Published: 9th Mar 2021

Will your website survive Core Web Vitals?

Big changes are coming to search. With Google making a major statement about their upcoming algorithm update last year, we’ll explain what Core Web Vitals is all about and why now is the time to get your website prepared.

Nikita Mohide - SEO & Media Manager

Picture back to May 2020, pubs were closed, daily walks were the norm and banana bread recipes dominated Pinterest. Not only were we three months into the lockdown uncertainty, but Google also made a major announcement which caused much postulation and talk amongst the SEO industry.

 

Why was Google’s announcement such a shock?

Every day, Google makes some kind of update to its algorithm to help users find the most relevant information to their search. Many updates are so small that we wouldn’t even notice. But others rock the SEO world into days and weeks of speculation because of the volatile organic landscapes.

So, when Google issued their statement about Core Web Vitals, we knew that large changes were forecasted for organic search. In fact, Google gave us at least six months’ notice to prepare for it.

 

What are Core Web Vitals?

CWV (Core Web Vitals) are formed of three key metrics and collectively, they measure user experience. They will become direct ranking factors as of May 2021.

1)  Largest Contentful Paint (LCP) – this measures loading performance. Specifically, how long the largest text or image is painted. For a good user experience, this should take place within the first 2.5 seconds of the page initially loading.  

2)  First Input Delay (FID) – this measures interactivity. It establishes the time between the first user interaction, and how long the browser is able to begin to process the interaction. Websites should aim for an FID that is less than 100 milliseconds.

3)  Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS) – this measures visual stability. It examines when the page is stable after fully loading. For a good user experience, CLS scores should be less than 0.1.

In conclusion, if your website currently has a sizeable image which hinders the loading time, your browser doesn’t instantly action a user’s interaction or the layout of your pages shifts around, you’ll score low for Core Web Vitals.

Are Core Web Vitals now the main ranking factor?

In short, no. Achieving high scores for CWV doesn’t instantly mean SEO success. CWV are going to be used in addition to Google’s existing UX-related signals to measure overall user experience. This includes mobile-friendliness, safe-browsing, HTTPS security and intrusive interstitials. 

As we all know, Google is constantly making changes to their algorithm and Core Web Vitals are no exception. Keeping the SEO industry actively on the alert, Google stated that Core Web Vitals may change each year, depending on user expectations of websites.

 

How important are Core Web Vitals?

Unlike many other stances which SEO experts speculate to be ranking factors, Google has made it clear that CWV scores are going to be official Google ranking factors. CWV are also going to become a criterion to appear in Google’s top stories, showing how seriously they are taking this algorithm update.

As the core aim of CWV is to provide better user experiences, achieving good CWV scores won’t only benefit your website’s organic performance through heightened visibility in the SERPs and gaining more organic traffic. It will refine the experience that your users have when on your website, providing users with an enhanced brand experience, meaning they’ll be more likely to browse and return to your website.

A study by Google found that for webpages who meet the criteria of CWV, users were 24% less likely to abandon the website. So, that’s potentially a quarter more leads or sales you could gain by improving your CWV performance.

 

How can you prepare your website for Core Web Vitals?

Google has given us plenty of options to measure CWV, with six tools to choose from which show areas of improvement around user experience using quantitative data.

  •   Pagespeed Insights
  •   Chrome UX Report
  •   Google Search Console
  •   Chrome DevTools
  •   Lighthouse
  •   Web Vitals Extension

Website developers and SEOs should work together to carry out audits and report on current scores. The tools will illustrate specific fixes and identify areas of optimisation that can then be applied to your website.

Whilst Google have said the updates will begin to take place in May 2021, this isn’t the deadline for when improvements should be implemented. It can take time for these amendments to be recognised, so the sooner they’re applied, the better for your website’s performance.

If you’re looking for any guidance or recommendations ahead of Core Web Vitals, get in touch with Sam - we’ll be more than happy to help. 

Nikita Mohide - SEO & Media Manager