Google is always changing and tweaking their algorithm. Most of the changes they don’t announce so when they do, you know it’s going to be a big deal and back in May 2020, Google announced that a new user experience focused ranking factor is coming in 2020 – Core Web Vitals.
They have said that the Core Web Vitals will not become official search ranking factors before 2021 and they have also said they will provide 6 months notice before they officially rolling them out. But these metrics are designed to help you improve user experience so although Google isn’t taking them into account just yet – it’s time to start thinking about them (not just for Google, but for your site visitors too!)
What Are Core Web Vitals?
Core Web Vitals are an important step towards Google’s new approach to improve measure user experience by rewarding sites that provide a good UX with better search rankings. But what makes a good user experience? Well, Core Web Vitals focus on 3 different aspects of page experience – loading, interactivity and visual stability. Each is represented by a separate metric. Let’s take a look at each in turn.
Largest Contentful Paint (LCP) – The Loading Metric
This is a metric that anyone who has used PageSpeed insights will recognise and its measures how long the largest piece of content on the page takes to render. Essentially this is measuring the perceived load speed of a site. Google recommends that your pages should have an LCP of <2.5 seconds.
Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS) – The Visual Metric
CLS measures the unexpected movement of a page. For example, we have all been there when you go to click on a button, and just as you go to click the page moves and all of a sudden you clicked a different button entirely – and who knows where you’ll end up. You may have clicked on an annoying pop-up banner or you may have just added 3 of the same item to your back. Shifting web content is more than just frustrating for users – it can potentially make them leave your site altogether. Cumulative Layout Shift measures the visual stability of your web pages and quantifies the amount of unexpected layout shift (or movement) users experience. To provide good user experience, pages should maintain a CLS of less than 0.1.
First Input Delay (DID) – The Interactivity Metric
This assesses the interactive speed of the web page by measuring how long a page takes to respond to clicks, scrolls or input such as selecting a drop-down menu or checking a checkbox. First Input Delay measures responsiveness and quantifies the experience users feel when trying to first interact with your page. Less than 100ms will get you a good score (and your site should aim to meet this score on about 75% of pages).
Tools to Measure & Report Core Web Vitals
Google believes that the Core Web Vitals are critical to improving user experience across the web and as such we are beginning to see these metrics appear in nearly all of its popular tools including PageSpeed Insights, Chrome User Experience Report or Lighthouse. However, we recommend using Google Search Console.
Once you’ve measured the Core Web Vitals and identified which areas and pages you need to improve the next step is to optimise. This may very well be the point which you’ll want to call in your web development team but the following guides offer some recommendations:
So Where Do I Start?
- Explore Google Search Console and visit the new Web Vitals reports, understand your data and the classification of URLs across your site.
- Using this report you should identify areas that need improvement, then try to prioritise them based on effect, scale and impact. Remember, sometimes the smallest, easiest-made changes can make the biggest impact!
- Cross-reference the poor-performing URLs being flagged for each metric with other data sources, for example looking at impressions, sessions and page engagement rates by device through your Google Analytics data. If you run Google Ads campaign you can also cross-reference with the landing page reports to see if poor-performing URLs are being flagged there.
- Run the Google Mobile-Friendly Test on your poor-performing URLs to see which issues are being flagged there.
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