Will Google's Core Web Vitals update impact your website? Find out.
Page experience — how users perceive their experience of interacting with a web page — can make or break your business. An excellent page experience makes it easy for visitors to navigate and complete their goals. But a bad page experience can annoy or frustrate users enough to leave and never return.
Back in May 2020, Google announced that at some stage throughout 2021, it would begin championing sites with a great page experience thanks to a new ranking factor called Core Web Vitals. Core Web Vitals means that sites can rise up the SERPs by optimizing three core metrics: load time, interactivity, and content stability as the page loads.
To assess a site’s page experience, Google will be analyzing both lab data (i.e., data collected through browser APIs and mathematical algorithms that simulate user activity) and field data (i.e., data garnered from users’ real-life experiences).
The rollout of Core Web Vitals was due to start in mid-June but has now been pushed back to August. Fortunately, this gives you plenty of time to get your page experience up to speed. It’s worth noting that page experience isn’t the only metric that will affect your SEO ranking.
As Google states, “we will prioritize pages with the best information overall, even if some aspects of page experience are subpar. A good page experience doesn't override having great, relevant content.”
By getting your page experience right, however, you can boost your content’s effectiveness and ensure that you’re doing all you can to rise to the top of SERPs.
Core Web Vitals FAQs
You’ve probably got a ton of questions — so without further delay, let’s dig into the details.
How important is Page Experience as a ranking signal?
Page experience is one part of ranking, but it's still not the most important factor. The most crucial element is to ensure that your content adequately matches users’ search intent. A page with a great experience but poor content will still lose out to a page with a subpar experience but brilliant content.
So it’s well worth optimizing your page experience — but if you have trouble ranking in search, it's more likely you need to focus on content quality first.
What’s with the different scores between mobile and desktop?
Google is currently only using page experience as a ranking factor for mobile search. This is because encountering poor page experience is generally even more of a hindrance when browsing on mobile compared to browsing on desktop.
So, what’ll happen if my site doesn’t have great Core Web Vitals performance metrics?
Google won’t make any predictions yet, but it has announced that it’ll be divulging more information closer to when these rollouts will begin to take effect.
Again, the quality of the content — and how well it matches users’ search intent — is still the most important ranking factor. Core Web Vitals is essentially there to keep sites on their toes, making sure they optimize their page experience (and rewarding those that do this effectively.)
What are the Core Web Vitals metrics?
Right, now that we’ve covered your burning questions, let’s take a closer look at the three specific Core Web Vitals metrics that Google will be focusing on going forward.
1. Loading - Metric name:Largest Contentful Paint (LCP)
While the phrase ‘Largest Contentful Paint’ might have you scratching your head in confusion, this one’s actually pretty self-explanatory. We live in a world of instant gratification so we don’t like having to wait — especially not if we’re looking for a quick answer right this second. This means that load time is a huge element when it comes to providing a great page experience.
Largest Contentful Paint (aka load time) measures a page’s perceived load speed. It analyzes how long it takes for the largest section on your page (by area) to be loaded, which will be the main content on the page — whether it's the body of the article or some other media.
2. Interactivity - Metric name:First Input Delay (FID)
We’ve all been there before. A page flashes up and you click on a link, only for nothing to happen. You wait. Still, nothing happens. Eventually, you click it again — and it finally works.
Google can only glean this data from “in the field,’ real user interactions, as opposed to lab data. They measure FID by analyzing the 75th percentile of users with the highest FID values.
So what should you be aiming for? Fortunately, they’ve provided some clear metrics: 100ms is good and 300+ms is considered pretty bad.
3. Visual stability -Metric name:Cumulative Layout Shift( CLS)
Have you ever tried to click a button, only for it to suddenly shift beneath your finger as the page loads? If you have, you’ll know just how frustrating this can be. CLS measures any unexpected movement of the page’s content, changes in font render size, dynamic DOM elements, and so on, punishing sites with excessive CLS.
Google assesses CLS by quantifying the precise percentage of a page that is unstable or ends up moving — i.e., if a visible element changes its position between one rendered frame and the next.
The formula goes as follows: Impact * Distance = CLS.
How can I test for my Core Web Vitals?
There are four great free tools that will give you up-to-date metrics regarding your Core Web Vitals:
Here’s a quick heads up. To use this tool, you’ll have to have your site already verified within GSC. This is a no-brainer, really. If you haven’t already, then make sure you verify your site immediately. Once you do, the process couldn’t be simpler. You can view or download the Core Web Vitals (CWV) report that demonstrates all relevant performance metrics on each of your site’s URLs.
PageSpeed Insights is a no-fuss option that gives you quick and easy results. Enter your URL to receive instant insights into your Core Web Vitals performance and easily identify what needs to be improved going forward.
3. WebPage Test
Unlike the other three options, this isn’t actually one of Google’s own tools — but that doesn’t make it any less effective. This robust online tool provides key metrics regarding your Core Web Vitals, plus general information regarding your page experience (such as page speed).
Google Chrome UX Report is an API that gathers real-world page experience insights from Chrome users. Well, not all users — only those that have opted in to syncing their browsing history, haven’t yet set up a Sync password, and have enabled usage statistic reporting.
This data is used to power PageSpeed Insights, the GSC CWV report, and you can connect to the API with Google Data Studio and even Screaming Frog Web Crawler.
So, how can I actually optimize for Core Web Vitals?
Right, it’s now time to give you the exact formula for optimizing your Core Web Vitals going forward…
Just kidding — if only it were that simple.
As you might expect, optimizing your Core Web Vitals depends on a case-by-case basis. Cookie-cutter approaches simply won’t work. You must first make sure you understand each metric in detail before analyzing your own performance and identifying areas for improvement. Then, you (or your web developer) must balance any necessary code adjustments with your business’s specific needs, goals, and your system’s constraints.
As with anything, start with low-hanging fruit and go from there. You’ll likely pick up on a few areas that need desperate attention, but after resolving these, your gains will gradually become smaller and smaller. Remember that producing effective content that matches visitors’ search intent is still the biggest ranking factor. Beyond that, just make sure there are no glaring areas ruining your page experience for visitors.
Optimize each of the three Core Web Vitals metrics, and you can’t go wrong. Any improvements can lead to ranking improvement. According to Google’s Philip Walton, “It is not the case that unless you reach the good threshold for all of the Core Web Vitals metrics ... to get a ranking boost.”
So by making any improvements to page experience, not only will you satisfy your visitors, you might also be in line for a boost up the SERPs.
To learn more about how CallRail’s unique call tracking code allows you to track all your calls while having no impact whatsoever on your Core Web Vitals, book a demo to chat with one of our experts today.