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Lambourghini dashboard in reference of Google Core Web Vitals

SEO Advice - Google’s Core Web Vitals

By Greg Hatch

| Updated on October 2022

Over the past number of years Google has been releasing more and more tools to tell website owners if they’re hitting the mark. One you’re probably already aware of is Google’s “Mobile Friendly” test.  This scans your website and tells you if Google believes you’ll display well on smartphones.

Try Out Google’s Mobile Friendly Test

One of the newer tools which Google is beginning to push is what they call their “Core Web Vitals”. In simple terms, Google has 3 key metrics to determine if your website will provide a positive experience for your visitors.

Web Vitals is an initiative by Google to provide unified guidance for quality signals that are essential to delivering a great user experience on the web.

– web.dev

Here’s what Google is looking at:

  1. Largest Contentful Paint (LCP) – How long does it take for your website to load the biggest image or text block on the page? A good score is under 2.5 seconds.
  2. First Input Delay (FID) – How long before my clicks start working? If your page is still loading, you could be waiting a while. Google likes to see this under 100 milliseconds.
  3. Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS) – Have you ever been reading a blog when suddenly the page jumps to a new section because a video or ad (finally) just loaded? Google hates that too. Google has even found a way to measure this and give it a score – 0.1 or less is best.

Largest Contentful Paint

How long does your page take to load? That’s what Google is measuring here. As the first big metric in their Core Web Vitals, this is pretty important. To be fair, they’re not looking for the last item on the page to load – they’re just looking at the largest item on the page (typically the main content). 

In SEO terms, Google is looking for faster websites (especially for mobile phones) and every second counts. For Google this will mean your largest item on the page loaded in under 2.5 seconds – but Google has stricter measures for mobile load times. While you may load in 1 second on desktop, your mobile load may be closer to 4 seconds since Google assumes a slower internet connection.

Not sure about your website? Take the test and see.

Google PageSpeed Insights

First Input Delay

If the webpage is still loading files (usually Javascript or CSS files) when a user tries to click a button, they’ll have to wait until the browser is done thinking. This wait is your First Input Delay, and Google (along with task-focused users) hate it.

If your Largest Contentful Paint is measuring how long before your users can look/read, the First Input Delay is measuring how long before your users can click or interact. Google is pushing hard to speed up the internet, and is very open about penalizing the snails who are slowing things down.

This metric is a little harder to measure on its own, but if your web developer has Google Search Console connected to your website, this can be found under the Core Web Vitals tab. If Google isn’t able to calculate this (which can happen), a good alternative will be the Total Blocking Time recorded in Google PageSpeed Insights.

Don’t have a web team?

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Cumulative Layout Shift

If you’ve ever been reading an article and suddenly the page jumps to a new section, you probably just experienced a “layout shift”. Layout shift happens when a slower-loading item on a page (like an image or video) pushes content down after it (finally) loads. If you have a lot of slower loads on a page, this can be frustrating to no end.

Google has started measuring this “page jumping” and wants to see your website score under 0.1. This metric can be measured within Google Search Console and Google PageSpeed Insights.

While the other two Core Web Vitals are more about how fast your page loads, this metric is actually just testing to see if your developers know how to properly code a page. When your developers “reserve” space for ads, videos, and photos, you won’t see the page jump when they load.

If you are seeing high scores on your Cumulative Layout Shift, this may be a good time to find a team who is keeping up with modern web standards.

Improving your SEO

Whenever you audit your Search Engine Optimizations, there will be things that are “one and done” and things that require ongoing effort. Each of the Core Web Vitals are “one and done” tasks which your developer has either completed or not.

If you’re interested in edging out the competition on Google, these metrics are a must. Although if you read up on User Experience Design or studies on engagement, retention, and conversion of website visitors, you’ll agree the Core Web Vitals are essential for every business.

To dive deeper with these metrics, feel free to visit web.dev.

If you’re interested in getting some help (or gathering data) with your website, contact our team and we’d be happy to help.

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About the Author

Greg Hatch, owner of True Market and Fire Flower Apps

Greg Hatch

Greg Hatch is the owner of True Market, Fire Flower Apps and Amplify Community, serving as Brand Strategist, CMO, and Director (respectively). While his primary passion is for people and the world we create, he is an expert in marketing theory, SEO, brand identity, website strategy and loves chatting business.

Outside of work, Greg volunteers for his church and is on the board of Helping Families Handle Cancer. He has two amazing daughters, a beautiful wife, and two fluffy bunnies. If he ever finds free time, you’ll probably see him on the Disc Golf course.