Since May 2020, Google has publicly announced that it would be using Core Web Vitals as a ranking factor for its search results.
Core web vitals are an updated set of metrics focused on the user experien\ce on each page on its search results. The health of a page will determine how easy it is to use by the searcher.
The usability of a search page should not be underestimated by businesses, as the usability of their website is a key component in gaining more traffic and repeat visitors.
There is so much research showing that page speed increases conversions, so paying attention to this will benefit the business greatly.
Google’s core web vital metrics are made up of three different parts – content loading speed, visual stability, and interactivity.
They have been perfecting the algorithm to ensure that these minute details are sufficiently analyzed to ensure that its search engine result pages (SERPs) are showing the best content.
Today we are looking more into Google’s core web vitals as well as why they are so important for a business.
What Do We Mean By Google’s Core Web Vitals?
The search engine Google is the most popular in the world. Its job is to match your searches with relevant web pages based on keywords and queries.
Google uses an algorithm to find the best results for each long tail keyword searched and its intent.
For a long time, this method has sufficed and the majority of users have been happy with it. However, now with the help of their core web vitals, Google is kicking their usability up even more.
If a website does not adhere to the ranking signal placed by the core web vitals, it will be given a lower score and therefore be less likely to appear on the first page of the SERPs.
Similarly, web pages given a higher ranking from these metrics will have a better chance of appearing near the top of the search results.
Google has always ranked its search results by two main factors – relevancy and originality. These two factors will rocket the page to the top of the search results in terms of SEO.
However, the new usage of the core web vitals now require the page to also be ranked on interactibility as well.
It’s worth noting that the three core web vitals are three metrics of a larger group of eight metrics.
Below is a list of the eight important metrics to measure on your website to enhance your usability:
- Time to First Byte (TTFB)
- Largest Contentful Paint (LCP)
- Time to Interactive (TTI)
- Interaction to Next Paint (INP)
- Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS)
- First Contentful Paint (FCP)
- First Input Delay (FID)
- Total Blocking Time (TBT)
Google’s Three New Core Web Vitals
There are three core web vitals that Google has introduced between 2020 and now, which are constantly evolving.
These are all used together to assess how usable and interactive the web page is for users.
Once the three core web vitals have been determined, they will all be used to create the website’s personal user experience ranking.
This will then be used to determine how far up the SERP the web page can get of its relevant searches.
Largest Contentful Paint (LCP)
The first core web vital that Google has introduced is the LCP, which is associated with loading times on the page.
LCP determines how long it takes to load the largest page element due to its loading capacity.
The majority of web pages use both text and images within articles. While text usually loads instantly, images can take longer to load up.
This will affect the usability as the visitor will be waiting for the entirety of the page to appear on their screen.
Google’s LCP looks into how quickly the important content takes to load within the page. This is not to be confused with how quickly the entire page loads.
LCP focuses on the meaningful content and creates an indication of how quickly the main content will appear.
Google deems that the page’s content needs to load within 2.5 seconds to meet the user experience standards. Any page that loads in a longer time than this will be given a lower LCP score.
Bear in mind, though, that LCP is determined by real life data, so Google may give exceptions depending on other ranking factors.
This means that the entire website will not be scored based on one page’s loading time.
As previously mentioned, the LCP will focus on the page’s meaningful content rather than the entire page.
For example, a H1 might be the most important information on a blog post. Alternatively, an image could be the most meaningful content on a product page.
LCP ranking is incredibly important for any website that wants to enhance its usability for visitors. A visitor is much more likely to click off of your page if the content is taking too long to load.
However, if the content appears quickly then there is a much higher chance of them staying on your web page for longer, increasing the likelihood of them interacting with its content.
Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS)
The CLS refers to the visual stability of your web page. The metric will measure how stable your content is while the page loads and rank it accordingly.
You might not think that this has much to do with the usability of your page – after all, content loads so quickly that the stability won’t really matter, right? Wrong.
Have you ever been on a web page and noticed that all of the content suddenly shifts down as the page continues to load?
Then, once you have your bearings again and are reading the content at the bottom of the page, it shifts back to its original position again!
This is incredibly frustrating for the viewer who wants to read your content quickly and efficiently.
CLS can also affect how usable the web page is in terms of intractability, as a user could be trying to click through your website in the middle of a shift and end up on the wrong page altogether.
This will be wasting their time and they’re likely to simply click off of your page and find another with a better stability.
A page with lots of instability will indicate a high CLS score. This indicates that the contents of the page are not visually stable and therefore can shift around a lot while the page is loading.
If you want to rank higher on relevant SERPs, you should work on lowering your CLS score.
First Input Delay (FID)
Finally, the third core web vital that Google uses is FID, which is a metric that measures how much time it takes to execute an action that the user has commanded.
Some common examples are clicking through links or buttons, and pressing shortcut keys.
