Core Web Vitals – An Important Google Update in 2021

Are You Ready For Google's Core Web Vitals Update?

With Google recently announcing the importance of core web vitals in their search engine ranking system, there are a few things that may change in the way we look at web pages and SEO. As of now, it might be a bit difficult to gauge how much the impact will be but it would be safe to assume that it will be important enough to take it seriously.

In our previous article, Why Is The Speed Of Your Website So Important we discussed why this is an important consideration. In May the Google Core Web Vitals update will either cause your rankings to plummet or fly.

Core web vitals cover various facets of the user experience such as page loading speed, visual stability and overall responsiveness of the site’s pages. Some of the core web vitals metrics being used are LCP (Largest Contentful Paint), FID (First Input Delay) and CLS (Cumulative Layout Shift).

Hundreds of changes are made every year by Google when it comes to the way websites interact with their search engine algorithm. Not only do these changes improve the end-user experience for people all over the world but it also encourages businesses to improve their content and the way they deliver it to their customers.

Here we will be taking a look at how core web vitals will be integral for websites.

Table of Contents

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What are Core Web Vitals?

Core web vitals mainly revolves around three major questions.

  • How quickly do web pages load?
  • How stable the pages are?
  • How quickly and smoothly can they interact with the user?

So whether the user is browsing on their PC or their smartphones or tablet, they should be able to have a smooth and hassle-free experience.

Core web vitals are grouped in with the Page Experience metrics which involve various signals such as how mobile-friendly a website is, zero intrusive interstitials and others. The key difference between them is that the core web vitals are more about the experience and how much greater of an experience one can provide to their users. They are especially relevant for mobile users as most of the time the speed won’t be as high as one might have when using their web browsers on their desktops.

Some of the metrics used by core web vitals are:

  • LCP – LCP or Largest Contentful Paint is the metric that measures how fast the various page elements load on the website. Earlier, we had the FCP, FMP and SpeedIndex to measure the loading speeds but there were some limitations and were also more complex. LCP, however, is more efficient when it comes to quantifiable results. As per Google, LCP should be 2.5 seconds or lower for a site to be considered ‘fast’ whereas 4 seconds or more is considered to be ‘slow’. If you want to check the LCP for your site, you can head over to the Chrome User Experience Report or PageSpeed Insights to get a clearer picture. To reduce LCP, you can look and optimise the server response times, JavaScript, and, CSS.
  • FID – FID or First Input Delay is the metric that measures the time taken by a web page to interact successfully with the user. It can tell you how quickly the page can respond to a request made by the user. The ideal range would be less than 100 milliseconds whereas a bad one would be more than 300 milliseconds. Do note that this requires real users and can be measured only in fields and not in the lab. To check out your First Input Delay, you can utilise various tools such as PageSpeed Insights, Search Console, Firebase Performance Monitoring and more.
  • CLS – CLS or Cumulative Layout Shift is another integral metric of core web vitals and measures any unpredictable layout shift that occurs on the web page. Sometimes, you might have seen a portion of the layout shift even though the page has loaded. Cumulative Layout Shift includes pop-ups and images that appear once you interact with the page. These shifts are also notorious for causing users to click on the wrong button and therefore greatly diminish the user experience. If it is 0.1 or lower, then you are in the green whereas anything above 0.25 is in the red.Site Speed

How to Improve LCP, FID and CLS?

Here are a few tips on how you can improve the above core web vitals metrics:

LCP – There are four main aspects to look at when it comes to LCP. They are response time of the server, render-blocking JavaScript and CSS, resource load time and client-side rendering and visual stability.

  • Response Time – One of the best ways to optimise the server speed is by optimising your server, directing users to CDN, caching and using HTML cached pages. By looking at how your server processes the content, you will be able to figure out how to optimise the speed.
  • Render blocking JavaScript and CSS – JavaScript and CSS are two of the main culprits that can potentially block content from displaying on a web page. You can optimise it by reducing CSS, delay any unimportant CSS, inline important CSS and reduce any blocking time of JavaScript.
  • Resource Load Time – The longer it takes to load images and videos, the more it will impact the LCP for the worse. Some of the ways to prevent this from happening are to compress images you are using on your site, pre-load key resources and compress any text files that are being used.
  • Client-Side Rendering – A large JavaScript bundle being loaded on your website can negatively affect your LCP even if the same framework can make the site more user-friendly. To strike the right balance, you can minimise important JavaScript, use server-side rendering and pre-rendering. Doing these will help you to greatly optimise client-side rendering when it comes to your website.

