What Publishers Need to Know About the Core Web Vitals Update
In May 2020, Google announced a set of user-focused metrics to evaluate and measure a page’s ability to provide a smooth and user-friendly experience. The Core Web Vitals (CWV) metrics officially became a ranking factor during the June 2021 core algorithm update. It’s now become critical to ensure that your website scores well, or your SEO may suffer.
In this article, we’re going to review the following:
- What Google’s Core Web Vitals are.
- How the metrics will affect your search rank.
- How to check your score with free tools.
- Ways you can improve your score.
Let’s start by taking a quick look at Core Web Vitals and how it works.
What Is Google Core Web Vitals?
In a nutshell, Core Web Vitals is a search ranking factor as of June 2021, evaluating user experiences on your website. These experience signals notify Google of any problems with your site, affecting your search rank and SEO.
Essentially, the update emphasizes user experience, forcing publishers and businesses to have user-friendly, fast-loading, secure, and responsive websites.
Earlier in 2021, we covered Core Web Vitals in detail, explaining the core metrics and how they will affect ads on your website. However, now that Web Vitals are an active ranking factor, it’s also critical to understand how it impacts your page experience and SEO in general.
The Metrics and Signals Used by Core Web Vitals
The three main Core Web Vitals metrics are:
- Largest Contentful paint (LCP): The metric measures how long it takes to load the page from the moment the user clicks on the link to where it finishes loading. A good score is considered under 2.5 seconds.
- First Input Delay (FID): The metric measures how long it takes before a user can actively interact with your page, i.e., click a link in the menu, fill out a form, or open accordion text. A good score is considered 100 milliseconds or less.
- Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS): The metric measures the visual stability of the page. It checks for load time lag, flagging a problem if some elements take too long to load, creating a poor user experience. This metric is particularly vital for mobile devices. A good score is considered 0.1 or less.
There are also a few other, more general metrics that the update uses to evaluate the quality of your page. It’s just as critical to take these into account:
- Mobile-friendliness: You must ensure that your site is responsive and adapts appropriately to mobile.
- Safe browsing experience: Your website must be free of viruses or malware. Additionally, it’s a good idea to have security software installed and use a consent management platform (CMP) to get user consent for cookies and data gathering.
- HTTPS: A website must have an SSL/TLS protocol to ensure it’s secure. You need to have a little padlock before your URL. To do so, you need to install an SSL encryption certificate.
- No intrusive interstitials: Interstitials and intrusive pop-ups are still commonly used. However, under the new Core Web Vitals update, these pop-ups that block most or all a user’s screen will be flagged for a poor experience.
Free Tools to Check Your Score
One of the best ways to check your score is to use Google’s:
Failing web URLs. Source: Google Search Console
Search Console will flag any issues on your site and tell you which URLs are affected and have failing Core Web Vitals scores. You can then use PageSpeed Insights to see precisely which scores are causing the page to fail. With these tools, you can determine where to make improvements without needing to have paid subscriptions.
Alternatively, you can use GTMetrix to evaluate your website. It’s a third-party free tool that gives you a comprehensive report on your website’s performance, security, and load order. It’s an excellent way to gain additional insights into how you can improve your site’s performance and usability.
Simple Ways to Improve Your Score
The best way to approach improving your Web Vitals score is to take a mobile-first approach. Essentially, consider a mobile user experience and optimize your website accordingly. There are a few ways you can apply this approach.
First, start by considering the page loading speed. How long does it take to load the initial content, text, buttons, images, videos, or animations? Loading time is one of the trickiest metrics to improve since it requires a deep technical understanding of web development and optimization factors. It’s a good idea to get your web developer involved if this is one of your primary issues.
Next, remove any elements that provide a poor user experience. Disruptive pop-ups, interstitials, and any other scripts or codes considered “user-hostile” need to go. Additionally, optimize your site’s visual elements so that they’re viewable and accessible, regardless of device.
Finally, consider “usability for all users.” In other words, you need to employ best practices to make your website friendly for those visitors who need assistance with accessibility. Use descriptive links, an intuitive URL structure, keyword-rich alt tags for images, and audio or video transcriptions. These factors are also searched for and evaluated by Google under the Core Web Vitals update.
Google Core Web Vitals doesn’t have to be scary. In fact, it’s an excellent way for the search engine to force publishers and website owners to accept accountability for their sites and the experience with which they provide users. The update ensures that the focus is on visitors and an excellent user experience. In turn, sites that improve their CWV score are rewarded with improved SEO scores and higher page rankings.