By now, you may already know various technical SEO tips and tricks to upgrade your website performance. On the other hand, search engines are constantly coming up with new metrics that demand you to modify your strategies to keep up with the latest SEO trends and stay ahead in the competition. Core web vitals and page experience are the new additions in this list. Let’s take a brief look on these today:
A Quick Intro into the Matter
The Speed Report in the Google Search Console which is now renamed as Core Web Vitals offers two new performance metrics:
1. Cumulative Layout Shift
2. Largest Contentful Paint additionally to the First Input Delay
Core Web Vitals have been deployed in various tools like Page Speed Insight or Lighthouse.
Google has announced for an upcoming major change: it will release a new Page Experience signal as a ranking factor in 2021. This will mainly focus on Core Web Vitals.
By now, you may have understood the motive behind our today’s discussion? Cool, let’s dig deeper now.
Google’s Focus on Website Speed and UX – Page Experience
Google outlines page experience in the following manner:
“Page experience is a set of signals that measure how users perceive the experience of interacting with a web page beyond its pure information value.”
Therefore, page experience can be considered as a blend of multiple factors that Google considers crucial for user experience. The factors are as follow:
Now, these have already been documented as important search signals. So the major focus now, is on the introduction of Core Web Vitals.
Worried about your SEO ranking? Don’t stress. Google Webmaster Central blog maintains that the change will not be implemented before 2021 and Google will provide a notice at least 6 months prior to rolling out the signal. So the good news is, even if your website doesn’t yet comply with the guidelines, you still have time to optimize the pages.
Go through the following passages to learn all about it and start implementing.
An Overview on Core Web Vitals
In this section, we will mention all the components of Core Web Vitals and offer some effective tips to improve the metrics. But first thing first – let’s analyse what Core Web Vitals really are:
Core Web Vitals are a few specific factors that Google considers to be highly important in a webpage’s overall user experience. In short, these are a subset of factors that adds to the overall page experience score.
The metrics of Core Web Vitals are Largest Contentful Paint or LCP (it measures real-time user experience for site loading performance), First Input Delay or FID (it measures UX for site interactivity), and Cumulative Layout Shift or CLS (it measures UX for the visual stability of the pages).
Without any further ado, let’s move on to break down these three Core Web Vital metrics and discuss some effective strategies to improve these.
- LCP or Largest Contentful Paint
Largest Contentful Paint measures the rendering time of the largest content element visible on the viewport. In simpler terms, it’s the time that takes from clicking on a link to seeing most of the content on-screen. LCP is different from other page-speed metrics. For instance, metrics like First Contextual Paint and Time to First Byte (TTFB) don’t really reflect what it’s actually like for a user to open up a web page. LCP focuses on what really matters once it comes to page speed – seeing and interacting with the web page.
What’s your LCP score, by the way? Find it on PageSpeed Insights.
According to Google’s LCP guidelines, your website performance can fall into three categories: good (up to 2.5 seconds), needs improvement (up to 4 seconds), and poor (beyond 4 seconds).
Here are a few ways to improve your LCP score:
#Minimize CSS – CSS files may contain characters like indentation, spacing, and comments. These characters are unnecessary for the browser. Reducing the amount of blocking CSS will ultimately improve the time taken to render the main content of the page (LCP).
#Remove Large Page Elements – Keep an eye on Google PageSpeed Insights to learn if your page has any element that slows down LCP.
#Upgrade Web Host – Better hosting will improve the overall loading times.
#Take Advantage of Lazy Loading – Lazy loading deters loading of the page element until the users scroll down the page. This will help you to achieve a faster LCP.
Hard work? We agree. Worth it? Absolutely, given 40% of web traffic would bounce if a web page doesn’t load within 3 seconds (source: Hobo-web)!
Here are a few more tips to optimize your page loading speed.
- FID or First Input Delay
So, we hope you have significantly improved your web page LCP but can users smoothly interact with the page? That’s what FID measures – the time taken for a user to interact with the page.
FID or First Input Delay is the delay that a user experiences while interacting with a page for the first time, say, the delay to get a feedback from a web page when clicking an element.
Here are a more few examples of interactions for your better understanding:
-Clicking on a link in the website’s navigation
-Opening accordion text on mobile devices
-Entering an email into a field
-Choosing any option from the menu
Like LCP, here too Google has a specific range for what constitutes an acceptable FID. An Fid up to 100 ms – Good, up to 300 ms – Needs Improvement, and up to 500 ms – Poor.
Now, for a fully content based web page (say, a blog post or news article), FID may not be that big a deal since the only user interaction is zooming in and out or scrolling down the page. But the pages with login, sign up, or contact form fill-up where users have to quickly click on something – FID is a huge factor.
Here are a few things to do to improve a site’s FID score:
#Use Browser Cache – Caches help to load page content real fast. Leveraging this will help your users to quickly interact with the page.
#Remove Non-Critical 3rd Party Scripts – Just like LCP, 3rd party scripts like heatmaps, Google Analytics, etc. negatively affect FID.
- CLS or Cumulative Layout Shift
Cumulative Layout Shift measures the sum of all the individual layout shifts that take place during the entire lifespan of the page (including after the user has started interacting with the page). It also takes into account the distance of the shift and the size of the concerned area.
Let’s explain it in simpler terms: if the elements on your page move around when the page loads, it has a high CLS – and this is a poor performance. Page elements should be fairly stable as it loads. That way, users don’t have to relearn where the images, fields, or links are located or mistakenly click on something once the page gets fully loaded. According to Google, a web page CLS up to 0.1 is good, up to 0.2 needs improvement, and up to 0.3 means poor.
If you are checking your web page CLS, make sure to check in on mobile devices as well.
Here are a few ways to improve CLS:
#Add New UI Elements below the Fold – That way, these won’t push down the content that the users expect to see where it is when the page loads.
#Reserve Space for Ads – Otherwise ads can suddenly appear on the web page and push down the content.
#Use Set Size Attribute Dimension for Media – This will help the users’ browsers to know how much space a media like video, image, infographic, or GIF will take and won’t change once the page fully loads.
Speed Update vs Page Experience – What Really Changed
For the first time, with the page experience metrics, Google is not promoting only page speed but announcing the overall performance as a ranking signal. It is also defining precise metrics (LCP, FID, and CLS) along with a detailed target for each. So the better your overall UX, the better page experience score you’ll have.
So, does it mean a great page experience score will magically push you to the #1 rank in Google? The shortest answer is “no”. Google itself has mentioned that page experience is one of the several factors that contribute to improve site rank. You see, there’s no quick fix in SEO. You may take a look. According to the top SEO agency professionals, implementing the right strategy, maximum efforts, and patience – this is the recipe to win the game!