What Are Core Web Vitals?
Updated 04/02/22: Core Web Vitals now applies to desktop search as well as mobile.
In simple terms, the Core Web Vital metrics are a Google ranking factor which rolled out in June 2021. Designed to encourage website owners to get their web pages loading quicker and smoother, Core Web Vitals are all about enhancing user experience.
Let’s take a deeper look into each metric and the absolute essentials you need to be aware of as an online business owner.
Defining the Core Web Vital metrics
Core Web Vitals are made up of three umbrella metrics which were identified by Google by their potential to damage the user experience. In order to pass your Core Web Vitals with flying colours and achieve any ranking benefit you must score well on all three of these metrics. Find out what these are below.
Largest Contentful Paint:
This essentially measures how quickly the largest piece of content on a web page takes to load. Often, this metric will focus on your main feature image. Most of us have experienced waiting for a large feature image to load and if yours is loading at a snail’s pace then Google will now let you know so you can do something about it.
First Input Delay:
First Input Delay measures how long it takes for your web page to respond to a user’s first click or interaction. So, if users try to click on an interactive element such as a video, link or live-chat box and there is a delay, Google will tell you.
Cumulative Layout Shift:
Cumulative Layout Shift measures whether your content stays in the same place while loading. An example of poor Cumulative Layout Shift would be if you click on a link and then the page content shifts so you accidentally click on another link, such as an advert. Google can now conveniently tell you whether this is happening on your web pages.
How to find out your Core Web Vital scores
Now that you know what Core Web Vitals are, you’re probably wondering how to find the scores for your website or online business. You can check if your website’s Core Web Vitals are healthy in seconds. Simply visit this Google PageSpeed Insights page, enter your website URL and the results should pop up straight away.
What can you do to improve your website’s user experience?
Essentially, the point of Core Web Vitals is to encourage websites to provide a great user experience, to make the web a more enjoyable and accessible place for everyone. Whilst the possibilities are endless, we have listed some ideas on how you can make sure your website is giving your target audience the best experience possible.
Safe browsing has always been important for user experience, but now Google has created a specific metric for it. This means you’ll want to ensure your website has no malware, and if your website is still running on HTTP rather than the more secure HTTPS now is the time to change this!
As the majority of users are browsing by mobile, it’s important to make sure your audience is getting a great experience on their mobile devices. You can use the free Google Mobile test tool to quickly check that your website pages are mobile-friendly. Or, to evaluate more than one page at a time, you can use Google Search Console’s mobile report which will suggest areas for improvement.
Page load speed
Having a fast page-load speed is not just good for user experience, it’s also linked to one of the key Core Web Vitals metrics – so if your website is a little sluggish you should remedy that pretty quickly.
A quick page load speed is important. When users click through to your website they won’t want to hang around for the content to load. In fact, if there is a significant delay potential customers will be more likely to leave your site – resulting in fewer sales and leads.
Intrusive ads (intrusive interstitials)
Intrusive ads are essentially pop-up ads that interfere with a user’s experience, but excludes cookie warnings and age verification pop-ups.
If your pop-up ads are taking over your homepage screen, especially when loading, then you may want to swap them for something a little less intrusive or delay when they load.
If your content is jumpy when your web pages load, this could negatively affect your Core Web Vitals ranking. Stability of content will be an important consideration, so you’ll want to make sure your usual page layout does not change or jump – especially on mobile.
Desktop vs Mobile Websites
When Core Web Vitals first rolled out in the summer of 2021, it initially only applied to the mobile version of Google Search. Though this is the most popular platform today, it’s not the only one – let’s not forget about old faithful, the desktop computer. Millions of us use desktops for work on a daily basis, and that means an awful lot of Google searches.
In February 2022, Google brought desktop back into line with mobile, rolling out Core Web Vitals universally.
The desktop version works in exactly the same way as its mobile counterpart (discussed above) but, as you’d expect, the ‘Mobile Friendliness’ factor is omitted. Essentially, this means that optimising your website for Core Web Vitals will soon be more important than ever; fail to do so and you could not only be losing out on mobile visitors, but those on desktop too.
It also means that you’ll need to pay close attention to Core Web Vitals even if you don’t have a mobile version of your website.
Along with the Core Web Vitals desktop update, Google Search Console will receive a new report feature, allowing you to see how your desktop site performs before the update is rolled out.
So, there you have the key areas that you should be focusing on to prepare for Google’s Core Web Vitals update. By making all the relevant changes it’s not just customers who will be happy and impressed with your website – Google should view it favourably too. It’s a no brainer really! However, to give your website the best chance of benefiting from a potential boost in Google’s rankings, you should focus on ALL the points listed in this article.
Important Tip: Improvements to user experience don’t stop with Core Web Vitals. While they’re important, there will also be an ongoing list of things that can improve user experience – it’s about knowing your audience and prioritising the most important improvements.
If you need help making the changes to your website in time for the Core Web Vitals update, we recommend consulting your web developer or a professional web design agency.