Google core vitals

June 2021 will see changes to Google’s ranking factors. The biggest update is the inclusion of ‘core web vitals’. But, what are core web vitals, and most importantly, what do they mean for your business?

What are ranking factors?

Let’s start at the beginning. Ranking factors are what Google takes into consideration when ordering web pages in the search engine results page (SERPs). Seeing as 75% of users never scroll past the first results page, it’s imperative that your website ranks as highly as possible. It’s the role of SEO (search engine optimisation) to do exactly that. 

There are a number of different factors in Google’s complex algorithm that can affect ranking position, from user experience to keywords, and come June, core web vitals. 

What are core web vitals? 

Core web vitals is another name for page experience. Google takes page experience very seriously, as they want to suggest the best results for user searches.

If Google displays your web page in the SERPs and a user clicks through to it and has a negative experience due the web page being slow, Google looks bad for ranking a low quality site. This bad user experience can push your web page down in ranking position, which in turn means poorer visibility and lower click through rates.

Therefore, page speed has always been an important part of SEO. However, Google has announced three key metrics to focus on:

  1. Largest Contentful Paint (LCP)
  2. First Input Delay (FID)
  3. Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS)

These new page experience metrics will contribute to overall site speed scores, meaning you and your business need to get to grips with how they work before the update in June.

How can your business prepare for Google’s update? 

It’s unusual for Google to announce an update so far in advance, which suggests these changes in June will be significant. To ensure your website’s ranking positions are not affected, here’s how your business can optimise core web vitals:

Largest Contentful Paint (LCP)

Loading time is a much more straightforward name for Largest Contentful Paint. This metric will simply measure how long it takes before the largest above the fold content is displayed to the user. LCP is expected to count towards 25% of the overall speed score, making it a vital element for your business to optimise. You can do this by:

  • Reducing the loading time of the largest element to 2.5 seconds
  • Optimising all images to ensure they are reduced to their fastest loading time, without compromising on quality. 
  • Improving server response time
  • Render blocking Java scripts and CSS 

First Input Delay (FID)

First Input Delay measures the time it takes from the first user interaction, to when the page responds. If your website is slow, it could cause the user to exit the page and click onto another website, losing your business custom. 

To ensure your site makes a great impression you should aim for a FID of less than 100 milliseconds. Javascript is one of the main causes of poor FID, which you can look to optimise by:

  • Reducing the amount of Javascript on the page through ‘lazy loading’ or deferring any non-critical Javascript
  • Breaking up long Javascript tasks
  • Running Javascript in the background

As pagespeed insight metrics make up 35% of overall page scores, optimising your Javascript should be on every businesses 2021 to do list.

Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS)

Have you ever been scrolling through a webpage when the text moves unexpectedly, or a link magically appears and redirects you somewhere else? Cumulative Layout Shift measures how often this negative experience occurs for users. A high CLS means one or more elements have moved once the page finished loading. Therefore a low CLS score of less than 0.1 is what businesses should be aiming for by fixing:

  • Images or ads without dimensions – always include width x height 
  • Dynamic content that inserts new content above existing content
  • Web fonts that cause Flash of invisible text (FOIT) and Flash of Unstyled Text (FOUT)

It’s always important to adhere to best practice when adding new elements to your site to avoid these technical issues.

Next Steps

To ensure your website maintains high rankings in Google’s search results we recommend completing a page speed audit. This will highlight any areas of your site that are currently underperforming. Once all page speed errors are fixed, and the site is correctly optimised in line with Google’s ranking factors, your web pages can perform well in the SERPs – resulting in a higher CTR for your business.

Sophie Lurcuck - Creative Account Executive

Author: Sophie Lurcuck - Creative Account Executive