Late in 2020 Google announced that it would soon begin to use their Core Web Vitals as a measurement for their own SEO rankings.
At Showit, we work hard to continually offer an environment that gives you creative freedom while also implementing the best and most current web practices. We are actively working at improving our platform to make it even easier for you to build a site exactly the way you want while respecting the recommendations that Core Web Vitals offers.
After a lot of testing, we found that much of the Core Web Vitals score can be improved by what you choose to include or not include on your web pages.
We wanted to take some time to talk about what Core Web Vitals are and remove some of the fear around how it relates to your website. This article will give you a general overview and help frame how Core Web Vitals relate to your site.
A Performance Budget
As a creative entrepreneur, there are things that can be pretty important to have on your site that will negatively impact your Core Web Vital score no matter what you do. And, it might be worse to go without those elements than it would be to have a better score.
As of this writing, websites like The New York Times and even Google’s own YouTube score mediocrely on Google’s Page Speed Insights dashboard
That gives us a clue that it might sometimes be worth it to be ok with a lower score if it means we get to have certain types of functionality and elements on the page.
Let’s take a look at a Showit web page that got a 91 on mobile and 99 on desktop with Core Web Vitals.
Don’t refresh the page. You’re not seeing things. The only thing on this high-scoring page is two paragraphs of text.
These types of pages score really high because they’re super simple and don’t require a lot of requests to be made to the server. As a result, the Core Web Vital score is great!
BUT, you’re likely not going to wow people with your website if this is all there is. When you add things like images or embedded code the Core Web Vital score begins to drop.
That means you have competing goals on your site. One goal is to make your site creatively stunning. You want your website visitors to be impressed by what they’re seeing and find it irresistible to hire you, buy your products or interact with your content. On the other hand, you’ve got a goal for your website to score well in Google’s Core Web Vitals.
This is where the concept of a performance budget comes in. A performance budget is how much you are willing to allow your site to score negatively on things like Core Web Vitals before you take measures to try and improve.
You might ask: “Why have a performance budget at all? Shouldn’t your site score perfectly with Core Web Vitals?”
This is where a clear understanding of your options and limitations allows you to make informed decisions.
It’s necessary to consider the pros and cons of every element you’re adding to your site in light of your performance budget. Obviously, it’s worth it to have images that help the user stay engaged with your site despite it technically lowering your CWV score.
How to Determine a Performance Budget
Based on our research to this point, the basic idea behind your Core Web Vitals impacting your Google search ranking is that when someone searches for something in Google, if there are two pages similar in content quality (and all of the other things that go into Google’s algorithm), the page with a higher Core Web Vital score will be ranked higher.
So, a good idea to determine a performance budget is to look at how your competition scores with their own Core Web Vitals and allow that to be a benchmark.
But, keep in mind that pages with higher content quality will likely win out over better scoring pages. So, assuming that you’ll start to rank better simply because you have a better Core Web Vital score isn’t the way to think about it.
Having well-written content with engaging images that keep visitors on your page for longer is and will likely always be the best strategy for doing well in SEO.
Core Web Vitals and Why They Matter
It’s important to have some understanding of what Core Web Vitals actually are when you’re trying to improve your site's score. Not every site is the same and will have different challenges.
So, even though it’s tempting to say, “do these 3 things and your score will sky rocket,” a better method is for you to learn a bit of the basics and approach your site like a “problem solver.”
That means running your site through Google’s Page Speed dashboard, thinking up possible solutions, testing them out and then repeating the process until your site is scoring at the level you’d want it to.
In general, Core Web Vitals are a set of indicators that score how much a visitor to your site (user) might enjoy the experience. It’s not just about page speed although that’s a big part of it. Google wants to reward sites that have worked hard to make a visitor's experience a pleasant one.
There are three main measurements that Google uses:
Largest Contentful Paint (LCP)
First Input Delay (FID)
Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS)
Within each of those measurements are additional metrics that drill down into even more details of the score of your site.
Let’s briefly look at these three measurements and what they mean for your site.
Largest Contentful Paint (LCP)
The Largest Contentful Paint (LCP) measurement looks at how long the biggest elements within the viewport on your site take to load. The viewport is the area of your site a visitor sees without scrolling. So, when your page first loads the viewport is anything at the top of the web page.
Google gives you about 2.5 seconds before you start getting pinged on your LCP score. And a lot of studies say that if your LCP takes 3 seconds or longer to load the majority of your users will leave.
First Input Delay (FID)
The First Input Delay (FID) has to do with how long it takes before a user is able to start interacting with the site. An example of this is the length of time it might take before a user is able to click a button or fill out a form.
Think of your own experience having to wait for a form to load before you’re able to put in your info. Any noticeable delay is not very fun.
Google gives you about 100ms before you start getting a bad rating. That may seem like light speed. BUT, they’ve done a lot of testing to come to that conclusion. So, it’s not just a random number.
Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS)
Cumulative Layout Shift measures how much elements on your page move when they’re loading or when they’re being interacted with by the user. Imagine going to click a button only to have it move out of the way of your pointer when the page fully loads. Not a great experience for the user.
Google wants you to maintain a layout shift that is less than 0.1.
More on Core Web Vitals
There is a lot more to learn about Core Web Vitals but knowing these basic 3 things will help give you a better understanding of what Google is looking for AND how you can change things on your site to score better.
If you’d like to dive deeper, Google has a lot of resources available.
Focus on What Matters
Not every measurement in Google’s Core Web Vitals affects your overall score the same way. More weight is given to certain indicators.
For instance, Largest Contentful Paint is weighted at 25% of your overall score while Cumulative Layout Shift is only given 5%.
So, there are definitely things that are more worth your time and effort to improve than others.
That being said, you’ll notice that your Showit site likely scores poorly with Cumulative Layout Shift in Google’s Page Speed dashboard, specifically on mobile. The reason for that has to do with how Showit renders its pages on mobile devices. We are working to address this.
If you’d like to learn more about how Google weighs the different performance indicators they layout it out in this article.
Google also tells you what changes on your page will most impact your score specifically in the Page Speed dashboard when you analyze your site:
A good strategy would be to address these issues when it’s within your power to do so from those that have the highest estimated savings on to the lowest.
If you’d like to know more about things you can do to help improve your Core Web Vitals score on a Showit site specifically please visit this article.