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Google’s Core Web Vitals: Why They Matter for Your Website

Looking for an edge in your SEO? Invest in user experience. Google announced its new Core Web Vitals earlier in 2021, setting new standards for the usability of your site (and in effect, your SEO).

If you haven't already heard about this update (many of you found out the hard way by opening up your Google Search Console dashboard), here's what you need to know. Google updated their ranking signals again (that's not the story, they do this all the time). The significance here is the shift in what they updated it around and how it can impact the success of your website.

It's 2021 and SEO is about more than just keywords.

I'm not going to bore you with a ton of technical details about this update – that's Aztek's job to know about. What you need to worry about is what this new change signals in terms of the shifting landscape of SEO.

These days, Google is all about giving users a better experience.

Specifically, a faster one that doesn't jump around on the screen while they are trying to click on stuff. I'm oversimplifying but that's the gist.

Google has lots of data about how people use websites and lots of smart people who look at that data. Those smart people looked at that data and were like "Hey, users like sites that load fast and don't jump around while users are trying to interact with them. We should push those sites up in the results (assuming those same sites also have good content)." As such, Google decided to make user experience an even bigger factor when it comes to doling out search ranking scores.

So why the fancy "Core Web Vitals" label?

Think of these new ranking signals as the vitals that get measured when you go see the doctor. Your pulse, blood pressure, and weight tell the doctor a few basic things about your health right off the rip. This is very similar. If your website's core vitals are healthy, we can gauge that it's a quality site that will likely provide a positive experience for visitors.

So what are the Core Web Vitals we're measuring?

There are three key elements that Google uses to assess your website’s user experience score:

  • Largest Contentful Paint (LCP)
  • First Input Delay (FID)
  • Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS)

Largest Contentful Paint (LCP)

While the phrase “largest contentful paint” may not ring any bells, this Core Web Vital is pretty simple – it's the time it takes for a page’s main content to load. An ideal measurement is 2.5 seconds (or quicker). For what it’s worth, Aztek targets an LCP of less than 2.0 seconds.

First Input Delay (FID)

This particular factor measures the time it takes for a page to become interactive (essentially, how quickly a user can start clicking and tapping on page elements). An ideal measurement is less than 100 milliseconds. I'm sure you've been in a hurry and been on websites where you clicked, but nothing happened right away and you had to wait. Frustrating, right? Google agrees, which is why it’s now a part of Core Web Vitals.

Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS)

This signal accounts for the amount of unexpected layout shift of visual page content. An ideal measurement is a score less than 0.1 (tools that check your site for Core Web vitals will give you this score). This shift occurs when various elements on the page move around as the rest of the page elements finish loading. What often happens is that the shift causes you to lose your place, or click the wrong thing because the button moved as you were going to click it. Also very frustrating, ergo Google’s decision to highlight shift as a ranking factor.

If I fix these things, how big of an SEO boost will my website get?

Don't get ahead of yourself. Addressing these things is best practice but is no guarantee of improved rankings. Of course, Google has made it clear that improving these Core Web Vitals can certainly help. Let's say you and a competitor site were even in the search engines for similar keywords. Fixing your Core Web Vitals could give you the edge.

More importantly, that user experience improvement will make a direct impact on anyone who visits your site. Google's own studies show that for pages that meet these thresholds of Core Web Vitals, visitors are 24% less likely to abandon the site. That's 24% more traffic who stick around and become happy visitors regardless of your rankings. That improvement alone makes addressing the Core Vitals worth it.

How do I fix my website's Core Web Vitals?

You can start by checking your own site with a tool that will measure against these criteria. Then, you can contact the page speed experts at Aztek and we can talk about getting your site to pass these audits.