Understanding Core Web Vitals

 In Industry

Announced by Google last year, Core Web Vitals are set to become one of Google’s core new ranking factors. From May 2021, they’ll be incorporated into Google’s core algorithm – so there’s never been a better time to brush up on what they are.

While they won’t directly influence your site’s organic rankings until May, getting ahead is never a bad thing, especially considering that many of the updates needed may be time and labour-intensive. There’s no better way to stay ahead of your competitors.

But, of course, before you can work to improve your Core Web Vitals, we need to explain what they are exactly.

What are Core Web Vitals?

Google describes Core Web Vitals as such: “Core Web Vitals are a set of real-world, user-centred metrics that quantify key aspects of the user experience.”

In layman’s terms, they take into account user experience factors such as page load speed, interactivity, and page stability. The focus is on the technical on-page experience from a real-world perspective. In particular, Google breaks them down into three different elements:

  • Large Contentful Paint (LCP): This measures how long it takes for the largest piece of visible content to load on a page, such as a hero image block. Under Google’s recommendation, LCP should happen within 2.5 seconds of the page starting to load.
  • First Input Delay (FID): This assesses the time between the user’s first interaction on a page and the page responding with that interaction. This could be the time it takes for a link to load after the user clicks on it. As with LCP, the shorter the time better! Under 100ms, in general, is recommended.
  • Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS): CLS is a little less straightforward than the other two factors, assessing how much content on the page is changing positions unexpectedly. Pages should maintain a CLS of less than 0.1 to provide a good experience.

When assessing and improving your Core Web Vitals, Google recommends checking the performance of 75% of your site’s pages. This is to ensure that the majority of users who visit your site have great UX.

How Do I Improve Core Web Vitals?

How Do I Improve LCP?

LCP measures how long it takes for the largest piece of visible content to load on a page. So, the best strategy for improving it is to identify and optimise whichever element this is. You should always try to ensure that your media files are optimised, text files compressed and important resources are preloaded to mitigate this.

Another strategy for improving LCP is to speed up your server response times. Before content on your page can begin to load, it first has to receive it from the server. In some instances, this may be the factor that’s slowing down your LCP the most.

How Do I Improve FID?

Remember, FID assesses the user’s first interaction on a page and the time it takes for the page to respond with that interaction. The primary cause of a slow response time is heavy JavaScript execution; if the page is too slow loading JavaScript, its response to user actions will be delayed.

The best way to mitigate this problem is to simply reduce the amount of JavaScript being used on a page. Or, at the very least, break the larger JavaScript tasks (50ms or more) into smaller ones.

How Do I Improve CLS?

As mentioned, CLS assesses the amount that content on the page is changing positions unexpectedly. This happens when all the elements of the page don’t load at the same time – for example, text may load before a large image or video and then get pushed elsewhere when it finally does load.

One key way to avoid this problem is to add dimensions to images, videos and any embedded content (such as a Google Maps widget, for example.) This tells the page to reserve space for the element until it has fully loaded.

Get in Touch

If you need help with improving your website’s Core Web Vitals, we can help. Get in touch with us today for support and advice with any aspect of your digital strategy or find out more about our services.

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