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Why you need to optimise for Core Web Vitals right now

Digital Boutique
3 min read
Thursday, April 1, 2021

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Website crawler Screaming Frog recently reported that only 13% of sites are optimised for Google’s upcoming algorithm update. The focus of this update is a set of metrics known as Core Web Vitals (CWV), widely expected to disrupt search rankings. If you’re part of the 87% who haven’t yet given these metrics your full attention, here’s what you need to know.

What are the Core Web Vitals?

Core Web Vitals is the collective name for three important page-experience metrics. Meeting the threshold for all three is likely to push your site higher up the SERPs. Your listing will also be tagged to show your site offers a great on-page experience, giving you an opportunity to win clicks from your competitors.

Meet the Core Web Vitals: LCP, FID and CLS

The three metrics for Core Web Vitals: Largest Contentful Paint (LCP), First Input Delay (FID) and Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS)
To pass Core Web Vitals, your Largest Contentful Paint score needs to be sub-2.5 sec, First Input Delay needs to be under 100 ms and Cumulative Layout Shift needs to be less than 0.1.

Largest Contentful Paint (LCP)

This metric measures how quickly your site loads its core content. You can check your score using the PageSpeed Insights tool. If the results show your site is slow to load, you can also see what’s behind the delay – often large, unoptimised images. Issues can also occur if the 'meaningful' portion of the page identified by Google doesn't align with the user perspective, or if core elements are repainted during load, which restarts the LCP clock.

First Input Delay (FID)

FID grades how long your visitors have to wait before they can click, type or scroll on your site. Important to note: your FID score is based on what your visitors actually experience rather than how your site performs in a test. This puts some factors out of your control - like device and connection speed. There’s still plenty you can do to improve – especially if you have developers to hand. Code splitting, for example, can up your score by allowing interactions while the page is still loading.

Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS)

Layout shift measures how much the items on your page move around during load. This can frustrate visitors and cause them to click on wrong links by mistake.

Making sure all on-page elements load in their final position is key to improving your score here. Even shifts that are too small to see can have an impact, so we recommend checking out exactly what’s going on in PageSpeed Insights. 

The Google Core Web Vitals report for Amazon.co.uk showing that the site does not pass Core Web Vitals.

Core Web Vitals Aren’t Just Good for SEO

Meeting the Core Web Vitals thresholds serves you in multiple ways. These metrics encourage a better on-page experience that is likely to improve your conversion rate and reduce your bounce rate.

“Users are 24% less likely to abandon page loads when Core Web Vitals pass” - Google

Optimise for Mobile or Risk your Desktop Discoverability

Your focus for CWV should be mobile, even if most of your revenue comes from desktop. That’s because Google is rapidly moving towards mobile-only crawling. The search engine has already announced that desktop bots will crawl sites much less frequently and warned that mobile sites will rank badly if they're a shortened version of your desktop site. In short, if you want your desktop site to rank well, you need to earn it on mobile.

The DB View

Wondering how concerned you should be about Core Web Vitals? Gary Landa, our head of strategy, has this advice:

“Google will no doubt keep us guessing so it will be interesting to see what impact the update has. But Core Web Vitals are potentially an excellent way to outmanoeuvre your competition."

There are hundreds of different signals so there’s a chance that Core Web Vitals won’t immediately have a drastic impact, even on mobile. But long-term, CWV will be a crucial part of the SEO mix. Your CWV score is also likely to affect your quality score so it could reduce your Paid spend as well.

To protect your ranking after the roll-out, optimise for Core Web Vitals and then keep a close eye on competitor traffic and rankings. This will help you understand the overall impact of these metrics in your sector.

Roll-out is Coming Mid-June 2021

While you can test your site for LCP, FID and CLS now, the metrics won't affect your search ranking until Google updates its algorithm in June. Significantly, Google gave a whole year's notice of this update, despite being famously tight-lipped about algorithm changes. By giving businesses such a long time to prepare, they’ve strongly hinted that changes will impact SERP positions. This makes Core Web Vitals too important to ignore.

There's Still Time...

From quick wins to technical fixes, we’re helping our clients protect their discoverability after the June update. Visit Google’s PageSpeed Insights tool to see if your ecommerce site meets the Core Web Vitals thresholds.

If it doesn’t, give us a call

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