In the race for higher organic search rankings, every company with a web presence is trying to please Google algorithms. In turn, the search engine keeps adjusting these algorithms to please the user.
One of the top pleasing factors is page experience. Last month, Google uncovered Core Web Vitals, a set of metrics to help measure the website's future ranking potential.
These metrics go beyond the standard "mobile-friendliness", "fast page loading time", and "friendly interface." They give companies a clear understanding of what must be adjusted to appear on the coveted first page of Google search results.
Important note: Core Web Vitals discussed in this article will start affecting rankings once the new Google Algorithm Update rolls out in 2021. The search engine promised to give us a 6-months notice.
What is Page Experience?
Page experience is a set of signals that measure how users perceive the experience of interacting with a web page beyond its pure information value. Optimizing for these factors makes the web more delightful for users across all web browsers and surfaces, and helps sites evolve towards user expectations on mobile.
Related Read: 5 Things You Need to Know About Technical SEO
Page experience metrics include:
- Mobile-friendliness — how well the website looks and operates on mobile devices.
- Safe browsing — if your website contains malicious (i.e. malware) or deceptive content.
- HTTPS — if your website is served over Https, thus showcasing its safety.
- Intrusive interstitials (e.g. pop-up ads) — if the content is easily accessible to the user.
- Core Web Vitals — LCP, FID, CLS
Let's talk about the newest addition, Core Web Vitals, and what they mean for your inbound marketing efforts.
Short answer: In 2021, page experience will become a signal that Google evaluates when ranking search results.
3 Core Web Vitals
Google promises to add new players to the Core Web Vitals (CWV) team in the future. Today, we can focus on the three existing factors that are going to impact organic search rankings, starting in 2021.
- LCP (Largest Contentful Paint) — "Why do I see white space instead of content?!"
LCP measures how well your webpage is loading. To offer a stellar user experience, the loading time (time from the moment a page starts loading to the moment it is fully loaded) should be faster than 2.5 seconds. Anything between 2.5 and 4 seconds is considered mediocre. A loading time longer than 4 seconds is poor.
- FID (First Input Delay) — "I just clicked that. Why didn't anything change?!"
FID measures the interactivity of your webpage (the time it takes for the website to respond to such users' actions as clicking a link, tapping a button, etc.). To rank high, your website's FID should be higher than 100 milliseconds. Anything between 100 and 300 milliseconds is considered mediocre. An FID longer than 300 milliseconds is poor.
- CLS (Cumulative Layout Shift) — "I was about to click that. Why did it move?!"
CLS measures the visual stability of your website (how often visible elements on the website change their positions, forcing the user search for the lost place in the text or the button they were trying to tap). To rank high, your CLS should be less than 0.1. Anything between 0.1 and 0.25 is considered mediocre. A CLS higher than 0.25 is poor.
The takeaway: to rank higher on Google search next year, you have to improve the page loading time, tweak the responsiveness of your website, and keep your page layout as stable as possible. If your CWVs fall below the mentioned figures, you may have trouble achieving the desired rankings.
Measuring Core Web Vitals
Google has handed out a variety of tools to measure these vitals so SEO experts know what needs improvement.
- Search Console — A Core Web Vitals Report is now part of the tools offered in Google Search Console.
- PageSpeed Insights — Available through Google Search Console or by direct URL input, this tool diagnoses speed issues on your webpages.
- Lighthouse and Chrome DevTools — These tools were updated to show CLS and FID metrics and provide insight into improving them. It also measures TNT (Total Blocking Time) of the page to help you improve FID.
- Chrome UX Report — Updated with a new CWV landing page, the Chrome UX Report shows field versions of each metric by measuring real user experience on millions of websites.
- Web Vitals Extension — This new Chrome plugin can help you study and analyze the CWVs on both your website and your competition's websites.
Improving Your Website's Core Web Vitals
If you are focusing on high-quality SEO efforts, your current CWVs are likely to be in great shape. However, when it comes to organic search rankings, there is always room for improvement.
- Measure your website loading speed continuously and cut it down whenever possible.
- Reduce 400 errors and optimize 301 redirects.
- Check how your competition's CWVs stack up against your performance.
- Rethink your website's design, use of colors, image sizes, and white spaces.
- Remove useless CSS and JS.
- Load thumbnail previews of videos instead of full videos.
- Work on images without dimensions (include width and height attributes).
- Adjust dynamically injected content.
- Reduce the number of resources per page (keep it under 50).
- Test the website regularly to note CWVs improvements and downsides of your actions.
It's worth noting that just like any inbound marketing effort, Core Web Vitals improvement is an ongoing process.
As Google tweaks its algorithms and users change their preferences, your indicators may change as well. That's why it's vital to keep watching the metrics and improve them continuously.
Staying On Top of Page Experience
There is no denying that page experience is gaining momentum out there on the world wide web. Even though the related Core Web Vitals update to Google's algorithms isn't due out until next year, it's highly important to start tweaking your CWVs today.
To meet the update fully armed, you should be improving page loading time, responsiveness, and visual stability regularly.
If you'd like to learn more about Core Web Vitals and what can be done to keep them in check, please don't hesitate to contact us today for a free technical SEO audit. This is an unbiased, free, assessment of your website's technical SEO that could be affecting your organic search rankings.