Core Web Vitals & Google’s Page Experience Update


As a marketing professional, I’ve heard the term “Core Web Vitals” multiple times a day. But according to a recent marketing census, over 80% of respondents didn’t know what Core Web Vitals were or how it affected their business.

If you’re reading this and that applies to you, stick around to find out more about what Core Web Vitals are, why they’re important for your business and your site, and how to prepare for the Google Page Experience update in May.

What are Core Web Vitals?

Core Web Vitals describe a set of factors that Google uses to measure page experience. This comes in the form of a score, similar to Quality Score for Google Ads.

While Google states Core Web Vitals metrics will change over time, they currently fall into three categories:

  • Loading
  • Interactivity
  • Visual stability

And each criteria carries its own dedicated metric:

1. Largest Contentful Paint (LCP)

LCP measures loading performance and how quickly the main element of a page takes to load. Google’s recommended score for “good user experience” is an LCP of less than 2.5 seconds.

2. First Input Delay (FID)

FID measures interactivity and the time it takes between a user’s first page interaction (e.g. clicking a link or button) and when the browser processes that response. Google’s recommended score for “good user experience” is an FID of less than 100 milliseconds

3. Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS)

CLS measures visual stability and how often a user experiences “unexpected layout shifts” (i.e. when elements of the page suddenly move as it loads). Google’s recommended score for “good user experience” is a CLS of less than 0.1.

The importance of Core Web Vitals

While many people have been discussing the importance of Core Web Vitals and what the Page Experience update could mean for their sites, it’s important to understand that poor Core Web Vitals metric scores aren’t going to tank your site. If that happens, there could be more underlying issues that aren’t linked to the introduction of new metrics.

Simply, with hundreds of ranking factors and individual site signals, Core Web Vitals are only a small part of that.

Core Web Vitals represent user experience and that should be the priority for all site owners anyway. But it’s not all about SEO. From a PPC perspective, a bad user experience feeds into KPIs such as:

You want to make sure your page experience scores are as good as they can be or it could literally cost you.

How to prepare for May

With all that information to take onboard, you can turn that into tangible changes for your site.

1. Focus on user experience

That should have been the case before news of the update but it bears repeating. The scores and graphs you see in your Google CRUX dashboards are a visual representation of what you need to do. But user experience is the priority.

2. Optimize your images

Image optimization is crucial and directly affects all three Core Web Vitals metrics. Here’s a table of the actions you could take and the metrics they would improve:

Action Metrics this can affect
Background images – reducing the size, replacing the images, or complete removal FID
Moving images below the fold FID, CLS
Lazy load images FID
Reduce image file sizes FID, LCP
Changing image formats (PNG to JPG or WEBP) FID, LCP

Alongside page experience improvements, you need to consider accessibility and alt text. This helps screen reader users and aids Google in defining what an image is about which also improves visibility in image search.

3. Minify, consolidate, and defer your external scripts

The Web runs on HTML, CSS, and JavaScript so you need your files to be as lean as possible to keep your page load efficient. Bloated scripts can lead to poor Core Web Vitals scores and ways to avoid this include:

  • Minifying your CSS and JS files to reduce their size.
  • Consolidating files to reduce repetitive code or files loading from different places to reduce your number of requests.
  • Defer files that don’t need immediately.

This is where your devs can truly excel so get communicating!

4. Preload your fonts

Using third-party fonts stored on your server can delay page load so you’ll want to preload them to avoid issues with CLS and FID.

If a font doesn’t load properly, you want to avoid there being a flash of blank space before your fallback font loads. There are some helpful articles on how to solve this from CSS Tricks and Mozilla’s MDN Web Docs.

5. Optimize your server

Slow servers are the worst. Have you ever seen an error page like this?

Image source: Wikimedia Commons

That’s due to a server issue. Server issues ruin user experience and while they can be temporary, if they keep happening, you might need to make some adjustments such as:

  • Upgrading to a faster server
  • Using a CDN to load static files quicker
  • Preloading your cache

6. Reduce your reliance on third-party resources

Do you need all those WordPress plugins or JavaScript libraries where you only use one feature? Consider getting rid of extra third-party scripts if it takes a long time to load your site or if things are breaking.

What’s more, there could be better ways to do those actions with your existing scripts. Don’t add new things unless they’re essential and minify or defer them if you keep them.

7. Bridge the gap between marketing and development

Core Web Vitals aren’t purely a concern for technical SEOs. As I mentioned earlier, it can affect PPC as well as social media (paid or organic), CRO, sales, and, of course, developers.

The common goal is user experience that leads to various KPIs specific to each discipline — sales, conversions, brand awareness.

Organize priorities, explain what you need, what the benefits are for both sides, and how long you think changes will take so everyone is on the same page. Clear communication from the offset is so important, particularly if your site is large and changes can take weeks if not months to implement. Set expectations early and, like your page load time, your collective stress will reduce too.

Summary

Core Web Vitals have been the talk of the town for marketers and for good reason. They demonstrate page experience in a way that professionals can understand, through technical details for SEOs and devs, and revenue and conversion results for stakeholders.

Now that you know what it all means and the various ways you can improve your Core Web Vitals metrics, it’s time to make your page experience the best it’s ever been.



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