9 June 2021|Latest Posts, Marketing, PR, Promotion
From June 2021, Google will start judging a website based on a new set of performance metrics called Core Web Vitals. This initiative is focused around user experience and will become part of Google’s ranking algorithm.
Core Web Vitals are a set of metrics used to measure the user experience stages of a web page, which includes loading, interactivity, and visual stability. They apply to all web pages and a website needs to pass each of the signals to provide a good experience for users.
Google helps users find the most relevant and high-quality sites on the web and website owners need to pass their Core Web Vitals to avoid being punished by their algorithm. Only 23% of businesses currently pass these tests consistently, so organic SEO will be negatively impacted for the large majority of companies. This also represents a great opportunity for start-ups looking to capitalise on the changes, as monitoring your scores and fixing problems could result in a major SEO boost above your competitors, no matter how much longer they have been in business.
If you are in a competitive market, we would advise founders to take action on their scores to be able to compete. Metrics will differ across desktop and mobile, therefore it is vital to measure Core Web Vitals on both platforms. This will help gain a true understanding of how customers experience a website.
For each of the Core Web Vitals, it’s important to attain the ‘Good’ target at the 75th percentile of page loads across mobile and desktop. There are lots of ways website owners can find out their Core Web Vitals scores, including PageSpeed Insights, Search Console, Lighthouse, Chrome DevTools, Chrome UX Report, and the Web Vitals Extension.
The most common causes for poor scores
Largest Contentful Paint (LCP)
Take a look at the largest image you have on your site. It’s the cornerstone of your website as it can have a huge impact on your site load time. Some of the causes of a poor LCP are lack of pre-loading, slow server response times or slow resource load times. It’s best to look at how your images, videos, and other large files are affecting your load time. You can do this by issuing a Webpage Test where you can view a waterfall of elements and their load times, and view which resources are taking the most time to load. Third-party software and widgets can also be one of the main culprits for slowing down your website, so doing some housekeeping on them and removing anything you no longer need will make a positive impact on your score.
First Input Delay (FID)
Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS)
As daunting as some of these terms can sound, they are easy to action if we explain what you need to look for. Some of the most common causes of a poor CLS are images, adverts, embeds and iframes without dimensions. SA quick fix would be to always include width and height size attributes on your images and video elements. Adverts are one of the largest contributors to layout shifts on the web, so be sure to only run critical third-parties. Avoid inserting new content above existing content, so any layout shifts that occur are expected. Be careful when you are downloading and rendering web fonts as these can cause layout shifts.
Tracking Core Web Vitals should be something on your long-term to-do list as a startup founder. It is much easier to spot issues before they escalate and cause more issues in years to come. Single tests won’t always pick up every issue you need to address, and you should always have a benchmark to be your ‘single source of truth’. This gives a common benchmark which you agree on within the organisation, and something which you can use to test fixes against and get immediate feedback. It is not recommended to rely on PageSpeed Insights for this, as the ChromeUX report is 28 days behind.
There are some further issues that may not be immediately obvious if you do have problems, that could also impact your Core Web Vitals. Intermittent errors
can cause slow loading, and timing issues at high volume cause page slowdown under load and during peak traffic which will impact Core Web Vitals.
Other measurements, such as Speed Index, DOM and Render times, server DNS and connection speeds all need tracking. It’s important to remember that Web Vitals aren’t the complete picture, there is always more to improve.
Improved scores mean improved customer experiences
Customer experience gains are proven to impact your bottom line, so you shouldn’t only aim for the 75th percentile, or mostly ‘good’, when a higher rating can prove more lucrative.
Founders need to measure their Core Web Vitals continuously and consistently to avoid being punished. Core Web Vitals are important for search rankings but are also important for user experience and website performance. The time to act is now to ensure your website is not left behind.
About the Author
Gav Winter, CEO of cyber security and website performance firm RapidSpike.com. Having founded award-winning IT consultancy, The Test People in 2006 and then Ten10 in 2015, Gav sold the businesses and joined RapidSpike in 2018. Focused on growing the firm Gav has secured a funding package worth £1m for RapidSpike in 2020 and led its 550% growth in two years. Gav has a degree in Computer Science, plus certificates in High Growth Companies from Oxford University, Company Direction, as well as securing places on the NCSC Cyber Accelerator & Goldman Sachs 10KSB Business Accelerator.