How Core Web Vitals Affect your SEO

In the last quarter of 2020, Google announced that Core Web Vitals would become an important page experience signal as of May 2021. This will have a significant impact on your search engine optimisation (SEO) strategy and with this coming into effect in the next couple of months we thought we’d give you a rundown of everything you need to know ahead of its rollout.

What are Core Web Vitals?

Core web vitals are three hyper-targeted page experience metrics: largest contentful paint (LCP) which encapsulates everything to do with loading, first input delay (FID) which covers interactivity, and cumulative layout shift (CLS) which reflects the visual stability of a webpage.

You, or your SEO agency, should incorporate your website’s core web vitals into your wider SEO strategy, to ensure that you have taken all the necessary steps to optimise your most important digital asset. So, let’s take a look at each of them, in turn, to explore exactly what we’re dealing with here.

LCP

Essentially LCP is focused on how quickly the page loads. Page loading times can be influenced by a variety of different factors, including client-side rendering, CSS, and your server responses. Don’t forget, if your site takes too long to load, it is likely that visitors will bounce very quickly and instead look for the information they need on a competitor site.

It is worth noting here that LCP is different from page loading speed as it will specifically measure the length of time it takes for your site to start displaying particular elements that are important to the visitor.

Many sites place the most eye-catching and important information above the fold. But this is only of any use at all if that content loads quickly. If it takes a long time to load, visitors are simply going to be presented with a blank white space.

In real terms, if your site is taking longer than 2.5 seconds to display above the fold content, your bounce rate is probably through the roof. And Google doesn’t want feature sites with a high bounce rate because its mission is to provide users with easy and efficient access to the information they’re looking for.

Limiting the amount of content you position at the top of each page is going to be key here. So, if it isn’t critically important to the issue a visitor wants to solve, it probably doesn’t need to be at the top.

CLS

Page stability is an integral component of providing an excellent user experience and with CLS, Google wants to determine precisely how quickly everything on the page is stable.

Let’s look at an example of what we mean by page stability. We’re sure that you have been scrolling a website, spotted something interesting and made a move to click on it before it disappeared and was replaced by a slow-loading button that takes you to a completely different page.

Not only will you have found yourself on a page you didn’t want to visit in the first place, but you will also be forced to hit the back button and then actively seek out the original link. And this is just one way in which a page can provide a poor user experience.

As Google wants to provide the best possible experience for its users, it is going to become more important to address any potentially irritating on-page quirks that will impact the ability of visitors to seamlessly engage with your content. As a starting point, you’re going to want to pay close attention to video elements and size attributes on all on-page media, which will help you to ensure every piece of content is afforded the correct amount of space.

FID

Interactivity is another integral element when it comes to delivering a solid user experience. FID looks at how quickly the page is fully interactive. We all know how annoying it can be to click on something only for absolutely nothing to happen, so this Core Web Vital is interested in the speed at which the browser will start to process the action and deliver a result.

Let’s take the action of filling out a form here. A visitor to your site wants to obtain more information about one of your services. To do this, they fill out the required form and hit the submit button. If nothing happens, they’re probably going to feel at least a little frustrated fairly quickly.

The worst-case scenario here is that if the form doesn’t submit, you’re going to have missed out on a potential lead and/or sale. You don’t want to lose an engaged visitor at this point, so you must do everything possible to streamline the process and guarantee functionality.

There are several things you’ll want to look at here, including reducing the impact of third-party code, minimising transfer sizes, and reducing JavaScript execution times.

Can I Rank with a Poor Core Web Vitals Score?

Although Google has said that it is still possible for webpages with a poor core web vitals score to rank, there isn’t really a legitimate excuse not to ensure your site is properly optimised.

It is also worth noting here that Core Web Vitals are primed to become the criteria for appearing in Google Top Stories, which are the news results that typically sit at the top of SERPs. In this instance, Core Web Vitals will replace AMP.

How Can I Improve My Core Web Vitals?

As the steps you will need to take will vary depending on the content, context and type of site, your first port of call should always be the Core Web Vitals tab of your Google Search Console. On this page, you will be able to determine how your site currently looks and identify any glaring issues that need your attention.

If Search Console tells you that your site contains poor URLs, you will need to investigate further to accurately determine how to make the required improvements. Helpfully, every report contained with Search Console will be linked to a Page Speed Insights report, which will help you to efficiently diagnose any issues your site is currently experiencing.

There are a lot of changes taking place to Google’s algorithm all the time, but now seems a particularly busy time, so it’s important you and your SEO team or agency, keep an eye out for this and any other upcoming changes coming down the line.


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