Google’s Core Web Vitals Update

Site speed, especially on mobile devices, plays a big part in how your website ranks with Google already, and for good reason: Slow-loading pages detract from the user experience and send visitors fleeing to some faster-loading website. Even the best content and products don’t help much if people who visit your website never view them, and Google recognizes this, rewarding websites that make an effort to fulfill the need for speed. While its algorithm already utilizes speed in rankings, the Core Web Vitals update due in May 2021 makes page speed even more important in your business’s quest for Google positioning.

Google Core Web Vitals

The new Core Web Vitals rollout works with previous page experience signals: mobile friendliness, safe browsing, HTTPS security and guidelines for intrusive interstitials. With this new approach, Google hopes to prioritize pages that provide a helpful, enjoyable user experience for visitors. And while speed mattered in the past, it matters even more now considering the three main additions to Google Core Web Vitals metrics all take various types of speed into account.

Largest Contentful Paint

The largest contentful paint metric measures the amount of time it takes to load your webpage’s main content. This measurement includes the largest content block or image from the user’s point of view, and it ignores anything outside this viewpoint when ranking your website. Typical page elements measured by the largest contentful paint metric include photos, background images and video poster images. Additionally, while it covers pretty much any HTML or block-level text element, it doesn’t include things like videos and SVG files.

Google included this metric due to its accuracy in measuring loading times plus its ease of measurement and optimization. Web pages with a 2.5-second speed are considered optimal, while those with a 2.5- to 4-second load time need work. Sites with over a 4-second largest contentful paint time are considered poor quality, so they need extensive optimization if businesses wish to make the most of Google’s new Core Web Vitals algorithm update.

First Input Delay

The first input delay metric measures the time it takes for a web page to load enough to become interactive. Also called input latency, first input delay measures interactivity via things like clickable buttons, links and key presses that garner a response from the website. It doesn’t, however, count interactions such as zooming in on a photo or scrolling down the page as neither thing requires a response from the website itself. In fact, response is the key focus of this metric — it basically gauges how quickly your site responds while it’s loading content.

Fortunately, this metric is one that’s simple to tweak for faster speeds. Cleaning up coding can help, as can optimizing photos and changing up any large JavaScript coding that may be running in the background. Google sees a response time for the first input delay as 100 milliseconds, while sites that take 100 to 300 milliseconds to respond need work. If your site has over a 300-millisecond response time, Google may rank it lower, making optimization important if you want to continue receiving search engine traffic after the Core Web Vitals update.

Cumulative Layout Shift

The cumulative layout shift metric measures the amount of shifting that occurs in content as your web page loads. These unexpected shifts may move things like links, photos and even blocks of text away from visitors’ views while they’re attempting to interact, creating a poor user experience. Fortunately, poor coding is most always the culprit for cumulative layout shift, so it’s a simple fix when you’re optimizing for Core Web Vitals. Google considers a score of 0.1 as good, 0.1+ to 0.25 as needing work and 0.25+ as poor.

New Search Results Labels

Other changes in Core Web Vitals include new search results labels. When Google finds websites that provide a good user experience, it plans on using visual indicators to note this within its search engine results. As of March 2021, the company is testing this feature, and if the results meet its expectations, it plans on rolling out this change along with the others in the May 2021 Core Web Vitals algorithm update.

Top Stories Carousel Changes

Changes to the top stories carousel aim to reward optimized sites, just like the new search results labels. These changes make non-AMP pages eligible for top spots when they offer a superior user experience. Keep in mind that Google plans to continue its current level of support for AMP content even after it rolls out this change in the May 2021 update.

Measuring Core Web Vitals

If you want to ensure your business’s website stays golden with Google, several ways exist to measure Core Web Vitals scores so you know what to expect in May 2021. These measurement tools include:

  • Page Speed Insights
  • Google UX Report
  • Lighthouse
  • Web Vitals Extension
  • Search Console
  • Chrome DevTools

Many internet users rely solely on search engines like Google to find what they’re looking for on the web, so having a business website that ranks highly helps you get eyes on your products and services. While it might seem complicated to tweak your content to make things more compatible with Google’s Core Web Vitals algorithm, not doing so may lead to fewer visitors and thus fewer conversions. Fortunately, Lead to Conversion aids your business in finding the sweet spot that lets you convey your brand and style while ensuring a steady stream of visitors from search engines.