Google recently announced some very interesting updates going into effect early next year surrounding ranking signals.
While their algorithm and measured metrics are constantly evolving, this update, called the “Core Web Vitals” update stands out as it combines SEO factors with what would traditionally be considered UX (User Experience) or design elements.
What are Core Web Vitals?
The new “Core Web Vitals” update adds page speed, interactivity, and visual stability metrics to traditional ranking factors like mobile-friendliness and security.
In the past, Google primarily used 4 ranking signals to calculate a URL’s overall page experience:
- Safe Browsing
- Security (HTTPS)
- Intrusive Interstitials
Core Web Vitals adds 3 new metrics to the list that look at UX factors and calculate a score for each. Combined, these metrics will be referred to as the Page Experience ranking signal.
Pagespeed: LCP (Largest Contentful Paint)
- Largest Contentful Paint is a page speed metric that measures the length of time it takes for the main content of each page to load for site users.
Interactivity: FID (First Input Delay)
- First Input delay measures how long it takes for a page to respond to a user action
Examples: drop down boxes, clicking a link, clicking a button
Visual Stability: CLS (Cumulative Layout Shift)
- Cumulative Layout Shift measures how often the elements or layout of a page change while a user is interacting with it.
Examples: Pop-in ads, resizing columns, late loading images, moving buttons
How to Find Core Web Vitals Data
Google has provided multiple ways to find CWV performance data, including Google Search Console, Page Speed Insights, and Chrome Developer Tools, to name a few.
Under “Enhancements” on the left sidebar in Google Search Console, you will now see a Core Web Vitals tab. This section houses data for both desktop and mobile page performance.
The Search Console CWV report is best used for assessing overall site performance. As with other sections in GSC, pages are sorted by performance, and bulk lists can be exported for technical review.
If you are looking for data on a specific webpage, Google’s PageSpeed Insights tool puts all CWV metrics right at the top of the page in easy-to-read charts. Simply enter the desired URL and wait for the metrics to load.
This is a great tool to use when assessing performance of specific page types (landing page, product page, etc).
Chrome Developer Tools
The Lighthouse report in Chrome Developer tools will also provide you with page level Core Web Vitals data.
This info is very similar to what you will find when using PageSpeed Insights, but you will need to run separate tests for desktop and mobile.
How will Core Web Vitals affect SEO?
The stated goal of this algorithm update is to raise the overall user experience of all websites, and deliver users to pages they will enjoy browsing. The following quotes from Google on the topic sum it up very well.
“Core Web Vitals are a set of real-world, user-centered metrics that quantify key aspects of the user experience. They measure dimensions of web usability such as load time, interactivity, and the stability of content as it loads (so you don’t accidentally tap that button when it shifts under your finger – how annoying!)”
“The page experience signal measures aspects of how users perceive the experience of interacting with a web page. Optimizing for these factors makes the web more delightful for users across all web browsers and surfaces, and helps sites evolve towards user expectations on mobile. We believe this will contribute to business success on the web as users grow more engaged and can transact with less friction.”
It’s important to note that SEO best practices (and unconfirmed best practices tested and proven by SEO’s) still apply. Google specifically stated that Core Web Vitals will not override the presence of poor content or poorly optimized websites.
Similar to Google’s Mobile-Friendly update, CWV will influence organic rankings when there are multiple websites with similar content competing for the same keywords.
How will Core Web Vitals affect UX?
Trinity has traditionally provided our partners with user experience improvements through a variety of experimentation and user research efforts.
While areas like safe-browsing and HTTPS will include more “best practice updates”, mobile-friendliness issues as well as interstitial presentations are best left to be solved through experimentation.
We know that your website users are important and we believe that any changes to the user experience should be carefully vetted through experimentation to ensure there are no negative effects to user behavior.
Google has stated that these changes will not be reflected in their search ranking update until next year, but getting ahead of the game is never a bad thing.
How to Get Your Website Ready
The Core Web Vitals update won’t go into effect until early 2021. However, now is a great time to start assessing your site and developing a game plan for improving CWV.
Starting with an SEO and UX assessment, where both teams can merge tasks and goals would be a great place to start.
Moving forward, SEO’s and UX teams will need to work more closely to develop and implement changes that boost organic ranking potential, and enhance user experience simultaneously.