I often make this statement with slight tongue in cheek as it is always a difficult balance to appeal to both search engines (to ensure good ranking) and to the people browsing your website. However, in mid-June 2021, Google introduced ‘Core Web Vitals’ – a way for them to further evaluate the user experience of your website. This is something that should be important to you, as well as Google.
What is Google Core Web Vitals?
Google Core Web Vitals looks at three key metrics that they believe are important to the user experience:
- Largest Contentful Paint (LCP)
- First Input Delay (FID)
- Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS)
Before you glaze over, like most people do when I start quoting this list, let me explain in simple terms as it is not as complex as it first looks.
These three categories can be better defined as follows:
- How quickly content loads in a browser (largest thing in the viewport)
- How fast user inputs are processed (link clicks, form submissions etc.)
- The visual stability of your site (no last-minute button shifts at point of click and minimal image resizing, on mobile)
The other important factor is that Google rank these categories based on the mobile experience as they now see this as the primary user experience.
So Why Is This Good For You?
When Google makes a change, it is often met with frustration from marketers, all the hard work they have done to climb the search engine rankings could be undone as Google once again move the goal posts.
However, this time the goal posts are going in the right direction. An effective website is one that offers the best possible user experience and converts browsers into prospects or better still customers. All of these Core Web Vitals are measurements of user experience and should be something that you are focused on.
If your webpages take too long to load, visitors will bounce. If menus or forms are too complex and unresponsive, the user will give up, and if your website is confusing, then people will not follow the journey you want them to take.
So, in reality, this should be a win, win, win. You make Google happy, you climb the search engine rankings, and when people visit your site they get the experience they want, interact and convert.
So How Do You Address Core Web Vitals?
First you need to ensure that your SEO agency is able to monitor and track how you are scoring against the three Google metrics. Second you need to ensure you don’t fall into the major pitfalls that Google now frowns upon.
Not Prioritising Mobile – mobile first indexing means you are measured on your page load speeds for mobile over your page load speeds for desktop.
Whizzy Things – they may look clever, but if they slow down content being loaded on key conversion pages then you will be penalised.
Slow Forms – forms that are complex, slow to load and delays user input will not only deplete goodwill but will score you low.
Unresponsive Design – anything that means your webpage struggles when responsively resizing for different devices is not good (i.e. a patterned or complex background).
Huge Content Above The Fold – that is slow to load and will slow down the speed of important content such as forms.
As an SEO specialist I welcome these changes as this is a real focus on user experience which should always be our top priority. Long gone are the days when keywords alone were the driving factor to improving your ranking. Now the technical aspects of your site and these core web vitals heavily influence your position; meaning it is not just what you say in your keywords, but the value and experience you deliver to people clicking through to your site.
To help organisations quickly understand and address the impact of core web vitals, we have incorporated these key metrics into our SEO Helicopter audit which we offer free of charge. If you would like to request one of these, simply click here: Helicopter Audit