Google’s Core Web Vitals: Why You Should Care

In June 2021, Google updated its ranking criteria for web pages with the introduction of Core Web Vitals – one of the biggest changes we’ve seen to their search engine functionality in years.

It should go without saying that the updates will affect how your web page ranks in Google search results. Meaning that the changes will have a direct impact on your customer acquisition and retention – so there’s a good chance you can’t afford to stay idle.

Previously, Google ranked web pages based on the highest quality content that matches with the user’s search intent – this meant that ranking predominantly depended on relevant and valuable content. With Core Web Vitals, user experience (UX) will become important as well. 

So, what are Core Web Vitals? Put simply, they’re a set of three standardized metrics that help developers understand how visitors experience a web page:

  1. Largest Contentful Paint (LCP)
  2. First Input Delay (FID)
  3. Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS)

Largest Contentful Paint

What it measures: Page loading performance

In order to create an enjoyable user experience, site owners need pages on their site to load fast – pretty logical, right? Plus, a page that loads quickly will likely see higher engagement.

Google will use LCP to determine how fast the largest content element loads. This can vary depending on your web page – sometimes it’s an image and in other instances it might be a text section. This metric only considers the content above the page’s fold, meaning everything that appears without scrolling. 

To meet Google’s UX standards, Largest Contentful Paint must not exceed 2.5 seconds. Load times longer than this will receive a poor LCP score and your page could be pushed down in Google’s rankings.

First Input Delay

What it measures: Page responsiveness

Online consumers want pages that are quick and simple to engage with. First Input Delay measures the time from when a user calls for a page, or inputs an action or command and the page executes it. First inputs can include clicking buttons, links, or using the keyboard.

To improve engagement and usability, you must reduce the time your site visitors spend waiting for the browser to respond to their input. Google considers a FID score of under 100 milliseconds to be ideal.

Cumulative Layout Shift 

What it measures: Visual stability

The easier you make it for customers to interact with your links and CTAs, the better your engagement and conversion. CLS measures your web page stability while it loads and identifies links or buttons that shift after it has loaded.

Basically, it determines the level of difficulty users experience when trying to engage with the elements on your web page. 

If you’ve ever clicked on a button and then instantly the page shifted, making you accidentally click on something else, you’ve experienced a page with high CLS (and the frustration that comes with landing on a page you didn’t want to).

CLS is quantified as an aggregate score of all the individual layout shifts on your page. You should aim for a measurement of 0.1 or less if you don’t want your Google ranking negatively affected.

Broader Implications

Now that you know what’s being measured and how, let’s talk about the implications of your scores.

Core Web Vitals will reflect directly on your brand visibility and organic customer acquisition. And remember, over half of all web traffic comes from organic search. The impact can also extend to retention as customers and prospects get directed to competitor websites.

Understanding how your customers engage with your website and how to continuously improve it is critical to staying relevant. So learn from your data and let advanced analytics play a leading role. 

The time to act is now. Assess your current score using WebPageTest, or Lighthouse in Chrome DevTools (built into the Chrome browser) and start to bridge the gap.

Need some guidance? Appnovation can assist you with the Core Web Vitals update and help improve your scores. Get in touch with one of our experts today.

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