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Core Web Vitals and How to Improve for SEO

Core Web Vitals

It is 2021! New year, new ranking algorithm. As you might guess, we are talking about Core Web Vitals (CWV).

Google announced Core Web Vitals back in 2020. Google will implement Core Web Vitals in 2021 and give us 6 months’ notice. So far, we haven’t heard from Google.

But it is going to happen and we better off get ready to boost our rankings!

If you are not 100% clear what CWV is all about but want to improve your Core Web Vitals Score, you are in the right place.

In this article, I will walk you through:

An Introduction to Core Web Vitals

Three Signals 

How to Measure Core Web Vitals

How to Improve Core Web Vitals

An introduction to Core Web Vitals

Google makes changes in algorithms quite often. Occasionally they update the ranking factor.

As the name suggests, the ranking factor is a group of criteria that Google uses to evaluate each webpage and rank them accordingly in SERP.

Core Web Vitals is a ranking factor and real-world user experience metrics that Google is looking at. If you have decent answers to these questions below, then you are prepared for ranking factors.

How fast does the page load?

Is the layout consistent?

How fast does the browser pull results for the webpage?

If these questions are not making complete sense, bear with me as we will discuss them in detail in Three Signals for Core Web Vitals section.

So, CWV is all about the mobile and desktop experience (in terms of speed and layout) people are receiving when they visit your site.

Compared to other ranking factors, CWV focuses on UX rather than the actual text on your site. Some of the user experience that Google measures are mobile-friendliness, HTTPS and pop-ups.

So, you always have to keep these questions in mind while creating or fixing a website:

How pleasant is the site for use?

How useful is it?

Google specifically accentuated mobile-friendliness of the website in the announcement. 

I think this update is mainly for an SEO specialist to start paying more attention to responsiveness. Let’s be honest that not all of us dedicate enough resources to make our sites load fast on mobiles.

And this brings me to the next effect Core Web Vitals is going to have. 

As of today, one of the requirements to appear on Google Top Stories is Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP). AMP is going away, and CWV is going to replace it. You have to meet the minimum threshold of CWV to be featured on Top Stories.

Three Signals

I know that this part is pretty technical, but it is nothing to be afraid of.

You should understand what Google tries to measure with the new update to optimize accordingly.

1. Largest Contentful Paint (LCP)

To put it simple Largest contentful paint (LCP) measures how fast a page loads.  It can be influenced by the size of the images, videos and text.

What Google does, it looks at the largest thing in the viewport. This can be the largest content pieces (image, video, text) or desktop page or mobile site. 

So the LCP only measures loading time that is directly relevant to the user experience, including:

  • Images
  • Image tags
  • Videos
  • Video thumbnails
  • Background images
  • Headlines
  • Paragraphs 

According to Google, the desired load time for the algorithm is 2.5 seconds. 

You can monitor LCP using the web.dev illustrated meter.

LCP

2. Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS)

Have you ever tried to click a website button but suddenly clicked somewhere else because the button moved?

That is poor user experience, and Google with Core Web Vitals “forces” webmasters to create stable sites. 

This is measured through the cumulative layout shift (CLS). The calculator is simple: it is the sum of unexpected total layout shifts.

Less is more when it comes to a good score. Google considers 0.1 as a good score.

You can use the meter below by web.dev.

CLS

3. First Input Delay (FID)

Your webpage usually has multiple buttons and Javascript events a person can click. First input delay (FID) measures how fast a server pulls the results.

You can have several types of users on your site. FID is all about the delay in response for a user action performed for the first time. 

This is another user experience element that you need to be on top of. Here too, less is more.

A good measure by Google is 100 ms.

FID

How to Measure Core Web Vitals

In Digital Marketing, we know that measuring is one of the most critical aspects of any campaign.

If you cannot measure it, you cannot fix it!

Thankfully for CWV, Google made the measuring very clear.

They added a new report to Search Console where you can find all the indexed pages and understand whether they’re poor, need improvement, or are decent.

Google also provides a table to understand status definitions better.

scores

Every report in Search Console is linked to Page Speed Insights, powered by Lighthouse.

In the report, you need to concentrate on opportunities and diagnostics. Improving your page speed score might require technical knowledge, so the best thing you can do is analyze and improve with a developer.

Besides Search Console and Page Speed Insights, you can use other tools for measuring CWV.

CWV tools

If you or your developer need more information about measuring CWV read this guide by dev.web.

How to Improve Core Web Vitals

Now when you understand what CWV is all about and how you can measure the scores, it is the best time to learn how to improve your score.

1. Image Optimization

One of the best things you can do for your website and SEO is to optimize imagery. Even if you have one pig image on your homepage or blog page, this will hurt. It will also become the largest contentful paint (LCP).

There are several things you can do for image optimization.

First, create images in needed sizes and before adding to your site compress it. Here are our favorite image compressing tools:

https://compressjpeg.com/

https://imagecompressor.com/

https://squoosh.app/

Second, you can use more modern formats for imagery. For example, WebP can provide better quality images at a small size. It is well supported by many software so you will not have any problems using it.

Third, your content management system (CMS) might have a take here. With WordPress 5.5 update, large images will be uploaded only if the user interacts with the screen.

2. Third-Party Scripts 

We all want to earn side cash and we end-up turning ads in our sites. 

If you have ads on your site, then your page load time is in the hands of the ad provider. If the ads load very slowly, do not risk your site and find another ad provider.

Having pages that load fast are very important as we already mentioned multiple times. Ask yourself:

Do you need that ad?

What is the value it brings? 

If the benefits site speed gives you outweigh the ad’s benefits, consider turning on or finding another opportunity.

3. Be Careful with Interstitials 

Interstitials are ads and pop-ups that appear while a chosen website or page is downloading. They are usually big and can cover the whole web page. 

Here is an example of interstitial that affects user experience by covering certain parts of the webpage, and it will not go away unless you click.

pop-ups

Test your website pages on multiple devices (both mobile and desktop) to find all the pop-ups and interstitials.

Whenever you see it disturbs the user journey, redesign it.

4. Serve Everything Over HTTPS

Safety and privacy are essential for Google, and they expect that webmasters provide safer browsing for visitors.

If you still have pages with HTTP protection, you pose risks to users by making their data vulnerable.

The pages where you ask people to fill in contact or payment information have to be over HTTPS.

You can check the site security using Screaming Frog or manually go over all the pages and expand URLs.

5. Audit Your Site for Security Issues

HTTPS discussion brings us to the next important point, which is the security of the website. 

Before showcasing your site on SERPs, Google checks the security of your site. It mainly looks at malware, false content and phishing elements.

For starters, you can use Google Search Console to audit your site. The Security Issues report can be found under Security & Manual Actions.

Check all the issues, recommendations and improve them!

Extra tip: Always make sure you have an updated SSL certificate.

Core Web Vitals is All about User Experience

As we see, Core Web Vitals are all about user experience and visitors privacy. We should always work on enhancing UX elements on our sites regardless of what Google updates.

Are you ready for the update? Let us know in the comments below.

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