A Beginner’s Guide to Google’s Core Web Vitals in SEO


Understanding Google’s Core Web Vitals

When it comes to assessing the performance of a website, Google’s Core Web Vitals have emerged as a new gold standard. Introduced in May 2020, Core Web Vitals consist of three key metrics that encapsulate the user experience on a webpage: Largest Contentful Paint (LCP), First Input Delay (FID), and Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS). Each of these parameters plays a unique role in determining the usability and interactivity of a webpage, making them crucial for both web developers and SEO specialists.

Largest Contentful Paint (LCP)

LCP measures the time taken for the main content on a webpage to load and render on the user’s screen. The sooner the main content of a webpage is visible, the better the user’s perceived load speed. A good LCP score, according to Google, is 2.5 seconds or less when the page first starts loading. When websites take a long time to load their main content, users often lose patience and leave, resulting in higher bounce rates and lower engagement, which can negatively affect the site’s SEO ranking.

Google's Core Web Vitals in SEO

First Input Delay (FID)

FID gauges the website’s responsiveness by measuring the time it takes for the webpage to respond to the first interaction by the user, such as clicking a link or button. This metric is significant because it represents the user’s first impression of a site’s interactivity and responsiveness. Google considers an FID of less than 100 milliseconds as good, as it ensures the user feels that the page is responsive and reliable.

Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS)

CLS quantifies the amount of unexpected movement of visual content on a webpage. Unexpected layout shifts can be frustrating for users, leading them to click on wrong buttons or lose their reading position. According to Google, a good CLS score should be less than 0.1, ensuring that users have a visually stable experience when browsing the webpage.

Why Core Web Vitals Matter for SEO

User experience has always been a cornerstone of Google’s search algorithm, but with the inclusion of Core Web Vitals, its significance has been elevated further. In June 2021, these metrics were introduced into Google’s ranking algorithm, thus becoming a direct ranking factor. Websites that fail to meet the optimal benchmarks for these metrics could find their search rankings affected.

Google has made it clear that a well-performing webpage facilitates deeper user engagement. In contrast, a webpage with poor performance metrics could impede the user’s ability to access valuable information. This not only affects the user’s interaction with the website but can also influence the website’s SEO performance.

Assessing Core Web Vitals: The Tools at Your Disposal

To help webmasters, developers, and SEO experts measure their performance against these metrics, Google offers a host of tools that include Lighthouse, PageSpeed Insights, and Search Console. Each of these tools provides detailed performance reports, enabling users to isolate and address areas of improvement.

Lighthouse and PageSpeed Insights

Lighthouse is an automated tool for improving the quality of web pages. It offers a full analysis of a page, including performance, accessibility, and SEO. Similarly, PageSpeed Insights provides a real-time evaluation of a page’s performance on both mobile and desktop devices and suggests specific improvement measures.

Google Search Console

The Search Console offers a Core Web Vitals report that organises URLs from your site into “Good”, “Needs Improvement”, and “Poor” categories based on their LCP, FID, and CLS scores. It offers an excellent overview of your website’s overall performance and is particularly useful for identifying recurring issues across multiple webpages.

A Deep Dive into Improving Core Web Vitals

Understanding Core Web Vitals is one thing, but actively working towards improving them is another. It’s a process that involves a series of systematic steps, each designed to optimise a particular aspect of the webpage’s performance.

Optimising LCP

Improving LCP is fundamentally about enhancing your website’s load speed. This can be done through several strategies such as optimising your server response times with the help of a Content Delivery Network (CDN), implementing lazy loading to defer offscreen images until they’re needed, and removing any non-essential third-party scripts that may be slowing down your page. Also, optimising and compressing high-resolution images, and efficiently delivering CSS by minifying and compressing CSS files, can make a significant difference.

Enhancing FID

Optimising FID primarily involves reducing the impact of third-party code, using browser caching, minimising JavaScript execution time, and keeping request counts low and transfer sizes small. For example, you can break up Long Tasks into smaller, asynchronous tasks with the help of web workers to keep the browser responsive. It’s also essential to ensure a quick server response time by optimising your server’s performance.

Reducing CLS

To minimise CLS, ensure that ads elements have a reserved space, so they don’t suddenly push content down; always include size attributes on your images and video elements, or otherwise ensure their dimensions are specified in the CSS. Avoid inserting new content above existing content on the page, unless it’s in response to a user interaction. This way, the layout shift becomes less surprising for the user.

Key Quotes From the Experts

Below are some quotes from industry experts regarding the importance of Core Web Vitals and SEO:

Martin Splitt, Developer Advocate at Google, said, “The Web is not just about consuming content, but also about facilitating first-class experiences. Core Web Vitals is a vital part of ensuring users get the high-quality experience they expect.” source

Cindy Krum, CEO of MobileMoxie, has said, “When we focus on the technical aspects of SEO, like Core Web Vitals, we should always remember that the ultimate goal is to satisfy user queries. If Google is emphasising these metrics, it’s because they contribute to a better user experience.” source

Barry Schwartz, CEO of RustyBrick and a well-known figure in the SEO community, stated, “The fact that Google has given us advanced notice of the Core Web Vitals update and has provided detailed tools and guidelines to prepare for it underscores the importance they are placing on user experience as a ranking factor.” source

Rachel Costello, Technical SEO Consultant at Builtvisible, pointed out, “Sites that provide a smooth, engaging user experience stand to rank better in Google’s search results. Core Web Vitals are Google’s way of quantifying key aspects of that experience, and any website looking to improve its performance in 2023 should be paying them close attention.” source

The Importance of Continual Assessment and Adjustment

Improving your website’s Core Web Vitals is an ongoing commitment to offering the best user experience possible. Continually monitor your website’s performance, paying particular attention to any new content or features that could be impacting your LCP, FID, or CLS scores. Regularly utilise Google’s suite of tools to identify issues and action any necessary improvements.

In a digital landscape where user experience is increasingly the cornerstone of SEO, taking the time to understand and optimise Core Web Vitals is not just beneficial – it’s essential. It allows you to align your website’s performance with Google’s metrics, paving the way for higher search rankings, increased traffic, and ultimately, greater business success. Keep abreast of any updates to these metrics and be prepared to adjust your website accordingly. After all, in the world of SEO, it’s not just about keeping up – it’s about staying ahead.