Core Web Vitals

by Gaby Gramont

Since its inception, Google has continually updated its algorithm to create the best user search experience. Right now, the latest algorithm update is rolling out gradually, known as “Core Web Vitals.” The update is focused on how individual site pages perform with a particular focus on mobile sites. Considering how significantly Google’s algorithm updates can impact SEO rankings, it’s crucial that all website owners are well-informed about the content of this update. 

Here are the three factors that Google is evaluating to determine how your website (and in particular your mobile website) will rank in search results.

Large Contentful Paint (LCP)

Also known as LCP, Largest Contentful Paint measures how long it takes for the page element with the largest file size to load. The benchmarks for loading time are as follows:

  • Good: <2.5 seconds
  • Needs Improvement: 2.5-4 seconds
  • Poor: >4 seconds

If your LCP needs work, you can compress the image files on your page to make sure they load quickly enough. You can also lower your LCP by reducing unused CSS and avoiding large images.

First Input Delay (FID)

First Input Delay describes how long it takes for the website to respond when the user clicks on it. The item can be anything, such as a video, a button, or an image, as long as it is the first click. 

  • Good: <100 milliseconds
  • Need Improvement: 100-300 milliseconds
  • Poor: >300 milliseconds

The metric used for this criteria is called total block time (TBT). To put it simply, it is the total amount of time your webpage was blocked, preventing the user from interacting with your page.

Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS)

The third element assessed in the Core Web Vitals update is all about visual stability. Have you ever been on your phone and clicked on something just to have the screen shift and you end up clicking something you didn’t want to in the first place? Users find this inconvenient. So does Google.

The CLS on your page is given a score that is benchmarked as follows:

  • Good: <0.1
  • Needs improvement: 0.1-0.25
  • Poor: > 0.25

How do you know if you’re up to par with  Core Web Vitals?

To find out how your site performs against the Core Web Vitals benchmarks, you can use Google Search Console. This is an excellent free tool for monitoring the mobile friendliness of your page! You can easily create an account on Search Console and then follow the instructions to “claim” the website that you will be analyzing. This can be done by uploading an HTML file on your site or a few other ways that the site suggests. When you log in, go to the left-hand side and click on “Core Web Vitals” under the “Experience” section.

You’ll find two reports under the Core Web Vitals page: mobile and desktop. Both reports will show you the number of URLs indexed that fall under “Poor,” “Needs Improvement,” and “Good.” Naturally, you want all of your URLs to fall under the last category. 

To find out what’s causing your URLs to rank as anything other than “Good” use pagespeed insights. It will use field data over a period of time to assess if the page passes the Core Web Vitals requirements. You can then view suggestions tailored to each page and analyze the specific URLs. In the same report, you can view recommendations for helping your page have a better experience and load faster. Recommendations can be anything from eliminating render-blocking resources, reducing unused CSS and others. Some of the fancy tech words can look intimidating so you will most likely have to reach out to your web developer! 

 It’s important to remember that Core Web Vitals is heavily weighted towards the mobile user experience. The good news is that working on the three areas above – Loading Contentful Paint, First Input Delay and Cumulative Layout Shift – will improve your desktop experience as well. And the end result is better overall SEO performance. We all know that staying up to date with Google’s algorithm updates and changes is more of a marathon than a sprint — keep checking Google Search Console on a regular basis to assess important site performance metrics so you can stay on top of ongoing updates and how they affect your site!

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