Website performance is undeniably crucial to user experience and search engine rankings. And with Google’s emphasis on Core Web Vitals as a critical ranking signal, it’s more important than ever for businesses to maximize their website’s user experience.
That’s why, in this article, we’re exploring the significance of Core Web Vitals, delving into their key components, and providing a step-by-step guide on how to improve your website’s performance.
We’ll also discuss when it’s time to seek the expertise of a professional. So, don’t let your website lag behind—start optimizing your Core Web Vitals now, and pave the way for better user experiences and improved search engine rankings.
What are Core Web Vitals?
Web vitals are a set of performance metrics introduced by Google to measure and evaluate the quality of user experience on a website. They aim to simplify the often confusing and complicated landscape of UX performance metrics to help site owners focus on what matters most.
Core Web Vitals are complementary to Google’s Page experience metrics, which include: multi-device responsiveness, HTTPS, pop-ups, etc., and as such, Core Web Vitals isn’t a replacement for these metrics.
Understanding the Three Key Metrics
Google uses three key metrics to assess aspects of web page performance: loading, interactivity, and visual stability. These are used to rank websites in search results, making it crucial for site owners to optimize their pages accordingly.
What’s considered a core web vital may change over time as technologies evolve and priorities shift. However, at the time of writing, the current Core Web Vitals include:
- The largest contentful paint (LCP): This metric measures loading performance by tracking the time it takes for the largest content element (image, text, or video) to become visible on the screen. A good LCP score is 2.5 seconds or less, indicating that the page loads quickly and efficiently.
- First input delay (FID): FID measures the time it takes for a webpage to become responsive to user interactions, such as clicking a button or tapping a link. A low FID score (100 milliseconds or less) ensures that users can interact with your website without frustrating delays.
- Cumulative layout shift (CLS): CLS measures visual stability by quantifying the number of unexpected layout shifts that occur while a page is loading. A good CLS score is 0.1 or lower, which means that page elements do not move abruptly, ensuring a smoother and more pleasant user experience.
Tools for Measuring Core Web Vitals
Site owners can measure their Core Web Vitals via numerous Google tools. Here, these web vitals are measured by performance in the 75th percentile.
Some of the more well-known solutions for evaluating your Core Web Vitals include:
- PageSpeed Insights
- Chrome DevTools
- Google Search Console
- web.dev’s measure tool
- The Web Vitals Chrome extension
- Chrome UX Report API
There’s a lot of overlap between the tools. Some enable you to plug in the URL, and then the tool will analyze your web vitals. Others allow you to run a report directly in the browser, and others enable you to monitor your web vitals on an ongoing basis. Google has provided a multitude of tools with different users in mind – from less technical to more tech-savvy ones.
In any case, Page Speed Insights (PSI) is a great starting point. I ran a random website through PageSpeed Insights and found they calculate field data via the Chrome User Experience Report using real-world speed data. With regards to Core Web Vitals metrics, this is how they display the data:
If you’re not sure how to interpret your PSI data, checkout or Page Speed Insights guide, which walks you through the process of understanding and improving your score.
Core Web Vitals Threshold
- Largest Contentful Paint (LCP):
- Good: 0 to 2.5 seconds
- Needs Improvement: 2.5 to 4 seconds
- Poor Performance: Over 4 seconds
- First Input Delay (FID):
- Good: 0 to 100 milliseconds
- Needs Improvement: 100 to 300 milliseconds
- Poor Performance: Over 300 milliseconds
- Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS):
- Good: 0 to 0.1
- Needs Improvement: 0.1 to 0.25
- Poor Performance: Over 0.25
It’s essential to aim for the “Good” range for each metric to ensure an optimal user experience and improve the chances of ranking higher in search engine results. Regularly monitoring and optimizing your Core Web Vitals can help your website maintain its performance and stay competitive in the long run.
Common Causes of Poor Core Web Vitals Performance
Several factors can contribute to poor Core Web Vitals performance. Identifying and addressing these common issues can help improve your website’s user experience and search engine rankings. Here are some common causes for each of the Core Web Vitals:
- Largest Contentful Paint (LCP) Problems
- Slow server response times: A slow server can delay the loading of your webpage’s main content, affecting LCP.
