What are Core Web Vitals, and How Do They Affect SEO?

When it comes to SEO, many companies focus more on attracting people to their websites using SEO keywords over providing an excellent on-page experience when customers get there.

However, by doing so they’re missing several pieces of the SEO puzzle. In recent years, Google has placed a much stronger emphasis on on-page user experience. Overall page speed, site security, and quality scores also impact search rankings. In May 2021, Google will be giving additional weight to on-page SEO with the rollout of Core Web Vitals

Many search gurus such as Moz.com and Neil Patel are already predicting that Core Web Vitals will be a permanent, integral part of the Google search algorithm that cannot be ignored if businesses want to maintain their search rankings.

The three elements that assess your Core Web Vitals score recommend a passing grade of 75 percent in each to consider your website to be compliant. That’s how serious Core Web Vitals will be to the health of your search optimization strategy. Let’s have a look at each of these elements to see why they should matter to you.

What are the Core Web Vitals? 

Core Web Vitals focus on the on-page user experience by focusing on page load speed, elements of interactivity, and visual stability. They also provide valuable information about your website’s overall performance so you can identify areas of improvement. Google breaks these elements into three different scores, as follows:

  • Largest Contentful Paint (LCP): LCP refers to how fast your website takes to load elements at the top of the page (also known as “above the fold”) that are visible without the user having to scroll. Content consisting of large media, such as hero images or video, can impact the loading experience, potentially leaving your user staring at a blank spot for several seconds.
    Generally speaking, Google expects your website load time to be within 2.5 seconds. Your LCP is determined when the final element is loaded. A slow LCP results in low rankings – and SEO penalties. A fast LCP puts your website in a much better position. 
  • First Input Delay (FID): The FID is determined by your website’s responsiveness when someone interacts with an element on your page. For example, when someone fills out a form on your website and clicks the submit button, how long does your website take to process the request? 
    The time between the interaction and the website is your First Input Delay. This is a measurement of user frustration: how long did they have to wait or re-enter information in each form field to complete the transaction. 
  • Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS): This measures the frequency of unexpected layout shift changes and your web page’s overall visual stability. An example of this is when a user intends to press a button, but then the layout jumps, and they wind up pressing something else. Now they have to go back and try again. A shifting page layout provides a less than optimal user experience, which Google will notice and give you a high CLS score (the goal is to be as close to zero as possible).

Google will calculate these three scores to come up with a final overall score out of 100. The closer you are to 100, the better your web page will perform. Scoring between 0 – 49 means you have a little work to do to get a better score. 

Why is Google adding Core Web Vitals to its search metrics?

You already have a lot to think about when optimizing your website for SEO, especially if you’re running an e-store. So why would Google add three more elements to consider on top of everything else?

With so many more businesses launching e-commerce platforms, Google wants to ensure that online shoppers get the best user experience possible. The three metrics represent what frustrates users and negatively impacts their experience.

Google has long considered the user when ranking websites. Relevant keyword use, social sharing, reviews, and time spent on the website contribute to the user experience. Core Web Values are simply additional ways for businesses to ensure their shoppers are satisfied while using and interacting with their websites.

What are the impacts of poor Core Web Vitals?

In a nutshell, Core Web Vitals’ most significant impact will be on search rankings for both mobile and desktop websites. 

You will also need to meet a minimum threshold of Core Web Vitals to appear in Google Top Stories, which typically appear at the top of the search engine results page under “News”. Core Web Vitals are replacing AMP, which until now was a requirement to appear in Top Stories

There could also be an indirect impact on your content marketing and e-commerce sales. As companies move to optimize their Core Web Vitals, fast loading pages, seamless interactivity, and stable pages will increasingly become the norm. This will elevate customer expectations to the point where not looking after your vitals will result in higher bounce rates, abandoned shopping carts, and lost sales. 

That’s why it’s best to start preparing sooner rather than later so your website is well-poised for the rollout.

Prepare your Core Web Vitals for success

By now, you must be curious about how your current stands up under the new Core Web Metrics. You can analyze your mobile devices and desktop Core Web Vitals performance metrics by running a test with Google Pagespeed Insights. Once you have your PageSpeed Insights, visit this page to see each metric’s threshold. If your scores fall within the orange or red categories, here’s how you can make changes for improvement:

  • LCP: Since LCP measures loading performance, getting a better LCP score is simply a matter of limiting the amount of content at the top of the web page. Unless the information is critical to solving the customer’s problem, move it further down the page where it has a little more time to load before the user starts to scroll. 
  • FID: Improving the interactivity of your website is as easy as following these four steps:
    1. Reduce the number of processes taking place simultaneously
    2. Remove unnecessary code that might be attached to the primary interactive process (e.g., a form being submitted)
    3. Simplify the complexity of your style and layouts and minimize field usage to cut processing time
    4. Ensure that large files aren’t being transferred during the process.
  • CLS: Getting a better CLS score requires taking note of the image size attributes and video elements of the media you’re using. Be sure to allow for the right amount of space for a piece of content before it loads to prevent sudden layout changes during the loading experience. Also, you can consider limiting the use of transform animations as they tend to cause page shifting.

How CSP can help optimize your Core Web Vitals

Fixing your Core Web Vitals sounds easy in theory. However, it can pose challenges in practice if tech isn’t your specialty. In this case, seek out help from a highly experienced web development team who will optimize your website quickly and efficiently for better SEO performance and to fix any site speed issues.

Our web developers specialize in designing, creating, and optimizing sites and e-commerce stores for success. We’ll take the mystery out of Core Web Vitals, explain what needs to be done, and present you with a detailed quote before we get to work. Contact us today. We’re always happy to chat about how we can help! 

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