Core Web Vitals: What Small Businesses Need to Know about Google’s Upcoming Algorithm

Website Improvements Provide Advantages for Small Business

People are now, more than ever, conducting their business research online. The better you can improve your potential customer’s experience with your website, the higher you’ll rise above your competition. Done well, websites increase the visibility and credibility of your business for potential customers looking for relevant products and services online.

In 2020 Google gave us a rare heads up on their upcoming Core Web Vitals algorithm update. This algorithm releases in May of 2021. For once, small to medium-sized businesses have been gifted time to mitigate possible Search Engine Results Page (SERP) placement loss. Businesses should take advantage of this time to improve their websites to get, or stay, ahead of their competitors. 2020 also let us know how important online business has become to our survival.

What is the Core Web Vitals (CWV) Update About?

According to Google:
“Core Web Vitals are the subset of Web Vitals that apply to all web pages, should be measured by all site owners, and will be surfaced across all Google tools. Each of the Core Web Vitals represents a distinct facet of the user experience, is measurable in the field, and reflects the real-world experience of a critical user-centric outcome.”

Keystone’s interpretation:
This Web Vitals algorithm update measures specific set of your website visitor’s experience. Actively working to improve these metrics, will not only maintain or improve your ranking in the results page of a Google search, but also improve your web site visitor’s experience.

Core Web Vital (CWV) Specifics: Getting Technical

The core web vitals update is the next official Google ranking factor, but it’s more than just this. These signals really fall under the umbrella of page experience, which is all about your website visitor’s experience while on your website. Improving CWV will improve a website visitor’s impression of your site, which impacts how they view your brand, which impacts revenue.

A great user experience is important. Now we have a concrete way to measure and improve important aspects, according to Google.

The Three Components (that we care about most) of Core Web Metrics

There are three aspects of the user experience included in CWV. These are:

  1. Loading. Defined as the Largest Contentful Paint (LCP). This measures the loading performance of your web page. For a good user experience, LCP should occur within 2.5 seconds from when the page starts loading
  2. Interactivity. First Input Delay (FID). This measures how fast your website reacts to clicking on a link or button. A good FID should be less than 100 milliseconds.
  3. Visual Stability. Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS). This measures those annoying times the website screen might shift while you’re trying to read or click on something. To provide a good user experience, pages should maintain a CLS of less than 0.1.

Largest Contentful Paint (LCP) Defined

Largest Contentful Paint

LCP is the measurement of page loading time. When Google speaks about LCP, they mean the loading of the largest text block or main image at the top of your webpage. This is not the measure of the whole page being loaded, or even the first element that gets loaded (that’s First Contentful Paint FCP). But it is the measure of how long it takes for your website visitors to actually begin to read or interact with your website. This metric accurately measures the speed at which a webpage can be used.

The speed at which one can actually read or interact with a webpage is critically important for user experience. Tons of studies show a faster page load time keeps users from clicking off your website.

Many of our customers want graphically beautiful webpages. The best way to better your LCP score is two-fold.

  1. Make sure images are sized exactly as you want them. Do this within your photo imaging software. If you want your image to be 500×500 pixels, size it in Photoshop or Canva. Do not upload a 1000×1000 pixel image and size it in your code. The correctly sized image will download faster and drive your Largest Contentful Paint score up.
  2. In addition to sizing your images before you upload them to your website, optimize their file size as best you can. A smaller file-sized image simply loads faster.

There are other areas you can optimize for a better LCP score and you can find these details at Google’s Developer Page.

First, make sure you have a fast web server. There are a number of technical reasons a server can be slow, ranging from dealing with DDoS attacks, minimize render blocking CSS or Javascript or even using old server PHP versions. You’ll want to perform a complete analysis to diagnose your specific server problems.

First Input Delay (FID) Defined

First Input Delay

FID is the time it takes for the browser (Chrome, Safari, etc) to respond to the first user interaction on a webpage. This is the measurement of the delay after a distinct action, like a click on a button or link. Scrolls and zooms do not count towards this metric. If you keep your FID below 100ms, you’re doing well.

If you have ever been on a website and clicked a link only for nothing to happen, you’ll immediately understand why this is an important metric. First impressions are very important. You really want your newly acquired visitors to stay around and interact with your site, and perhaps even call you!

Your FID can be slow because of complex Javascript or CSS. If you find your FID metric needing to be improved, you’ll want to optimize your code. You can do this by breaking up complex tasks into smaller, asynchronous tasks.

There are other methods for improving your FID score. If you are interested in learning more, please contact us.

Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS) Defined

Cumulative Layout Shift

One of my biggest frustrations when I’m on a webpage, especially on a mobile device, is when the content keeps jumping around. It makes it so hard to read! This is Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS). According to Google, your webpage should maintain a CLS of less than 0.1 cumulative layout shift. This metric is determined by the percentage of the page affected before and after multiplied by the percentage of the page it moved.

CLS is a harder metric to get right on a mobile device because the screen size is smaller and this metric works on percentages.

According to Google there are five reasons why Cumulative Layout Shift happens:

  1. Images without dimensions
  2. Ads, embeds, and iframes without dimensions
  3. Dynamically injected content
  4. Web Fonts causing FOIT/FOUT
  5. Actions waiting for a network response before updating DOM”

Getting CWV Right

While these are not new user experience metrics, Google has decided to ramp up their emphasis on them. Your user’s experience is important. Google will reward websites with better search results, if they pay attention to CWV. It always pays dividends to keep your website running smoothly and now we have more concrete measurement to help pave the way to a great user experience.