Those in the SEO community have been patiently waiting for the rollout of Google’s Page Experience algorithm update set to begin in June. It marks one of the most significant algorithm updates in a number of years, and those with business websites will likely have to make some changes to stay in Google’s good graces.
One of the key factors that will be going into this update are Core Web Vitals. If this is the first you are hearing of the term, it’s worth spending a few moments explaining what they are and why they matter.
What Are Core Web Vitals?
Core Web Vitals are a set of factors that Google takes into account when evaluating a webpage’s overall user experience (UX). In essence, they are the specific metrics that Google will use to measure your website’s performance regarding page experience once the rollout has taken effect.
In case you are wondering what the specific page speed and user interaction measurements are, they are as follows:
Largest contentful paint
First input delay
Cumulative layout shift
Even though the update hasn’t rolled out yet, you can find your website’s scores on these metrics in your Google Search Console, under the “enhancements” tab.
Why Are Core Web Vitals Important?
There’s a reason that there is so much fanfare around this particular Google update. It’s because page experience is going to become an official ranking factor for your business website. In other words, if you deliver a poor page experience to your customers, Google will push competitor sites with better page experiences above yours in search results.
Google has stated that many factors will go into the overall page experience, including:
HTTPS connection (SSL certificate)
Number of annoying pop-ups
“Safe-browsing” (basically, not having malware on your page)
However, Core Web Vitals will be the biggest influence on your overall page experience performance. Thus, if you perform poorly on Core Web Vitals, your ability to rank above your competitors will be impacted.
With that in mind, let’s give you a few tips to ensure your website maintains or even improves its performance within search engine results.
Improving Largest Contentful Pain (LCP)
LCP is how long it takes a page to load from the point of view of an actual user if you’re unfamiliar with this term. So the time it takes from clicking a link to your website to it loading up the vast majority of that page’s content.
You can receive a score for LCP by entering your domain into Google PageSpeed Insights. However, you will find the LCP scores for each page and post of your website over in your Google Search Console.
So what can you do to improve the loading speeds of your pages? Here are some suggestions:
Remove any unnecessarily third-party scripts: These are little snippets of code that load items such as ads, analytics, widgets, plugins, and other third-party features of your site. One study has found that each third-party script slows a page down by 34 ms.
Upgrade your web host: Web hosting is always important in your page loading speeds. That’s why it’s imperative that you host your website with a provider that boasts lightning-fast load times.
Set up lazy loading: Lazy loading forces your website to only load content when someone scrolls down your page, allowing you to achieve LCP significantly faster.
Remove large page elements: Google PageSpeed Insights will tell you if your page has an element that’s slowing down your page’s LCP. For example, you might have a large image file or video dragging the whole page down.
With LCP covered, let’s talk about the first input delay.
Improving First Input Delay (FID)
Once again, it’s worth clarifying what FID is. It’s the time it takes for a website visitor to interact with the page.
That could be one of the following actions:
Choosing an option from a menu
Clicking on a link in the site’s navigation
Entering their email into a field
Opening up a “hamburger menu” on mobile devices
This is an important metric because it measures how real-world users interact with your business website.
Interestingly, you shouldn’t really be worried about FID on some of your web pages because you aren’t trying to encourage interaction. For instance, on a blog post, users are searching for information, so you are unlikely to take any actions beyond scrolling down the page or perhaps zooming in on the text if they are reading on a mobile device.
However, on the pages that you are targeting interaction, Google will be paying close attention. Think about your login pages, sign up pages, or other pages whereby the user is expected to click on something to progress (e.g., your homepage). These are the pages where FID becomes a vital metric.
To improve your FID scores, you need to remove all possible distractions and ensure that the clickable feature loads and quickly as possible.
For the loading element, see the tips for LCP above. However, from a web design perspective, make sure that it’s obvious where you expect your users to go for their next interaction. You could try:
Making navigation menus stand out more and easier-to-use
Increasing white space around call-to-actions to increase click-through rates (CTRs)
Removing unnecessary additional content that distracts from clickable elements
Use a caching plugin to load content on your page faster
Improving Content Layout Shift (CLS)
For those unfamiliar, CLS is how stable a page is as it loads (aka “visual stability”). In other words, if elements on your page jump around as the page loads, then you’ve got a high CLS, which isn’t good.
The lower your CLS score, the better. You want everything to stay in place as it loads, so your users aren’t bamboozled as the page continues to rearrange itself during loading.
This is perhaps the most tricky to improve since there are so many elements at play that cause items to move during loading, but here are some things you can try:
Set fixed dimensions for any media (video, images, infographics etc.): Implementing fixed dimensions for your visual media lets the user’s browser know precisely how much space that element will take up on that page, preventing it from “working it out as it goes along” during loading.
Make sure ads elements have a fixed, reserved space: Ads are perhaps the biggest culprits for poor CLS scores. Thankfully most informational business websites don’t have them in place. But if you do, then work with your ad partner (or make changes to your theme if you control your ad placements) to ensure that they appear in the same place every time. This will prevent them from pushing content up, down, or to the side during loading.
Push new elements below the fold: When users navigate your site, they expect at least the top quarter of their screen (“the fold”) to remain the same. That’s why it’s a good idea to keep images, videos, or any other dynamic content that could move about during loading below the fold so that it’s unlikely to mess with the first part of your page to load.
Choose McGinn & Dolphin to Improve Your Core Web Vitals
With the page experience rollout just around the corner, many businesses are scrambling to improve their Core Web Vitals scores. However, as you might have noticed, it can be a daunting task if you’re not technically inclined.
That’s why we would recommend leaving it to the professionals who are already well-versed in improving these vital website performance metrics, such as ourselves here at McGinn & Dolphin. We are already making improvements to our clients’ websites as part of their monthly website management packages and have overseen some impressive score improvements.
If you would like to learn more about how we can bring your website performance up to scratch, feel free to book a no-obligation discovery call with a member of our team today.