Core Web Vitals: How to Measure them and Improve Your Scores

Core Web Vitals: How to Measure them and Improve Your Scores

Web users and developers agree on one thing. Good user experience for a website is gold. Unless you’re from another planet, you won’t build beneficial relationships with your visitors if the UX you provide is far from average.

Did you know that your customers won’t hesitate to join your competitors if they keep encountering site performance issues with every search? Now you know. I don’t need to remind you of the core aspects you need to optimise. Great UX prioritises things such as page load times, messaging, design elements, and navigation.

I don’t want to scare you, but Google has something in the offing. Sometimes mid-last year, the search engine giant announced Core Web Vitals’ release that would later be effected into the algorithm in 2021.

You might think that this is another scare tactic to get you revamping your website. But it’s not. Sooner than you realise it, Core Web Vitals will become a fundamental ranking factor. In fact, you should be grateful that you already have a head start. But if you’ve been providing unrivalled on-page experience, you don’t have to sweat.

What are Core Web Vitals?

The basic definition of Google’s Core Web Vitals is a suite of standards that measure whether a given webpage delivers an excellent user experience.

When dissecting Core Web Vitals, three key aspects impact user experience, and they are:

  • Loading
  • Interactivity
  • Visual Stability

These metrics consist of:

  1. Largest Contentful Paint or LCP is the metric that measures the speed of loading the main content on a page.
  2. First Input Delay or the FID is the metric that tracks a page’s readiness as soon as a user clicks on it.
  3. Cumulative Layout Shift or CLS is the metric that measures whether core page elements are shifting once a user prompts them to load.

Please don’t be mistaken. They aren’t like other generic metrics. In fact, Core Web Vitals come with a quantifiable score that denotes the kind of experience that a visitor gets once they click on your page.

You cannot detach Core Web Vitals from Google’s larger cluster that factors aspects like:

  • HTTPS
  • Non-Intrusive Interstitials
  • safe-browsing
  • Navigation
  • Responsive design

According to google, Core Web Vitals are set to account for a significant influence regarding your website’s ranking. It might even be bigger, but don’t be scared yet.

You need to note that each of the three metrics comes with a specified threshold that users must reach. They can whip crucial page aspects into one objective formula. As such, web admins and developers can easily point out what aspects will determine their google rank.

Here’s a more in-depth look into Core Web Vitals.

Largest Contentful Paint (LCP)

Like mentioned earlier, LCP measures the speed at which the main content page loads. It marks out the time it takes a page to load from the point of view of the visitor. In short, that’s the time between clicking on a link to viewing on-page content.

LCP differs from other page’s peed parameters. The rest don’t show how it feels in real-life to open up a webpage.

LCP measures, in seconds, how the largest image or text block behaves when a user clicks. This accounts for the time it takes from typing the URL, clicking the link and identifying that the page has indeed loaded.

Google ranks LCP performance based on three parameters measured in seconds. They are:

  • Good – 2.5 seconds or less
  • Needs improvement – 2.6 to 4 seconds
  • Poor – over 4 seconds

Here, you know you must prioritise your pages to attain a good threshold. However, it’s not as easy as you think. The good thing with LCP is that the faster your main page content loads, the easier it is to signal to a customer that your page is useful.

If you’re wondering what you can do to attain a “good” score for your homepage and others, there are steps such as reducing image sizes and investing in fast web hosting. Luckily, there are specific tools you can use to evaluate LCP scores on your pages. You can modify it accordingly for a better ranking.

First Input Delay (FID)

This is the metric that measures the time to interactivity. Think about it this way; how long does it take a page element to respond to a user’s prompt? FID typically measures the speed of interaction between a page and a visitor. It captures such in 100 milliseconds.

You can call it a page speed metric, but it captures the actual time it takes a user to do something on your page. Since FID is a user’s first impression regarding page response time, it helps Google understand your website’s quality and reliability.

FID will help you discern what happens with every interaction form clicking on links, filling forms or interacting with contact or login pages.

