How Core Web Vitals Affect your SEO
Search engine optimisation (SEO) is a notoriously fast-moving discipline, which means that it is essential to ensure that you are keeping up to date with the very latest developments that could affect your optimisation strategy and search engine result page (SERP) performance. Core Web Vitals are being made live in May 2021 and here’s everything you need to know about how they may affect your SEO.
In short, Core Web Vitals will become a key part of the way in which Google will evaluate your page experience. Google has said that Core Web Vitals will impact rankings directly and it will only be possible to rank well with poor web vitals scores if your site contains the most valuable content.
Are Core Web Vitals Going to Affect All Rankings?
Essentially, yes. Core Web Vitals are going to impact both desktop and mobile search results. But that’s not all because they are going to replace accelerated mobile pages (AMP) and become an essential condition for appearing in Google Top Stories, which typically appear at the top of SERPs and can take up a significant amount of search real estate.
Although Google uses literally hundreds of ranking signals, the impact a single signal can make often isn’t that significant. But it’s worth emphasising here that if your site is underperforming in certain areas, it could impact your rankings. Additionally, if you are operating within an extremely competitive marketplace, you should be doing everything possible to ensure you are outperforming your competitor brands.
You should also know that there are certain signals that have more of an impact than you might initially assume. For example, although page speed is arguably a tiny signal, it can have a significant influence because it is something that users will actively experience. As such, Google has discovered that visitors are almost 25% less likely to abandon a site that meets the thresholds of each Core Web Vital. Whilst Core Web Vitals aren’t even a ranking factor yet, optimising for them will deliver an improved overall user experience (UX) which is something we already know has a positive impact on traffic, sales and conversions.
As there are no valid reasons to avoid optimising for Core Web Vitals, let’s look at how you might approach this particular optimisation process.
How Do I Optimise For Core Web Vitals?
You’re going to want to start by opening Google Search Console and clicking on the Core Web Vitals tab. This will provide you with the information you need to determine how your webpages are currently looking. It will be most beneficial to focus your attention on URLs that are placed in the “poor” category. The ways in which you approach refining each page will depend on the particular Core Web Vital that is proving to be the most challenging.
1) Largest Contentful Paint (LCP)
This sounds extremely technical but it is essentially measuring how quickly the page loads. To do this, Google will look at the largest object within the viewport, which could be a mobile page, a video, text, or an image.
It is important to note that LCP is markedly different from page loading speed because this feature will measure how long it takes for your page to display elements the user views as being particularly important, including all above-the-fold content. After all, what’s the point in placing your most valuable content here if it’s going to take upwards of seven seconds to load properly. If this is happening on your site, we can almost guarantee that a significant percentage of your visitors are going to be bouncing away.
Google research highlights that a site’s bounce rate will increase by 32%  if a page takes three seconds to load rather than one. If a page takes six seconds to load, that bounce rate percentage skyrockets to 106% .
2) First Input Delay (FID)
On the surface this is another highly technical element but it simply evaluates how quickly a web page is fully interactive. So, when a visitor clicks on a feature of a button, how quickly will the browser begin to process that action and deliver the appropriate results? Let’s say that they’re filling out a form. If they take the time to do that and hit the submit button, they’re going to want to know that the information they have entered is going to start being processed immediately.
It can be an extremely irritating experience to click on something only for nothing to happen, or for it to happen slowly. So, don’t make your visitors act unless you can guarantee that your site will process that action properly.
3) Cumulative Layout Shift
This Core Web Vital looks at how quickly a web page becomes stable. We’re certain that you have loaded a page and gone to click on a button which, frustratingly, shifts at the last second and could mean that you inadvertently end up clicking on something you have absolutely no interest in. This is a prime example of a very poor UX that will simply drive your audience away.
One of the primary things that can affect the stability of the page are images with undefined sizing. If an image is 500 pixels x 500 pixels, those dimensions really need to be defined within the HTML of the page, which will ensure that those annoying page loading shifts don’t happen.
When you have appropriately addressed all pages that were categorised as “poor,” you can move on to making improvements on all web pages categorised under the “needs improvement” tab. As with all aspects of SEO, optimising for Core Web Vitals will be an on-going process that will benefit from consistent attention.