Google is constantly making changes to their algorithms which can impact how visible your content is on the internet – so how are we supposed to keep up? In November 2020, Google announced that Core Web Vitals would become ranking signals in May 2021 – and to find out what this means for you, we have provided a breakdown of all of the key information below.
What are Core Web Vitals?
Core Web Vitals are items that Google consider important when calculating the quality of the user experience on your web page or the Google Page Experience signals. These can be broken down into three main categories:
CLS – Cumulative Layout Shift (Visual Stability)
This metric attempts to identify how “stable” visual items load onto your screen – for example, do images, videos or text jump around while the web page is loading? If the answer is yes, you have a high CLS, which will negatively affect your Core Web Vitals ranking. You want to ensure that any images, videos, text or links on your page remain relatively stable – so that the user doesn’t need to search for these items once the page is fully loaded. This can especially be an issue for users trying to view web pages on mobile phones – but by doing something as simple as size attribute dimensions, you can minimise this movement and make your web page much more user friendly.
LCP – Largest Contentful Paint (Loading time)
LCP measures the time it takes for it to be evident that your page is loading. This means the time it takes from clicking on your website link to the user seeing the majority of the content on the screen. You need to consider render time, the largest image, video and text in the first viewed part of your page. LCP is interesting as it focuses on the essential role of page speed – the users’ ability to view and interact with your webpage. In contrast, other page speed metrics TTFB or First Contextual Print don’t offer a real insight into what a webpage looks like when a user opens it up.
FID – First Input Delay (Interactivity)
FID analyses how long it takes for a user to interact with your website – for example, clicking on a link – and how long it takes for that link to respond. The faster the browser reacts, the more responsive the page will appear – increasing your Core Web Vitals score. Some examples of interactions include:
- Entering your email into a field;
- Selecting an option from a menu;
- Clicking on a link from the navigation bar.
So rather than just measuring the speed of the page, FID is looking at the time it takes for users actually to do something on your web page. This will have the largest impact on web pages requiring users to log in or sign up – where they need to interact with your webpage quickly.
What does this mean for me?
Previously, Google focussed more on content quality. So, even if you had some issues with the visual aspects of your webpage (e.g. illegible fonts or poorly formatted headings), you could still maintain your ranking if you had effective keyword usage. Unfortunately, this won’t be the case anymore.
To put it simply, what Google is now doing with Core Web Vitals is assessing your website against a set of requirements – before it has even received any user feedback. But it is also important to note that Core Web Vitals are simply a way for Google to make us analyse and think about our webpage from a different perspective, with more of a focus on the overall user experience. It doesn’t mean that well written and informative content is less important than a good design – but that the content and design should instead complement each other. By doing this, you will improve the overall customer experience when they visit your web page, and as a bonus, increase your Core Web Vitals rankings!
Some ways you can do this include:
- ensuring images and videos are correctly embedded;
- Using headings correctly;
- Add CTAs (call to actions) onto your webpage;
- Choosing an appropriate font and focusing on how the text flows;
- Whether you make use of pop-ups to encourage e-newsletter sign-ups.
What steps can I take to improve my Core Web Vitals?
Here are some suggestions on how you can improve your Core Web Vitals:
Checking that your website is working well for Core Web Vital elements. You can do this by using ‘Google Search Console’. Under the tab labelled ‘enhancements’, you can run a report evaluating your website against the Core Web Vital categories and show you the list of URLs and components that you need to improve. You can then view the results of the Google Search Console under the Poor, Needs Improvement or Good tabs on the overview page chart. The URL’s are ranked based on historical user data.You can use other pages to obtain these insights, including PageSpeed Insight and GT Metrix to run a diagnostic test and determine which elements you need to improve. PageSpeed Insights is also run through google, and it analyses the speed of your webpage and presents suggestions on how you can improve the speed. GTMetrix provides a similar service, analysing how your site performs and suggests ways to optimise your Core Web Vitals.
Optimise and compress images. Optimising and compressing images on your web page will increase your LCP score by improving the loading speed. If you are worried that compressing the images will reduce the quality, fear not – usually, any reduction in image quality is so minor that you will only notice if you zoom right into the image!
Provide accurate dimensions for images and embeds. By supplying the correct measurements of any images or videos you want to use, the browser can allocate the correct amount of space for the element, resulting in a higher CLS score. If the image does not have the correct dimensions in the CSS file, the content could suddenly ‘drop’ while the user is waiting for the content to load – making the webpage seem disjointed and reducing visual stability.
Improve your server response time. Google states:
“The longer it takes a browser to receive content from the server, the longer it takes to render anything on the screen. A faster server response time directly improves every single page-load metric, including LCP.”
You can assess your server response time using Time to First Byte (TTFB), which measures the time it takes from the user’s web browser to the first byte of your webpages’ content.
It is, however, important to bear in mind that there are over 200 ranking factors in total, and the points above are just a few suggestions on improving the overall user experience for your customers and your Core Web Vitals score on Google. Therefore, it is essential first to investigate and analyse which key elements and areas need improvement before making any changes – to ensure you are getting the maximum results from minimum modifications.