Google sets the FID score in three parameters as follows:

  • Good FID -under 100 MS
  • FID Needs Improvement @ 100-300 MS
  • Poor FID-over 300 MS

Even if you’re getting a bad rap from google, there’s room for improvement. You can roll out a browser cache or get rid of third party scripts to drive your score to safer grounds.

Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS)

This is the metric that measures Visual stability. It simply captures the strength of your pages as they load. If you’re still in the woods here, your pages need to be stable when users click to access the content. But if the page elements are staggering as the page loads, it means you have a high CLS.

What triggers layout shifts, you might be wondering? You see, when a page is designed without factoring dimension attributes for large text or media elements, and some prompts require network response, these shifts will disrupt visual stability.

You need to factor in dimensional attributes to avoid ad or image intrusions when users click to open. Remember, your visitors don’t have the time to restart checking where your links and images are once the page loads.

Google defines CLS scores using the following parameters.

  • Good CLS – under 0.1
  • CLS Needs Improvement – between 0.1-0.25
  • Poor CLS -over 0.25

You can minimise bad CLS by factoring dimension attributes, restricting ad elements to a “sandbox”, or incorporating UX elements below the fold.

How to Improve Core Web Vitals Metrics

Can you improve Core Web Vitals and their parameters scores? Yes, you can. Fortunately, you can leverage steps and strategies to boost these scores ad visitor UX. But it can be overwhelming, but the benefits are worth your efforts.

Of course, you have the tools that can help you identify Core Web Vitals shortcomings. And there are steps you can take to improve LCP, FID or CLS scores. Pretty fine. After you pinpoint loading issues, visual stability hitches or performance bottlenecks, you need to take action strategically. Don’t just make tweaks haphazardly.

You need to prioritise first. For example, if you’ve encountered issues on the homepage, you need to mark them as a top priority. If the same is on pages with lesser impact, you can fix them later. When you prioritise, it will be easy to fix what matters first. Your customers are waiting, and you cannot relegate them to the backseat.

Before you think about improving Core Web Vitals, google requires that you meet the thresholds for all three metrics, not two. At the same time, you need to work with a defined strategy to address issues within every metric. I won’t lie to you that taking the broad, all inclusive approach is the best way forward.

That said, you’ll need to have an overview of how implementing these changes will affect your site. If you’re making well thought out modifications one at a time, you don’t have to worry about making mistakes that not only affect site performance but its SERP rankings too.

Steps to Improving LCP

Even from an SEO point of view, slow loading pages turn off users. It’s the same from an LCP perspective. Nobody wants to wait long minutes for your site to load. In most cases, pages with large on-page elements or jumbled up code take forever to open. Suppose you want your users to enjoy hassle-free navigation. Here are some tips to use:

  • Eliminate redundant third-party scripts
  • Upgrade or switch your web hosting to a faster provider
  • Initiate lazy loading such that elements load as users scroll down the page
  • Use Google PageSpeed Insights to identify large LCP elements and remove them
  • Compress images to fit specified web optimised parameters
  • Compress bulky CSS code

Improving FID

You rely more on crucial customer interaction pages like a login page. You want to make sure that the fid score is better than good. You don’t want google to pick signals that there’s a peculiar delay when a user clicks all the way to the time the action is executed. Fortunately, improving FID is easy. You’ll need to fix specific areas below:

  • Decrease third-party code- THIS ONE YOU already know. If numerous background processes are running concurrently, they’re bound to affect the loading speed. You must eliminate third party code.
  • Streamline JS loading time – JavaScript comes in handy when you want the aesthetic and seamless UX for your site. But it would be best if you were cautious about how you make it work. Always keep to the most important scripts.
  • Watch Small transfers and low request counts- avoid moving large files simultaneously and in real-time. Also, keep the number of user-generated requests at a manageable level.

Improving CLS

You’ll agree that this is an abstract metric to measure. But Google provides a threshold of what’s good or not. If you want to enhance your CLS, you need to watch the size of video elements and all media attributes. If you address dimension attributes before you load, you can bid the layout shifting issue goodbye.

