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Understand Google Core Web Vitals & Improve Your Search Rankings

Understand Google Core Web Vitals & Improve Your Search Rankings
September 29, 2020

Understand Google Core Web Vitals & Improve Your Search Rankings

Sep 29, 2020
Chiranjeevi Maddala

Chiranjeevi Maddala is an award winning digital marketing strategist with over 18 Years of experience in Digital Media and Marketing. He is the Founder and Chief Mentor at Digital Ready.



There’s a diversity of digital marketing strategies out there, but nearly all of them prioritise search engine rankings as one of their key metrics. Google is quite often the first search engine that comes to mind when companies look at increasing their digital footprint and show up more often for targeted user queries. However, much ink has been spilt over Google’s search engine strategies, which are continually being updated to stay ahead of digital marketing whizzes.

The latest addition to that list is Core Web Vitals, which are a collection of specific factors that Google deems critical when it comes to assessing a webpage’s overall UX. 

In Google’s words, “Whether you’re a business owner, marketer, or developer, Web Vitals can help you quantify the experience of your site and identify opportunities to improve.”

Why Core Web Vitals are Critical

From keywords to page experience, we’ve come a long way. The underlying factor that guides these new additions to the search engine framework is to make content experience – and not just content length, quality and originality – a benchmark for current and future websites. This is so that users find what they’re looking for at every stage, from entering their keyword down to navigating a chosen website. 

As a result, page experience is now an official influence on the Google rank of a website. It’s not the be-all and end-all of ranking and won’t guarantee a #1 spot, but it is the latest addition to nearly 200 factors that Google uses to rank websites in a search. 

Understanding Core Web Vitals

Google's Core Web Vitals

 

They fall under the broader “page experience score” umbrella. Currently, they track three user interaction and page speed measurements – first input delay (interactivity), largest contentful paint (loading) and cumulative layout shift (visual stability).

  • First Input Delay: put simply, this metric is a measure of the time that passes between a user first interacting with your site – by clicking on a link or tapping on a button – and when the browser responds to that interaction.
  • Largest Contentful Paint: this metric measures the time taken for the largest content element – usually a text block or an image – in the viewport to become visible. 
  • Cumulative Layout Shift: this metric for visual stability tracks how often users go through unexpected layout shifts that distract from the overall experience. The ideal CLS score is 0.1, or the 75th percentile of page loads measured for mobile and desktop separately. 

However, it is worth noting that these metrics aren’t set in stone. Google may choose to flesh out the list of page experience indicators or may decide to replace these entirely. 

Identifying Core Web Vitals

Discovering your Core Web Vitals is a straightforward process. Begin by looking at the Google Search Console account linked to the website of choice. It will now have a new report about Core Web Vitals and will outline what URLs they have in their database and how their vital factors fare – poor, needs improvement or good. 

If you see a URL with a lower rank, you can click through to the linked PageSpeed Insights report. There, you’ll find the opportunities and diagnostics listed for you to work on improving. 

Those who don’t java  Google Search Console accounts needn’t worry– there are plenty of other tools that can put together equally insightful reports on Core Web Vitals. The most popular of the lot are Chrome UX Report API and webpagetest.org. 

Here are a few other factors to keep in mind when looking up Core Web Vitals:

1. Navigating Mobile vs Desktop Scores

Mobile devices and desktops have separate Web Vitals scores, so it would be remiss to use one for the other. A tool like Google PageSpeed Insights allows you to switch between desktop and mobile views, although the latter is displayed by default. In other tools, however, you may need to manually specify which device category you want metrics for. 

2. Understanding Field vs Lab Data

Lab data is said to be collected through a browser API, from mathematical approximations and page load timers that are set up to mimic user interactivity. In contrast, field data retrieve the same metrics but this time from actual users who are navigating your website. 

The former data style is ideal to use during construction stages, where developers might want to experiment with improving scores well before the official launch. However, field data show all the action in real-time and form a much sturdier database to leverage in time for improvements, updates and website revisits in the future. 

Improving your Search Rankings with Core Web Vitals

To increase your search rankings through the lens of Core Web Vitals, you will need to approach each facet separately and make appropriate changes. 

To improve your First Input Delay score, consider:

  • Minimising or deferring JavaScript such that users no longer have to wait until the code loads to interact with the page
  • Removing unnecessary third-party scripts that significantly reduce load times 
  • Using a browser cache to enable page content to load faster

To take visual stability scores up several notches, you can:

  • Slot in additional UI elements below the fold so that content that is supposed to stay where it is – like big red buttons and CTAs – aren’t pushed down 
  • Reserve space for ads so that they don’t push content sideways or down when they suddenly appear
  • Apply set size attribute dimensions for images, videos, GIFs and other media so that the browser preemptively identifies how much space each need

To improve LCP scores, consider:

  • Removing third-party scripts to ensure faster load times
  • Setting up lazy loading such that images load upon scroll, thus rendering shorter load spans
  • Removing heavy page elements and media that is flagged as slowing load times down

The Final Word

Core Web Vitals are pertinent to all webpages and are influential across all Google tools. The current factors are the best, most realistic signals available today, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t more to come. However, to the relief of many digital marketers and developers, Google plans to adopt a regular annual cadence for updates, so the goalposts won’t be moved too frequently!

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