Why everyone is talking about Core Web Vitals

There is always something that sends digital marketers a-twitter in the roller-coaster world of SEO, from new algorithm updates being rolled to arguments for and against zero-click SERPs. 

The fascinating topic currently buzzing is Google’s new Core Web Vitals (CWV). If you have heard the term but don’t know what it means or how it can help you, or your client’s, website, we are here to help.

What are Core Web Vitals?

Core Web Vitals is the pretty new name Google has given their method of measuring site performance. In their first Search Off the Record podcast, Martin Splitt describes the path that led them to this method of measuring website responsiveness, speed and visual stability. If you haven’t already, we highly recommend that you listen to it. It offers a fantastic insight into the inner workings of Google and how they think.

For example, they discussed how they historically measured site speed by how long it took the server to respond to the page. They then considered using page painting as a metric, before moving on to experimenting with first input delay as a measurement. 

While these were fine measurement tactics, it didn’t paint an accurate picture of how quickly a site loaded AND was usable by site visitors. Eventually, they concluded that the best way to measure quality website speed from a users perspective was to amalgamate three units of measurements:

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

All packaged neatly into the Core Web Vitals bundle.

What is largest contentful paint?

Also known as LCP, largest contentful paint refers to how long it takes for the most significant content element to become visible to the site user, i.e. when it has been fully rendered. 

What is cumulative layout shift?

Referred to as CLS, cumulative layout shift measures content instability. That is, when visible aspects of the site move around during loading and how far they move or shift.

What is first input display?

First input display, or FID, measures how long it takes between a site user clicking a link for the first time and the website responding to the request.

Are Core Web Vitals a ranking factor?

Google is notorious for keeping its calculations for ranking close to their chest. But they have been quite vocal as to whether or not Core Web Vitals will be used as part of the ranking algorithm. 

On 28th May, Google stated in their blog post that the following are utilised in designating ranking:

  • Page load speed
  • Mobile-friendliness

These will be added into the measurement metrics of Core Web Vitals, which will work alongside other ranking factors to ascertain how sites will be organised in the SERPs.

When will this happen?

The good news is that this won’t be rolled out until next year, with a promise of a six-month notice period. However, that is not an excuse to put this subject to the back of your mind. You should start planning and optimising your site today. 

Let’s not forget that Google is working towards ranking sites that offer a fantastic user experience; so optimising your website towards this sooner rather than later means a better experience for your users, which will hopefully result in more revenue for your business.

What do I need to do?

While fantastic, useful content will still play a vital role in ranking, if Google finds pages with similar content, it will then review page experience to decide which pages to rank and in what order.

To ensure your website stays competitive, we recommend optimising your site to ensure the following:

  • Safe browsing with no malicious or deceptive content
  • Mobile-friendliness 
  • HTTPS-security
  • Non-obtrusive interstitials
  • Largest contentful paint operational within 2.5 seconds
  • Cumulative layout shift score below 0.1
  • First input delay below 100 milliseconds

Thankfully, Google has not left us wondering how we can measure a site’s CWV performance. You can diagnose and plan an improvement strategy with tools such as Google Search Console and Google’s PageSpeed Insights report.

The future of Core Web Vitals

The web is ever-evolving, so these measurement metrics will no-doubt evolve alongside it. Martin Splitt has already committed to reviewing the CWV metrics annually, adding additional measurement metrics as and when it is helpful to do so. 

It appears that Google is starting to pull back the curtain a little, so to speak, to help webmasters optimise their site in such a way that benefits everyone; site visitors, site owners and search engines alike.

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