Also, you need to pay attention to how your pages load on different devices. This helps you point out the elements that cause shift; you can eliminate them.

Updating the CLS score entails reserving ad element spaces for any ad you want to appear. If you don’t, they’ll intrude and push the pages around.

Consider assigning user interface elements below the fold. This ensures that the initial design stays intact even when a user clicks.

If you’re using dynamic content injection for signup forms or privacy policies, avoid the responsiveness that can shock or shift content.

Why Are Core Web Vitals Important?

You must have encountered two different web pages with fresh, informative and quality content. But you probably didn’t think about the criteria that Google uses to rank them. You bet such a search engine giant doesn’t rely on favours or kickbacks.

The truth is that ranking differentiations in such a scenario are determined by page user experience. This is where I tell you that Core Web Vitals will become the tiebreakers for sites with quality and attention-grabbing content.

Reasons Why Core Web Vitals Are Essential.

  • Core Web Vitals are at the core of delivering an unparalleled great page experience
  • They enable searchers to derive maximum value out of every website they visit
  • Webpages that are synonymous with great UX fulfil a user’s needs
  • Core Web Vitals instruct google to give your pages top priority

Previously, mobile-friendliness and page load times were highly thought of as ranking factors. But Core Web Vitals seem to be getting Google’s nod as the novel rank factor. You can’t deny that these metrics enable a business to deliver superior experiences through different devices. They send measurable “signals” to Google, allowing it to rank sites based on performance and overall experience. 

Essential Tips Improve Your Website’s Core Web Vitals

I’ll give you half a guarantee that you’ll achieve higher google rankings if you’re obsessed with optimising your site’s Core Web Vitals. You’ll even grab more traffic as a bonus. But the three tips below will get you even more.

Audit your Site’s UX and Performance

To get your site in compliance with the Core Web Vitals, google has availed an intuitive reporting tool. It relies on chronological, real-life data to weigh your site’s performance regarding LCP, FID, and CLS.

Call it the Google Core Web Vitals dashboard.

This tool allocates a good, needs improvement or poor tag to specific URLs. From here; you can tell the pages that require nudging up. To be safe, always consider all issues from a poor or needs improvement perspective.

Notably, every Core Web Vitals report calibrates its data based on the device used to evaluate given URLs. Remember, mobile optimisation is part of the UX signals. You’ll need to fix every issue even if it’s mobile-oriented.

Count yourself lucky too. There are numerous performance tracking tools at your disposal. You can leverage the likes of Google’s PageSpeed Insights or Lighthouse.

Examine Your Site with Chrome UX Report

Chrome User Experience Report or CrUX is proprietary to Google BigQuery, and it draws its data clusters from chrome users. It’s handy if you want to preview your Web Vitals’ status. CrUX leverages real-world data to assess the performance of your site. Combined with the artificial data from PageSpeed Insights, it becomes easy to identify the issues affecting performance and resolve them altogether.

Leverage Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP)

Google suggests using Accelerated Mobile Pages when you want to optimise your Core Web Vitals. It’s easy to create refined HTML files on the AMP framework to build a responsive version of the website.

Luckily, google loves AMP versions of your mobile content. To support such a claim, at least 60%of amp-based domains perform excellently on the Core Web Vitals score. The rest don’t.

If you’re not conversant with the AMP process, there are concise details on how you can DIY an AMP version of our content. It’s equally simple on the WordPress platform.

With the AMP page experience suite, you’ll gather actionable insights and advice how you can optimise your website to fulfil Google’s ranking criteria and your sites overall performance.

Takeaways

Web vital metrics are Google’s favourite. Site owners and admins cannot afford to ignore these metrics if they expect to enhance page speed performance and responsiveness.

But here comes the issue of time and the complexity brought about by other ranking factors. Oh, I didn’t mention, Core Web Vitals can’t win you the ranking war on their own.

The best move right now would be focusing on improving your website’s UX instead of waiting for the D-day in 2021.

