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Optimising for quality of user experience has become key in Search Engine Optimisation. In fact, so much emphasis has recently been placed on user experience that Search Engine Optimisation has now evolved to Search Experience Optimisation (SXO).
Due to COVID-19, Google has pushed back the release of Core Web Vitals into its algorithm, since they wanted to give webmasters extra time to prepare. Although Core Web Vitals have already been incorporated into Google Search Console, the search giant is only planning on rolling these new metrics into their overall search algorithm around May 2021.
Want to find out more on how this could impact your business. Speak to one of our experts today.
What Are Core Web Vitals
Core Web Vitals is a group of metrics that Google calls Page Experience signals that can help you quantify the user experience of your site and identify opportunities to improve.
Over the years, Google has provided a number of tools to measure and report on performance. The Web Vitals initiative aims to simplify measurement and reporting to help site owners focus on the metrics that matter most relating to user experience.
The metrics that currently make up Core Web Vitals focus on three aspects of the user experience:
- Largest Contentful Paint (LCP) is an important user-centric metric that measures loading performance. It marks the point in the page load timeline when the page’s main (largest) content has loaded. A fast LCP reassures the user that the page is useful. To provide a good user experience, LCP should occur within 2.5 seconds of when the page first starts loading. Anything above 4 seconds is considered poor.
- First Input Delay (FID) measures interactivity responsiveness of the page when the user first tries to interact with it, for example clicking the “read more” link. A low FID ensures that the page is usable. To provide a good user experience, pages should have a FID of less than 100 milliseconds.
- Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS) is the most critical aspect of Core Web Vitals. CLS measures visual stability and is calculated by summing all sudden, unexpected layout shifts on a web page while a page is still loading that aren’t caused by user interaction. A shift in the position of design elements can confuse the users and sometimes, even result in unintended actions. Tests have shown that levels of shift from 0.15 and above were perceived as disruptive, while shifts of 0.1 and below were noticeable but not excessively disruptive.
The Core Web Vitals update comes with a set of recommended speed goals. To pass this assessment, at least 75% of your page views should exceed the Good value.
Why Are Core Web Vitals So Important?
While a good page experience doesn’t override the importance of having great, relevant content and links, Core Web Vitals will play a role in cases where there are multiple pages with similar quality content. In this case, in particular with highly competitive pages, page experience will become much more important for visibility in Search.
As Google plans to make page experience an official Google ranking factor, the implementation of Core Web Vitals is going to affect all regular search results, mobile and desktop. It will become an important criterion to appear in Google Top Stories – the news results that usually appear at the top of search results.
Although it’s a pretty small signal, page speed can have a vast influence.
Research shows that longer page load times can increase bounce rates dramatically. For example:
- When page load time increases from 1 second to 3 seconds, bounce rate increases by 32%.
- When page load time increases from 1 second to 6 seconds, bounce rate increases by 106%.
Google’s own studies show that for pages that meet these Core Web Vitals thresholds, visitors are 24% less likely to abandon the site. So, in future, Core Web Vitals could potentially affect rankings quite significantly.
How To Measure Core Web Vitals
Core Web Vitals will be surfaced across all Google tools. Some of the tools to measure Core Web Vitals include Google Search Console.
You can find your site’s Core Web Vitals data in the “enhancements” section of your Google Search Console account. The Core Web Vitals report in Google Search Console is based on the three Core Web Vitals metrics: LCP, FID, and CLS. It measures how your pages perform, based on real world usage data (also called field data).
Another tool to measure Core Web Vitals with is Web.dev/measure. Although it doesn’t deliver in-depth results, it does give you an idea of what the impact of a particular fix is and tips to improve your user experience.
Google has provided a free Chrome Extension to measure Web Vitals that checks page experience signals by analysing all three objects within the Core Web Vitals. The Web Vitals extension is the most recommended extension to check Core Web Vitals as it uses the web-vitals library that Google will use starting 2021 for ranking and indexing purposes.
Improving Your Core Web Vital Score
Firstly, it’s important to note that there is not one factor that’s guaranteed to fix one specific issue. To optimise your site and improve your Core Web Vitals scores you have to take a broader view, as a number of little fixes make up big results. That being said, Google is putting an even greater emphasis on the speed of user experiences. Addressing factors that influence page-loading speed will be a good start to improving your Core Web Vitals scores. Below are two of the most obvious things to consider in improving your Core Web Vitals scores:
Steps to Improving Your Core Web Vital Scores
- Optimise Images and Videos
One of the most important things you can do to improve your Core Web Vitals scores is to properly optimise your images and videos. Large images and videos are often the largest contentful paint (LCP) for any given site. That one big image on your landing page or unoptimised video on your homepage might have a bigger impact on a page’s loading speed than what you might think. Make sure you give your visitors a seamless browsing experience by making that load quick!
We have an article on image SEO describing the steps to take to get images to load quickly. But in short, serve images in the size needed and compress them well. There are many image compressing tools, such as squoosh.app to help you do this.
Ways to be clever about videos is to use an image placeholder where the video would normally load and to place videos below the fold as loading them above the fold is a guaranteed delay on your first content paint.
- CSS Optimisation
Such a large part of a site is reliant on CSS – from colours and text formatting to positioning. So making sure your code is optimised will help the page load quicker.
Before uploading new code to your site, it’s advisable to run it through a tool to minify it. CSS is by default a very minimalist language and can operate perfectly well without spaces, indentation, etc.
Optimising your CSS delivery is another way of making it easier to load. CSS is often a late-loading element of site code (loading after the framework and the content). Google recommends preloading your CSS. This will force the browser to load the CSS and have it ready when it’s needed.