Core Web Vitals, what to do with it?

By 
Danny
-
Last updated 
30/06/2021

The new ranking factor everyone is talking about.

Perhaps the most discussed topic within the search engine optimisation 'community', the Google core web vitals update - actually Google Page Experience update.

It is the update that ensures that the user experience and speed of your website must be optimal, otherwise you will lose all your rankings....

Right?

Yes and no, in this blog I'll explain exactly what the update entails, how to check how your website is doing and what the impact is on your rankings.

What are the Google core web vitals?

Over the years, Google has increasingly focused on the optimal user experience of websites. The Google core web vitals are an important part of this. They are designed to measure the speed, responsiveness and visual stability of a page.

How? To do this, they use the 3 following elements:

What is largest contentful paint (LCP)?

Largest contentful paint core web vitals

Literally translated: Greatest satisfied paint,

Top...

You can forget about it again. Doesn't help you at all, of course. 

What you do get is: the largest contful paint represents the time it takes your website to load the largest element. LCP measures how long it takes for the largest piece of content in the viewport/ hero (screen you see first when you enter a website) to load and be ready for interaction. 

So it actually measures how fast your website loads in the eyes of a user.

What is a good LCP score?

- A good score for largest contentful paint score is less than 2.5 seconds.

- With a score between 2.5 and 4 seconds, improvement is still needed.

- A really bad score is anything over 4 seconds.

What is first input delay (FID)?

First input delay core web vitals

First Input Delay (FID) keeps track of how long it takes from the time a user first interacts with a web page until the browser can begin processing that interaction, as long as the main thread is not yet active.

Put more simply,

FID is the time between when you click on a link or button - for the first time after the page loads - and when the browser responds to your action and begins to process it. 

Not clear yet? 

I can imagine... An example:

You enter the office. You wish your colleague a good morning, but before he responds you throw your pen against his head. Stunned - and still processing how he wanted to greet you - it takes him 2 seconds to realize what happened. After 2 seconds, he figures he has to throw something back and throws his stress ball at your face. 

So the time between impact on his head and triggering a response - throwing his stress ball - is called the first input delay.

To illustrate it a little further here is a video that makes it visual (without a stress ball, unfortunately).

What is a good FID score?

- A good score for first input delay is less than 100 milliseconds.

- With a score between 100 and 300 milliseconds, improvement is still needed.

- A really bad score is anything over 300 milliseconds. 

What is Cumulative layout shift (CLS)?

Cumulative layout shift core web vitals

The cumulative layout shift measures the visual stability of your web page. It literally looks at the "shifting" - shifting - of elements after they are first loaded.

For example:

A piece of text pushed down because the images above it had not yet loaded. 

Or an advertisement that loads late and the button you wanted to press down, you suddenly end up on the advertisement page. Obviously, this is a bad user experience for you as a visitor.

This video illustrates well that shifting the visible element can be very bad for the user experience on websites.

Why is CLS measured in time?

I can imagine thinking that such a shift has nothing to do with loading speed.

But rethink that. Does it matter that much that something shifts, if it is within 100 milliseconds? It only becomes a problem when you, the visitor, actually notice the shift. 

What is a good Cumulative layout shift score?

- A good score for cumulative layout shift is less than 100 milliseconds.

- With a score between 100 and 250 milliseconds, improvement is still needed.

- A really bad score is anything over 250 milliseconds. 

Does your website score well? Use these tools:

There are several tools that can help you look at your core web vitals.

Google search console

You can view your core web vitals in your Google search console account. In the left sidebar, navigate to 'Site vitals'.

Site vitaliteit in Search console

Here you will find an overview of desktop and mobile, with your 'site vitality' per url. 

Core web vitals rapport in Search console

In the upper right corner, choose to open 'report'. Here you will find all the bad, good and urls that need improvement.

Core web vitals per URL in Search console

Then click on one of the messages, you will get an overview of all urls that have the corresponding error message.

Search Console is not ideal, your overview is not top notch and chances are you will get the notifications below.

Search console niet gegoeg gegevens voor vitals

Fortunately, there are more tools!

Google Lighthouse

Google lighthouse is a powerful tool built into your Chrome browser, probably without you knowing it.

You use it as follows!

