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Aris Ramos headshot Posted by Aris Ramos October 26, 2020

Preparing for Google's Core Web Vitals

First impressions count, and this is especially true on the web. Users expect websites to be intuitive, mobile-friendly, and fast to load. If these basic requirements aren’t met, it can make the difference between a user becoming a loyal customer or giving up in frustration and never returning to your site again. Indeed, studies show that 66% of online customers say website performance influences their impression of a firm, 14% of online shoppers will shop elsewhere if a page is slow to load, and 23% might give up and walk away from their computer altogether.

Optimizing page load speed is one way to tangibly enhance the user experience. This has been recognized by Google since 2018, when a website’s mobile speed was introduced as an important search ranking factor. And now Google is set to make another major update to their search algorithm that will seek to address what it considers to be the essential quality markers for user experience, including: speed, responsiveness and visual stability.

To help website owners prepare for this update, Google has announced an initiative called Core Web Vitals, to provide guidance on how to measure page experience from the user's perspective, together with clear, actionable metrics to help benchmark and improve your site. This update is expected to take place in 2021. Google has pushed back the release due to COVID-19, giving webmasters extra time to prepare, and have promised to provide six months’ notice – this has yet to be announced. 

Page experience and your bottom line

There is never one experience of a page. A user’s perceptions of a digital interaction and how much friction they are prepared to tolerate are impacted by things like the urgency of their task, the context of their actions, and their personality.  When it comes to delivering digital experiences, how fast is fast enough? What constitutes a successful outcome?

Core Web Vitals is Google’s distillation of an extensive body of scientific research, and observations of millions of user interactions, into a set of metrics it considers key to delivering great user experiences. In The Science Behind Web Vitals Google provides a window into their research, and how they arrived at this specific set of metrics and thresholds. I’ll dig deeper into the metrics below, but first, here’s why Google considers them so important. According to their research, a hefty 24% of users are less likely to leave a web page before any content has been painted if it meets the required thresholds of Core Web Vitals. As Google puts it:

There are few interventions that can show this level of improvement for online businesses, and results like these are part of the reason we and our ecosystem partners prioritize the Web Vitals metrics." 

So not only will Core Web Vitals affect your site’s ranking, but also your ability to retain and grow your traffic. For any company in a competitive environment, addressing Core Web Vitals is likely to provide a significant boost. 

Three signals for Core Web Vitals

Google’s Core Web Vitals consists of three sets of metrics, designed to signal how users experience a page. Each of the Core Web Vitals represents a distinct facet of the user experience, is measurable, and reflects the real-world experience of a critical user-centricoutcome.

Largest Contentful Paint (LCP) 

This metric is designed to measure perceived load speed. It looks at the largest elements on a web page (including images, background elements, video and block-level elements) and how quickly they load and render within the user’s viewport. In order to provide a good user experience, LCP should occur within 2.5 seconds of when the page starts loading. 

First Input Display (FID) 

This measures how long it takes for the site to react to the first interaction by a user. For example, this could be a click or the tap of a button. Do note that FID does not measure how long it takes to process and complete the action performed but how long before the site starts acting upon the user’s interaction. To take a restaurant analogy, this is the time it takes a waiter to act upon receiving the order from a customer and not the time it takes for the food to arrive on the table. A good score - a FID of less than 100 milliseconds - gives the user a sense that a site is responsive and quick to react to their input.

Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS) 

CLS measures the visual stability of web pages and checks if the layout of the page suddenly changes unexpectedly as the page is loading. A common example of poor visual stability occurs when reading articles. On many websites, text is loaded first to allow users to start reading immediately while the rest of the web page is still loading. However, this experience is degraded if there are elements of the page that load and push the text someone is reading to another location. This can be hugely frustrating to the user, who now needs to reorient themselves on the page. For a good user experience, websites should aim to have a CLS score of less than 0.1

How can Crownpeak DQM help?

What do website owners need to do to prepare for Google’s Core Web Vitals? The update should not significantly disrupt your existing SEO strategy, as existing signals such as content quality and relevance will remain important. As Google says:

“A good page experience doesn’t override having great, relevant content. However, in cases where there are multiple pages that have similar content, page experience becomes much more important for visibility in Search.”

In other words, while high quality content and a robust SEO plan need to remain a priority, page experience is becoming an increasingly important ranking factor, that needs to be addressed.

Crownpeak DQM is one tool that can be used as part of your program to address Core Web Vitals.  The platform contains a suite of diagnostics and reports to help make digital experience and SEO optimization easy. Several of the platform’s existing reports can already be utilized to support Core Web Vitals alongside other quality markers, and more are in the pipeline. For example, one of the primary impacts on Largest Contentful Paint (LCP), is the load time of specific assets. Crownpeak DQM makes it simple to identify any potentially slow-loading assets, such as large images, and flag them for optimization.

As customer expectations continue to rise, and the digital marketplace becomes yet more competitive, Crownpeak is here to help you build competitive advantage by optimizing your marketing effectiveness and securing the most value from every website visit.  

To find out what Crownpeak DQM can do for you, speak to an expert today.