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Core Web Vitals: What You Need To Focus on With Google’s Update

Glendale Designs Core Web Vitals

Update

Google has announced that they will be pushing back the roll-out of the new core update until mid-June. What will this mean for you? They are simply giving everyone a little more time to adjust their websites and acclimated to the new user experience expectations. The update will begin to take effect in mid-June, with Core Web Vitals playing their full role later in the summer, at the end of August.

It’s that time again – Google is getting ready to shake things up with a new update. The changes coming are going to affect your search engine ranking through the monitoring of your Core Web Vitals. But this time around, any issues that may get flagged by the new update were potentially already hurting your SEO. This could be due to shoppers bouncing from your site, leaving negative reviews, or having an overall poor user experience. 

In a move of tough love, Google is going to be forcing sites to focus on their user experience if they want to maintain or gain traction in the search rankings. 

What’s New With the Google Core Update?

What are the ranking factors that Google is going to be implementing with their May core update? They are all based around improving the user experience for searchers, aimed to make sure that the top links are not only relevant, but high quality. Specifically, Google is having site owners pay attention to what they call Core Web Vitals – metrics that help ascertain the overall health and value of the site.

This may seem pretty similar to the 2020 core updates that called upon expertise, authority, and trustworthiness (the EAT factors) in order to rank well. While those would help boost the user experience in a long-term-value sort of way, the factors in this update are more immediate and obvious. You may be able to fake expertise or trustworthiness to your users, but you can’t fake how quickly your page loads. 

What Are Core Web Vitals?

Core web vitals cover some user experience pain-points; common issues on websites that are detrimental to the overall usefulness and enjoyability of the site. We will give you a quick breakdown of the three new vitals.

Google uses the following scale to determine whether your vitals are up to snuff.

Core Web Vitals Measurements

LCP (Largest Contentful Paint)

This value references the amount of time it takes for your site to load the largest piece of content visible in the “viewport”. The viewport refers to the piece of your site viewable from the device screen. This content could be an image, video, text, animation, or other type or graphic. 

If a user visits your URL, and it takes 3.7 seconds for your main banner image to load (the largest thing visible on the screen upon loading), your LCP would score as Needs Improvement
Largest Contentful Field
This figure points to the Largest Content in the viewport of the browser window – the large banner image.

FID (First Input Delay)

This value is a measure of the time between a user interacting with an element on your page (ie. clicking the “Add to Cart” button) and the browser responding to that interaction (ie. the button adding the item to the cart). Interactive elements might include buttons, links, attribute checkboxes, etc.

If a user clicks a “Read More” link on your page, and the browser takes 0.4 seconds to respond, your FID would score as Poor. Note, however, that this refers to the browsers reaction to the click, and not how long it takes for the additional content to load after clicking.

CLS (Cumulative Layout Shift)

Measuring the visual stability of your site, this value determines how much the elements of your site shift unexpectedly during the usage of the page. During the visit on a page, if elements move around slightly as content loads or changes, it can negatively impact the user experience. 

It seems as though that sort of shift may even be used on some websites strategically, in order to get users to accidentally click on paid advertisements, instead of the intended target. This could definitely be considered “gray hat” development – not necessarily malicious, but also not ethical. 

This sort of shift, however, often happens accidentally, due to slow loading, or inconsistent element sizes (ie. When rotating banner images are sized differently). 

This factor is given a score based on how much or little the layout of a page shifts, with zero being no shift at all; the higher the score, the larger the shift in layout elements. 

If your page loads completely without the layout unexpectedly moving around, your will receive a CLS value of zero, and a score of Good.

How Can You Diagnose Your Core Web Vitals?

Discovering the numbers for your Core Web Vitals will be as simple as putting the finger on your pulse. Google has a report available that you can reference when looking into your own site issues. The Core Web Vitals Report uses field data (real data from your users) to determine where your user experience is suffering.

GSC Core Web Vitals Report

This report will break down into which device was used to access the site – desktop or mobile; tablets won’t get their own category here. It will also break your data down into your scores of Good, Needs Improvement, or Poor. When you begin to address your flagged issues, we recommend starting with the most urgent – the pages marked Poor.

Finally, your data may also be grouped by URL. Google is going to assume that similar pages will have the same underlying cause for poor results. If one product page has a poor FID score, chances are all product pages using the same template also will.

Addressing Your Errors

IMPORTANT: Just like Google, we are able to provide tips, technical information, and guidelines to help correct any of the issues mentioned above. However, as a new set of diagnostics, Core Web Vitals don’t have a set of tried-and-true correction techniques. With so many variables affecting your results, it is entirely possible that following all the tips below may still end up not having a great impact on your results. 

If your report comes back with some Poor or Needs Improvement results, you’ll need to narrow down which pages are experiencing which problems. The report will outline that for you. Here’s how to address the issues:

LCP

Long loading times for content are typically due to the size and complexity of the element. First, make sure that images you’re using have been properly optimized for your site. This might require some resizing and reuploading for you, but it will be worth it. Check out our article on Best Practices for Images for a more complete explanation. The tips in that article apply to all types of site images, not just products.

If it’s a video that’s slowing your page down, consider hosting the video elsewhere. Create a YouTube channel and load your videos there, then embed them onto your site. That saves you from hosting the videos on your own site and should help with your load time.

Aside from those two DIY fixes, you’ll need to contact a developer or your platform provider about your server response times. Additionally, your developer should be able to address any JavaScript of CSS code that is clogging things up.

IN SHORT: Optimize your graphics content, and contact your developer about speeding up your server and code.

FID

Correcting your First Input Delay will require a technical touch. Unfortunately, there likely isn’t going to be anything you can do on your own to get your FID score into good standing. This will have to be addressed by adjusting, fixing, or optimizing code. 

It may be that your site is using too many third-party connections, or it’s making too many server requests. Either way, you’ll have to get a developer to look into it, unless you’re REALLY confident with code. 

IN SHORT: Call your friendly neighborhood developer to tackle this one. There isn’t anything you can do on your own to correct it.

CLS

Typically, issues with your Cumulative Layout Shift are due to embedded advertisements. Additionally, images that haven’t had their dimensions specified in the CSS may cause trouble. As with FID, this will require a developer to fix it for you. 

If your site uses advertisements embedded from third parties, it may be a little tougher to correct the issue. But it should still be do-able. It may mean, however, that you’ll be stuck with white gaps on your page that stay empty until the ad loads, to ensure there’s enough space for the content. 

IN SHORT: As with FID, you’ll have to call a developer to get this under control. If you must have third-party ads on your site, Try finding a place for them that won’t interfere with the rest of your layout.

Impress Google AND Your Shoppers

Core web vitals pinpoint issues that, when present, are super annoying to the average user. With the new May 2021 update, Google is forcing you to up your game when it comes to user experience. If your shoppers run into any of the aforementioned issues, you might end up getting hit twice with negative scores.

Not only will Google penalize you for the slip ups, but they may be enough to cause your users to bounce off the site. So take this new update as some tough-love from Google, nudging you in the right direction.

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