Core Web Vitals: Google’s Next Big Update

core web vitals - google's next big update

Are you ready for Google’s next update?

Come May 2021, the Google algorithm as we know it will change – again. Though the search engine undergoes near-constant updates, the vast majority go under the radar. The upcoming core update, however, is one that will potentially impact your SEO efforts if all of the boxes aren’t checked off. We have compiled a checklist for you to assess which areas you may need to optimize in order to avoid any negative effects.

Before we dive into the nitty-gritty, however, let’s clear up the key terms. What exactly are the Google core web vitals, and how are they evaluated?

What are Core Web Vitals?

Core web vitals are a set of metrics that quantify elements that make up the user experience. They’re there to ensure only websites that have both great content AND an awesome user experience rank in top positions, which, in turn, makes sure that:

  1. Ranking websites are more likely to have qualified traffic and, hence, converting visitors.
  2. The search engine’s reputation as a reliable information provider is preserved.

Specifically, the newest Google core web vitals update revolves around the new SEO ranking factors that focus on:

  • How quickly the page loads
  • Whether buttons or text move about on the page while it’s loading
  • How quickly the user can interact with the page upon landing on it.

You can check how your site is doing on all of these metrics on Lighthouse, PageSpeed Insights, Chrome DevTools, web.dev’s measure tool, or Web Vitals Chrome extension.

Page Load Speed (Largest Contentful Paint LCP)

Have you ever landed on a purchase confirmation page, and as you went in to tap or click on that last Purchase button, it suddenly moved, and you ended up canceling the whole thing?

Or while doing research and in the middle of reading a paragraph, everything shifted and you lost your spot…

We’re willing to bet that if this has happened, you clicked right off and looked for a different site to do business with, or research your topic on – or at least vowed to never return once you’ve finished your task.

Through this update, site owners are being pushed to improve on this specific issue – and for good reason! It’s true you want to evoke emotions when someone visits your site, but annoyance is definitely not one of them.

So, What Is Considered a Good CLS?

  • Good: 0.1
  • Poor: 0.25
  • Bad: over 0.25

Making sure your page elements are maintained stable will grant you a lower CLS score and keep your site users from getting frustrated. On the flip side, having your users relearn where buttons, images, and fields are is a bad idea, and the more things move around on your page as it loads, the higher your CLS will be – and the more agitated your page visitors will be. (No bueno.)

Page Interactivity Speed (First Input Delay FID)

Imagine walking up to someone you think is attractive, interesting, and worth your while, and you ask them a question. Now imagine them staring back at you, reactionless and responsible for a solid 5 seconds (or more!). Awkward, right?

This is how visitors feel when they go onto your site and they try to interact with it (by clicking on a button or a link, accessing the menu bar, etc.) and nothing happens for milliseconds on end.

What Is Considered a Good FID Score?

  • Good: 100 milliseconds or less
  • Poor: 300 milliseconds
  • Bad: over 300 milliseconds

You would probably walk away from the reactionless person who only had a blank stare to offer, right? The same thing applies to visitors clicking off of unresponsive sites, so the crisper and faster the responsiveness of your page, the better for everyone involved!

Why are Core Web Vitals such a big deal?

Google has hundreds of different ranking signals, so whether you’re doing a little better or not that well on individual signals will likely not impact your performance dramatically. However (you knew there would be a caveat), when it comes to user experience, things like a slow loading time or an unstable page can have an outsized influence on the likelihood of capturing a user and guiding them down the buyer’s funnel.

According to a Google study, websites that meet the minimum requirements for each of the 3 core web vitals have an abandonment rate 24% lower than those that don’t. Think of it as gaining 24% more traffic without doing much more than simply cleaning things up a bit on your site. So here’s to creating a delightful user experience to complement the great content you already have and go after those leads!

What can you do to prepare?

Optimize Largest Content Paint

  • Remove any non-critical third-party scripts.
  • Preload important assets, such as above-the-fold images, fonts, and critical path CSS/Javascript
  • Set up asynchronous loading so that media loads as a user scrolls down your page.
  • Optimize and compress images. You can also convert them into lighter formats, like JPEG 2000, JPEG XR, or WebP

Optimize Cumulative Layout Shift

  • Preload fonts so they have a higher priority in page rendering.
  • Include width and height attributes on media elements (video, images, GIFs, infographics etc.).
  • Make sure ads elements have a reserved space.

Optimize First Input Delay

  • Remove any non-critical third-party scripts.
  • Minimize (or defer) JavaScript so that it is only executed when needed.
  • Break down long-running Javascript code into smaller, asynchronous tasks.