Explaining Google's Core Web Vitals update and what you should do next

By seoBusiness

23 Sep 2022

Website
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Last year we introduced you to Core Web Vitals – Google’s new method of distinguishing high quality websites from poor quality websites. Never one to hold onto an idea too long before finding something it can tweak, the search engine giant has now unveiled a significant update which could affect how your site ranks in its results.

In short, there are various tests which Google performs when assessing a website, including the quality of information it contains, its level of security, and how easy it is likely to be for the average web user to find what they’re looking for.

To begin with, many of these ‘ease of use’ metrics were confined to websites as they display on mobile devices. Now many of these metrics have been applied to the sites as they display on desktop computers. Desktops still account for around half of all web searches, so it’s still vitally important that these users’ needs are accounted for.

What are Core Web Vitals and how are they measured?

Google’s Core Web Vitals measures aspects of a website to predict the quality of user experience – such as how quickly it loads and whether they contain pop-ups which can’t easily be dismissed.

The measurements are:

Largest Contentful Paint: Essentially, how quickly your website loads the content and shows it to the user. The benchmark is within 4 seconds, and ideally less than 2.5 seconds. First Input Delay: Another measure of speed, FID is how quickly a user can then interact with the page, for example clicking a link or pressing a button. The ideal measurement should be less than 100 ms. Cumulative Layout Shift: Sometimes you’ll be reading a web page and it will change without you doing anything. Maybe the text jumps around and you lose your place, or a link moves just before you click it, and you end up clicking something else by mistake. This can be frustrating, so Google would rather promote sites that are much more stable. The best measurement here is a score of less than 0.1. HTTPS: It’s been almost ten years since Google began warning users against visiting websites which aren’t protected by up-to-date security. Whether or not your site uses HTTPS (which you can read more about here) affects how your site ranks. Absence of intrusive interstitials: An interstitial is Google’s name for the pop-ups you often see when you first visit a website. They may be promoting a special offer, or asking for your contact details. Google knows these are annoying, and will negatively score any instances where the pop-up covers too much of the content, or can’t be gotten rid of easily. Mobile friendliness: A measure of whether your is usable on a handheld device. For example, is the text big enough to read, do the images resize appropriately? This is only measured when the page is viewed on a mobile device, and doesn’t affect the desktop scoring of your website.

Why are Core Web Vitals important?

Google says that first and foremost, it wants its search results to prioritise the highest quality information. But where more than one website contains similar content, Core Web Vitals splits the difference, and sites with the higher score get the higher ranking.

Higher ranking means more visibility, means more clicks to your website and ultimately means more enquiries and sales.

There is another, indirect benefit of having a high Core Web Vitals score: adhering to the guidelines makes your website easier to use and results in more conversions.

Google hasn’t invented these metrics out of nowhere. They’ve studied how people use websites, what users like to see and what they don’t, and that’s what’s informed the make-up of Core Web Vitals. That’s how they’ve identified that not only are quick-loading websites good, but how quickly it needs to load to keep a user happy, and not only should a page not move around after it’s loaded, but exactly how much can move before a user has had enough.

So, in ensuring that your website attains a high Core Web Vitals score, you are actually ensuring that a majority of web users would be happy to browse it. The fewer distractions, the more likely a potential customer is to stay on your site. And the more time they spend on your site, the higher your conversion rate will be.

Checking your own site’s Core Web Vitals score

It’s free and easy to check how your website rates, just visit Google’s Pagespeed Insights and enter the website you’d like it to assess:

https://pagespeed.web.dev/

One of the first results you’ll see is an overall score out of 100 in either green (good), amber (could do better) or red (requires improvement).

If you want to know more, you can scroll down to see a breakdown of the tests undertaken and how your website performed for each. There are a lot of them, and it goes into a lot of detail.

It’s estimated that as Google launched Core Web Vitals, only one-fifth of the biggest websites were scoring well on the system. By the beginning of this year it was more than half and is now predicted to be close to two-thirds.

This demonstrates that businesses are taking Core Web Vitals seriously and making the required changes. Soon, those that have refined their websites, taking user experience into account, will be dominating search engine results. And those that don’t will fall behind, missing out on visibility, clicks, enquiries and orders.

Contact the seoBusiness UK team if you would like to know more about Core Web Vitals, how it can help boost your digital marketing and how we can help raise your score.

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