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Core Web Vitals - New Ranking Factor and What You Should Do About It

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clock-iconMarch 08, 2021
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Google's Core Web Vitals are making huge waves and, as expected, there are a lot of opinions and optimization solutions now surrounding it.

But what exactly are Core Web Vitals and how do these metrics affect website owners and marketers like you? This guide will delve into this matter and provide actionable steps for everyone to move forward with confidence in the ever-changing online marketing world.

What Are Google's Core Web Vitals?

The Core Web Vitals are essentially tied to how Google is now currently measuring the overall user experience of a website. These can be categorized into three specific factors:

  • Largest contentful paint (LCP)
  • First Input Delay (FID)
  • Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS)

We will examine these in more detail below. But, essentially, these factors or web vitals encompass a website's ratings in the page speed and user interaction department.

As of the moment, these metrics are considered as part of the overall page experience score that Google is giving websites. In other words, these are used by Google to size up your site's overall user experience, which affects important matters such as SEO and your online marketing efforts in general.

Why do these Core Web Vitals matter? Should you really care about it?

While there are many out there who are panicking over these core web vitals metrics, keeping calm and dealing with the matter on a step-by-step matter is still the best approach. The internet is ever-changing and the way search engines classify websites keep evolving as well.

If we take a step back, it is just right to say that a website needs improvement from time to time. Sure these metrics come and go, and change over the course of weeks and months. However, if we take the time and effort to understand them properly, implementing them into online marketing strategies can be done at a steady pace that will lead to bountiful gains.

Large Contentful Paint (LCP)

One of the new page experience signals that Google is now focusing on is Large Contentful Paint or LCP. This measurement factor covers visible pixels on a page and when they become fully visible (or painted) on the screen. LCP focuses on the largest elements that are displayed on the screen.

These page elements may be hero images, background images, text blocks, or even a video.

This metric is generally measured in milliseconds and a performance timeline is aggregated. Think of it as Google keeping an eye on how soon or how quickly these large elements are rendered on the page and becomes fully viewable by visitors. Naturally, the sooner these things appear, the better your site is in the eyes of Google.

This makes sense if you think about it from the perspective of human visitors as well. We all know that barely anyone can wait for a website to load these days. We have always known as well the importance of page loading speed. The quicker the better as that is more convenient to users. For that reason, Google is now paying more attention to this metric.

Action Step: Site owners and web designers are highly advised to consider this particular core web vitals measurement when building webpages. Note that no matter which code you're using - be it HTML, JavaScript, CSS, or others - a page's elements should be rendered, parsed, and processed as quickly as possible.

First Input Delay (FID)

First Input Delay or FID involves action from the user as well as the browser's response. This core web vitals signal is a bit technical and tricky to explain. But the idea is that this measurement determines the time between the first interaction done by a user and the time the browser can respond to the first user input. Check out the diagram below from Google's documentation about these core web vitals.

At a closer look, this metric is still under PageSpeed Insights that Google tries to measure. It is all about interactivity and visual stability. The logic is that a browser cannot react to a user's action immediately unless all the elements or other workings of a website (upon opening it for the first time) have been loaded and processed.

This is yet another indirect way to measure a site's speed and overall user experience. Once again, the quicker that FID or first user interaction is processed, the nicer the site is considered by Google bots.

Action Step: Site owners are recommended to have their design team study Google's documentation about the matter thoroughly. This metric is quite technical and so it is best to have your web programmers and design team have a good handle of it. But, technically, the idea is to have the website load faster so that the user won't have to wait too long in getting a response upon interacting with a page.

Once again, this metric is measured in milliseconds and a human user may not even care about that delay most of the time, but Google has announced this as part of their core web vitals. That means that they are seriously looking at this measurement and, therefore, this bears consideration upon designing a site.

Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS)

The third important Core Web Vitals under pagespeed insights that Google is paying close attention to is the Cumulative Layout Shift or CLS.

This performance measurement is considered a novelty and is probably one of the most confusing ones to analyze currently. Industry experts (aka the reputable tech guys) consider this as a proxy for determining just how stable a site's page load experience is.

As its name suggests, this is calculated in a cumulative manner. Google measures the whole page loading process and any layout shifts that happen to a page, including those not triggered by a user. Any unexpected layout shift is taken into consideration as well. As for the exact calculation formula, this is unclear and would likely change over time.

Action Step: Follow the Core Web Vitals goals set by Google. Yes, Google has set a guideline for these metrics and several measurement tools can be used to track your progress. More on these below.

Core Web Vitals Goals and How to Track Your Scores

To keep up with your site's Core Web Vitals scores, you can make use of Google Search Console. The data you'll need will be under the Enhancements section. You can also use Google's PageSpeed Insights tool (PSI). This gives you Field data and Lab data and helps you determine if your website passes the Core Web Vitals assessment.

PageSpeed Insights data for the field section for Core Web Vitals are gathered from the Chrome User Experience Report. You can test any URL you want. As for the lab data, they are extrapolated from a Google server in the US.

The Core Web Vitals Goals provided by Google are visually easy to use. You just need to check whether your pages fall in the Good, Needs Improvement, or Poor section.

Action Step: To keep things simple, just keep these associations in mind: LCP is all abut loading speed, FID covers interactivity, and CLS is all about visual stability. Based on the image above, a good LCP score is 2.5 seconds or below. For FID, aim for 100 milliseconds or below. As for CLS, a cumulative score of 0.1 or below is considered a pass.

How Do Core Web Vitals Affect SEO?

Should you really worry about a core web vital signal? How do these page experience metrics affect search engine optimization?

Google has given word that these core web vitals will affect mobile and desktop regular search results. As to what extent, that is unclear and requires further investigation.

Action Step: Do not panic.

Keep in mind that Google has tons of ranking signals. Yes, these are called Core Web Vitals but they are not the end-all-be-all of ranking signals.

Continue monitoring your Google Analytics, Search Console, and PageSpeed Insights data to determine your core web vitals scores. Also, always remember that overall page speed and page experience continue to be important factors for SEO. By keeping this in mind, you will be on the right track. Anything that falls on the Needs Improvement or Poor sections of the core web vitals goals should be addressed as soon as you can.

Every Search Console report about core web vitals will link to a PageSpeed Insights report, which you can study in more detail. There you can diagnose the problem and start fixing what needs to be improved.

Let Your Web Design Team Help!

If you find these Core Web Vitals too technical or confusing, that is no problem. We recommend that you have your web designers and programmers do the heavy lifting. Whether it is about the largest contentful paint, first input delay, or cumulative layout shifts - they will have a better understanding of how to improve the overall page speed and page experience.

To ensure the good performance of your website, partner with a web design team that has the breadth of experience and agility to handle recent technological and SEO changes. Only then can you have peace of mind.

We here at WebriQ are always ready to help to boost your site's performance and SEO matters. We are also keeping an eye on these new signals that Google is measuring. As always, we focus on building websites designed to excellently communicate your business message to your online visitors. On top of that, we design pages that load quickly on both mobile and desktop screens.

More importantly, we keep abreast of recent technological developments, new SEO signals, and other crucial page experience matters to ensure the satisfaction of site owners.

Get in touch with us to know more about our services and how we can help you with your online marketing efforts.