Google has taken the next big step in prioritising user experience on the web. The search titan has recently announced three new UI-oriented metrics which are set to become ranking signals. These search ranking signals — interactivity, loading and visual stability — are known collectively as Core Web Vitals. This announcement coincides with an expansion in the way these metrics can be monitored and managed, making it easier than ever for site owners and SEO teams to track these signals.
Core Web Vitals are scheduled to be incorporated into the search algorithm in 2021. This extensive notice period gives us a heads up that this integration is big news. For some websites for which user experience is already a key focus, optimising for these metrics may only require a minor overhaul, whereas for others, optimising for Core Web Vitals may represent a monumental shift.
Core Web Vitals will couple with additional page experience signals (mobile-friendliness, intrusive pop-ups and overall security and safety) in the assessment of overall page experience. Previously, these signals could only be measured using Chrome UX report, now these measurement capabilities are integrated into five additional key tools: PageSpeed Insights, Search Console, Chrome DevTools, Lighthouse and Web Vitals Extension as well.
Why the focus on Core Web Vitals?
Google Core Web Vitals is a solidification of what Google has been drip-feeding for the last few years and represents a clear focus on user experience. Google’s intentions for the web are clear: super fast, super secure, super mobile-friendly. While smaller algorithm updates over the last few years have already started measuring these metrics individually, Google’s Core Web Vitals offers dramatically increased insights to all website owners, detailing the specific boxes they need to tick to maximise their ranking potential. Back in 2018 — for their 20th anniversary — Google made a big statement that all future updates would be focused on the improving the user experience, encouraging websites to make their content more “complete” and mobile-friendly. Research from 2018 indicates that only 8.5% of websites on the internet are optimised for mobile. Core Web Vitals are, in part, Google’s way of addressing this issue.
What does Core Web Vitals measure?
There are three core metrics which Google will use to determine your Core Web Vitals report, and as a result, how they rank your site. The first metric, Largest Contentful Paint (LCP) assesses how quickly the largest visible item on the screen takes to successfully load for users. 2.5 seconds will keep Google happy, but upwards of 4 seconds and you may lose search visibility to more well-optimised websites. They will additionally measure First Input Delay, or FID, which considers the page’s responsiveness to interaction while loading (like clicking on a form or selecting a drop-down menu). Finally, Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS) is an indicator of just how visually stable your site is. Everyone knows the pain of opening a website on your phone, only to have all elements continue to shift around as the page loads. This can lead to users clicking on something unintentionally, or, even worse, clicking the wrong answer in a Buzzfeed quiz.
It’s also important to note that at this stage, working on your Core Web Vitals score isn’t enough to push you ahead of your competitors if your content is inferior. Even looking to 2021, content still reigns supreme.
What does this mean for our clients?
The advanced notice that Google has provided for the integration of Core Web Vitals gives us time to work with our clients and their development teams to ensure adjusting for these metrics becomes a key strategic focus. At Reload, we’re constantly innovating new SEO strategies in line with Google’s key ranking metrics. As optimising for page experience signals is already a key consideration, we’re primed and ready to guide our clients through the process and implement the new tools Google has provided to measure Core Web Vitals. This update, just like every Google update, is reflective of a common goal between the search provider and the user. It’s all about having better experiences on the web!
We will be providing detailed updates over the coming weeks where we’ll discuss exactly what this update means, so stay tuned! If you’d like to discuss what this means for your site, feel free to get in touch with the Reload Team.