What are Google's Core Web Vitals impact on SEO - and what do they mean for your website?
Earlier this year Google began rolling out an update to it's algorithm with a focus on "Core Web Vitals" as a centrepiece to how it evaluates a website. It's a big shift in focus and something every website owner should have on their radar.
The big question becomes what are Google's Core Web Vitals, and how do they relate to your website? Google has basically identified a group of three metrics which all contribute to a better user experience for people on your site. They are trying to make sure website owners present a site that is easy to use and quick to load, and will start rewarding sites more that tick these 'user experience' boxes. This is definitely a little bit of an advancement which coincides with Google's algorithm getting smarter and becoming more 'human like' in it's decision making. We have seen that shift over the years from 'words' being the main focus, to technical features (security, mobile friendliness etc), to now a focus that is more about the usability of a site for the end user. Of course, the algorithm is still a machine at the end of the day, so Google has needed to distil these user experience attributes down to some key technical 'metrics' - loading, interactivity and the visual stability of a site.
Largest Contentful Paint (LCP) - make sure your site loads fast
In recent times, Google has been pointing more and more towards the speed of a site being a real priority. They've provided their PageSpeed Insight tool for a while now, and first on the list of the Core Web Vitals is the "Largest Contentful Paint" metric. The LCP is basically how quickly your site/any particular page on the site loads on average. Google takes it one step further though and looks at how quickly the most meaningful content on any given page loads. So, if you have a product page from your online store, Google may look at how quickly the image of that product loads, whereas on a text driven page, it may be how quickly the first heading takes to pop onto screen. As with anything Google, there will be some experimenting and testing being done by search engine specialists around the globe, but as a rule of thumb we should all be looking to having streamlined and fast websites for both our users to enjoy, and for Google to rank highly.
First Input Delay (FID) - how quickly can you click
With the First Input Delay metric, Google's insatiable hunger for speed continues. The algorithm will be looking at how quickly you are able to click a link or button on a site, and how quickly the site reacts to that. Again, this is down to Google wanting developers to really think hard about how they code and setup a site. They want us to get rid of any excess code on the site, and make sure the code that is used is nice and efficient. As a website owner, the trick here is probably just thinking twice about extra bells and whistles on your site and whether they actually add to your messaging and what you are trying to achieve. For designers and developers, it's about taking the clients requirements and being very thoughtful about how they are implemented.
Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS) - don't throw me all over your page
Have you ever been on a website, had something load in front of you that you want to click, and then had that item shift off the page as you've gone to click it? That's the problem Google is trying to avoid with their "Cumulative Layout Shift" metric. They want a page and website to be stable as it loads for it's users, so along with having content load quickly, they want it to load where it should. Hopefully, this should remove the days of clicking the wrong link because the site has loaded slowly and shunted the content you were interested in down the page as an image above it loads.
The big takeaway - happy user, happy Google
If there is one huge takeaway from this Core Web Vitals update, it's that Google is continuing to push it's algorithms and search engine results to be focussed on user experience. We've been saying for a long time now that if you focus on making a really good, informative website for your customers and clients, then you're on the right search engine optimisation path. These big changes are also just a good time to re-evaluate your site and see whether there is anything that you can improve with your online presence. For 543, we're never static - and in the last couple of months have made sure we have moved the majority of our new website builds to a content management system that is leading the way in Core Web Vital results. Our focus is always staying ahead of the curve - and if that means adapting for our clients, we need to be able to do that quickly.
If you're not sure about how your site might fair under these new Google metrics, or are after a New Zealand SEO services, don't hesitate to contact us and we can give your site a quick look over and chat it through.
If you're interested in finding out more about Google's Core Web Vitals - below are a few more good reads from other experts in the field: