structure to compensate for this, your score will improve.
Core Web Vitals – a healthy nudge towards best practices and better performances
Google likes to make sure we all adhere to best practices. It makes the Internet a better place for everyone, with streamlined experiences and added safety measures. By adding new standards that should ideally feature in our SEO practices, Google is keeping developers, marketers and site builders on their toes, creating a better Internet from the ground up.
It’s been responsible for making our online world a more mobile-friendly place, created safer browsing and pushing us into SSL and HTTPS operation as standard.
These latest options are set to remind us that looking after our users is important if we want to keep them on our websites for as long as possible, creating our best chance for conversions. Even though on first glance, they won’t have a huge impact on our SEO, they could still help us achieve far greater metrics and more of the sales we’re aiming for.