The FID rating is considered good when it is less than 100 milliseconds. However, there is some leeway when it comes to your FID score and it can be considered OK if it is fewer than 300 milliseconds.
If your FID score comes back at higher than 300 milliseconds, however, your SEO performance is going to suffer dramatically. So, it’s important to keep your web pages working to the best of their ability.
The most efficient way to improve your FID score is to reduce your third-party code impact.
An example of this would be if you have ever experimented with analytic software. Many people find that once they add this to their web page, it starts loading slower.
However, you might not want to remove this third-party code altogether to improve your FID score.
Another option is to use lazy loading for content that doesn’t need to appear right away.
However, make sure that you’re only using this on the information that is not the main focus of the page as not to lower your LCP score.
Why Does Usability Matter?
Google has obviously decided that they want to start promoting more usable content to the first page of their search results.
This means that the websites wanting to rank highest need to abide by the rules set out from the core web vitals to appease Google’s algorithm. But why the sudden need for change?
If you have ever used Google as a search engine, then you’ll have most likely come across a page that takes too long to load.
With so much information at our fingertips, we are much more likely to go off of the page that isn’t loading and find another similar page that does load.
A survey by Unbounce (2019) showed that almost 70% of consumers thought that the page loading time impacted their willingness to buy from the website that they were on.
This is just one example that shows how important both LCP and FID are.
Furthermore, research from Google found that 53% of mobile website users would leave a website if it took longer than three seconds to load!
Similarly, we have all most likely been on a website with a high rating of CLS, making the screen jump around while it’s loading.
It is impossible to get anything from a webpage that won’t stay still, so most are likely to click off.
Users are even more likely to click off if the web page also has a poor LCP or FID rating.
Usability is now more important than ever before as Google has determined that poor usability will force your website to lower rankings in their search results.
This negative impact to your SEO will further damage the traffic to your website.
As 53% of all traffic to your website comes from organic searches through engines like Google, the lower SEO ranking could be detrimental.
Improving Your Core Web Vital Ratings
If you’re not happy with your current core web vital scores from Google and want to change them, the good news is that this is completely possible.
You will need to redesign your website slightly to optimize it for what Google requires, but with some time and perhaps a sacrifice or two, you should be able to get your website ranking higher again.
Improving Largest Contentful Paint (LCP)
There are a few ways in which you can improve your LCP rating. The first would be to remove any third-party coding that you don’t need.
A study has found that every third-party script that you have on your page can slow its loading speed down by 34 ms, so it’s important to get rid of any that you do not need.
Next, consider upgrading your web host. Higher quality web hosts give you faster loading times which will automatically improve your LCP.
Lazy loading can really help to improve your LCP as it will take everything that doesn’t need to be loaded right away and put it on the backburner.
This will allow the main content to load much quicker than before. When the user scrolls down to the lazy loaded content, only then will it load.
Lazy loading allows you to prioritize the main content of your page before the rest, improving your LCP significantly.
Finally, remove any large elements from the page that you don’t need. You can use Google PageSpeed to tell you your LCP rating.
And it will also inform you if there are any elements slowing your page down. Review these elements and decide whether you really need them or not.
Improving Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS)
Improving your CLS is incredibly important to the optimization of your SEO, and it is also very easy to do so.
We have found a few quick tips on how to improve your CLS to help prevent people clicking off your page before it has completely loaded.
Firstly, set the attribute dimensions for all of your media properly. This allows the browser that the user is currently viewing to know how much space is required for each element.
This means that the media will not change size as the page loads, improving stability. Next, ensure that your ads have a reserved space that they can be fitted into as the page loads.
Many web pages get a worse CLS score as the adverts appear suddenly, all over the page, and push the elements all over the page.
Make sure that you have reserved blank spaces for ads so that the web page loads to look exactly how you designed it.
Finally, put some new UI elements below the fold of your web page.
This allows the top content to remain where it is as the page loads, and the new elements will load further down the page which is only seen once the user is able to scroll to it.
Improving First Input Delay (FID)
Now let’s get to improving your FID score. This is perhaps the most frustrating issue that users experience when loading a web page, and up to 70% of users have admitted to clicking off of a page because of it.
You can also remove any third-party code that you don’t need. Just like this helps your LCD score, removing this code can allow the page to load only the important elements without being slowed down by unimportant code.
An added benefit of doing this is that it will both improve your LCP and FID scores!
Google’s core web vitals are helping to revolutionize the user experience of its search engine and the top results coming from each SERP.
While this is great news for users, businesses are having to redesign their websites to prevent being ranked lower in their SEO.
To keep your website ranking high on Google, make sure that you adhere to the new core web vital metrics – LCP, FID, and CLS.
Optimize the most important elements to load first, ensure that your interactiveness is efficient, and prevent content shifting as the page loads.
Not only will redesigning your website work in your favor in terms of Google’s algorithm, but it will also optimize it to make the user experience a more positive one for visitors.
This will hopefully increase the likelihood of them interacting with your site.