A newbie's information to Google's latest rating issue: Core Internet Vitals
The fact that page speed is a factor in search engine optimization is nothing new. We've heard from Google for years that page speed is used as a ranking factor, and we've been designing, redesigning, and redesigning websites ever since. From next year, Google will introduce a new ranking factor that takes a closer look at page speed: Core Web Vitals. What does this mean for you and your website? Here's what you need to know:
Google describes Core Web Vitals as real metrics for page experience. However, the page experience in question is all about speed. While the traditional way of measuring page speed was to determine load time, Core Web Vitals breaks speed down into three separate metrics:
The largest content color (LCP) indicates how long it takes for the main content of a page – the largest image or block of text – to load in the viewport. It comes closest to what we have defined as location speed in the past.
If you've ever read a news website or blog on your phone and tried tapping a heading to have an ad load under your finger instead, you know all about cumulative layout shifting (CLS). This metric measures how much displacement or shifting occurs in the viewport while a page is loading. It is rated between 0 and 1, with 1 representing the most changing and worst user experience.
The first entry delay (FID) measures the time it takes for a page to be interactive. If there is a delay between a page loading in the viewport and the ability for users to interact with the content (click, scroll, or enter text boxes), it will negatively affect your Core Web Vitals ranking.
How do you find
Although Google won't be using Core Web Vitals as ranking factors until the upcoming page experience update in 2021, you can now start improving these metrics.
Google rates each of the metrics described above as "Good", "Needs Improvement", or "Failed". You can find your Core Web Vitals report on Google Search Console, which shows your page's performance broken down by URL. Once you find the report, on the overview page you can toggle between the tabs for each of the three classes to see the URLs on your website that are performing well and the URLs that need to be worked on broken down by desktop or mobile .
Tips for improvement
Many of the same fixes used to improve overall page speed will also help with your core web vitals. Google suggests:
- Reduction of the page size, ideally to less than 500 KB.
- Limit the number of page resources to 50 for best performance for mobile devices.
- Using AMP to improve page loading.
Web.dev offers specific tips for each of the Web Vitals core metrics. These are excellent resources that anyone working in search engine optimization or web development should bookmark:
Use the PageSpeed Insights testing tool to test any changes made, then click Start Tracking on the problem details page in your Core Web Vitals report to review the corrections.
The final result
It's easy to get frustrated when you find out you have yet another new ranking factor to consider, but Core Web Vitals reflect what we should be doing anyway – building websites that are functional and easy to use.
Even if Google did not use these metrics for ranking, a website with a poor user experience will of course drive users away. With so many options available, it's more likely that users will simply hit the back button and find a different website than stay on a website that is tedious to use. Unlike so many other algorithm changes that seem arbitrary, Core Web Vitals really helps us build better websites.