Core web vitals: What they are and why they matter from May 2021

core web vitals

Suddenly everyone’s talking about core web vitals. That’s because Google is making them an official ranking factor from May 2021 with the launch of its Page Experience Update. We explain what they are, why Google has decided they should impact search engine rankings, and what you need to do to improve yours.


What are core web vitals?


Core web vitals, introduced in 2020, are a set of metrics relating to the loading, interactivity and visual stability of your web pages. You can find your core web vitals in the “enhancements” section of your Google Search Console. When announcing the May 2021 changes, Google said: “These signals measure how users perceive the experience of interacting with a web page and contribute to our ongoing work to ensure people get the most helpful and enjoyable experiences from the web… At Google Search our mission is to help users find the most relevant and quality sites on the web. The goal with these updates is to highlight the best experiences and ensure that users can find the information they’re looking for.”


Core web vitals in more detail


Google’s core web vitals can be broken down as follows:


Loading: this core web vital, known as Largest Contentful Paint (LCP), measures the load speed of your web pages by looking at how long it takes for the largest piece of content to appear on your screen.


Interactivity: this measures the responsiveness of your web pages. In other words, rather than just looking at how quickly a page loads, it looks at how quickly users can interact with the content. This core web vital is called First Input Delay (FID), referring to the delay that occurs when you try to interact–for example by clicking a link–but the browser is still busy and takes a while to respond.


Visual stability: officially called Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS), this core web vital looks at frustrating shifts in the visual layout of a page, such as ads that shift the content you’re trying to read as they load, or links that move as you go to click on them, so you end up clicking on the wrong thing.


How do I improve my core web vitals?


Key ways to improve your core web vitals include:


  • Implementing lazy loading. This defers the loading of non-critical aspects of a web page until the most critical parts have loaded, meaning the user is not kept waiting. 


  • Providing proper dimensions for images and embeds. Including dimensions in the CSS file will improve your CLS score.


  • Optimising and compressing images. Images are the largest elements of many web pages so reducing their size can speed page load times.


  • Improving the response time of your server. The more time it takes for a browser to receive content from the server, the longer it takes to for a web page to appear on the screen.


  • Reducing and optimising your JavaScript execution. Badly timed or long-running JavaScript is a common cause of performance issues. Here’s what Google says about how to fix it.


  • Improving the load time of third-party scripts. These are any scripts loaded into your website by a third-party vendor – for example, ad scripts or video player embeds. If these load slowly, this will affect your site’s ranking – so it may be time to reconsider allowing them on your site


Need help? At Primedia Marketing we can help with all of the above and more. Get in touch today for a chat about our SEO Services.


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