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Google Core Web Vitals Become Ranking Signal – What you need to know

Coralie Pilte

Published by Coralie Pilte  on 10th December 2020

In May 2020, Google announced a new algorithm update, and ranking factor: the Core Web Vitals. With less than six month to go until this update rolls out, let’s look at what the Core Web Vitals update is, how it can impact your SEO, and how you can fix things before it comes into force.

Google Core Web Vitals Become Ranking Signal – What you need to know

What are Google’s Core Web Vitals?

Google’s Core Web Vitals refer to three metrics, analysing your page speed:

  1. Largest Contentful Paint (LCP), which measures your page loading performance.
    • In other words, how fast does it load? To determine this, Google looks at the largest piece of content of your website (whether it’s an image, video or text), and analyses how long it takes for it to load completely.
  2. First Input Delay (FID), which measures your page interactivity.
    • This measures how long your website takes to load an event after an element on the page has been interacted with. This time isn’t necessarily the time in which something is shown to you, but how long it takes for the code to be executed. An example of this is if there is a required delay before showing the content, this is not penalised.
  3. Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS), which measures your page’s visual stability.
    • In other words, how quickly does your page become stable? You may be wondering what this means exactly, so let’s give you an example to clearly understand “page stability”. Have you ever been on a website, went to click on a button before it finished loading and clicked on a completely (and irrelevant) one as the layout changed at the last minute? This means that it took longer than you expected for the page to load fully and become stable. The longer it takes, the worse your CLS score and your user experience.
Google's Core Web Vitals

Using these Core Web Vitals as ranking signals will allow to put User Experience at the heart of search performance, and join existing page experience signals such as:

  • Mobile-friendliness.
  • Safe browsing.
  • HTTPS.
  • No intrusive Interstitials.

How to review your current performance?

Google has launched a new Core Web Vitals report in its Search Console*, which will allow you to review how your indexed pages perform against Google’s criteria (more on this below). This means you will be able to identify which pages need improvements.

If your web pages are classed as “Good”, then you’re in the clear, but if you see pages that “need improvement” or are classed as “Poor”, now is the time to act. Your Search Console will redirect you to a Page Speed Insights page, which will give you a detailed analysis of what’s going on. If you notice anything below good, we advise you to reach out to your web development team to improve your performance now!

If you don’t have a Search Console, there are other tools you can use to figure out your Core Web Vitals performance, such as:

But we would strongly recommend you create your own Search Console, as you can access a lot of data linked to your organic performance! If you don’t know how to do it, your web developers will be able to help you, otherwise, get in touch with our team!

What is a good user experience according to Google?

Now, you may be wondering what Google considers good UX. Their team have provided us with clear guidelines, defining good, average (needs improvement) and poor performance to help you prepare for the next big update.

Let’s take a look at the image below, which details how quickly your website should load to be ranked as good.

Google’s guidance on Core Web Vitals performance.
  • Largest Contentful Paint (LCP): Anything below 2.5 sec will be considered good. Above this, you will need to make some improvements.
  • First Input Delay (FID): anything under 100ms will be considered good. Anything above this will need to be improved.
  • Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS): Anything under 0.1 will be considered good. If you’re over, it’s time to make some improvements!

What does it mean for your search rankings?

Like any algorithm update, this new ranking signal will affect all web pages, whether on desktop, mobile or tablet. How much it will affect your rankings will depend on your performance.

As this ranking signal will work hand-in-hand with hundreds of others, its impact might be minimal if you’re performing well or average for other signals. But if your performance is really poor, you might notice a bigger impact.

News sites, which aim to be featured in Google Top Stories, will need to pay close attention to their Core Web Vitals and meet a minimum threshold to be featured in these rich results. Until now, AMP was essential to appear in the Top Stories, but with this signal going away, you’ll need to focus on your Web Vitals instead.

Also, a highly competitive search environment, performing well for Core Web Vitals might be the difference you need to beat your competitors. So, make sure you pay attention to these signals!

And remember, ranking well is only half the battle! Once you’re on the first page of results, you want visitors to enjoy using your website, and improving your UX can only mean better traffic performance, and better conversions in the long run!

How to fix any performance issue?

Whilst you can easily identify what’s wrong with your UX performance, implementing changes might be outside your comfort zone. In this case, talk to our web developers! They’ll be able to guide you through these changes and provide the best solution for your needs.

Do you need help checking your website is ready for the Core Web Vitals update? Get in touch with our digital team now!