All about Core Web Vitals (Google)

According to various experts, user experience is a crucial part of SEO as it affects user metrics, which affects SEO rankings. Therefore, it is crucial to improve your user experience design so that your rank better on the Google search result and increase the credibility of your brand. As website designers and SEO experts strive to improve user experience, Google sets standards to help with UX. Now and then, it is not uncommon to hear that Google has released updates that are meant to help improve user experience. One of the most recent changes is the Core Web Vitals release. Below, we explain what this update is all about and how it affects SEO rankings.

What are the Core Web Vitals Metrics?

Core web vitals is a Google page experience ranking factor that comprises different algorithms. These three major metrics measure how fast page content loads, how stable content is in a browser, and how quickly the browser attends to user input. These metrics are not the only ones that matter after this update. They will work alongside other metrics such as HTTPS, intrusive interstitials, mobile-friendliness, and safe browsing. Together, they will form what is known as Page Experience Signal.

But why are these aspects of the user experience significant?

To fully understand the usefulness of these metrics, you should understand search engine basics . Google’s main job is to match a user’s search or query with the best possible research. Therefore, Google ranks pages according to their relevance and quality. Google web crawlers would look for high-quality content and match it to the search intent. Additionally, the search engine would check for aspects such as mobile-friendliness and safe browsing. Therefore, the ranking process was mostly semantic.

Right now, Google intends to do more to ensure that users get an even more quality experience. Therefore, it includes these vitals as one of its primary ranking signals. As a business owner, these changes may be crucial, especially in an industry that does not emphasize user experience and page load times. However, this update may not be such a big worry for companies that have already prioritized fast load times. More changes, especially in the mobile search space, are meant to happen as Google enhances mobile-first indexing. To be rewarded by Google as a fast-loading website, you have to pay attention to these changes and continue to provide relevant, interesting content as part of your SEO strategy.

The Three Metrics Comprising the Core Web Vitals

The three user-focused metrics that will measure how healthy a website is in terms of user experience are:

Largest Contentful Paint

If you are hearing this term for the first time, it may sound complex. However, this term points to the average load time of the main content of a page. LCP is based on the largest visible block of text or image. Therefore, this is not simply a measure of how fast your page loads. Instead, it measures these speeds more specifically by narrowing it down to the load speed of the main visible content.

Note that LCP may be different for different pages. For example, in a blog, the page’s main content may be the H1 headline, while product pages may have images as the most crucial content.

This metric will be scored at the page level. Google requires that the page’s main content load in less than 2.5 seconds. If your content loads for more than 2 1/2 seconds, you will get a lower LCP score. By ensuring short lead times for the most important content on a page, Google aims to provide a more seamless user experience to users, which would mean that your website quality goes high.

To make it easier to understand, you may recall when you needed something from a website, and it loaded so slow you left the website. If you can access the same product or service on another website, it will be more likely for you to stay and interact with the content on the website.

Some tips to improve LCP Time include:

  • Get a hosting plan that allows fast server response and fast page load times. Avoid shared hosting servers and consider a plan upgrade.
  • Optimize images so that they are already in the right format.
  • Implement the necessary CSS so that you can inline above the fold content and load it correctly.

Cumulative Layout Shift

Just like the name suggests, cumulative layout shift will measure the visual stability of a page. Google noticed and flagged downshifting content such as blocks of texts, images, and links as the page loads due to poor user experience and intends to fix it with this new metric.

This metric will help prevent user frustration and accidental link clicking that results in going into unintended pages. This will be measured by scoring the cumulative number of unexpected shifts. For example, a website providing a quality user experience should target a cumulative layout shift of 0.1 or less. By adhering to this rule, you can improve your SEO performance and user experience simultaneously.

You can use tools such as the CLS Generator and Chrome Dev Tools to find layout shifts. These tools compute CLS scores and will highlight the shifting areas.

Tips to fix CLS issues include:

  • Avoid inserting popups and ads above content, as it will force the content to shift further down.
  • Use height and width attributes for videos and images so that these elements are allocated the right space in advance.
  • Reserve iFrame, ad, and dynamic content space to avoid layout shifts. You should utilize the overflow: hidden property and use proper dimensions for containers.
  • Use the font-display: optional and link rel=”preload” properties like these can prevent layout shifts.

First Input Delay (FID)

First Input Delay measures when a user puts in a command on a page and when the page executes it. It is recommended that a website has a score of fewer than 100 milliseconds to score highly during a core web vitals assessment. Higher scores bordering or surpassing 300 ms affect SEO performance.

You can tackle the issue of high FID scores by reducing third-party code. For example, you can compress or minify CSS files while breaking JavaScript tasks into smaller tasks.

Other ways to tackle a high FID score include:

  • Use of web workers. You can use web workers to run scripts in the background. By eliminating non-UI operations from the main thread to the background, you make work easier and faster.
  • Optimization of CSS. Just like Javascript, CSS contributes to render blockage and can affect the user experience negatively. Look for ways to reduce unused CSS on your site for better outcomes.

As a business or website owner, you need to ensure that you hit the target for your larger audience. While these metrics will help you improve user experience and SEO rankings, you need to take steps to ensure that you have an effective Google Ads management system  and that other SEO metrics are met as other factors such as user interaction can affect these metrics.

Tools for Measuring and Reporting Core Web Vitals

Google intends to include these metrics in its popular tools. For example, some of the tools that measure Core Web Vitals include:

Chrome User Experience Report

This tool collects anonymous, real user data relating to the Core Web Vitals. Site owners can then assess their performance without necessarily using a manual analytic tool on their page. This extension also powers the Search Console’s Core Web Vitals Report.

While this is one of the best tools to measure your site’s performance metrics, it does not provide detailed, real user data that can be used to diagnose and quickly react to the problems that arise on a site and affect its search engine performance.

Lighthouse and Chrome Development Tools

You can get a core web vitals report using other crucial lab report tools to provide lab data. Some of these tools include Lighthouse and Chrome Development Tools. These tools measure performance features during development, which means they can help you catch any regressions at the development stage before releasing them to users. However, these tools do not measure the FID vital.

Further, you should be aware that lab testing or measurement is in no way meant to substitute field measurement. User interactions may likely affect site performance. The device the actual users have, the network, background processes, and how they interact with the page can all affect your performance. This is why it is crucial to use field measurement for a full and accurate picture.

Conclusion

Google is using its Core Web Vitals as a way to optimize user experience. The current ranking algorithms have already incorporated these metrics, which means that website owners must update their sites to match the expectations. You should constantly monitor these vitals and update your site and content as needed to match up to Google’s expectations. Use the information and tips outlined above to ensure that these vitals stay updated on your site.