Whenever Google makes important updates to its search engine rankings algorithm, the result is often Category 5-level stress for marketers who struggle after the update to divine the best response. A greater emphasis on page experience for mobile browsers is the latest search engine tsunami (apologies for the mixed marine metaphors). Here’s what marketers need to know about Core Web Vitals.
Rise of Core Web Vitals: The Backstory
“We will prioritize pages with great page experience, whether implemented using AMP or any other web technology.” Timing for Bringing Page Experience to Google Search Google Search Central Blog – Nov. 20. 2020 Don’t say you weren’t warned in advance. High search engine rankings generally lead to more branding awareness, higher traffic and online conversion and more brick-and-mortar visitors traffic. With the formal rollout of Core Web Vitals in May 2021, the search giant wants to ensure that the sites mobile browsers are recommended through organic rankings load fast, facilitate user engagement and are visually stable on small screens. Google first introduced Core Web Vitals in 2020 as a ranking signal based on three metrics; performance, security, and mobile-friendliness. Together with mobile usability and HTTPS usage, they form what Google calls page experience. Page experience is now one of the ranking signals Google considers when generating Google Search results for mobile traffic. (Note: As of August 2021, Page Experience is only relevant for site traffic coming from mobile users).
What are Web Core Vitals?
Now that you know the importance of Core Web Vitals, what exactly are they? They’re three metrics associated with page loading. Each represents a characteristic Google believes improves or degrades the visitor’s experience on that page: Loading: Time for a page’s main content (an image, a video, or even a large block of text) to load. This is known as Largest Contentful Paint (LCP). In order for Google to assess your site as good, 75% of the content must load in less than 2.5 seconds. Interactivity: Referred to as First Input Delay (FID), this is the time required for a page to become interactive. It measures the time between a user clicking into your site until they’re able to interact with something on the page. Stability: Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS) monitors page content stability, looking for any unexpected layout shifts in the page’s visual content as it loads.
Relevance to Organic Search Rankings
Google believes page experience signals are increasingly important in a world where more and more web traffic originates from phones and tablets. These signals, Core Web Vitals, combined with existing search signals such as mobile-friendliness, HTTPS-security, and intrusive interstitial guidelines, officially became part of Google’s ranking algorithm in May. (The update was gradually rolled out globally through the end of this month). With Core Web Vitals now officially part of Google’s algorithmic black magic, you’ll have to regularly monitor, measure and improve the three metrics to maximize your SEO results and quality scores that can affect your PPC click costs. Fortunately, the ranking signals provide a degree of objectivity and standardization. With clear scores for individual web pages, you’ll be able to test optimization practices—image compression and font pre-loads for example—to figure out what works best. For reference, it’s well worth reading Google’s support article on the Page Experience report.
How to Improve Your Core Web Vitals Scores
While it’s great to know that visitor-friendly sites will rank higher than sites that aren’t as visitor user friendly, we all need direction. Having provided many EX Squared clients with Core Web Vitals auditing and remediation services throughout 2021, here are some tips we’ve found that should help improve your scores:
Invest in faster web hosting
Whether you use an in-house server or a hosting service, invest in speed. Test your speed regularly using Google’s PageSpeed Insights tool.
Look beyond server speed
Don’t expect a faster server to solve all your speed problems. Speed bottlenecks may also be caused by software integrations, complex code and graphic issues. Investigate them where possible. Become a habitual of Google’s PageSpeed Insights tool.
Optimize your site for mobile
Page experience focuses on mobile browsers so make sure you’re publishing AMP versions of your content.
Update your security measures
Make sure your firewall, SSL, etc. are as current as possible.
Remove unnecessary pop-ups, scripts and content
Remove them if they’re even close to being deceptive or obnoxious.
Think small when it comes to images and text
This is where you can really improve your LCP score. Image compression and pre-loading fonts can really help.
Consider using a CDN
A CDN like CloudFlare will help you deliver content closer to your traffic’s access points.
If you’re still doubting that Core Web Vitals is a big deal for SEO, consider the changes to Google’s Search Engine Webmasters console; Core Web Vitals has its own section in the default configuration, and a prominent location in the Google PageSpeed report. These changes are important indicators of the importance the search team places on keeping mobile visitors happy with their suggested destinations.