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What You Need to Know About Google's Core Web Vitals Update

| 7 Minutes to Read
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Summary: Do you need help making sense of Google’s Core Web Vitals page experience update? Fear not, because we have the answers to some FAQs right here.

Along with the 200 ranking factors outlined by Google, its Core Web Vitals update (rolling out mid-June 2021) will start taking user experience (UX) into consideration even more.

What Are Google’s Core Web Vitals?

Google has developed various user experience signals during the last few years, including Core Web Vitals - a tool for monitoring website speed and operation, providing you with tangible metrics to assess your site's user experience.

To comprehensively measure UX performance and capture user-centric outcomes, Google relies on a combination of field data (from real page loads) and lab data (collected in a controlled environment) to track a series of key events on your users’ journey. CWV use these measuring proxies:

  • Largest Contentful Paint – your site’s perceived load speed. Aim for LCP of 2.5 seconds or less for any page.
  • First Input Delay – how quickly content on your site becomes interactive and responsive. A good FID score is less than 100ms.
  • Cumulative Layout Shift - the visual stability of your site and the probability of elements suddenly shifting as users try to interact with them. Aim for a CLS score of 0.1 or lower.

What’s New in The Page Experience Update?

According to Google, their new algorithm will assess how consumers feel about the experience of engaging with a website. Optimizing for these characteristics makes the web more enjoyable for users across all web browsers and aids in the evolution of sites to meet mobile user expectations. They believe that as people become more engaged and transactions become less frictional, businesses will thrive on the web.

In a nutshell, the page experience update rewards user-friendly sites with a higher ranking on Google’s search engine results page (SERP) than non-user-friendly sites, making UX a direct ranking criterion.

As well as the Core Web Vitals, Google’s new website experience update will initially take note of the following four user experience signals:

  1. Mobile-Friendliness - how well your page performs on mobile devices.
  2. Safe-Browsing - malware and other deceptive content on your page might put users’ personal information at risk.
  3. HTTPS - using a secure HTTPS connection adds to safe browsing of your page.
  4. No Intrusive Interstitials – pop-ups and other advertisements can make it difficult for users to read or navigate your page by obscuring the content. (Login pages and legally required interstitials will not negatively affect your score.)

How Do I Know if my Website is On Track?

As user experience becomes more and more important, you want a website that everyone loves so much that Google makes sure it ranks highly! The tools listed below will help you to assess how your website is performing and highlight where you need to improve:

  • The Core Web Vitals report (accessed via Google's Search Console) offers an in-depth analysis of your site using real-world usage data to measure the performance of various URLs throughout your site with detailed information about each page.
  • To track performance over time, run a Chrome User Experience Report (CrUX) parallel to the Core Web Vitals report. Its summary of the previous month’s worth of performance data is also drawn from real-world data and includes other metrics alongside Core Web Vitals. Insight about the country, type of device, and effectiveness of the user’s connection helps you discover what external factors may be affecting your performance.

Building a Better Web, Together

Google’s Core Web Vitals updates are designed to help everyone optimize the UX of their web pages. Improved UX across the board makes for happier users, lower bounce rates and hopefully, more leads and sales. It also makes the web a more competitive place as companies work to apply the metrics and improve their rankings. The metrics offered by Core Web Vitals are a gift to companies and web developers because they give us a clear indication of what does and doesn’t work on our websites, giving us the opportunity to sharpen and improve our web pages.

Google Core Web Vitals Metrics: The Foundation Of The Update

At the heart of the latest Google Core Web Vitals update are the new metrics that have been introduced to measure and score your website’s user experience. These metrics include First Contentful Paint, Largest Contentful Paint, First Input Delay and Cumulative Layout Shift.

First Contentful Paint

First Contentful Paint (FCP) measures the time it takes from when a page first starts loading to the point when any element of the page’s content is rendered on the screen.

Largest Contentful Paint (LCP)

LCP is a measure of how long it takes for the largest element of the page’s content to load on the screen. It is an indication of how long it takes for the page’s main content to load. Google’s standard for UX is for an individual page’s content to load in less than 2.5 seconds. If loading time is more than this, you’re going to receive a low LCP score.

First Input Delay (FID)

FID is effectively a measure of your pages’ interactivity. It measures the time it takes for a page to execute a particular action or command after the user has entered it. It should take no more than 100 milliseconds from input to execution.

Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS)

Lastly, you should aim to achieve a low CLS score on your web pages. CLS is a measure of a web page’s visual stability. If visual elements shift up and down the page while it is loading, this is an indication of an unfavorable CLS, as this kind of visual instability can have an adverse effect on your UX. An unstable page can cause users to click in the wrong places, cause frustration and lead to high bounce rates.

Where Can I Get Help?

If you need help making sense of Google’s Core Web Vitals and its page experience update, contact your local WSI digital marketing consultant for more information. The following tools can also help you understand and improve the way Google views your site.

Google Search Console

Google Search Console is a free service that helps you monitor and maintain your website’s presence and rankings in search results. Using Google’s various metrics, it shows you where your site is ranking and why. You can use the information it provides to either keep doing what is working or fix what is not.

Google Developer Tools

DevTools is a comprehensive set of web development tools built into the Google Chrome. It enables you to build, monitor and tweak the different elements on your pages, using Google’s tools and metrics.

New Labels in Search Results

With the May 2021 update came the capacity for Google to add new labels to search results, indicating to users whether a certain search item is likely to offer a good UX. These labels provide a great way for users to choose the search results most likely to offer them the best experience. By using and applying Google’s metrics, you can ensure that your pages receive these tags.

Non-AMP Content in Top Stories Carousel

Google’s updates enable content that has not been optimized for mobile to show up in the top stories on a mobile search page. This means that more publishers can have their content show up in mobile web searches, and it also means that, even if your content consists of non-Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP), you can still be seen when users search for related keywords on their mobile devices. There will be more competition for your keywords, but also more opportunities to optimize non-AMP content for mobile searches.

FAQs about Google’s Core Web Vitals

Why did Google launch the Core Web Vital update?

Google designed the Core Web Vital update to improve user experience across the web. It is crucial for websites to offer a fast, seamless user experience and Google Core Web Vitals makes it easier for publishers to do so.

Is my WordPress website ready for the Google Core Web Vitals update?

To ensure that your website is ready for Core Web Vitals, there are several steps you can take. Focus on each metric and then optimize your pages accordingly.

Starting with LCP, the easiest metric to optimize for, you should set up page caching to improve your server response times. You can also optimize browser caching and images. Optimize your code by eliminating render-blocking resources on your site, minifying CSS and JavaScript files and removing unused CSS. WP Rocket is a great tool for applying these fixes.

To improve your CLS score, you can fix images, ads, embeds and iframes without dimensions; and optimize your web fonts. For FID, eliminate unnecessary JavaScript and optimize your code and images.

What will be the future of backlinks after the Google Core Web Vitals update?

There shouldn’t be any connection between backlinks and Core Web Vitals. The bundle of metrics that make up Core Web Vitals are about measuring and improving user experience, while backlinks are about assessing the authority and quality of your content.

How will the Google’s Core Web Vital' update affect SEO?

In the build-up to the launch of the updates, many people predicted that Core Web Vitals would have a drastic effect on SEO, while others predicted that there would be no effect at all. It appears that the latter group is closer to the truth. While the new metrics will measure and rate web pages’ user experience, and label search results accordingly, this won’t necessarily have much of any effect on rankings. In fact, the updates are not really aimed at search rankings. Content creators and web developers should take Core Web Vital scores into account and apply them to improve UX, while continuing to do what they have always done to optimize their content for search.

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