In its journey to deliver better organic results and user-centric experiences, Google has announced a new ranking factor for organic results that will massively influence SEO in 2021: The Core Web Vitals.
The fact that Google takes into account the user experience in the search engine to rank sites is not new. There have been some experience signals for some time that analyze whether a web page is optimized for mobile or if the site is secure.
All of these organic search engine ranking signals are intended to satisfy consumers.
Therefore, according to Google, starting with May 2021, the algorithms used will analyze much more carefully: the loading speed of the pages on a site, responsiveness and visual stability.
In this article we will present:
- What is Core Web Vitals?
- What is the impact on SEO?
- How to measure site performance?
Next, let’s see how you can build a better experience for your site visitors.
1. Google and the user experience
Google aims to provide the best possible experience for its search engine users, and in order to do so, it must inevitably force site owners to adhere to “best practices.”
You may like it or not, but Google is modelling the internet, and if tomorrow Google suggests that all sites should load in X seconds when accessed from mobile devices with 3G connectivity, all sites will have to adapt.
Therefore, in order to optimize a site for SEO (or for Google), it is necessary to put the user at the centre of the SEO strategy and provide complete content with structured information and also an excellent experience on the site (regardless of the page from the site that a potential customer reaches).
2. What is the experience on the page in the vision of Google?
Page experience is a set of signals measured by Google to see if the pages of a site 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: the pages of the site do not host malicious or malicious content (phishing).
- HTTPS security: the pages of the site are served to visitors in the secure version with an SSL certificate.
- Core Web Vitals: the pages of the site offer an excellent user experience, with emphasis on aspects such as loading speed, interactivity and visual stability.
If the first three parameters may already sound familiar to you, because they are already conditions for efficient site optimization in Google, Core Web Vitals is announced to be the next step that Google plans to introduce in the SEO optimization process, in order to define the browsing experience offered by the pages of a site 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 real experience of users of a site. 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 of a user’s interactivity/interaction with the site
- Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS) – visual stability of the site
For all these 3 metrics, Google also offered some values to which we can refer:
Now, let’s explain a little bit of each one.
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:
- An HTML code,
- An image,
- A CSS or
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 site or page analyzed needs improvement.
To be more precise, LCP measures the perceived loading speed, ie how long it takes until a page displays the first important elements for the user.
Important: This metric does not measure the full page load speed.
FID (first input delay) – measures the “responsiveness” of a page.
Specifically, Google 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 fewer 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 the visual stability and frequency with which users experience unexpected changes in the visual appearance of pages on the site.
Google considers that a visual change occurs every time an element of a web page changes its position unexpectedly.
This is the hardest part of Core Web Vitals because according to Google, sites need to get a score of 0.1 to meet the new standards.
3. What is the impact of Core Web Vitals on SEO?
First, Google does not yet use Core Web Vitals in search engine algorithms.
All the previously presented signals will become an official ranking factor (ranking) of the organic results from May 2021 and will currently be applied only to searches performed on mobile devices.
Google will continue to focus on the most relevant content in the top organic results, indicating even that the pages that provide the best information will occupy better positions, even if they have some problems with the metrics analyzed by Core Web Vitals.
For now, the quality of content and the number of backlinks take precedence in terms of a user’s experience on a page on a site.
However, in cases where the pages are similar in terms of content relevance, Google will display the pages with the best experience first.
This means that Google will give time to all sites to comply with the new standards of SEO and web development, and in the future Core, Web Vitals will become increasingly important.
4. Core Web Vitals metrics and page experience:
Not sure if your site meets Google’s new standards? No problem. There are enough dedicated analysis tools in the market, such as:
- Mobile-Friendly Test: https://search.google.com/test/mobile-friendly
- Safe-browsing: https://support.google.com/webmasters/answer/9044101
- HTTPS: Opens the site or a page on the site with the Google Chrome browser and, if you see a (green) padlock next to the URL, it means that the site is in HTTPS.
Regarding the Core Web Vitals metrics, you can use the following tools for an analysis and detailed recommendations to remedy the problems encountered by the site:
And let’s not forget that the performances of the sites from the Core Web Vital point of view are also present in the Search Console:
However, improving the user experience on a page on a site is a rather complex subject and requires technical knowledge to obtain the results imposed by Google through Core Web Vitals metrics.
Remember that Google will focus more and more on the user experience and in the long run, these ranking factors will become much more important in SEO.