In May 2020, Google announced that they are releasing a new set of metrics to judge websites known as Core Web Vitals. The new metrics focus on speed, responsiveness and visual stability of web pages.
The new metrics are going to be rolled into the core algorithm during May 2021 and become an official ranking signal on Google. While the SEO community has been getting their head around the latest new metrics, it’s expected to be a bigger focus during 2021.
Ricemedia has put everything together into the complete guide to Google’s Core Web Vitals, so you can be ready for the big changes to come next year.
What are Core Web Vitals?
The Google Core Web Vitals answer the most important questions for users when landing on web pages. How fast does a page load? How quickly is it to be interactive? How fast until the website is stable? Essentially, core web vitals focus on the experience visitors have when on a web page from a mobile or desktop device.
Core Web Vitals is being grouped together with Google’s Page Experience signals. This looks at other factors that are separate from the content on the page. It focuses on HTTPS, mobile friendliness, intrusive interstitials (pop-ups).
So while traditional ranking signals focus on the content on the page, these factors look at the user experience and how easy it is for users to get around your site. This will be incredibly important on mobile, especially if pages don’t load as fast.
There are three Core Web Vitals being introduced next year:
1. Largest Contentful Paint
The first of the new web vitals is, largest contentful paint (LCP). This looks at how fast a page loads. This is influenced by the render time, the largest image, video and text in the viewport.
2. Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS)
The second new core web vital is known as cumulative layout shift (CLS). With this metric, Google is looking to understand how stable a page is. We’ve all had the experience where a page has loaded only for the layout to completely shift once we attempted to click something on the page.
An unexpected layout shift is poor user experience. So Google will measure it with this core vital. How fast is everything stable on the page? One reason why things aren’t stable on a page is that the image sizes sometimes aren’t defined. If you have an image and it’s 400 pixels wide and tall, it needs to be defined in the HTML. Other reasons such as animations can cause instability.
3. First Input Delay (FID)
The third and final Core Web Vital metric is called first input delay (FID). This looks at how fast a page is interactive for users. For example, when a user clicks on something on the page, how fast can the web browser start the process the user wants to do.
How to Measure Core Web Vitals
There are a few ways to measure the Core Web Vitals so you don’t lose rankings because of it.
Chrome User Report
Arguably the most important way to measure your Core Web Vitals because it features the data that every website is being scored against. The Chrome User Experience Report is the vast database of real user data that is passed back to Google by its Chrome web browser.
The data is publicly available for everyone and can be accessed through Google’s Data Studio Report
The report displays scores for your website against the Core Web Vitals across users’ devices.
This is split into Good, Needs Improvement and Poor across the entire user base. When looking at this data, there are a few things you must consider:
- The report scores the entire domain, meaning if your template is slow, it will affect your whole score
- There are some users still accessing sites on older devices which can be perceived as “poor” despite you having a fast site.
- If you’re able to make changes each month, you can compare data to gain an insight to the improvements you have made over time.
Google Search Console
The simplest way to get a Core Web Vital report is in Google Search Console. This can be found in the enhancements section of your website’s report. The report splits the report between mobile and desktop and gives you the URLs that require improvement.
This gives you top level results, giving you the URLs that you need to investigate. The best thing about it is that it’s linked to another key tool in the Core Web Vital arsenal, Page Speed Insights.
Page Speed Insights
Page Speed Insights has been around for a while but allows you to test individual URLs, providing you with granular Core Web Vitals scores. The data is split into two types:
- Field Data – This is a real-world user data from the Chrome User Experience Report and offers the most useful data in the report.
- Lab Data – This is the data that is scored using a simulated device which can often show different data from the field data.
This tool is powered by Lighthouse, which is a suite of performance metric tools. It’s here where you want to focus on opportunities and diagnostics. Some of the data shown can be incredibly technical, so you’ll need a technical SEO expert or a developer who understands page speeds and can address these problems.
Will Core Web Vitals Affect Rankings?
Core Web Vitals will affect all search results on mobile and desktop. Another important factor is that Core Web Vitals is going to be important for appearing in Google Top Stories. Previously, websites needed AMP to appear in Top Stories. However, AMP is going away. To feature without AMP in the future, you need to meet the minimum threshold of Core Web Vitals.
All in all, Core Web Vitals has the potential for affecting a huge number of rankings from May 2021.
If you’re confused about how you can combat potential issues from Core Web Vitals or worried about losing rankings because of it, you must speak to the experts at Ricemedia. We will analyse your site to find all issues and spot opportunities to fix your site to be in line with the new ranking factors. Get in touch with us today to get started.