Oh, and open an in-cognito window before you do this! (CTRL + Shift + N) Your extensions may affect your score. 

Google Pagespeed Insights

I personally think the best tool is Google pagespeed insights. It gives you a clear overview of each metric, what is going wrong and what needs to be improved. Google Search Console also refers to this tool when they have insufficient data.

You go to Google Pagespeed Insights. Paste your url into the bar and analyze your website.

Here you can see a clear overview of each metric. You can choose to view your desktop score as well (top left), but mobile first indexing applies to almost every website these days. This means that Google looks at your mobile site first. 

What else is covered by the Page Experience update?

Google page experience update componenten

source: search engine journal

In addition to the core web vitals, other Google ranking factors are related to user experience:

  • Mobile friendliness
  • Safe-Browing
  • HTTPS security
  • Intrusive interstitial directives (essentially annoying pop-ups that fill your screen)

When was the Page Experience update rolled out? 

Officially, the new ranking factor was supposed to roll out in May 2021, this has turned out to be slightly different in practice....

"We'll begin using page experience as part of our ranking systems beginning in mid-June 2021. However, page experience won't play its full role as part of those systems until the end of August. You can think of it as if you're adding a flavoring to a food you're preparing. Rather than add the flavor all at once into the mix, we'll be slowly adding it all over this time period."

So the final rollout started in mid-June and rolled out gradually over the summer of 2021. In all likelihood in the Netherlands later, most Google Search updates are done first in the United States. The rollout is gradual because Google wants to measure the impact and fix unintended small problems gradually.

Should you be worried about your search engine rankings?

A good user experience had already been an - indirectly - important factor for Google for a long time, but with this update it is therefore 'official'. The impact on your ranking?

As always with SEO and online marketing.... It depends.

This is always relative to your competitors. Do your competitors have even slower websites than you? Then a bad score will not necessarily have an impact. 

However, it always brings opportunities. A faster website gives you that edge to rank better. In addition, speed is not only important for Google, for conversions it is perhaps even more important.

Conversie ratio daling door snelheid

Source: cloudflare

That means a website over 5.7 seconds averages over 68% fewer conversions than a website with a 2.4 second load time. 

That means that you lose up to almost 70% of your customers if you have a slow website. But anyway that was off topic.... Moving on to the Core Web Vitals.

How can you improve your website for this update?

There are a number of things you can do to improve the 'vitals', but practically it all comes down to increasing your website speed. 

If I had to give you all the tips on how to improve website speed, this blog would go a bit over its head and become way too long. Nevertheless, here are three quick quick wins: 

Optimize your images.

Images are often one of the biggest contributors to slow websites. Shortpixel (plugin for WordPress) can help you optimize images. If you don't have a WordPress website, you can use TinyPNG to optimize images before you upload them.

Use a good host! 

Fast hosting is the most important factor for a fast website. How do you know if your host can be faster? Run your website through GTMetrix and see what the server response time is. Is it higher than 400-500 ms? Then it's time to consider another host. 

Deploy caching

Caching helps tremendously with the load time of your website. Caching is the process of storing copies of files in a cache, or temporary repository, so they can be delivered to visitors faster. Sounds very difficult, can be very easy. For WordPress there are several plugins that can help you, the best is WProcket, but it only has a paid version.

Want a free plugin? Then check out W3 Total Cache or WP Super Cache.

Furthermore, it is very important how your website is built. Most WordPress themes are slow and you can optimize all you want, but they won't get faster. 

Did you want a new website anyway? Then you can also let us create a commission a website. Search engine optimization and speed are always included. 

The core web vitals summarized in a few sentences

The core web vitals are there to enhance the user experience of visitors. 

- Largest contentful paint: is practically the loading time of your website (in the eyes of your visitor)

- First input delay: is the time it takes for the page to respond to your first interaction

- Cumulative layout shift: are elements that shift after being loaded once

Check your scores through Google Pagespeed Insights, I find the best tool. 

Each metric of the vitals relate to the speed of your website, do you want to rank better? Then make your website faster. 

Is this going to ruin all your rankings? Probably not. Could this be an opportunity to rank better? Almost always.

Google is getting more and more focused on user experience, but relevant content, good technique/structure and backlinks remain the most important to rank high.

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