Ranking Factors Technical SEO

What Are Core Web Vitals?

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Last year, we wrote a post exploring the newly announced SEO update from Google, called Core Web Vitals. At the time, Core Web Vitals was still going through changes, and the SEO community was still figuring out what the impact of this update might be. 

Now we’re almost at the launch of Google’s new Core Web Vitals, mid-June 2021, and the last year has dramatically shifted our perception of the update. In this post, we’ll cover everything we know so far, tools and methods you can use to prepare for this change, and some predictions on how this will impact the future of SEO. 

What Are Core Web Vitals?

Core Web Vitals, or CWV, are a set of ranking metrics coming to Google’s search engine in June of 2021. You will be able to see these in your website’s Google Search Console as well. This algorithm update is big news for SEO because this is one of the first times Google has announced an update so far in advance of its release. 

The primary goal of Core Web Vitals is to check for elements related to user experience on a particular page. The better the user experience on your page is, the higher Google will rank it in search, and the more clicks you’re going to get (leading to more leads, sales, and sign-ups). This update means that keyword-focused SEO strategies will no longer be enough to rank well for terms. Instead, what happens when a user lands on that page will also play a significant factor now.   

In other words, the strategies many have used to win at SEO for more than a decade will have to adapt based on the new Core Web Vitals metrics. 

Image from Google

What Does Google Consider a Great User Experience? 

In Google’s eyes, Core Web Vitals center around three parameters:

  1. Loading Experience. Referred to by Google as “Largest Contentful Paint” (LCP), this refers to how quickly the essential information on a web page loads. If your ads load a few seconds before your article, you’re probably in trouble. If the content and images of a product page load near-immediately, you’re probably in a good position. 

Google recommends that you keep your LCP under 2.5 seconds for 75% of your page loads.

  1. Interactivity. This one is referred to as “First Input Delay” (FID) and measures your page’s responsiveness and navigability. If your page has broken links and is confusing to navigate, Core Web Vitals might negatively affect you. 

Google recommends that you keep your FID under 100 milliseconds for 75% of page loads.

  1. Visual Stability. Lastly, is what Google calls “Cumulative Layout Shift” (CLS). CLS measures how stable your page’s layout is, i.e., making sure that your page layout isn’t changing while your user is still there. This is especially important for websites that use JavaScript to deliver personalized content. 

Google recommends you strive for a CLS core of 0.1 or less. 

Why Are Core Web Vitals Crucial?

The most straightforward answer is that Core Web Vitals are crucial to you because they are crucial to Google and measure how a user will experience your website. Google has made a point to announce these changes and inform website owners to prepare for the change. Over time, other search engines will likely adopt many of these metrics as part of their algorithms. 

Since many website owners rely on SEO for their discoverability and, by extension, their livelihood, most website owners should take the Core Web Vitals update seriously. 

Additionally, there seems to be an increasing push by search engine results to add further importance to technical SEO. This seems natural, as other SEO factors (like keywords and backlinking) are easier to “game” by sites that are low-quality content mills. By increasing the importance of technical factors (site architecture, thin and duplicate content, structured data, etc.), Google can ensure that the results aren’t just relevant but quality. 

How to Assess (and Improve) Your Core Web Vitals

Because Core Web Vitals are so new, it’s too early to give precise and reliable advice for thriving in this new update. But now that the update is here and we’ve got more information from Google, we do have some strategies and tools that you can use to get a jump start on this change. 

Below are some of our best tips and tricks for handling the new Core Web Vitals ranking factor. 

Compress and Scale Images on Your Website

An immediate step you can take to improve your Core Web Vitals score is to start compressing the images on your website. Images are one of the slowest-loading assets on a webpage. By optimizing them, you’ll reduce load times and increase your page’s responsiveness, which will boost your LCP and FID scores. 

You might also want to look into scaling your images for various platforms, such as desktop computers, smartphones, and tablets. Google will factor this kind of optimization into its CLS score. Scaling your images for each platform can boost this score as well. 

Remove Render-Blocking Resources That Aren’t Active 

Go ahead and remove any unused resources that slow down your load time. For example, you might remove old Javascript code, remove outdated videos from web pages, and so on. If JavaScript is vital to your website, consider other rendering solutions or a solution like SpeedWorkers.

Remove or Limit Interstitials

Interruption marketing used to have a more prominent presence on the web. However, one of the most intrusive elements for visitors is any type of pop-ups. There are numerous ways removing unnecessary interstitial content can help with CWV’s, including keeping visitors happier on your site. 

How Core Web Vitals Will Affect the Future of SEO

With this push, Google is trying to emphasize the importance the user experience of a website has on search. Rather than just punishing sites with a high bounce rate unilaterally, Google explores (and calling out) the underlying reasons for a site’s bounce rate and scoring based on this performance. 

For SEO, Core Web Vitals mean that site owners will need to treat the performance and design of their website with the same care that they treat keywords and backlinking. It’s unlikely that the average website will be ruined if they ignore CWV, but it will almost surely negatively affect you if you don’t get your site ready for it

Google has made it clear that as the internet matures, so will its expectations. The days of pumping keywords and links into a page and being ranked highly are coming to an end. Site owners should prioritize technical SEO, adding importance to crawling, rendering, and indexation. Essentially, these help to ensure your user can find what they’re looking for quickly and easily. 

Only a full-funnel SEO strategy that takes into account technical SEO elements will win in a CWV world

In other words, think like a user, not like an SEO-bot.

If you’re unsure how to best prepare for the Core Web Vitals update this May, reach out to the experts. You can learn more about improving your website by checking out the Botify blog or by contacting our team

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