Core Web Vitals
Google added the core web vitals into its algorithms earlier this year, but many organisations are finding it labour-intensive, confusing and time-consuming to improve their scores. So we asked our friends at Pedalo to explain how you can maximise your core web vitals in the simplest and most effective ways…
What are the core web vitals?
With the core web vitals, Google is trying to evaluate website user experience (UX) and prioritise the most user-friendly sites in its search rankings. They want searchers to have a seamless, high-quality experience both when searching and when clicking on a website in the results listings.
The core web vitals judge UX in terms of the speed at which content becomes visible and interactive for users. This is important because as page loading time increases, bounce rate increases and user satisfaction decreases; research suggests that a five-second increase in website loading time is responsible for a huge 106% increase in bounce rate.
Unlike some other search engine ranking factors, the core web vitals are based on user/field data. In other words, they reflect how real people experience and interact with your website. By improving your core web vitals scores, your website will feel faster and better for users.
As the core web vitals affect SEO, it’s important to make your site fast and user-friendly or you’re likely to see reduced search engine rankings and less organic traffic.
What makes up the core web vitals scores?
The core web vitals are made up of three website speed and user experience measurements. It’s worth noting that Google gives separate core web vitals scores for each of your webpages, and separate scores for mobile and desktop.
The three core web vitals are:
- Largest Contentful Paint
Largest Contentful Paint (LCP) measures how long it takes for a page’s heaviest content element to appear. The score is based on the loading experience for real-world users, rather than on technical or backend speed performance. A good LCP is considered to be under 2.5 seconds.
- First Input Delay (FID)
First Input Delay (FID) measures how long it takes your website to respond to user interactions, such as clicking links or pressing buttons. A good score FIP is 100ms or less.
- Cumulative Layout Shift
Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS) measures how visually stable your site is. The higher your CLS score, the more your content moves around – for example, by text shifting to make space for images, or message boxes popping up. A good CLS measurement is considered to be 0.1 or less.
Do you need all ‘green’ core web vitals?
You can check your core web vitals in Google Search Console. However, we’ve noticed that Google keeps changing the way it scores, meaning that your results may fluctuate from day to day.
The core web vitals use field data, which is accumulated over a period of time. This makes it tricky, and slow, to improve your scores, as field data takes a while to catch-up with any website changes.
Whilst it’s definitely worth doing what you can to improve your core web vitals – both for SEO and better user experience – you’re unlikely to need full ‘green’ status across all of your webpages. Following our tips below and getting into the ‘amber’ is good enough for most websites and will save you hundreds of hours making technical changes without worthwhile results.
We also find that the core web vitals scores often don’t seem to tally with other measures of website speed and performance, such as Google PageSpeed (which uses lab data reflecting a specific moment in time). It’s worth bearing in mind that it’s often quicker and more effective to make improvements to these scores instead.
Easy and effective ways to improve core web vitals
Here are our top three ways to improve your core web vitals.
1. Focus on images
You’d be surprised at how many website-owners forget to optimise their imagery and still wonder why their website is slow. As images are usually the heaviest elements on a webpage, they’re often responsible for slow loading times and poor LCP scores.
Fortunately, optimising your images is one of the quickest and simplest ways to improve site speed and core web vitals.
Firstly, make sure to resize and compress your images. If you have a WordPress website, you can do this with an image optimisation plugin, such as Smush. Alternatively, use a tool such as Photoshop or Pixlr to crop and shrink your images before uploading to your site.
Secondly, enable webp image conversion. Webp images are super-rapidly loading versions for mobile. With the majority of internet sessions taking place on mobile devices, speeding up your site’s mobile image performance offers a huge boost to your core web vitals.
If you have a WordPress website, you can install the WebP Express plugin. For non-WordPress sites, try converting images to webp yourself or speak to your web support agency for other solutions.
Thirdly, make sure to enable lazy loading. This delays the loading of images which are out of sight until users scroll down, dramatically improving initial loading speeds and LCP scores.
2. Minify CSS and JS
To improve your core web vitals, it’s important to minify these files – in other words, to reduce their size and remove any unnecessary information. This increases site speed and improves user experience whilst preserving the key information needed to ensure your website loads correctly.
If you have a WordPress site, minification can be done simply and easily with a free plugin, such as WP-Optimize. For other websites, you can try minifying the code yourself with a free online tool such as minifier.org.
3. Reduce third-party scripts
Google Analytics, Google Maps, YouTube and many other common third-party services add a lot of additional scripts to your website. Whilst some are crucial for functionality, others may be unnecessary or may be significantly slowing down your site.
We recommend removing any third-party services which are non-essential. For essential scripts, you can try removing the script on webpages where it’s not specifically needed, or loading the script using the async or defer attribute.
For more information, check out this Google article about how to minimise the impact of third-party scripts.
Core web vitals: the bottom line
The core web vitals are a measure of your website’s user experience, particularly in terms of speed. As your scores impact your Google search engine rankings, it’s well worth following the tips above to improve site and SEO performance.
However, most websites would need hundreds of minor changes to gain full ‘green’ core web vitals status. And even if you reach ‘green’, Google could change its scoring system the next day!
So, action our suggestions and keep an eye on your core web vitals scores but don’t worry too much. The core web vitals are only measure one small component of website and search engine performance.
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