Understanding & Defining Core Web Vitals

A pull quote about user experience from the blog is next to a picture of a smiling woman on a green and black background
Posted on by Jennifer Connors
Categories: User Experience

When our team at Wikimotive starts working on a new website, one of the first things we look at is its overall user experience and functionality. To assess this, we reference a Core Web Vitals report, which is a set of metrics defined by Google. Introduced in May 2020, these metrics quantify how users actually experience a website and are used to inform the core ranking algorithm when determining your site’s placement in search results. While other factors like website security and mobile-friendliness also contribute to the user experience rating, Core Web Vitals is a higher-priority ranking signal routinely checked by bots and crawlers as part of the algorithm’s evaluation process.

What are Core Web Vitals?

Core Web Vitals are a data set determined by Google that takes several parts of the website into consideration, coming together as one of the key ranking factors in search. Core Web Vitals are designed to measure key functions of the front end of your website. They are:

Largest Contentful Paint

Largest Contentful Paint (LCP) measures the time it takes the website to render the largest sections, or blocks, on the user-facing part of the website before the first scroll. Blocks can be made of several types of content, including images, hero videos, background images, and text. Load time is critical for a positive user experience on your website, as well as for obtaining higher rankings on the search engine results page (SERP). While the overall goal may be updated by Google in future iterations, the current standard for LCP is 2.5 seconds from when the page begins to load.

Cumulative Layout Shift

Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS) measures the movement of links or buttons on a page as it loads, affecting the user’s ability to interact with key elements of the site. If the layout of a page is continuously moving around and changing position, a user is more likely to become confused and frustrated if they cannot move forward in their on-site journey. By adjusting the stability of the page and coded-in elements, you could see an increase in conversions by users beginning a phone call, filling out a form, or completing an online sale. A good CLS score, by Google’s standards, is 0.1 or less. Noteworthy improvements and changes to your site will be able to improve clickthrough and conversion rates by making the interaction easier for the user.

First Input Delay & Interaction to Next Paint

In addition to making sure elements of the page are loading in place without much shifting, you’ll need to know how long it takes for interactive components to respond after input from the user. This time is measured by First Input Delay (FID), which records button clicks and key presses by the user. Because it is a more difficult metric to measure accurately, it is going to be replaced in March 2024. However, until then, you should take FID into account when making site revisions to improve your Core Web Vitals.

Even though Interaction to Next Paint (INP) has not become a Core Web Vitals metric yet (it will replace FID in March 2024), many of the changes you make to improve your score will likely have a positive impact. INP is the measure of your website’s responsiveness and the latency between interactions, or how often a click causes the page to become unresponsive for a period of time. The metric utilizes data captured by the Event Timing API, which calculates interactions with the page in order to determine a latency score. A lower latency score means that the page was more stable throughout interactions, which leads to a more desirable INP score.

How to Check Your Core Web Vitals

There are several free tools available online for you to use to gauge where your website’s baseline is in terms of Core Web Vitals, as well as provide feedback and tips for increasing your scores. The two main tools you would use are both available directly in your Google Search Console dashboard.

The first place you should begin is the Core Web Vitals report in Google Search Console, which will provide you with a breakdown of your website’s mobile and desktop data, showing the number of URLs under three categories: poor, needs improvement, and good. Once you click into the report, you’ll be able to see further data, such as which pages are not passing the Core Web Vitals assessment, which metric they are not passing, and a validation to begin once you have made the necessary changes to the page.

Are you looking for more information on how your website performs in Core Web Vitals assessments? Google offers a tool called PageSpeed Insights that shows your website’s results for each CWV metric as well as recommendations to solve performance issues. The performance recommendations will reference specific items in your code that may be causing latency on your website and affecting user experience, such as third-party tools and plug-ins. PageSpeed Insights will also provide you with a breakdown of your performance score, including a calculator that shows how the score was determined and how minor changes can impact the site.

How Does Core Web Vitals Affect SEO?

Your website’s Core Web Vitals are one of the top ranking signals used by search engines, making them a vital part of your search engine optimization (SEO) efforts. The closer your website is to meeting the threshold set by Core Web Vitals, the better the user experience will be, which will help boost your ranking in search results. Especially with the advent of smartphones and with about half of all web traffic coming from mobile devices, user experience has become more important than ever.

Google made the switch to mobile-first indexing in September 2020, putting an extra emphasis on the importance of your website being easy to navigate and interact with on tablets and smartphones. Making key changes to your website and improving your Core Web Vitals scores will make your content eligible for certain search result enhancements, such as badges indicating a higher user experience than other sites. A better user experience is going to improve your overall ranking and put you at a competitive advantage, putting your content ahead of other businesses marketing towards the same customers in the same space.

Working with Wikimotive

If you are not sure how your website is performing or want another opinion, contact the experts at Wikimotive today! As our team performs an initial audit to see where your current SEO efforts lie, we’ll be running your site through Core Web Vitals assessments to see which areas of your site can use improvement. To get started, contact us to set up an initial consultation today!