Google Core Web Vitals – What Does It Really Mean?

Whenever Google introduces a new metric, SEO specialists the world over go into a frenzy over how it will affect page ranks.

Naturally, when Google quietly replaced the Speed Report in Google Search Console (GSC) with the Core Web Vitals Report, murmurs were heard. And pretty soon, these became heated discussions.

In a recent tweet, Google has announced that it’s going to use the Core Web Vitals as a significant factor in its ranking algorithm. In layperson’s terms, your web page’s rank in the Google SERPs (that’s Search Engine Results Pages) will now be affected by the Core Web Vitals score.

Is this welcome news, or something else? Should webmasters be happy, or feel down in the dumps? As is the rule with Google’s changes, the questions are endless.

That’s why I decided to dig deep into the topic and find out what it really means. And today, I’m going to share my findings with you all.

Let’s dive in.

 

What Are The Google Core Web Vitals?

The driving philosophy behind Google is to provide top-notch search experiences to users. Core Web Vitals is simply the latest effort by the search giant to help website stakeholders deliver enhanced web experiences.

The Core Web Vitals report has been included in the GSC under the enhancements tab. And a quick look at the icon for the report (a speedometer) told me that this had to deal with the page speeds primarily.

As Google developers clearly explain, measuring, and improving the “user experience has many facets.” Of these, the Core Web Vitals represent a set of metrics common to all website experiences.

After careful analysis, I’m of the view that the Core Web Vitals report primarily deals with three individual avenues of website performance. These are as follows:

  • Page loading speeds
  • Responsiveness to user interaction
  • Visual stability of page elements

To deal with each of these elements, Google has developed the following three metrics:

  • Largest Contentful Paint (LCP)
  • First Input Delay (FID)
  • Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS)

After going through several resources such as this one, I realized the metrics are more straightforward than they seem initially. In the following sections, I’m going to break each down to the simplest terms possible.

 

Largest Contentful Paint (LCP)

Put simply, the LCP metric measures the perceived load speed of a page. It indicates the time taken for the largest page content to load within the browser viewport (that’s the visible portion of the page currently being viewed in the browser window). The “largest content” piece can be an image or a text block.

The LCP scores have been divided into three segments: Green, Orange, and Red, as shown in the infographic below. As can be discerned from the chart, an LCP score of below 2.5 seconds is considered a good one.

Source: https://web.dev/vitals/

However, elements that take between 2.5 to 4 seconds for loading have substantial scope of improvement. And, anything above 4 seconds is poor performance and that’s where you need to focus most of your optimization efforts. For OFFEO’s intro maker page, the LCP is hovering around 4.0 to 6.0s, which clearly indicates that they need to work on improving those metrics.

Also, remember: for your website to have an overall good score, at least 75% of your pages need to be within the 2.5-second limit. For more information, you can refer to this link.

 

First Input Delay (FID)

This is the metric that deals with web page responsiveness to user activity. The FID metric measures the time it takes for a webpage to respond to the first input from the users’ side.

Examples of such interactions may be clicking a button, typing into a text field, or selecting a menu item. In short, anything that relates to interactive HTML components.

Again, for FID, Google has divided the performance scores into the Red, Orange, and Green segments. A web page response time below 100ms is considered a good score, and above 300ms is poor. Anything in between needs improvement.

Source: https://web.dev/vitals/

Please note that this metric is highly user-dependent, i.e., it can only be measured if and when the user interacts with the webpage. Also, for an overall good score, at least 75% of your website pages should meet the 100ms mark.

 

Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS)

This final metric is an entirely new benchmark introduced by Google and aims to measure the visual stability of a page. But, what exactly does visual stability mean? Let me explain a bit.

I’m sure you all have noticed how, when a webpage first loads, some elements shift as new content loads. This can often lead to accidental clicking on unintended elements, such as ads, which leads to unnecessary user frustration.

CLS is simply a measure of the unexpected layout shifts that occur when a page displays. Scores of 0.1 and below are considered good, while anything above 0.25 is poor and needs attention. As usual, at least 75% pages must meet the 0.1 score to be classified as a good website.

Source: https://web.dev/vitals/

 

Why Is This Important?

Apart from CLS, the remaining Core Web Vitals metrics were already present as performance measures in the GSC reports. The reason for the uproar over this is that Google has announced that it’s going to use these metrics for determining page rank.

Source: https://www.searchenginejournal.com/googles-core-web-vitals-ranking-signal/370719/

However, SEO specialists need not worry; the company has declared in this post on the Webmaster Central Blog that these changes won’t take effect before 2021. And even then, there’ll be a notice period of “at least six months” before the changes come into effect.

This means webmasters will have ample time to test the performance of their websites and tweak them accordingly.

 

Conclusion

As mentioned earlier, Google’s prime directive is providing stellar user experiences. And, the Core Web Vitals is yet another step in that direction. Plus, all website stakeholders have enough time to prepare for the changes.

If interpreted and implemented correctly, this new set of metrics will not only serve to enhance ranking algorithms but also improve the web experience in general. All things considered, this is undoubtedly a welcome introduction.

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