Core Web Vitals and why you should pay attention

Google Core Web Vitals on display

The digital space is anchored around two interdependent vital components which are digital platforms and audiences. For websites, it’s about drawing users to your site and maintaining them as regular users. This also extends to generating referral traffic to a particular site.

Maintaining site visitors and increasing audience numbers relies on facilitating excellent user experience.

What is Google Core Web Vitals?

Core Web Vitals are a set of metrics that can help you understand how a user experiences pages on your site.

Google in 2020 announced the concept of Core Web Vitals, which forms part of the larger Page Experience update and the reports are available under Google Search Console (GSC). The rollout of page experience updates was completed at the end of August 2021.

Core Web Vitals consists of three main metrics which are:
  1. Largest Contentful Paint (LCP)
  2. Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS)
  3. First Input Delay (FID)

Largest Contentful Paint (LCP)

LCP looks at how long it takes for different content blocks to load in the user’s viewport (or screen).

The crucial point here, is the load time for content above the fold, with below the fold not being taken into consideration.

Score measurement:

  • Good: Lower or equal to 2.5 seconds
  • Needs Improvement: Lower or equal to 4 seconds
  • Poor: More than 4 seconds

Largest Contentful Paint (LCP) can be improved by looking at elements that could increase load times – this could include text, CCS files, images, backgrounds, and videos.

Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS)

Content that shifts or jumps is frustrating to all users. We’ve all clicked on a button, only for that button to move at the last second, resulting in us clicking on something we didn’t intend to. CLS is used to measure how much of a page’s layout (content) shifts around as users interact with it.

Score measurement:

  • Good: Lower or equal to 0.1
  • Needs Improvement: Lower or equal to 0.25
  • Poor: Higher than 0.25

CLS score is calculated by multiplying the impact fraction by the distance fraction. Impact fraction measures how unstable (or moving on-page elements like text) impacts the viewport (or screen).  The distance fraction measures the distance these on-page elements have moved.

The aim is to reduce any layout shift. Elements like images, navigation menus or ad units loading in that space which can cause content to shift up or down.

Minimising shifts helps contribute to a more positive page experience and reduce accidental clicks by users.

First Input Delay (FID)

As a user, one of the many frustrating things on a page is clicking or tapping a button or link, and not being sure whether it worked. Admittedly, this results in users tapping until it looks like something is happening.

This is FID – the time from when a user clicks on something, until the site / browser responds to it.

Score measurement:

  • Good: Lower or equal to 100 milliseconds
  • Needs Improvement: Lower or equal to 300 milliseconds
  • Poor: More than 300 milliseconds

User interaction is what all site owners strive for. Site owners should make interacting with our site easy and enjoyable.

Other Page Experience metrics to pay attention to

When it comes to page experience, there are other factors and metrics that affect search signals. 

  • Security: The first big one that has been around for a while is security and serving secure pages. Your pages do need to be served over HTTPS to be considered for a good page experience status.
  • Mobile Friendliness: This refers to any issues your pages might have when being viewed on mobile devices. This can range from text being too small to read, to clickable elements being too close to each other.
  • Time to Interactive (TTI): This is the time it takes for content on your page to become fully interactive. A fast (or green) score is between 0 and 3.8 seconds. Moderate (or orange) is between 3.9 seconds and 7.3 seconds. Slow (or red) is anything over 7.3 seconds.
  • Total Blocking Time (TBT): This is the total time between First Contentful Paint (FCP) and the Time to Interactive (TTI). A fast (or green) score is between 0 and 200 milliseconds. Moderate (or orange) is between 200 and 600 milliseconds. Slow (or red) is anything over 600 milliseconds.
  • Speed Index: This is the time it takes for content to be visible / displayed on your page. A fast (or green) score is between 0 and 3.4 seconds. Moderate (or orange) is between 3.4 seconds and 5.8 seconds. Slow (or red) is anything over 5.8 seconds.

Hive Digital Media incorporates Core Web Vitals in its approach to technical SEO audits.

“Core Web Vitals have become a part of not only how our team tries to understand a user’s on-site experience, but also helps us to prioritise pages and elements that require work. Any technical SEO audit starts with data and tools, and with the addition of Core Web Vitals and the data which  is provided, rooting out potential issues and working towards a solution is that tiny bit easier,” says Annabel le Roux, Publisher Programmatic Advertising and Search Engine Optimization  Specialist at Hive Digital Media.

Here are some free Google tools to assist you in highlighting and achieving Core Web Vitals

  1. Google Search Console
    1. If you haven’t set up Search Console for your site yet, I would highly recommend that you do so. You can get started with Google Search Console here.
  2. Page Speed Insight
    1. This tool allows you to run tests on your site. Google will analyse your page, score it, and give suggestions for improvements.
    2. Get started with PageSpeed Insights here.

The digital space has continued to evolve with different innovative developments impacting web functionality, traffic and user experience. Web developers and site owners should pay particular attention to the highlighted Core Web Vitals in order to stay ahead of others through improved user experience.

Patrick Mumbi

DATE: Sep 29, 2021
AUTHOR: Patrick Mumbi