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Google’s Core Web Vitals: What they are & how to improve yours

The user experience signals you shouldn’t ignore.

When someone arrives on your website, it should load before their eyes in seconds. If it doesn’t, they will look elsewhere for what they need. Research shows the chance of a bounce increases by 32% when a page load time takes one to three seconds and by 90% when the page load time takes up to five seconds. 

How do you ensure every page on your site loads visually fast? Understanding and improving your website’s Core Web Vitals could be the solution. 

Core Web Vitals are specific factors that Google considers essential in a webpage’s overall user experience. In other words, Core Web Vitals form one part of the key factors used by Google to calculate your page experience score — their way of measuring your web pages’ overall user experience (UX).

What are Core Web Vitals? 

Core Web Vitals take the form of three speed and user interaction measurements: 

  1. largest contentful paint, 
  2. first input delay, and 
  3. cumulative layout shift.

Largest Contentful Paint (LCP)

This metric directly refers to your website’s loading speed. It evaluates how fast the main content of your web page loads and becomes visible to users. 

Source: Google 

What’s a good LCP score, you ask? Your organization should be aiming for an LCP of 2.5 seconds or less to provide a decent user experience. 

First Input Delay (FID)

FID is all about interactivity. Precisely, it measures the length of time it takes for one of your site visitors to interact with your web page. A good First Input Delay is 100ms or less: 

Source: Google 

Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS)

Last but not least, there is our website’s CLS, which evaluates the visual stability of your site. 

Google measures how stable your web page is as it loads, and the largest burst of layout shift scores for every unexpected layout shift that occurs during the entire lifespan of a page.

To provide your site visitors with the best user experience possible, aim for a CLS score of 0.1 or less:

Source: Google 

Why Core Web Vitals matter

Why should your organization care about your Core Web Vitals? From evolving metrics to competitor advantage, we outline four reasons to pay more attention to your website’s user experience: 

1. Google’s introduced Core Web Vitals gradually.

Google first signaled the launch of Core Web Vitals back in May 2020. It took over a year for the search engine to use the metrics as a ranking factor for sites, with a gradual rollout of Core Web Vitals last summer. 

Unlike some of its other search engine updates, Google is taking a slow approach with the rollout of Core Web Vitals, with many of the eventual search ranking impact not fully realized yet.

2. Core Web Vitals metrics are likely to change.

Google has indicated Core Web Vitals metrics may evolve over time and stated that it will “incorporate more page experience signals every year.” It aims to “further align with evolving user expectations and increase the aspects of user experience we’re able to measure.” 

Essentially, even if your website is doing well on Google’s current measures, it’s a good idea to keep on top of the user experience and be ready for any changes that will likely come further down the road.

3. Core Web Vitals now affects desktop traffic.

One significant change could already be affecting organic traffic to your site. 

Historically, Core Web Vitals were only used as a ranking factor for mobile traffic. However, in November last year, Google announced that it would begin incorporating page experience measures into its desktop rankings from February this year. 

Other desktop page experience indicators, such as HTTPS security and the absence of intrusive banner ads, will remain unchanged. Although your site’s mobile-friendliness continues to impact your mobile rankings, it won’t affect desktop rankings.

Completed in March of 2022, we’re still waiting to see this update’s full impact on website rankings. However, it now means that even websites without a large percentage of mobile traffic need to show interest, which adds to site managers’ need to monitor Core Web Vitals.

4. Your competitors are taking action.

Data from Google’s monthly user experience report shows that between May and October 2021, overall compliance with Core Web Vitals across all websites globally increased by 58%. As of October last year:

  • 44% of sites were compliant with Largest Contentful Paint. 
  • 91% complied with First Input Delay.
  • 71% met the requirements for Cumulative Layout Shift. 

If your organization hasn’t paid much attention to Core Web Vital metrics yet, it could feel the sting of inaction as you start to slip below your competitors on your coveted search engine results page. 

Six ways to improve your company’s Core Web Vitals

The simple fact is people spend more time on a website when its pages load faster. Let Kanopi help you tackle your Core Web Vitals today by following our six top tips: 

1. Avoid page builders and heavy themes 

Our support team sees this all too often when we partner with an organization wondering why their ranking has taken a hit and they can’t figure out why pages on their website are slow to load. 

We recommend stripping these heavy tools and replacing them with a custom theme. This will help your site to load in the blink of an eye.

2. Optimize your images 

Another common culprit of a sluggish page load is unoptimized images. 

Start the image optimization process by ensuring you’ve chosen the suitable image format and the correct image compression level for all images across your site.

Serving images to mobile that are sized for desktop-sized can use 2 to 4 times the needed data. Swap the “one-size-fits-all” approach to your site’s imagery by serving different image sizes to different devices.

3. Eliminate any unnecessary Javascript 

You can reduce your Javascript page load time without changing code by minifying, compressing, and distributing.  

  • Minifying the code reduces the code size without compromising any of its functionality.
  • Compressing JavaScript assets and finally 
  • Distributing static assets using a Content Delivery Network (CDN) allows you to serve website visitors geographically from a place closer to them. 

4. Focus on your mobile experience 

Do you know how many people access your site using mobile phones? The number could surprise you. Over 50% of nonprofit website traffic comes from mobile users, so look at your mobile experience page load time.

Also, consider using Accelerated Mobile Pages, or AMP, to speed up your search-optimized content. An official AMP plugin for WordPress is a great starting point if you’re on that platform.

5. Fine-tune your content strategy 

Refresh your content strategy and make sure it’s data-driven. If you’re in the healthcare industry, consider our five content strategy recommendations to boost your healthcare website. 

Begin by looking at keywords you want to rank for and how your competitors rank for those words. 

We also suggest combining similar articles and updating out-of-date ones for greater impact, bypassing the need to develop brand-new content if you’re tight on resources.

Quality, not quantity, is vital here. 

6. Consider a ‘Critical CSS’ approach

Critical CSS is an optimization task that allows you to rethink how Google loads CSS by prioritizing the CSS for above-the-fold content ahead of below-the-fold content. 

When deployed correctly, your site visitors sense a perceived decrease in page-load time owing to quicker page rendering. 

What do we mean by above-the-fold content? Above the fold relates to the content your visitors see on your web page before scrolling. Any content someone would need to scroll down to see is considered ‘below the fold’. The ‘fold’ is where the browser window ends, but the content continues underneath.

Choose quality over quantity to make your site shine.

With a global effort to improve lighthouse scores underway, there’s no time like the present to improve your site’s user experience while boosting your Google ranking in the process. 

Kanopi helps dozens of clients move from a poor to above-average rating when it comes to Core Web Vitals every day. If you think it’s time to update your website, consider a website transition plan. With Kanopi’s help, you can ensure your site’s a pleasure to navigate while reaching your crucial marketing goals with ease.