- Slow resource load times: Large images, videos, or other resources can take longer to load, impacting the LCP.
- Client-side rendering: Relying heavily on client-side rendering may increase the time it takes for the largest contentful element to appear on the screen.
- First Input Delay (FID) Problems
- Third-party scripts: Poorly optimized third-party scripts (e.g., analytics, ads, or social media widgets) can also impact FID by blocking the main thread.
- Inefficient event handlers: Inefficiently written event handlers may cause the browser to take longer to respond to user input.
- Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS) Problems
- Images without dimensions: Failing to specify the dimensions for images and other media elements can cause them to push other content around as they load, leading to layout shifts.
- Ads and iframes without reserved space: Dynamic ads or iframes that do not have reserved space can cause layout shifts when they load.
- Web fonts causing FOUT/FOIT: Flash of Unstyled Text (FOUT) or Flash of Invisible Text (FOIT) occurs when custom fonts are loaded late, causing text to change size or style, leading to layout shifts.
- Dynamically injected content: Content added to the page after the initial load can cause layout shifts if not handled correctly.
How Can You Optimize Your Website for Core Web Vitals?
Before you can start optimizing your site, you must determine how the website’s already performing across each metric. Therefore, the first step is to check your Core Web Vitals score.
- Generate a report on your page speed and Core Web Vitals using Google Page Speed Insights.
- Track particular issues with your Core Web Vitals in Google’s Search Console, and see how your solutions are working
5 Steps to Enhance Your Core Web Vitals
Step 1: Optimize Images and Media Files
Optimizing images and media files is crucial for improving your website’s loading performance. Compress images using tools like ImageOptim or TinyPNG to reduce file size without compromising quality. Use modern image formats like WebP, which offer better compression and faster loading times. Also, ensure that you specify dimensions for images and videos to avoid layout shifts.
Step 2: Reduce Server Response Time
A fast server response time is essential for better LCP and overall performance. Opt for high-quality hosting providers with solid infrastructure and consider using a content delivery network (CDN) to serve static assets to users from the closest server location. Implement server-side caching and optimize your database to minimize server response time.
Step 3: Minimize Third-Party Scripts
Third-party scripts, such as analytics, ads, and social media widgets, can impact FID and overall performance. Audit and analyze third-party scripts on your website and remove or replace those that are unnecessary or poorly optimized. Implement techniques like lazy-loading, async, or deferring attributes to minimize their impact on performance.
Step 4: Implement User-Centric Design and Testing
Adopt a user-centric approach when designing and testing your website. This includes making sure that your website is accessible, mobile-friendly, and easy to navigate. Regularly test your site’s performance using tools like Lighthouse, PageSpeed Insights, and Google Search Console. Focus on improving the user experience by addressing issues related to Core Web Vitals and other performance metrics.
Step 5: Stay Updated with Core Web Vitals Evolution
Google’s Core Web Vitals may evolve over time as user expectations and technologies change. Stay informed about updates to these metrics by following Google’s Webmaster Central Blog and other industry news sources. Continuously optimize your website to meet the latest Core Web Vitals requirements and ensure that your site remains competitive in search engine rankings.
Making Additional Enhancements To Your Core Web Vitals
Once you’ve run the checks and implemented the Core Web Vitals optimization steps highlighted above, you’ll be well on your way to perfecting your site’s performance. However, if you’re looking for additional ways to improve, pay attention. Below we’ve listed some of the additional changes you may need to make and how to execute them (in order of importance):
As we’ve already said, the LCP measures the time it takes from clicking through to your website to seeing the main of your on-screen content. As such, this metric concerns your page load speed (usually the home page), which is influenced by the render time of the largest image, video, or volume of text on your website.
Remember, under 2.5 seconds is considered a good website load time. Anything above needs improvement, and if your site loads slower than four seconds, Google will consider it inferior.
How you might fix it:
- Remove any unnecessary third-party scripts (plugins). These might not be optimized, and having too many plugins could slow your site down.
- Upgrade your web hosting. Cheap hosting might shackle your site to slower web servers and hence, loading times.
