18 Dec A guide to Google’s Core Web Vitals
And we’re here to tell you about another exciting Google update.
Back in May this year, Google announced that page experience signals would be included in Google Search ranking.
Half a year later, they’ve now announced when that will be rolled out, which will be from May 2021. In anticipation of the big day, let’s break it down and remind ourselves why Core Web Vitals are, well, vital!
What are Google’s Core Web Vitals?
Let’s throw this handy diagram at you to help understand Google Search signals a bit better.
As you can see, there are three Core Web Vitals that Google place as a priority over others in helping a website rank.
1. Why loading is a Core Web Vitals
Largest Contentful Paint (LCP) – measures how long it takes for a page’s main content to load. You’re looking for around 2.5 seconds or faster for a good LCP
How many times have you clicked on a website, only to be left twiddling your thumbs and rolling your eyes because of its load time? Not only can this leave us disappointed and clicking the back button, but Google’s crawlers and bots pick up on it too, and it all affects SEO (and even more so come May 2021). Just take a look at how Google and its robots measure a site’s technical SEO with accessibility and crawlability.
Businesses are always looking for ways to grab your attention; it could be a fancy pop-up, a discount code ad or newsletter sign-up banner. But if there’s too much going on in the code, the load time is going to be impacted, and the bounce rate will skyrocket in response. Not to mention it’s downright annoying for the customer.
That’s why webpage load time is in the top three core web vitals for Google. Get this right, and you’re in with a higher chance of the search engine favouring your website over others. The extra seconds you leave users waiting could be the reason you may end up on page 2.
2. Why interactivity is a Core Web Vital
First Input Delay (FID) – how long it takes for a web page to become interactive. Google’s ideal time is less than 100ms
This core web vital is focused on the time it takes for pages and their content to become interactive or responsive.
So, your site may look shiny and appealing – and it may even run well – but if your site’s interactive elements are slow to load, Google’s not going to appreciate it.
Think about it, you want to impress your users, and so does Google. Any searcher that comes to Google is expecting the best results, and so it was inevitable that Google would start to take interactivity and responsiveness into account in its ranking signals.
3. Why visual stability is a Core Web Vital
Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS) – measures how much of a page’s visual layout and content shifts unexpectedly. Ideally, you want no more than 0.1
This third top core web vital is just a fancy way of saying how stable your site’s layout is.
What Google looks out for here is how much a page’s layout may shift (how stable it is) during load time. So, if elements are moving around quite a bit as the page loads, the CLS is going to be high, which is not good.
Issues that arise with a high CLS can mean links shifting around, so when a user spots a handy link they want to go to, they may end up clicking something else. Very annoying – bet it’s happened to you, hasn’t it?
Google’s UX signals
It’s important to remember that whilst LCP, FID and CLS will become ranking signals (and perhaps new boy bands) for next May, Google will combine these with the existing UX signals also, so don’t forget about:
- Mobile-friendliness (learn more about how to create a mobile-friendly website)
- Intrusive interstitial guidelines
How will Google use Core Web Vitals in its search engine results, then?
Currently, when searching on Google, you’ll often see either organic (SEO) or paid (PPC) results.
You’ll sometimes get a featured snippet right at the top, or may see a bunch of useful related questions with snippeted answers from different sites.
So if you can get your site a snippet here, it means you’ve done a pretty good job of answering a search query.
Now though, Google will not only want to put the most useful and relevant content in front of searchers, but they also want to make sure potential website visitors and users have the best user experience. So then, it makes sense that they are going to signpost this in their SERPs going forward.
Upon successful testing, come May 2021, you can expect to see visual indicators on results pages that will identify pages that meet all of the page experience criteria. More details on this are to be announced in the coming months, Google says.
What does Google recommend in order to improve your Core Web Vitals?
Use of AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages) content
Along with this ranking signal update, Google has also stated that:
“The change for non-AMP content to become eligible to appear in the mobile Top Stories feature in Search will also roll out in May 2021.”
They also say that any page that meets the Google News content policies will be eligible and that they will prioritise pages with “great page experience, whether implemented using AMP or any other web technology, as [they] rank the results.”
But, for AMP, Google stresses that it’s one of the most cost-effective and easiest ways to help publishers improve their page experience outcomes.
“Based on the analysis that the AMP team has done, the majority of the AMP pages achieve great page experiences. If you’re an AMP publisher, check out the recently launched AMP Page Experience Guide, a diagnostic tool that provides developers with actionable advice.”
As well as this, to be ready for the changes next year and to help your site meet the page experience criteria, Google has a few more resources for you to use:
- Do a site-wide audit of all your pages and use Search Console’s report to see what issues you have, if any, and where needs improvement
- Use PageSpeed Insights, Lighthouse, Chrome DevTools, Search Console, web.dev’s measure tool, and the Web Vitals Chrome extension to help diagnose and fix UX issues
- Try out a lab or field tool to get more insight into how a real user will likely experience your site with help on debugging
- Head to the web dev vitals tools page to learn more about them
- Use this AMP Page Experience Guide to help with diagnosing, that comes with actionable advice
Want to be all set for Google’s new visual page experience indicator? Speak to our technical SEO experts to see how we can help your site be ready. Get in touch today.