Last month we brought you an article giving an overview and explanation of three new ranking factors to Google’s Core Web Vitals that the search engine giant will be introducing from May 2021 – Largest Contentful Paint (LCP), First Input Delay (FID) and Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS).
Whilst these may sound confusing, and May next year may seem a distant concern, it is actually pretty important to know more about the Core Web Vitals – why they’re being implemented, how to measure them and, most importantly, how to optimise them.
A quick recap
#1 Core Web Vitals is the ‘blueprint’ for quality measurement of user experience on a website, and includes a number of tools and signals focusing on three key aspects: loading, interactivity and visual stability.
#2 The three measurement tools are:
- Largest Contentful Paint (LCP) which measures loading performance, for which 2.5 seconds is the upper limit for good performance
- First Input Delay (FID) which measures interactivity, for which 100 milliseconds is the upper limit for good performance
- Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS) which measures visual stability, for which 0.1 is the upper limit of good performance
The above measurement tools assess both desktop and mobile websites as they are loaded, and ideally you should be aiming for an average of over 75% performance across all three ranking factors, across all versions of your website to ensure good user experience.
How to measure LCP, FID & CLS
The easiest starting point to measure Core Web Vitals is the Chrome User Experience Report which collates anonymized user data and is the driving data tool powering PageSpeed Insights and Search Console’s Core Web Vitals section.
Whilst there are developer tools that can be implemented to measure Core Web Vitals, such as the Web Vitals APIs, these are for more advanced web developers. For the everyday website manager, it is easier to use a Chrome Web Vitals Extension or Search Console.
How to improve your Core Web Vital scores
Optimising LCP – the starting point is to ensure a good server response time. The faster your server handles content, the faster it will load for your users. You can measure server response time using Time To First Byte (TTFB), and improve server response time by:
- Ensuring your server connection is secure and on a premium connection
- Making use of a CDN-based server to route users to the nearest server geographically
- Caching assets and serving HTML pages cache-first
- Optimise your page for interaction readiness
- Use a web worker
Optimise CLS – layout shifts can be hugely frustrating to users, as they try to interact with a specific section of a web page, only to have it move as another section loads and shifts it down. The most common factors that cause this, and need to be resolved are:
- Images without dimensions
- Adverts, embeds and iframes without dimensions
- Dynamically injected content
- Web fonts that download and render poorly
- Actions awaiting a network response
There are a number of good tools to help fix CLS, including Lighthouse 6.0, and the Chrome User Experience Report can also measure CLS.
Why is all of the above important?
Well, quite simply put, if your website is a core part of driving new business, revenue and marketing value to your company then you need to ensure that every customer – new and existing – who uses your website as an entry point to engaging with your business is served the best possible experience.
Recent research conducted by HubSpot reveals:
- 14% of your audience will move permanently to another online shop if your site loads too slowly
- 23% will simply abandon the process altogether
- The average e-commerce website loads in 7 seconds – a full 4 seconds longer than the outer limit of recommended load time
- 79% of online shoppers who have a negative experience on a shop website are less likely to return
- A 1-second delay means a 7% reduction in conversion – meaning if your site does £100 000 in online sales, a 1-second improvement adds £7000 to your revenue.
In conclusion, it’s all about user experience – how your site looks, performs, loads, guides and facilitates interaction for a user dictates how well it performs for your business. Taking care of the ‘engine room’ of your website is essential, and it’s a non-stop process, with online users driving new expectations every day.