When you see a doctor, they first check your vital signs like blood pressure, temperature, and how fast you’re breathing.
Similarly, when Google checks if your website matches a search, it looks at your essential web vitals.
Instead of checking your blood pressure and temperature, Google looks at your largest contentful paint (LCP), initial input delay (FID), and cumulative layout shift (CLS). These measures help grade how good your website is for users.
In May 2020, Google said that basic web vitals would significantly affect SEO rankings. Simply put, if your website doesn’t do well on the Core Web Vitals Report, it could impact how it shows up in search results.
To make sure your page gives users a great experience, it’s important to understand each crucial aspect. Luckily, this guide breaks down what each one means and how it can affect your SEO.
Keep reading to find out how to get your website ready for Google’s core web vitals test.
What are the Core Web Vitals?
Every essential part of a website, known as core web vitals, plays a crucial role in creating a good page experience according to Google.
The vitals mainly focus on how fast the page loads (LCP), how users can interact with it (FID), and how visually stable it is (CLS).
Google aims to make sure that every user gets the most useful and high-quality results when they search. So, along with other factors for ranking, Google’s algorithm will now also take into account the overall page experience.
Google likes websites that load in under 2.5 seconds, have different interactive features, and display images smoothly without any sudden changes.
Keep in mind, Googlebot doesn’t check the main web vitals while going through and organizing web pages. Instead, this happens when looking at the Chrome CRuX field data report.
To put it simply, Google studies how people use Chrome to figure out important metrics for web pages. Even though Googlebot gives most of the signals for ranking websites, web vitals are different because they come from an external source.
How to View The Core Web Vitals For Your Website
By now, you’re probably wondering how well your website is doing in different areas. The good news is you can easily check this with Google Search Console (GSC).
If you already have an account and have verified that you own the website, log in and go to the Enhancements page from the dashboard. This is where you’ll find vital information about your website’s online performance. You can keep an eye on each important aspect through graphs and get notifications about URLs that need some improvement.
For example, GSC will tell you if any of the website links are bad, need improvement, or are fine.
You will see two charts: one for your computer health and one for how well it works on your phone.
Are Core Web Vitals Important for SEO?
Why care about core web vitals when there are over 200 ranking signals?
These aren’t just technical SEO must-haves; they’re also handy for making your page better for users.
Meeting the needs for each vitality will noticeably make your user experience better—a win-win.
A crucial metric, page load time (LCP), really matters. If your page takes its sweet time to load, don’t expect users to stick around. They’ll find what they need elsewhere, and that’s not good for you.
That’s why it’s essential to boost your main web metrics. It matters not just for SEO but for everyone checking out your website. A smooth user experience leads to fewer people leaving quickly and more successful conversions.
The core web vitals make up most of your page experience score on Google. Other things to think about include:
- No interstitial pop ups
In the beginning, people thought that safe browsing was one more thing Google considered for page experience rankings. But, as of August 2021, Google said it isn’t and won’t affect your SEO. Still, it’s a good idea to practice safe browsing to protect Google users.
Make sure your website works well on both mobile and desktop. If you haven’t already, think about using HTTPS, especially if you have an online store.
In today’s world, it’s best to steer clear of interstitial pop ups. People find them irritating, and they negatively affect your user experience.
How Vital Are Core Web Vitals?
In 2021, Google shared that, “We’ll begin using page experience as part of our ranking systems beginning in mid-June 2021.” They mentioned that “while this update is designed to highlight pages that offer great user experiences, page experience remains one of many factors our systems take into account. Given this, sites generally should not expect drastic changes.”
So yes, they matter because they affect how well your content shows up in search results. However, the announcement doesn’t make it clear how much we should worry. Luckily, Google’s Search Advocate John Mueller shares some extra information in this tweet.
It seems like pages with low rankings will gain the most from improvements to Google’s core web vitals. I’ll revisit this later when discussing how to measure and enhance these indicators. But first, let’s understand what these measures are.
Understanding the 3 Core Web Vitals
Ready to master the 3 Core Web Vitals? We’ll break down each metric and share actionable tips to optimize them if they’re lagging, so you can deliver a lightning-fast and frustration-free user experience.
The Largest Contentful Paint (LCP): Load Time
First, let’s talk about the largest contentful paint, or LCP. Simply put, the LCP is how long it takes for a web page to load from the user’s perspective.