How Perfect Do You Need To Be?

As much as you can be. There’s no excuse for Core Web Vitals why you should be running a dud website. After all, Google has provided the blueprints, tools and tactics to leverage. At the same time, you’ll need to remember that you’re not alone online. Unless you want the competition to own you, there’s nothing you shouldn’t be perfect with your site’s UX.

Yes, google acknowledges that content still reigns. As such, it becomes crucial to incorporate a smooth user experience in the way you deliver your content. It looks like google is nudging you with incentives to offer your current and potential users a superior web experience.

Truth be told, not one site will achieve Core Web Vitals perfection overnight. What matters is the gradual efforts you’ll make to benefit from UX as a thoughtful ranking factor for the future.

Core Web Vitals and SEO in 2021

Undoubtedly, Google’s efforts at pushing SEOs to see the value of a user’s real-world page experience aren’t relenting. It could be the game changer it promises to be. You need to know that page experience is the new sheriff in town. And, Core Web Vitals are here to stay as well. That tells you there will be quite a shakeup in the website designers and developers world. Fortunately, this sector will survive if they:

Remove Silos

Website design and development Agencies must do away with the silo mentality. They’ll need to merge and collaborate to code and design optimal UX, the elusive experience that the discerning site user craves for.

Product Thinking

Indeed, Digital Experiences are the future. What about websites. Your site indeed needs regular check-ups. Thus, it becomes crucial to manage website development the way you would do with a product. If you stop experimenting, you’ll product might end up getting outdated.

Use Comprehensive QA

You can focus on the inevitable bug and error fixing to keep your website going, but it might not be enough. What you can do is to implement a comprehensive quality analysis and testing process for your sites UX. There are hundreds of ranking factors that Google recommends, but Core Web Vitals is the gambit on the deck. Statistics show that these metrics will impact how your website ranks by May 2021.

Core Web Vitals and SEO Takeaways 

There will always be questions regarding the impact of Core Web Vitals and how they impact site pages SEO-wise. You only need to know that it matters and that you should care. On that note, there are titbits you should know and understand that:

  • More web vitals are just one ranking factor out of hundreds that google leverages to rank websites.
  • Core Web Vitals are measured on a per-page basis. Not every page will perform excellently.
  • They are one page experience rank factor out of five. That is to say, even if you get it right with Core Web Vitals, you shouldn’t ignore other page experience signals.
  • They are not a magic chalice. Even after your core web, vital score shines, you’re not guaranteed the No.1 spot on SERPs. You can do so if you have great content that answers your user’s needs.
  • They’ll help trump the competition. Don’t set and rest. If left unattended, these metrics can be the reason you’ll fall behind. You need to keep within the good scores and reinforce it with evergreen content.

Core Web Vitals haven’t dethroned content. Not yet. Consider this scenario. There are two sites in the same niche. Site X has great and valuable fresh content, but poor Core Web Vitals scores. Then, site Y has excellent Core Web Vitals metrics but poor content. It needs no contest to discern that that site X will rank higher than site Y.

Even though Core Web Vitals are only a tiny section of the larger SEO pie; you need to know that they’ll not be static forever. Google is known to keep its ranking algorithms evolving. You can expect no difference with CWVs.

Questions To Ask If You Can’t Optimise Core Web Vitals

Right now, webmasters, designers and developers who lack that proactive drive are facing a limbo of sorts. You don’t want to get caught up in such a situation. If you’re going to make Core Web Vitals part of your operations moving forward, here are questions you need to check.

Do You Have A Starting Point For My Website?

It will be about page UX based ranking and nothing else once the algorithm goes live.  What you need to assess is whether you have a long list of low URLS bundled together with your key pages. You’ll also need to consider whether you need to work on just a handful of URLs that could do well with some improvements.

What’s Your Strategy and What Resources Do You Have

It would help if you had a strategy to avoid the penalties that come with a low Core Web Vitals score. Check whether you have lined up high impact SEO priorities in our pipeline and whiter you have bandwidth issues. If so, it pays to work out inter-departmental and collaborative decisions that will return the best results.

