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  • June 1, 2021

Preparing for Google’s Core Web Vitals Update

Decorative Illustration In the SEO world, we don’t always have time to prepare when Google makes algorithmic changes. So, it’s no wonder that SEO practitioners everywhere have been focused on Google’s biggest announcement of the past year: the page experience ranking factor based on Core Web Vitals metrics.

The goal of the Core Web Vitals update is to encourage an improved page experience across your site and, ultimately, to improve user experience. Optimizing for the user has long been an integral component of search engine algorithms and, as a result, SEO strategy — so it’s not surprising that Google has chosen to make page experience a more official ranking factor.

The good news is that the Core Web Vitals metrics lay out specific ways in which sites can improve their page experience for users. Google’s report labels URLs across your site as “good,” “needs improvement,” or “poor” according to three key metrics: largest contentful paint, first input delay, and cumulative layout shift. You can find the Core Web Vitals report for your own site within the Google Search Console where the metrics are broken down by both desktop and mobile experience.

When will Core Web Vitals matter?

Google first announced Core Web Vitals in 2020, giving SEOs plenty of time to get to work, and now we are coming up on the finish line. Beginning mid-June 2021, Google will begin the official rollout that will take a site’s Core Web Vitals scores into account as a ranking factor.

So what are the Core Web Vitals metrics?

Let’s break down the three key metrics of Google’s Core Web Vitals that webmasters need to worry about:

  1. Largest Contentful Paint (LCP): In other words, how fast does everything on your page load for users? For this metric, Google uses the amount of time it takes for the largest piece of content on the page to fully load, often an image or video. Ideal LCP loading time according to Google is anywhere less than 2.5 seconds.
  2. First Input Delay (FID): FID measures how long it takes your site to react to the user’s first interaction after landing on the page, such as clicking a button or navigation element. Slow FID can lead to user frustration and in some cases, “rage clicking.” Google wants to see an FID time of 100ms or less for a good user experience.
  3. Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS): Have you ever tried to read an article online, only for the screen to suddenly jump several paragraphs as advertisements load? This delayed shifting as the page fully loads is what CLS measures. Google assigns a visual stability score via CLS, and the number to aim for is less than 0.1.

What should I do to improve Core Web Vitals scores?

Implementing changes on your site to improve scores across all of these metrics for both mobile and desktop experiences will help to prevent any ranking losses once this update takes effect. Getting started with some of these changes will provide SEO benefits to your site in the long run, especially as Google continues its gradual rollout. So, even if you haven’t dived into any Core Web Vitals updates yet, it’s not too late to get started.

How do I get the best Core Web Vitals scores?

As the page experience factor and Core Web Vitals metrics illustrate, the most successful organic performance overall stems from the right blend of content and technical SEO strategy. A site that is technically sound provides a solid foundation for the kind of user experience that will help drive organic growth. That’s why continued alignment between both SEO and development teams is so critical, and why we highly recommend maintaining an open communication between those two disciplines — not only in this race toward Core Web Vitals, but as part of your broader SEO strategy.

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