FID – First Input Delay is all about making your website as responsive as possible by making sure that when users click on a button or a link, they won’t have to wait for a long time to see the results. The more time it takes for this interaction, the worse your First Input Delay metric will be. Ideally, you want any interactions on your website to take less than 100 milliseconds. You can do this by:

  • Having a visual cue that shows the user something is happening or loading.
  • Limiting loading times of any third-party codes.
  • Shortening the time taken to execute JavaScript.
  • Reducing the main thread work as much as possible.
  • Keeping requests at a low number.

CLS – A user seeing elements of the page shift when browsing your website leads to a bad user experience and negatively affects this metric. This is a bigger issue on mobile devices as the screen is much smaller and even small shifts will have a bigger visual impact. To fix Cumulative Layout Shift issues you need to look at the below factors:

  • You need to specify the height and width of any image or advertisement you use. Always make sure to check how various elements in your page will look before updating your website.
  • Check out any dynamically implemented content and ensure that it doesn’t take more than 500 milliseconds to load.
  • Check out any errors in web fonts.

The Importance of Page Experience Signal Within Core Web Vitals

The page experience signal shows how efficient your website is to users when it comes to interactivity. Therefore by improving page speed, your website visitors will have a superior user experience no matter what platform they browse on.

Google Page Spped

The more visitors there are who enjoy browsing your site, the more chances of Google recommending your site through the search engine.

On the flip side, if they aren’t having a great page speed experience, your ranking will fall accordingly.

This is the main reason why Google is using core web vitals with the existing page experience signals to help you optimise your site in a better way. As per the recent report, core web vitals will be merging with existing signals such as safe browsing, mobile-friendliness, HTTPS security and interstitial rules.

This is not to say that the new core web vitals metric will take over the importance of relevant and high-quality content of course as it remains one of the most important ranking factors. However, moving forward, the entire experience also will be taken into account for Google to recommend your site to others.

Measuring Core Web Vitals

While there are no specific tools you can use to track the core web vitals, you can use several different tools such as PageSpeed Insights, Search Console, Chrome UX Report, Lighthouse, Chrome DevTools and our favourite GT Metrix. On top of that, you also need to measure page experience signals and you can do that by:

  • Understanding and resolving any core web vitals security issues through the search console (security issues report).
  • See if your website is using HTTPS instead of HTTP.
  • Use online tools to gauge how mobile-friendly your website is. The more the better as this ensures a great user experience across different platforms.
  • Get rid of any interstitials by following the required interstitial guidelines.

How Much of An Impact Will Core Web Vitals Have?

It will be a bit difficult to get into the specifics until the update lands but it would be fair to say that there might be a good impact on the current ranking system. Will Core Web Vitals  carry more power than the other signals? No, it won’t. Keep in mind that there are hundreds of different signals and all of them combined is what ultimately decides how visible your website will be.

If your website isn’t faring well with the current core web vitals metrics, you might see a larger downward trend once the update goes live. So if that’s the case, now would be the time to optimise your website.

As per some of the studies made by Google, websites that have the ideal metrics for Core Web Vitals will have a 24 per cent better retention rate than sites that don’t. That might not sound much but it is a great number in the long term. For news and shopping websites, they had a 22 per cent and 24 per cent less abandonment rate respectively.

There are very few signals that can boast of such high improvements and so it would be wise to prepare your website as soon as possible for Core Web Vitals.

Final Word – We Can Help With Core Web Vitals!

The more streamlined your business website is in terms of user experience, the better the chances of your site appearing higher in search rankings. With the Core Web Vitals update, it is quite fair to assume that a lot of websites will have to be tweaked to stay competitive. While this might be seen as extra work, it also presents an excellent opportunity to be seen by a wider audience.

The websites that can create a better user experience and visual stabiliy, moving forward will have a competitive edge over those who choose to stay the same.

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Chris Wright
Chris Wright
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