Core Web Vitals: What you need to know

24 November 2020

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Google has announced that three new Core Web Vitals will join its existing page experience signals from May 2021. Page experience signals are an official Google ranking factor, meaning they have an impact on how a website performs in the Search rankings. The aim is to ensure users “get the most helpful and enjoyable experiences from the web”, as Google explained recently:

“Site owners should not have to be performance gurus in order to understand the quality of experience they are delivering to their users. The Web Vitals initiative aims to simplify the landscape, and help sites focus on the metrics that matter most, the Core Web Vitals.”

But what are Core Web Vitals, and why do they matter?

What are Google’s Core Web Vitals?

The Core Web Vitals join four existing search signals which contribute to page experience, or how user-friendly a website is. The existing metrics are:

  • Mobile Friendly
  • Safe Browsing
  • No Intrusive Interstitials

From next May, Largest Contentful Paint, Cumulative Layout Shift and First Input Delay will be added to this list of metrics and could impact the results your website achieves in the Google Search rankings.

Largest Contentful Paint (LCP)

Largest Contentful Paint measures how long it takes for the largest image, video, or text block, to render and become visible. Google wants a good experience to be provided to users, and for that to happen, it wants the largest contentful paint to happen within 2.5 seconds of a page loading.

Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS)

Cumulative Layout Shift is a metric which measures how fast a page is stable and monitors any layout shift that occurs. Everyone has been on a website that as you go to click a button, it moves. This is “cumulative layout shift”. If elements move around your site while it’s loading, not only does it lead to user experience, but will lead to bad rankings too.

First Input Delay (FID)

First Input Delay measures the time from a user’s interaction with the site, to the time it takes for the browser to process the event in response. Going back to the button analogy, when you land on a page and click a button, how quickly can the browser process that action and deliver the expected result. If nothing happens when you click, or the process is slow, your experience of using the website won’t be a good one.

Will this affect Google Search rankings?

Google frequently makes changes to their algorithms, but it’s less common for ranking factor changes to be announced. Typically, Google will announce an update when it’s significant, and to give website owners an opportunity to make changes before the new ranking factor takes effect. In this case, Google gave everyone a years notice ahead of the introduction of Core Web Vitals, suggesting that this is a change that could have a big impact on search rankings.

This new ranking factor will affect all search results and will also become a criteria for appearing in the Top Stories section. It’s likely that the more competitive the search terms that you are targeting, the more impact Core Web Vitals could have on your results. Websites which are already performing poorly may also be worse affected.

Crucially, Google’s own data shows that if a website meets these new criteria, users are 24% less likely to abandon a page before it loads. So measuring your site’s page experience signals and fixing any issues offers an easy way to keep people on your website for longer and reduce bounce rate.

How to measure your website’s Core Web Vitals

Google has added a new Core Web Vitals report to Google Search Console, which rates each URL on a website “Poor”, “Needs Improvement” or “Good”. This report links to a Pagespeed Insights report which details opportunities and diagnostics, or fixes you can carry out to improve your website. And if that’s a little too technical for you, don’t worry, as your Unity Online digital marketing team will be on hand to ensure your website is ready for this new update to Google’s ranking factors.

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