There is a new ranking signal in town: Core Web Vitals. As announced by Google, Core Web Vitals are expected to become official ranking factors in May 2021, in an update that will add them to already existing UX-related signals.
What are these new technical Core Web Vitals and how will they affect your rankings? Read on to find out.
What are Core Web Vitals?
Core Web Vitals present a combination of specific factors that Google deems important in the overall user experience with a web page. These factors are made up of three specific user interactions and page speed measurements: Cumulative Layout Shift, First Input Delay, and Largest Content Paint.
In a nutshell, Core Web Vitals are a subset of the most important factors that make up Google’s “page experience” score, which measures the overall user experience. You can review the Core Web Vitals of your website in the “enhancement” subsection in Google Search Console or other web analytics tools.
Why are Core Web Vitals Important?
As of May 2021, Google is planning to make Core Web Vitals an official ranking factor, combining it with already existing user experience signals, such as:
- Mobile-friendliness: the page is optimized for mobile browsing.
- HTTPS: you are serving the page in HTTPS.
- Safe-browsing: the page doesn’t contain any malicious software or misleading content.
- Lack of interstitial pop-ups: the page doesn’t contain any issues that cover the primary content.
While Core Web Vitals are going to play an important part in the ranking score, creating a seamless page experience won’t magically push your website to the #1 position on Google. Instead, Core Web Vitals will become only one of the hundreds of factors that the algorithm uses to rank websites in search results.
Regardless of the effect that Core Web Vitals might or might not play on your Google rankings, paying some extra attention to your website’s speed and user-friendliness will reduce bounce rates and ensure that you are offering a great experience to your visitors.
Three Signals of Core Web Vitals
As a website developer or owner, you need to consider a myriad of different factors when putting your website together. If you are currently creating a new website or managing an existing one, you’ll want to keep an eye on these three signals of Core Web Vitals:
1. Loading Metric: Largest Contentful Paint (LCP)
LCP, or Largest Contentful Paint, is used to describe your page loading performance. Unlike the standard Page Loading Speed metric, LCP aims to answer one basic question: How long does it take before your website starts displaying elements that are important to the visitor?
For example, it is common to try to keep the most important information above the fold. However, there is no point in doing so if this important information takes six seconds to load.
Many times, websites will have videos or images above the fold, which take up a lot of space but take forever to load. Google is now paying attention to LCP because they recognize that this could cause many people to bounce.
A high LCP or slow loading of your first frame means penalties and lower rankings, while a fast LCP naturally translates to higher rankings.
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The standard Google benchmark for LCP metric is 2.5 seconds. This means that you should aim to display everything above the fold in 2.5 seconds.
Remember that web pages are loaded and displayed in stages, meaning that the loading time of the final elements of your page’s first frame will determine your overall LCP.
2. Interactivity Metric: First Input Delay (FID)
FID, or First Input Delay, describes the responsiveness of your webpage. This metric is used to measure the time between the user’s first interaction with the page and the time when the browser can finally respond to that interaction.
Imagine that you are filling out an online contact form on the website and click on the “Submit” button. The amount of time that passes before the browser actually starts to process the request is the First Input Delay.
FID is a critical user experience metric, as it can be the differentiating factor between capturing and losing a lead. Chances are, somebody is trying to take action because they are genuinely interested in what you have to offer, and the last thing you want to do is to lose them because the button takes too long to respond.
For a page that is 100% content, like a news article or a blog post, First Input Delay is likely not a big deal. However, it could play a huge role for pages like a sign-up page, a login page, or other pages where users are expected to take an action.
You should aim to keep your FID metric under 100 ms.
3. Visual Stability Metric: Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS)
Finally, Cumulative Layout Shift or CLS describes how stable a page is as it is loading. In other words, you will have a high CLS if the elements on your page keep moving around while the page loads.
Ideally, you will want to have page elements that remain relatively stable during the loading. That way, users won’t get confused as to where the images, links, and fields are located and click on something by mistake.
The standard Google benchmark for CLS is 0.1, but you should aim to have the score as close to zero as possible. The less frustrating page changes there are, the better.
The Bottom Line
While Core Web Vitals and SEO are surely interconnected, improving your Core Web Vitals will do much more than simply earn you some rankings. A positive on-page user experience will keep your website visitors loyal to your brand and help you create customer journeys on your site that are most conducive to business success.
- Core Web Vitals: The Next Official Google Ranking Factor – Moz Whiteboard Friday
- Core Web Vitals Becoming Ranking Signals in May 2021 – Search Engine Journal
- Core Web Vitals: What They Are & How to Improve Them – Backlinko
Author Bio: Eddie Segal is an experienced web analytics specialist and technology writer. In his writing, he covers subjects ranging from cloud computing to agile development to cybersecurity and deep learning. He develops SEO, link building, and content strategies for technology brands.