In May 2020, the Chrome Team introduced Core Web Vitals, a set of new criteria for measuring user experience based on a website’s performance. Later in mid-June 2020, Google integrated these new UX metrics in its algorithms as crucial SERP ranking factors. Let’s take an in-depth look at Core Web Vitals and their effect on a site’s SEO.
What are Core Web Vitals?
Most people think of Core Web Vitals as a way to measure page loading speed. But there is so much more to these than just speed. Core Web Vitals are a set of page experience metrics that evaluate a page’s responsiveness, visual stability, and loading performance. Google uses three markers, sometimes referred to as “the pillars of page experience,” to measure these metrics:
Largest Contentful Paint (LCP)
LCP determines a page’s loading performance by calculating the time from when the page starts loading until the largest element is fully rendered. Depending on the page, the largest element can be a text block, image, video, or table.
Ideally, a well-performing page should load its largest content in under 2.5 seconds. This gives users the impression that the page loads fast even if other minor or background elements load slowly.
First Input Delay (FID)
FID is an interactivity and responsiveness metric. It measures the time interval between a user’s first interaction with an element and the page responding to that interaction. The user interaction could be a click or tap on a button, a keystroke, or screen-swipe/scroll.
Page responsiveness is measured in the order of milliseconds. The ideal FID is less than 100 milliseconds (0.1 seconds).
Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS)
CLS measures a page’s visual stability as it loads—whether stuff moves around during the loading process before finally settling in a stable location.
This metric is a bit more complicated than the other two Core Web Vitals. Unlike FID and LCP, CLS is not measured in seconds; instead, the final score is the product of two measurements—impact fraction and distance fraction.
- Impact fraction: The total viewport area that an unstable element takes up when moving about.
- Distance fraction: The largest distance an unstable element covers between transitions relative to the viewport’s dimensions (height and width frames)
According to Google, a good CLS score should be less than 0.1.
What do Core Web Vitals mean for SEO?
Google is keen on providing its users with the best browsing experience. Core Web Vitals is another way to ensure that the top domains listed on SERPs fit Google’s definition of excellent user experience. All three page experience metrics, LCP, FID, and CLS, send impactful SEO signals to Google’s search algorithms. This emphasis on superlative browsing experiences means that poor scores in any of these components could negatively affect your site’s ranking. Google says that great page experience does not override having great content, but in cases where multiple pages have similar content, page experience becomes a dominant ranking distinction.
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