A Business Owners Guide to Core Web Vitals

User experience is the key to success for any website – you don’t need SEO agency to tell you that.

What you may not know, however, is that in the past UX has been measured in a subjective way, and Google now wants to quantify it – which is where their Core Web Vitals come in.

What are Core Web Vitals?

Core Web Vitals is the name given to a series of specific factors that Google is planning to use to measure the overall user experience of each page on your website. There are three specific factors they have told SEO consultants Manchester about and these are:

  • Largest contentful paint (LCP)
  • First input delay (FID)
  • Cumulative layout shift (CLS)

All of which relate to page speed and user interaction measurements.

To sum this up, core web vitals are the factors that will make up Google’s new user experience score (which is planned to be introduced in May this year).

If you want to look at your Core Web Vitals scores, you can do so in your Google Search Console account for your website – or ask us to show you,

Why are Core Web Vitals so important?

Google announced at the end of last year (2020) that they were going to use Core Web Vitals and page experience as one of their official ranking factors. This is really exciting news, as they very rarely release anything about what their ranking factors are.

Their official announcement actually read: “We will introduce a new signal that combines Core Web Vitals with our existing signals for page experience to provide a holistic picture of the quality of a user’s experience on a web page.”

What this means is that page experience is based on a number of different factors, including (but not limited to):

  • Having a https web address
  • The mobile friendless of your website
  • Having no interstitial pop-ups (as most people consider these annoying)
  • Not having malware on your page

And now Core Web Vitals will also be an important part of that score as well. In fact, reading between the lines of the Google announcement, it may be that Core Web Vitals may make up the largest part of your page experience score.

However, let’s not get too carried away. Having a fantastic page experience score does not automatically mean you will sit at position 1 for all of your keywords on Google’s search engine results pages. Let’s not forget that Google has at least 200 factors it takes into account when calculating your ranking and page experience is just one of these. They even say “A good page experience does not override having great, relevant content.”

So, let’s take a closer (but brief) look at the individual elements that make up Google’s Core Web Vitals:

#1 Largest Contentful Paint (LCP)

LCP is the name given to the time it takes a page to load, from the point of view of the user waiting to view the page. So, the time it takes from the user clicking on a link to the majority of the content on your webpage loading.

This is different from how UX has been measured in the past, as it focuses more on what really matters about page speed – the time it takes for the user to be able to see and interact with your web page.

Google has provided us with specific LCP Guidelines which break page speed down into three areas:

  • Good – loads in less than 2 seconds
  • Needs Improvement – loads in 4 seconds or less
  • Poor – loads in 6 seconds or less

#2 First Input Delay (FID)

Once LCP has been taken care of, Google wants to look at the time it takes for the user to actually start to interact with your page. These interactions could include:

  • Choosing an option from your website’s menu
  • Clicking on a link in the website’s navigation
  • Entering their email into a specific field
  • Opening up some according to text on your mobile website

Google places importance on FID as it shows how real-life users are interacting with your website.

In a similar way to LCP, they have also provided specific guidelines for FID:

  • Good – 100 ms or less
  • Needs Improvement – 300 ms or less
  • Poor – 500 ms or less

Now, FID isn’t important for every page on your site as not every page on your site aims to make users actually do something – like your blog page for example. The only real interaction you will get on a blog post is the user scrolling down the page or pinching the screen to zoom in and out.

#3 Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS)

CLS is how a page looks when it actually loads – which is also known as visual stability. So, if you have elements on your page that move around while it is loading, your CLS score will be high (which is bad).

Google wants your page elements to stay stable while your page is loading, so users don’t have to search to find where to click or where the image they wanted to look at actually is once the page is fully loaded.

Again, there are specific criteria when it comes to CLS:

  • Good – 0.1 or less
  • Needs improvement – 0.2 or less
  • Poor – 0.3 or less

So, now that you know what Core Web Vitals are, you may be wondering what you need to do next. Well, the good news for you is you can just leave it all in SEO Manchester very capable hands. We will check on your Core Web Vitals regularly, and tweak things on your website to help your score to be good and not poor.

About the author

Simon is best know for Co-Founding AccommodationforStudents.com, a portal for student accommodation which attracts over 2 million visitors a year. Simon has 17 years online digital marketing experience and has widespread knowledge of building and/or optimising websites in most industries.

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