In May 2020, Google announced its new set of more tangible granular site speed metrics, Core Web Vitals. Google has invested a considerable amount of resources into Core Web Vitals replacing the speed report in Google Search Console with a revamped Core Web Vitals report (see mobile example below). If you haven’t already, we encourage every website owner to verify their website in Google Search Console.
More importantly, Google also dropped the big news that these metrics would become a ranking factor as of 2021; queue mass hysteria in the SEO community. As SEO experts, we’re continually trying to measure the strength of search engines’ ranking signals, testing tactics and implementing new strategies to gain a higher ranking position, more traffic and conversions. Whilst old strategies such as link building and the use of high-quality relevant content will always be important, optimising around these metrics represents an opportunity to improve ranks and user experience.
So, what are Core Web Vitals exactly?
Quite simply Core Web Vitals:
- measure the time it takes to load your web page (Longest Contentful Paint)
- the time it takes to become interactive (First Input Delay)
- the visual stability of the web page (Cumulative Layout Shift).
Largest Contentful Paint – Best practice would deem 2.5s to be an adequate loading time for users and is the benchmark that Google suggests.
First Input Delay – measures the time from when a user first interacts with your website (this might be clicking a link). Best practice is between 100 – 300 ms.
Cumulative Layout Shift – this refers to turbulence with the page format – an example would be a heavy ad based website and elements which continue to move during the loading process.
How to measure Core Web Vitals
Since the announcement of Core Web Vitals, the established page speed audit platforms have quickly incorporated these metrics within their analysis tools. Our favourite tools to use are below:
Another great way to visually inspect whether your web pages are slow to load or shift in layout is to load them using a Slow 3G. You can do this through Chrome Dev Tools. Here’s how:
- Navigate to the page in question
- Press F12 to open Chrome Dev Tools
- Open the Network tab
- Press the “Online” dropdown and select “Slow 3G”
- Press Ctrl + R to refresh the page
Want to see how you compare to your competitors directly on the SERP? There is an excellent Core SERP Vitals Chrome extension that uses a traffic light system to highlight any issues with the Core Web Vitals. There’s also a great Cumulative Layout Shift gif generator!
What To Expect Next?
Whilst it is vital to remember that quality remains king in SEO and optimising your Core Web Vitals alone wouldn’t guarantee an improvement in rankings, this new core algorithm update signals a shift towards a greater focus on UX from Google’s perspective. Not only do websites now have a greater impetus to improve UX, but Google is continually taking active steps towards making it easier to optimise for. In the future, it would be an obvious next step for Google to incorporate metrics such as TTFB (time to the first byte) and FCP (first contentful paint) as part of the Core Web Vitals.