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Talking about Core Web Vitals

Now, I’m going to talk about Core Web Vitals again because this is also still a big one. Core Web Vitals were introduced by Google in mid-2020. It’s basically a set of metrics that they use to evaluate the user experience of a website. So, it’s important to them, and they track all the metrics that they’ve told website owners you have to hit for your website to be considered a good, usable, user-friendly site.

What is Google looking for?

They said in their announcement that, “Users show they prefer sites with a great page experience, and that signal measures aspects of how users perceive their experience of interacting with the web page. Optimizing for these factors makes the web more delightful for users across all web browsers and services, and helps sites evolve towards user expectations on mobile.” That’s strictly a quote from Google’s release of that back in May 2020.

Now, this is going to be key. The number one thing is user experience, right? This is straight from Google. Google said they’re going to combine the signals that they derive from these new Core Web Vitals with their existing search signals for page experience, which includes:

  • Is it mobile-friendly?
  • Is it safe to browse?
  • Is it secure?
  • Do you have any popups that are causing problems?

Because they continue to work on identifying and measuring aspects of page experience, they plan to incorporate even more signals on a yearly basis to further align with these evolving user expectations and to increase the aspects of user experience. So, Google is proactive in finding more and more ways to measure the experience a user is having.

Largest Contentful Paint (LCP)

What’s the latest on this? Well, there are three primary ones that we’ve been using for a while since 2020. You have LCP, which is the Largest Contentful Paint. This is basically the load time for the main content on a web page. Sometimes it’s an image or a big block of text. Maybe it’s a video, but whatever the biggest thing is on your page, what exactly is the load timing for that? The ideal LCP measurement is 2.5 seconds or less.

First Input Delay (FID)

First Input Delay is FID. This measures the response time to a user’s first interaction with a page. So, if you ever started opening a web page and you see the menu. You see a button that you want to click on, and you try to click on it, and it doesn’t work. That’s First Input Delay. There’s a delay between when the site loads and when you can actually interact with it, and they’re recommending that that first input delay is less than 100 milliseconds. So, your site must be fast. This captures the experience when trying to interact with a page. If you’re frustrated with it, you might leave and go back, and you might think it’s broken.

Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS)

Cumulative Layout Shift is another one. This is when the elements on the page shift positions unexpectedly. You see a lot of this on some websites where they have a lot of advertising on it. You try to click on a button, and then an image pops up or another button pops up, or some ad pops up and pushes all the content down. That’s causing a layout shift.

We don’t like it, right? We wind up clicking on things we don’t want to go to. We have to go back. It’s frustrating. It causes accidental clicks or makes it harder to interact with the website because you have to wait for something to load before you can find it. They are looking for this cumulative layout shift of 0.1 seconds or lower. So, if you fail in any one of those things, you’re not going to be seen as having a useful website. So, you’ve got to really check these things. If you are failing in these Core Web Vitals, you’re likely not going to be doing well organically in the rankings.

Google is replacing FID with Interaction to Next Paint (INP) in March 2024

There is an update underway, which is interesting. FID is going away, and it’s now called Interaction to Next Paint (INP). This is replacing FID as the first interaction, and this is going to be measuring responsiveness to a user’s actions throughout their visit to the page. So, as they scroll or click on things, are there any problems?

Google is now looking at all the interactions, not just the first one. So, it’s a broader metric that accounts for the full range of how we interact on a website and how that website responds. This is starting in March 2024, and you can find out your own Core Web Vitals by going to your Google Search Console, over on the left, under “Experience”.

Newer sites may need some time to collect user data

Please keep in mind, if you’re a new website, you won’t have enough data to see much information at first. In fact, you might not see anything at all. Once Google has collected enough user data, they will be able to report on how you’re doing on mobile and how you’re doing on desktop. You definitely want to be doing well on mobile.

A real world example using Core Web Vitals

Looking at one of my new clients, there are zero good URLs at the moment, 11 poor URLs, and most of them need improvement. You can look for these issues and fix these user experiences by looking at what Google’s showing you. When you click on “Open the Report,” it will give you the opportunity to see what needs improvement.

You can see, for example, that there are 222 images that need improvement. You can click and it gives you some basic ideas of which URLs are having this issue. It doesn’t give you all URLs; it kind of gives you a sampling of URLs, saying that these are all kind of related. So, maybe you have the same issue on all your blog posts. It’s not going to show you every blog post; it’s going to show you a few of them, and then it shows you which ones are having a problem with longer than four seconds on mobile. You can go in and fix these things.

If you don’t have enough traffic to view your stats yet, that’s when you’ve really need to go use some other testing tools to figure out where your problems might be. But if you do have enough traffic, take a look at Google Search Console; it’s really good. INP is replacing FID in Core Web Vitals, so they are starting to give you this information about INP and where you might be having problems. So, take a look at it, check it out. It’s a new thing coming down the pipeline; and you want to be aware of it.