Are You a News Publication?

News publications are set to feel the impact more than other organisations. They receive colossal search traffic volumes from google top stories. If yours is a publication enterprise, there are no two ways to optimise for Core Web Vitals.

How to Measure Core Web Vitals

The process of Measuring Core Web Vitals needs no rush. You can’t afford to measure such metrics haphazardly. Before you start, you need to leverage lab data and field data combos. Simply put, lab data denotes one-time tests that demonstrate how a user is likely to interact with your site and provide useful feedback. Field data, on the other hand, refers to the use of data collected over time.

Google avails tools such as page speed insights or Lighthouse for the lab data. The Chrome User Experience dashboard is ideal for field data which is the user’s experience over time. Here Real User Monitoring, or RUM, offers real-life experiences that are useful for the optimisation process.

If you want surface testing, PageSpeed Insights or Chrome extensions offer the easier way out. If you’re going for comprehensive cross-page testing, then, google analytics, CrUX dashboards, or website crawlers such as Sistrix will suffice.

Here are additional ways you can employ to measure the LCP, FID, and CLS suite.

Google Search Console

Search Console provides novel Core Web Vitals reports that enable website owners to evaluate their page status on the entire site. The google console sidebar gives you access to the Core Web Vitals tab. When you click on it, it displays a report pinpointing all the pages that require tweaking.

Usually, these pages are classified according to each metric, and they are determined by data collected via the Chrome UX. It would help if you had lots of data for the report to be generated, or you’ll risk your URLs getting omitted.

Page Speed Insights

PageSpeed Insights can officially sync with Lighthouse 6.0. This means that it can provide insightful Core Web Vitals reports for the lab and field data categories. The core web vital s are marked by a blue ribbon symbol to enhance their visibility. You can leverage PageSpeed Insights to improve the page experience significantly.

Lighthouse

Google upgraded Lighthouse to lighthouse 6.0. That means it comes with the capacity to handle more metrics and audits. Also, it offers a novel formula for calculating performance scores. Usually, Lighthouse caters to the CLS and LCP metrics. After that, the data can be used to single out the number of pages that need improvement. It also provides the Total Blocking Time metric.

Chrome UX Report

The popular CrUX report comes with real user experience data derived from thousands of websites. CrUX assesses every aspect of Core Web Vitals and provides a dedicated landing page that enhances page experience.

Chrome DevTools

Not to be confused with the Chrome UX report, Chrome DevTools comes with a new update that lets site owners detect and fix CLS related shifts. You’ll need to select specific layout shifts right from the summary tab.

Web Vitals Extension

This is a simplified Web Vitals extension that you can download from the google store. It allows you to track and evaluate Core Web Vitals status in real-time. You can identify the specific page areas that require modification and fix them immediately.

The good news with these CWV measuring tools is that they are readily available online. You can download and get on improving your scores instantly.

 

What’s The Future Like?

If you’re thinking proactively, you’ll notice that 2021 will have a lot going in the SEO and page experience domain. Even though you’ll need a lot of resources to keep up with these shifts, the returns are likely to leave you smiling.

Integrating Core Web Vitals into your web design and digital strategies can pose challenges if you’re a small business. There is hope since you can outsource SEOs to avoid overstretching their in-house design experts.

Remember, the metric tide might change. What reads like a great score today may not suffice for the next day. As a website owner, you’ll need to keep an eye out to avoid lagging. Simply, you’ll have to inch up your agility to keep up with CWV updates.

You don’t need reminding. Google has played its part. The search giant has provided webmasters, SEOs and developers with essential user manuals. You’ll have to step up your site performance as well. You know that optimising your webpages for Core Web Vitals is the real difference between a steady flow of leads or complete site destruction.

As time goes, every website, big or small, has all the space needed for improvement. You cannot miss Google’s comprehensive tips for Core Web Vitals. Luckily, there’s enough time to make your website compliant before the subset becomes a fully-fledged algorithm.

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