Just when you thought you had your site’s SEO under control, Google announces they are rolling out new ranking factors, known as Core Web Vitals (CWV).
But don’t panic just yet. SEO is not going to change, and this is a good opportunity to check if your site is serving up the best possible user experience, which is ultimately what both visitors and Google are looking for.
So firstly, what are the Core Web Vitals, and secondly, what action should you be taking? Let’s take a look.
The CWV are a set of three new metrics that Google will monitor as signals for its search engine rankings. Note that there are certainly other important metrics for your SEO, but these three are a little different from typical SEO factors used in the past. They relate to speed, responsiveness and page stability, and the beauty of them is that they are very specific – “loading speed” for example can be measured in different ways, but Google is now defining the metric more specifically, which is actually super useful when you’re working on SEO.
So what are they?
Largest Contentful Paint (LCP). This relates to page speed. You’re already optimizing for speed (or should be!) but LCP measures the loading speed of the largest element on the page, measured in terms of screen real estate.
First Input Delay (FID). This measures the time before the user can interact with the page, such as by clicking a button. Developers will be incentivised to build pages that get to the relevant interaction as quickly as possible.
Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS). There’s nothing more annoying than trying to click on a button or field on a loading page only to find it replaced by another element mid-click or while your finger is hovering. At worst, you end up clicking on the wrong thing, only to waste more time loading an irrelevant page.
What should I do about the Core Web Vitals?
First up, it’s easy to check how your site is stacking up through your Google Search Console. You’ll find the new metrics prominently included under Enhancements on the navigation column. Performance is given for mobile and desktop, and each metric is flagged as Good, Needs Improvement, or Poor.
Once you’ve identified the elements holding back your pages, you can start knocking them off. The good news is that if you have a large number of pages with problems, there’s likely to be only a small number of issues to be fixed. For example, compressing an image file may be all you need to do to improve your LCP performance across all the pages that feature that image.
In addition to the normal methods of speeding up page loading, fixing FID and CLS may involve a bit of page redesign. Good practice is to keep things simple, but you may need help from your developer if there’s a lot going on with your page and your Core Web Vitals need attention.
Overall, the addition of these new metrics will lead to better page experience and gives you the chance to optimise and beat your competition.