- Set up lazy loading or use a content delivery system. This enables your site to cache more easily and sends content to users via data centers near them. All of this goes a long way to reducing load times.
- Remove large web page elements.
- Service HTML pages cache-first.
- Establish third-party connections early.
- Minify CSS.
- Optimize/compress website imagery.
- Ensure your web pages are AMP optimized.
This metric may be less relevant for blogs or news sites where the central interactivity relates to opening articles to read. But for websites involving logins and/or signup pages, FID is crucial. Sites with an FID of more than 300ms are considered inferior. Ideally, you should score under 100ms on this metric.
However, you might be able to improve this metric by:
- Removing unnecessary third-party scripts
- Using a web worker
Have you ever tried to click on something on a mobile site, but the element moved as you were trying to select it? The chances are that the site had an undesirably high CLS. Anything below 0.1 is good. If you score higher than 0.25, your site badly needs to improve its visual stability.
Here are a few fixes to apply:
- Define media size attributes in HTML, so internet browsers know how much space they’ll take up.
- Reserve space for any ads.
- Add any new UI below the fold so they don’t push expected content down.
- Work with responsive images.
- Some fonts can cause a flash of unstyled text or invisible text while a font is rendered – so test for this and make any necessary changes.
- Use transform animations rather than animations of properties. The latter has a higher chance of triggering layout changes.
User Experience Optimizations Suggested by Google
Finally, Google’s PageSpeed insights tool comes with its own recommendations on how to improve your site’s performance. These are good practices across the board and, when implemented, could enhance your website’s load time.
That said, these optimizations won’t necessarily affect your Core Web Vitals. However, they should help provide a better user experience, which is excellent for SEO and visitor retention. Most notably, you should start:
- Saving images in next-gen formats
- Eliminating render-blocking resources
- Enabling text compression
- Removing unused CSS
How To Implement These Optimizations
The keyword to remember is optimization. You’re not trying to rebuild your site into one Google wants. Instead, you’re trying to optimize your website with your user’s best experience in mind. Of course, at the same time, you’re also working to avoid Google’s penalization. This is where the challenge lies.
If you don’t possess much technical knowledge yourself, your site might benefit from hiring a professional developer – especially if you don’t want to compromise your website’s design. A pro will be able to preserve your site’s “look and feel” while making the necessary optimizations. This is undoubtedly the easiest way to save you and your team lots of time.
How Do You Hire Professional Support, and Where’s The Best Place to Find It?
When it comes to optimizing your Core Web Vitals, the biggest mistake you can make is attempting to fix everything at once. Instead, prioritize and resolve core issues first. Website optimization is not a task you do once and can forget about. Rather, it’s an ongoing process that requires your continuous attention.
As we hinted at earlier, you should always start with an audit to get an idea of where your website stands. It’s then a good idea to work with an expert webmaster to prioritize and roll out an optimization plan.
Codeable experts can do that for you. Codeable matches customers with carefully screened WordPress experts and developers. To determine the best-qualified candidates, every specialist goes through a vetting process which includes a technical exam and live coding tests.
Codeable’s pros can perform anything from small tasks and fixes to full custom development work, and they can tackle your website’s Core Web Vitals optimization to ensure you’re in the best position to get your content ranking on Google. Best of all, you can connect with a reliable expert within as little as three to five hours.
Take Action Now to Enhance Your Core Web Vitals
Prioritizing website performance is only going to become more critical to delivering an outstanding user experience and securing higher search engine rankings. With Google emphasizing Core Web Vitals as a key ranking factor, it’s more vital than ever for businesses to focus on enhancing their websites for optimal user experience.
In this article, we’ve discussed the significance of Core Web Vitals optimization, explored their core components, and provided a comprehensive, step-by-step guide to improving your website’s performance. Keep in mind that website optimization is an ongoing process, and staying informed about the latest developments in Core Web Vitals is crucial for maintaining a competitive edge in the digital landscape.
If you find yourself in need of professional assistance, don’t hesitate to seek help from expert developers like those available at Codeable, who can ensure your website is thoroughly optimized and ready to succeed.
Don’t let your website fall behind—start optimizing your Core Web Vitals now and lay the foundation for exceptional user experiences and higher search engine rankings!