The LCP is a special way to measure how fast a web page loads because it focuses on what the user experiences. It considers how a user feels when they open your webpage. If you want to check how fast your webpage loads, you can use Google’s free tool for checking page speed.
To find the specific LCP for your webpages, just head to Google Search Console. Go to the Enhancements tab, and you’ll find the exact number for your LCP. Here are what Google needs for a web page’s LCP:
- When using a computer, make sure the LCP finishes within four seconds.
- For mobile devices, aim for an LCP of no more than 2.5 seconds
Having a Loading Complete Page (LCP) of two seconds or less is considered good. If you hit the 4-second mark, Google will suggest improving your URL. If the LCP goes beyond 4 seconds, it’s seen as not great, and you should work on making the page experience better.
Ideally, every webpage on your site should load in 2.5 seconds or less. This might be a bit challenging for bigger pages with lots of big images and videos.
If your LCPs aren’t doing well, there are ways to make them better.
How to Improve Your LCP for Better SEO
If your web page takes 5.1 seconds to load, there’s room for improvement, but it’s not always an easy fix. If you’ve got lots of big photos, think about removing some to speed things up.
- Improve your website hosting.
- Take away any extra scripts you don’t need.
- Opt for lazy loading – it makes your page wait to fully load until the user scrolls down.
- Get rid of large page elements. Google PageSpeed Insights will alert you if something is slowing you down.
These are reliable ways to speed up how your customers experience things.
The First Input Delay (FID): Interactivity
When your page shows its first content or FCP, viewers can see what’s on your website. But the big question is: when can they start doing things on it?
The FID measures how long it takes for a user to begin doing stuff on your page.
For example, if a hyperlink loads but the user can’t click on it, the first input delay hasn’t happened yet. Your FID really affects how many people leave your site. If users have to wait too long to do something on your website, they’ll probably leave.
Google, just like with the time it takes for the largest content to appear (LCP), has strict rules for FIDs on web pages. Let’s check out what those rules are:
- An FID of 100 milliseconds or less is good.
- An FID of 300 milliseconds needs improvement.
- An FID of 500 milliseconds is poor.
While the FID might seem like a score for how fast your page loads, it’s actually only triggered when someone interacts with what you’ve shared.
And here’s the thing: for some web pages, the FID doesn’t really matter. If your page doesn’t have things like forms, menus, or links, then this score becomes less important.
Which pages need a strong FID for SEO?
Especially, sign-up and log-in pages need reliable FIDs. That’s because the first thing users want to do is enter their information, so the process should be quick.
Ways to boost FID scores on your website:
If you’re struggling to meet Google’s standards for the first input delay, here are some tips to assist:
- Employ a browser cache.
- Get rid of any third-party scripts that you’re not using.
That should help you boost how well your FIDs perform.
Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS): Visual Stability
At last, the cumulative layout shift shows how steady a page stays as it loads. If things on the page shift around during loading, you have a high CLS, and that’s not great.
You ideally want all your page elements to stay as steady as they can while loading. This helps users avoid having to figure out your website’s layout again, which might not be enjoyable for some.
Think about it, would you come back to a page if the links moved every time it loaded?
That’s why it’s important to reduce your Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS) if it’s too high. A high CLS can also cause users to accidentally click on the wrong things. For instance, when the page elements shift around during loading, a user might accidentally tap on the ‘Services’ link and find themselves on the ‘About Us’ page.
Let’s take a look at what Google expects regarding CLS and how it shows up in Google Search Console (GSC):
- A CLS of 0.1 or less is good.
- A CLS of 0.2 needs improvement.
- A CLS of 0.3 or higher is poor.
If you notice that the layout shift on a few of your pages isn’t great, try to minimize it.
Tips for Lowering Your CLS
If you notice a high CLS on some of your pages, here’s what you can do:
- When adding new UI elements, put them ‘below the fold’ to avoid pushing the content down.
- Ensure that each ad element has a designated place to prevent it from jumping around.
- Utilize set size characteristics for all media types to avoid random size changes while loading.
Following these three steps should reduce your CLS and provide a more stable experience.
Web Core Vitals are here to stay, and as SEOs and content marketers, we need to pay closer attention to how they impact the user experience and search ranking. While getting a low score is disappointing, focusing on the indicators that perform the worst offers the best chance for improvement.
You can handle some of this on your own, especially if you use WordPress plugins. However, some issues are trickier to fix, so you’ll need a developer’s help to adjust your code.