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Google’s Core Web Vitals Update

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29th March 2021 in

Bonfire’s Head of SEO Matthew Elshaw addresses Google’s upcoming Core Web Vitals update outlining the potential impacts and ways to measure and improve website performance.

You might have heard about the Core Web Vitals update that Google is releasing in May 2021. In this update, Google will be adding three new signals to their ranking algorithm as a part of their ongoing efforts to reward sites that provide a great user experience (UX).

The three new signals that will be scored are as follows:

1. Largest Contentful Paint (LCP) – measures the time from when the page starts loading to when the largest text block or image element is rendered on the screen

2. First Input Delay (FID) – measures the time from when a user first interacts with your site (i.e. when they click a link or tap a button) to the time when the browser is actually able to respond to that interaction.

3. Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS) – measures the cumulative score of all unexpected movements or layout shifts that occur between when the page starts loading and when it is complete.

For more information on each signal, click the links included above.

How important is this Google update?

Any change to Google’s algorithm is worth taking seriously, however, Google have pointed out that these new signals are a part of hundreds of factors used in Google search. Danny Sullivan (Google’s public search liaison) has said that overnight they’re not going to “flip some type of switch and there’s a massive change”.

Some more information from Google’s documentation:

That being said, we do recommend you take the time to understand your performance against these factors and put in place a plan to improve them.

How to measure your Core Web Vitals performance:

There are two ways to measure your Core Web Vitals performance. Scores in the below reports should be considered for the mobile version only.

1. Google Search Console – The new Core Web Vitals reporting Search Console helps you identify groups of pages across your site that require attention, based on real-world (field) data. URL performance is grouped by status, metric type and URL group (groups of similar web pages).

2. PageSpeed Insights – This tool provides performance data about a specific URL along with a set of actionable recommendations on how a site owner can improve page experience.

While Search Console provides site owners with a great overview of groups of pages that need attention, PageSpeed Insights (PSI) helps identify per-page opportunities to improve page experience. In PSI, you are able to clearly see whether or not your page meets the thresholds for a good experience across all Core Web Vitals at the top of the report, indicated bypasses the Core Web Vitals assessment or does not pass the Core Web Vitals assessment.

How to improve your Core Web Vitals performance:

Improving Core Web Vitals performance generally requires changes to your website code and/or hosting environment. We recommend sharing the following workflow with your web developer or IT team to improve your Core Web Vitals performance:

1. Use the Core Web Vitals report in Search Console to help you identify groups of pages across your site that require attention, based on real-world (field) data.

2. For each signal marked as poor or needs improvement, click on the issue to see some sample URLs that represent groups of similar URLs experiencing issues.

3. Once you have a list of pages that need work, use PageSpeed Insights (PSI) to diagnose lab and field issues on a page. PSI will provide you with specific opportunities and diagnostic information with links to learn more about each opportunity.

4. Once you’ve measured the Core Web Vitals and identified areas for improvement, the next step is to optimise. The following guides offer specific recommendations for how to optimize your pages for each of the Core Web Vitals:

    1. Optimise Largest Contentful Paint (LCP) – https://web.dev/optimize-lcp/
    2. Optimise First Input Delay (FID) – https://web.dev/optimize-fid/
    3. Optimise Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS) – https://web.dev/optimize-cls/

Frequently asked questions:

1. How many of the 3 Core Web Vitals areas (LCP, CLS, FID) need to be hit in order to pass?
Google announced that all 3 of the Core Web Vitals areas need to “Pass” in order to benefit from the associated ranking signal.

2. What scores does my site need to hit?
CWV scores are evaluated against the following boundaries:

3. What if I see “no data available” or I don’t have any information in Google Search Console?

If you see a “No data available” screen, it means either that your property is new in Search Console, or that there is not enough data available to provide meaningful information. You can run a live performance test for individual URLs using the PageSpeed Insights testing tool.

4. How can I improve my CWV scores if don’t have a web developer?

If you don’t have a web developer who can work on improving your Core Web Vitals performance, please contact us and we can recommend some alternative options.

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