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Why You Need to Include Core Web Vitals in Your SEO Strategy

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Google is continuously updating its algorithms to ensure searchers have quick access to relevant and user-friendly results.

User experience has long been an important ranking factor, and the search engine’s upcoming introduction of Core Web Vitals is only going to make it more crucial for increasing organic traffic.

With the Core Web Vitals update being imminent, it pays to heed Google’s advice and understand the essence of LCP, FID, and CLS. Let’s take a closer look.

What Are Core Web Vitals?

Over the past few years, Google has been heavily focused on enhancing the user experience (UX) on the web through various evaluation parameters.

The platform’s first big push was mobile-friendliness, and for some time now, it has been reiterating the importance of having a mobile-friendly, mobile-first website in order to yield any decent SEO.

The next phase?

Mobile performance, also called Core Web Vitals.

Starting the summer of 2021, Google will update its algorithms, introducing a brand new ranking factor – page experience. The page experience is to be measured using a set of metrics known as Web Vitals.

The core metrics within these Web Vitals are Largest Contentful Paint (LCP), First Input Delay (FID), and Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS).

Why Should SEOs Care About Core Web Vitals?

Search engines have extremely advanced data mining operations.

Their algorithms strive to help users find what they want while collecting valuable data that helps them understand user behavior and, ultimately, provide searchers with more relevant results.

Fundamentally, websites that do a better job at meeting searchers’ needs are more likely to rank higher in the search results and increase organic traffic.

As Google is increasingly focused on defining evaluation parameters to enhance UX, integrating Core Web Vitals is set to become a big part of any brand’s SEO success.

Not convinced yet? Consider this: in just a few months, Salesflare, a CRM, more than doubled its organic blog traffic without changing its content strategy or without increasing the volume or frequency of content.

How? With technical improvements to the blog with a focus on Core Web Vitals.

While optimizing for this new ranking factor can feel intimidating, there are SEO tools at your disposal. PageSpeed Insights and Lighthouse, as well as Google Tag Manager, have already been updated to show Core Web Vitals metrics.

Google Search Console remains your best source for insights on technical issues that need immediate attention. Even more, the Core Vitals report in Search Console shows which pages on the website have issues with any of the three elements based on Chrome’s UX report.

Signals for Core Web Vitals

Many marketers get a little hung up on the Core Web Vitals because they are quite technical. While you don’t need to know all the specifics, understanding what’s actually being measured is important for embracing this new SEO ranking factor.

In a nutshell, the Core Web Vitals represent three crucial aspects of good user experience – loading performance, responsiveness, and visual stability.

They are all based on actual user data from Google Chrome’s user experience report about a website. You can easily make a deep dive into the data (both legacy + fresh data) for your website by using the official Google Data Studio report. It contains detailed data on all critical aspects of CWV, combined with info about the usages on different devices and networks.

Let’s briefly explore the three elements that go into Google’s Core Web Vitals.

Largest Contentful Paint (LCP)

LCP is a measurement of how long it takes for the main/largest element of a page to load. It is based on the loading of above-the-fold content, meaning that anything that extends beyond the user’s screen is not considered.

Overall, the elements measured for LCP include:

  • Images
  • Video poster images
  • Block-level text elements
  • Elements with a background image

Largest Contentful Paint can be measured using field and lab scoring tools, such as  PageSpeed Insights and Lighthouse.

How to Optimize for LCP

Google advises aiming for the LCP to happen within the first 2.5 seconds of the page loading. Anything between 2.5 and 4 seconds needs improvement and anything over 4 seconds is considered poor LCP.

For most sites, LCP time can be reduced by:

  • Optimizing images. As the largest element on a site is often an image, it’s vital to make sure you choose the right format, incorporate techniques such as width and height attributes, and compress images (if needed).
  • Improving the server performance. Consider optimizing your server, upgrading the hosting pan, and using a content delivery network (CDN).
  • Adding caching. Remember to use URLs consistently and make caches store images that don’t change often.
  • Fixing render-blocking CSS and JavaScript. Techniques to explore include implementing Critical CSS, delivering smaller payloads, and compressing code files.

First Input Delay (FID)

FID refers to the delay between the time you click on something and the time that the site responds to that action and starts processing it. Simply put, it measures the user’s first interaction.

Do keep in mind that First Input Delay measures user interactions from finite events such as taps, clicks, and key presses. Scrolling, zooming, and other continuous types of user interactions cannot be properly measured using this metric and should be evaluated separately.

How to Optimize for FID

Because FID measures the actual experience of a user that visits your page, monitoring and optimizing it is fundamental for your site’s UX.

Overall, site owners should strive to have an FID of no more than 100 milliseconds (ms). FID of between 100 and 300ms needs improvements, and FID above 300ms is considered poor.

If your site scores above 100ms, you may be able to improve FID by:

  • Optimizing the JavaScript code. Strategies include breaking up long tasks, deferring or a-syncing unused JavaScript, and minimizing unneeded polyfills.
  • Optimizing the CSS code. Practices to consider include removing unused CSS code and compressing your files.

Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS)

CLS is primarily concerned with the visual stability of a site and the unexpected shifting of page elements. Simply put, it examines whether items move around on the screen while it’s loading and how often that’s happening.

How to Optimize for CLS

In most cases, you can avoid unexpected layout shifts by:

  • Opting for transform animations that provide context and continuity.
  • Avoiding inserting content above existing content, especially if there is no user interaction.
  • Including size attributes on images and video elements.

This Layout Shift GIF Generator tool is an incredibly easy way to check the changes on your pages and see which are the elements that prevent you from having a better score.

Creating Better Web Experiences

Essentially, the Core Web Vitals are designed to measure page performance in the human experience. As SaaS marketers, we know that today’s users want – and expect – web experiences that run smoothly and flow as naturally as possible.

At the end of the day, investing in LCP, FID, and CLS improvements can help you provide solutions for a better user-centric experience and, consequently, improve your rankings and increase organic traffic.

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