What are Google Core Web Vitals?
Google Core Web Vitals are metrics that help measure and indicate a webpage’s Page Load Performance. They provide important insights into the user experience on a webpage when combined with existing Google page experience signals.
There are three Core Web Vitals metrics:
1. Largest Contentful Paint (LCP)
This metric measures how quickly a webpage loads. The render time of the largest image or text block visible within the viewport is used to calculate scores.
2. First Input Delay (FID)
3. Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS)
This evaluates layout shifts to determine the visual stability of a webpage. Layout shifts occur whenever a visible element changes position from one rendered frame to the next, such as when switching between mobile and desktop browsers.
CLS is calculated as the sum of all individual layout shift scores for each unexpected layout shift that occurs throughout the page’s lifespan. A “zero” score indicates no layout shifts; a higher score indicates more layout shifts on a page.
How to Use Google PageSpeed Insights to Measure Core Web Vitals
PageSpeed Insights is a Google tool that can measure all three Core Web Vitals metrics. This tool assesses the performance of a single page across mobile and desktop devices, reporting metrics as “good,” “needs improvement,” or “poor.”
PageSpeed Insights provides data about a page from both the lab (aggregate) and the field (user). You can also view reports for a page’s mobile and desktop versions.
Field data capture real-world user interactions better than lab data, but it has a more limited set of metrics. (This is available under “Discover what your real users are experiencing.”)
However, because the data is collected in a controlled environment, a page’s lab data (found under “Diagnose performance issues”) is more useful for debugging performance issues. It may not, however, always capture real-world bottlenecks. As a result, when developing your Core Web Vitals strategy, consider both sets of data.
In addition to reporting metrics, the PageSpeed Insights tool offers personalised recommendations on how to improve a page. We recommend using it to monitor individual page performance and get recommendations from Google on what to prioritise.
Run a few product and category landing pages through the PageSpeed Insights tool to see how your eCommerce site is performing. Make a note of what needs to be fixed and then roll out those fixes to all pages of that type. Later, evaluate your page performance changes to see if they were successful.
ARE CORE WEB VITALS ESSENTIAL?
The Core Web Vitals update is yet another example of Google prioritising sites that provide the best user experience. Page Experience ranking signals incorporate Core Web Vitals, which are intended to keep Google’s users satisfied in their searches.
These ranking factors also include providing a secure browsing experience (HTTPS), optimising for mobile compatibility, and being free of intrusive interstitials (such as popups), all of which improve the user’s interaction with the web page.
While Google was initially vague about the exact effect of Core Web Vitals, we can now say that effect was smaller than expected almost ten months after its launch.
Instead of serving as the anticipated end-all-be-all, Core Web Vitals ranking signals behave similarly to the other Page Experience ranking signals listed above.
They have little to no impact on the positions of most eCommerce websites in search engine results pages (SERPs) and overall organic performance because they are such a weak signal.
The Impact on Our eCommerce Customers
When the update was first announced, research indicated that eCommerce and retail sites were the least likely to benefit from the Google Core Web Vitals update.
What about the other side? They did not suffer any negative consequences.
We couldn’t find any ranking or organic traffic changes that could be attributed to Core Web Vitals when we reviewed our clients’ organic performance over the last 10 months.
While anecdotal, it provides our team with enough data to conclude that this algorithm update lacked the teeth it promised, particularly in the eCommerce industry.
External research also supports our findings.
This does not, however, mean that you should abandon your efforts to meet Core Web Vitals standards for your eCommerce site.
Remember that a good page experience is important for more than just organic performance. It also has a significant impact on your users’ satisfaction and the overall conversion rate of your site.
Google suggests improving any aspects of your site that are rated “poor” or “needs improvement.” However, once you’re in the green, you’re good to go.
If your site is reporting decent or good scores, there are more worthwhile SEO strategies to spend your time, effort, and money on.
Subpar scores aren’t always a barrier to having your pages served up in search results, according to Google:
Page experience is just one of several signals used to rank pages. Remember that the intent of the search query is still a very strong signal, so a page with a poor user experience may still rank highly if it has great, relevant content.
However, if your site is performing poorly, Core Web Vitals could be an important part of your overall SEO strategy and performance. For example, if your web pages are up against equal competition, your CWV showing could make or break the algorithm’s decision.
As a result, we recommend addressing areas of concern with an experienced development team as soon as possible.
HOW TO IMPROVE YOUR E-COMMERCE SITE’S CORE WEB VITAL SCORE
Every eCommerce site is unique, and your site’s Core Web Vitals requirements will be as well. Before you do anything else, we recommend conducting a full technical SEO audit by an experienced developer or agency to determine the root causes of your problems (and how to fix them). While there is no single “proven” method for beating Google at its own game, there are some tactics for increasing your Core Web Vitals scores.
