In its journey to deliver better organic results and user-centric experiences, Google has announced a new organic results ranking (ranking) factor that will massively influence SEO from 2021: The Core Web Vitals.
The fact that Google considers user experience in the search engine to rank sites is nothing new. There have been some experience signals for some time that analyze whether a web page is optimized for mobile or whether the site is safe.
All of these organic search engine results ranking signals from Google are aimed at consumer satisfaction.
That’s why, according to Google, starting in May 2021, the algorithms it uses will analyze much more closely: the speed of page loads on a site, responsiveness and visual stability.
In this article we will introduce you to:
- What is Core Web Vitals?
- What is the impact in SEO?
- How to measure site performance?
Next, let’s see how you can build a better experience for your site visitors.
1. Google and user experience
Google aims to provide the best possible user experience for its search engine, and to do this it inevitably has to force site owners to follow “best” practices.
You may or may not like it, but Google is shaping the internet, and if tomorrow Google suggests that all sites should load in X seconds when accessed from 3G-enabled mobile devices, all sites will be forced to adapt.
That’s why optimizing a site for SEO (or for Google) requires putting the user at the center of the SEO strategy and providing them with complete content, structured information and also an excellent site experience (no matter which page of the site a potential customer lands on).
2. What is on-page experience in Google’s view?
Page experience is a set of signals measured by Google to see if a site’s pages provide a good experience when a user visits that site.
All of the following signals are considered by Google to measure a “good page experience” in organic results:
- Mobile friendliness: pages optimized for browsing on mobile devices.
- Safe-browsing: site pages do not host malicious (malware) or deceptive (phishing) content.
- HTTPS security: site pages are served to visitors in a secure version with SSL certificate.
- Core Web Vitals: site pages provide an excellent user experience, with a focus on aspects such as: loading speed, interactivity and visual stability.
While the first three metrics may already sound familiar to you, as they are already prerequisites for effective site optimization in Google, Core Web Vitals is announced to be the next step Google plans to introduce in the SEO optimization process, to define the browsing experience offered by a site’s pages to users.
What exactly is Core Web Vitals?
Core Web Vitals is a significant update announced by Google for implementation in May 2021 that will measure the actual user experience of a website. Core Web Vitals is focused on three main signals:
- Largest Contentful Paint (LCP) – the largest piece of content on each page of a site
- First Input Delay (FID) – the speed at which a user interacts/interacts with the site
- Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS) – visual stability of the site
For all 3 metrics, Google has also provided some metrics we can refer to:
Now, let’s explain each one a little bit.
LCP (largest contentful paint) – measures the loading speed of the largest piece of content on a page of a site.
That piece of content can be:
According to Google, a good score for LCP is up to 2.5 seconds.
Between 2.5 seconds and 4.0 seconds, Google will consider that the website or page being analyzed needs improvement.
To be more precise, LCP measures perceived load speed, i.e. how long it takes for a page to display the first important elements to the user.
This metric does not measure full page load speed.
FID (first input delay) – measures the “responsiveness” of a page.
More specifically, Google’s algorithms will look at the time between when a user first interacts with a page (when they click on a link or button) and when the browser is able to respond to that interaction.
Google Core Web Vitals for FID recommends a score of less than 100 milliseconds.
Between 100 ms and 300 ms, the site will need improvements to meet the new standards imposed by Google.
CLS (cumulative layout shift) – measures visual stability and the frequency with which users experience unexpected changes to the visual appearance of pages on the site.
Google considers a visual change to occur whenever an element on a web page changes position unexpectedly.
This is the hardest part of Core Web Vitals, because according to Google, websites must score 0.1 to meet the new standards.
3. What is the impact of Core Web Vitals on SEO?
First of all, Google does not yet use Core Web Vitals in its search engine algorithms.
All of the signals outlined above will become an official ranking factor (ranking) for organic results in May 2021 and will apply for now only to searches made on mobile devices.
Google will continue to emphasize the most relevant content in the top organic results, even indicating that pages that offer the best information will rank higher, even if they have some issues with the metrics analyzed by Core Web Vitals.
For now, the quality of content and the number of backlinks take precedence when it comes to a user’s experience on a page within a site.
However, in cases where pages are similar in terms of content relevance, Google will display the pages with the best experience first.
This means that Google will give all sites time to comply with the new SEO and web development standards, and Core Web Vitals will become increasingly important in the future.
4. Tools for measuring Core Web Vitals metrics and page experience:
Not sure if your site meets Google’s new standards? No problem. There are plenty of dedicated analytics tools on the market, such as:
- Mobile Friendly Test
- HTTPS: Open the website or a page in the website with the Google Chrome browser and if you see a lock next to the URL, it means the website is in HTTPS.
In terms of Core Web Vitals metrics, you can use the following tools for detailed analysis and recommendations to fix problems with your site:
And let’s not forget that site performance from a Core Web Vital perspective is also present in Search Console:
However, improving the user experience on a page within a site is a fairly complex topic and requires technical knowledge to get the results Google requires through Core Web Vitals metrics.
Returns that Google will increasingly focus on user experience and in the long run, these ranking factors will become much more important in SEO.