In May 2020, Google announced its intentions to release a new ranking factor related to the overall page experience. The main objective was to ensure that the ranking websites provided a great user experience.
The page experience is a quality rating for a page, and it considers various factors such as speed, performance, security, and the content of the web page. Google uses algorithms that constantly monitor these pages to determine if they have a good user experience or not.
The good news for SEOs is that this metric will be considered when determining rankings in search engines. In other words, if your website has an excellent overall User Experience, then there’s a higher chance of ranking well in Google.
Metrics that make up Core Web Vitals (CWV)
These three metrics measure loading performance, interactivity and visual stability:
- Largest Contentful Paint (LCP)
- First Input Delay (FID)
- Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS)
Please note that these metrics are per page, not per website. So, you could find several pages having a good score while others need improvement.
Largest Contentful Paint (LCP)
This is the first metric that Google introduced to indicate the load performance of pages. It measures the average time it takes for a browser to display a fully loaded page. The lower number you have, the better your site will be!
First Input Delay (FID)
Although Google has used this metric since 2015, it wasn’t until 2020 that they announced its use as part of CWV.
It tells us how long users must wait before interacting with a page after having requested it from the webserver. In other words, this is about user experience and waiting times on your website.
If you have a low FID score, then there’s no need to worry.
Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS)
This metric measures how much the page design must shift to accommodate text or the visual content that did not fit the layout. It’s a good indicator of how up-to-date your website is and, more particularly, its mobile version.
CLS will be high, for example, if your website is loading content using Ajax and there is no height defined for the div container where the results will be displayed.
Please note that all these metrics are per page, not per website. So, you could find several pages having a good score while others need improvement.
You can check out Google’s own speed tests by following this link: https://developers.google.com/speed/pagespeed/insights/?hl=en
Of course, anyone can use other websites to analyze CVW, such as GTmetrix or Pingdom. Using Google Search Console, you can find the number of pages with a good user experience score.
Will Core Web Vitals affect your rankings?
It is not the first time Google announced that it intends to add new ranking factors. In 2012, for example, Google added the Panda update, which significantly affected website rankings in search results.
One of the main characteristics of Core Web Vitals is that your website will need to have a good user experience and high-quality content for you to benefit from these changes.
Many SEOs were unsure if they should take action or not. If your current website already provides a great user experience, then you most likely won’t see any negative impact on your site rankings.
Why is page speed critical?
Page speed loading time is one of the most critical factors for SEO and was important even before Google announced CWV.
Google uses its formula to calculate page speed. However, it’s not easy to understand precisely what this metric comprises, mainly because it considers multiple factors such as download speeds, network performance and webpage load times.
However, several tools allow you to measure your website’s page speed. You can then use these measurements to identify potential issues related to your site’s loading time (such as large images or scripts) that you need to fix to improve your site’s overall user experience.
It is estimated that half of the people who surf the Internet will leave a website if it is too slow and takes more than 4s to load.
Even though analytics tools are not 100% accurate, you’ll often come across cases in which pages take over 5 or 6 seconds to load (especially when hosting images on your website). This constitutes a potential bounce rate of around 50%, without considering users who close their browser before the website finishes loading.
Bounce rates for mobile devices are much higher compared to desktop computers.
If your website is running slowly due to server issues, then the Googlebot will take this into account and adjust site speed accordingly when indexing your website.
What is visual stability or content shift?
As you already know, Google uses Chrome as their default browser.
Each webpage has an ideal view that is mainly based on the content. This way, a user will only need to scroll down or resize the browser to see all of the webpage’s content.
In the ideal situation, content is not supposed to shift or jump when a web page is loaded. If you come across this type of issue, Google will classify your website as poor user experience.
Google said that it has started monitoring mobile sites in particular for this type of problem since mobile users tend to have a very short viewing time in which they may end up leaving a webpage if it keeps on shifting during their visit.
Google Page Experience Update Fully Rolled Out in September 2021
CWV has received numerous updates in 2021 that have made metrics fairer and more accurate.
This algorithm update means that your website will be judged on how well it performs for users. If your site doesn’t meet their standards, you could lose rankings in search results. This is a huge deal for businesses trying to get ahead of the competition and drive more traffic to their sites.
You can use this guide to make informed decisions about what steps are necessary to improve the SEO performance of your site. For example, if you notice that there’s been a drop in CVW scores for some of your pages, it might indicate that they need more attention from the content or technical team.
If two sites have the same content (and other factors that affect their position in SERP rankings), then the one with a better CWV score will rank higher than the other website.