Are Core Web Vitals Hurting Your Rankings?

Google Web Core Vitals

Maybe, or maybe not.

We’ve been told in the past that Google will make algorithmic updates for enhancing SERPs.  And, they say if you are doing SEO right, don’t worry too much about your rankings, just concentrate on shareable content.

This one feels a little different though.  Core Web Vitals might be one of the most significant updates we’ve seen, because it impacts all industries, no matter the size of company, geo location, or tenure online.

Through both internal studies and industry research, users show they prefer sites with a great page experience. In recent years, Search has added a variety of user experience criteria, such as how quickly pages load and mobile-friendliness, as factors for ranking results.

User Experience

The most common question from our clients are, “How do I know if Core Web Vitals is an issue for my website.”  Or, a better question is, “Are my website visitors getting the best user experience, according to Google?”

As they say, knowing you have a problem is half the battle and this is appropriate for search engine optimization, when we are talking about LCP, FID, CLS, or summarized as Loading, Interactivity, and Visual Stability.

Core Web Vitals Flow Chart

As you can extract from the diagram, emphasis is being placed on speed and usability, from a mobile device perspective.  This makes sense, because according  to StatCounter.com, 54% of all traffic is mobile, as of March 2021, compared to 24% mobile traffic in 2014.

Seriously, who uses a desktop anymore?

Now that we know where core web vitals fits into the landscape of technical SEO, let’s have a look into the summary of each of the 3 components.  If you want to go deeper, look for reference links within each section.

Largest Contentful Paint (LCP)

The easiest way to explain Largest Contentful Paint, is how quickly the web page is displayed on your phone, when text and images are viewable.

Google likes to use a measurement of time, so the target is 2.5 seconds or less.  For all of you SEO overachievers, less than a 1 second LCP is very possible, with proper web hosting, platform, theme configuration, image compression, css and javascript optimizations.  Find the core web vitals case study at the tail of this article.

Largest Contentful Paint

If you’d like to take a really deep dive into LCP, have a look here.

First Input Delay (FID)

The next logical measurement is First Input Delay, which tells us how quickly the page is interactive after it has been displayed on your device.  This actually measures the delay, but we are a glass half full type team.

In terms of delay, we are talking in terms of fractions of a second, so less than 100 ms FID is good.  Without getting too technical, areas of coding and programming can cause delays in first input delay, including the loading of Javascript.

First Input Delay

Need to geek out on FID?  You are in luck and can find more here

Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS)

The measurement of page element movement or shifting, when viewing on a mobile browser.  Finally, we have a method to understand pure user experience with Cumulative Layout Shift.

CLS helps developers understand that a web page is not shifting around, even after it appears to be fully loaded.  When tracking CLS, less than 0.1 is desired.  This calculation is a result of distance percentages, rather than time.

Cumulative Layout Shift

Now it’s your turn to do the maths!  If you are curious, here is your starting point to understand more around CLS!

Would you like to start a project with us?

It’s easy to start with a phone call or by sending along questions on our free SEO quote form.  We look forward to helping you.

Tools To Measure Core Web Vitals

Are you feeling adventurous and want to find out if your personal or company website is working for you or needs attention?  Have a look below at our favorite tools for core web vital analysis.

5/5

GTmetrix

GTmetrix measures your page performance based on user-centric metrics in addition to how well it's constructed.

4.5/5

PageSpeed Insights

PageSpeed Insights analyzes the content of a web page, then generates suggestions to make that page faster.

Core Web Vitals Case Study

Project: Our team was recently presented with a large blog website migration that included a complete site migration, theme update, WordPress update, including plugins cleanup.

Mission: The primary objective was moving the blog to a much faster server environment, as traffic was streaming in from all over the world.  The secondary objective was to understand how we can provide all updates, maintain the website authority, and increase the health with regard to Google’s core web vitals efforts.

Solution: Systematically update and test each server optimization feature, plugin option, and theme customization to achieve top scores in GTmetrix, Google PageSpeed Insights, and Google Console.

GTmetrix LCP Performance Report

What we found when we performed our initial website audit and analysis.

  • Slow Website Speed
  • Accelerated Mobile Page (AMP) Issues
  • Unsupported WordPress Theme
  • New WordPress Theme + Plugins Conflicts
  • HTTPS Content and Image Mismatch
  • Mobile Onsite Search Usability Issues
  • 301 Redirect Uploads Folder Issues

Pictured below are real screen captures of a client’s data that shows issues with Core Web Vitals.  The most interesting data hinged on an outdated and unsupported WordPress theme that caused an error in the structure of the images “/uploads” folder.  At some point in time the /uploads folder was duplicated to /upLoads and cause a series of 404s that went undetected for years.

Core Web Vitals Chart

Google Search Console showing URLs that need improvement.

Google Core Web Vitals Need Improvement

Google Search Console filtered to display three types URLs including a few gaps where data was not indexed.

Google Core Web Vitals LCP

Google Search Console explaining the timeframe needed for validation for a reindex for core web vitals report.

In addition to the various issues that we were able to rectify, a very peculiar conflict surfaced that alluded us for a few days.  The culprit was a conflict between the new Theme’s “Lazy Image Loading” feature and the native web hosting optimizations.

Blocksy Lazy Load

WordPress Blocksy theme option that cause a substantial conflict in page speed times.  The initial average LCP was 3.1 seconds, compared to 0.7 seconds after all core web vitals optimizations.  Our fix was to turn off this option, as the images were already fully optimized.

Would you like to start a project with us?

It’s easy to start with a phone call or by sending along questions on our free SEO quote form.  We look forward to helping you.

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