Here are our recommendations based on common issues identified during site audits for our clients.
1. Constantly assess the performance of your website
If you haven’t already, we recommend taking a long-term approach and evaluating the performance of your site over time, making changes as needed. Core Web Vitals metrics, like many other updates, took some time to become available. Any impact on a site’s organic performance was not immediately apparent (if, as previously stated, it was detected at all).
Rather than checking individual pages with PageSpeed Insights, you can easily evaluate your site’s overall performance using Google Search Console’s Core Web Vitals report. This tool displays URL performance by status, metric type, and URL group, as well as a rating of “poor,” “needs improvement,” or “good.”
After making changes to a group of URLs on your site, you can use the “Validate URL” button to request that Google re-evaluate its performance.
Because this report tracks URLs over time, you can compare the performance of your site before and after making changes. This will indicate whether your strategies are effective. (An open-source auditing tool like Lighthouse can also be used to perform a similar analysis.)
2. Remove major layout changes.
More people than ever before using their mobile devices to search for and compare products. Mobile eCommerce sales were expected to increase by 12.2 percent in 2021, resulting in total revenue of $431 billion in 2022.
Keeping this in mind (as well as the fact that many users will use both mobile and desktop devices during the research process), Core Web Vitals metrics assist in rewarding sites and retailers who present a consistent appearance across mobile and desktop devices.
The mobile layout of your site should not be an afterthought or a poor imitation of our desktop layout. In fact, it should be the optimization priority with Google’s mobile-first update.
A few common eCommerce site features are seen to reduce the overall layout score:
- Ad slots (especially those that collapse when no ad is present)
- Chat features, especially on mobile devices
- Above-the-fold banners
By deploying responsive screens and prioritising load time for the worst offenders affecting your CLS score, your web developer should be able to minimise layout shifts.
3. Reduce the size of your images and videos
We don’t have to tell you how important images and videos are for eCommerce sites. Your customers want to see as many details as possible about your products, so the more the merrier, right?
Only after they’ve been properly optimised.
Large images may look fine on desktops and tablets, but they can significantly slow down your mobile site and degrade your users’ page experience. They also have a negative impact on your Core Web Vitals scores.
Work with your developer to determine the best image sizes for your site and begin implementing that standard across the board. You might be able to use an image resizing plugin (such as ShortPixel Adaptive Images), or you might need to make individual page updates after prioritising the largest images.
Don’t forget to include any featured images and videos. To improve load speed, replace native videos with embeds from YouTube or Vimeo.
Going forward, always include width and height size attributes.
4. Load Page Content in the Order of Viewing
For each webpage on most eCommerce sites, there is a lot going on: images, videos, product page links and embeds, and so on. A browser will attempt to load all of these assets in sequential order, and if your most important assets are not prioritised, it can have a negative impact on your Core Web Vital scores.
By preloading important resources and implementing lazy load images, we recommend prioritising the loading of your page content as your viewer sees it. In short, content above the fold should load first; additional content should be viewed after a visitor scrolls down the page. This can decrease your time to first contentful paint (FCP) and increase your time to interactive.
5. Make use of a Content Delivery Network to implement aggressive caching.
A content delivery network (CDN) is a fantastic tool for increasing page load speed. By caching page information for future page loads, it reduces load lag time between your site’s server and your user’s browser.
While the difference between using and not using a CDN may appear minor to most (often a few seconds), it can have a significant impact on your load speed score. When a customer visits your site without a CDN, the page files are accessed from wherever your main server is hosting them. The server caches those files, preventing browsers from downloading everything on a page every time it is visited.
However, if that server is not local, loading time will be delayed. If your customer is in Florida and your server is in Europe, for example, those files will take longer to load on your customer’s browser.
A CDN distributes your network, reducing lag time. Your site can be loaded from dozens of different servers rather than just one. A user’s browser will load files from the nearest server, and your
The page speed score will improve. Because the assets have already been downloaded from the server and stored in the CDN, the assets on a page are displayed faster the second time a consumer visits the site.
If you don’t already have a CDN, this is the time to get one. Speak with your developer about which CDN is best for your eCommerce site and how to get it set up for faster page loading.
START IMPROVING YOUR CORE WEB VITALS SCORES IMMEDIATELY.
While Google’s Core Web Vitals ranking signals may not be as important as they once were, they should still be included in your technical SEO strategy. Improving your user experience is beneficial for a variety of reasons, and these new metrics are just one aspect of doing so.
While we’ve provided some starting points, we can’t cover every aspect of a thorough Core Web Vitals audit in this blog. If you’re still catching up, start with the suggestions above and work your way forward.