Homefiniti & Beyond S2E6 – Google Algorithm Update – Core Web Vitals

Google has an update coming to their algorithm and it’s not about keywords! There’s a second side of SEO that is less about content and more about function. This upcoming update is focused on page experience. Thanks to the experts on our team, Megan and I can tell you all about it in terms that you’ll be able to digest and understand with relative ease (we hope).

How does an algorithm figure out what a users page experience is anyway?

The answer is relatively straightforward. Through a system Google calls, Core Web Vitals. This measures 3 specific things. 

  • Largest Contentful Paint (LCP): measures loading performance. To provide a good user experience, LCP should occur within 2.5 seconds of when the page first starts loading.
  • First Input Delay (FID): measures interactivity. To provide a good user experience, pages should have a FID of less than 100 milliseconds.
  • Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS): measures visual stability. To provide a good user experience, pages should maintain a CLS of less than 0.1.

Which sounds a lot like blah blahdy blahdy blah. What does it really mean? 

LCP (the acronyms are back) is checking to make sure that things like iframes are all loading inside the screen area. You know how sometimes when there’s a video on a website it’s bigger than the visible area of your screen? That’s what LCP is checking for.

FID is making sure that everything fires quickly and that there’s a short server response time. When you click a button, the website has to call that action from the server where the website lives, how quickly does it react, and do what you think it should be doing.

CLS is checking to make sure that nothing moves around and causes things to show up in unexpected locations on the site. You know how sometimes when you’re reading an article and there are ads in between the text that load more slowly than they should and then suddenly you jump from the third paragraph back up to the first. That’s what CLS measures. 

Together all of these things can tell Google if the user experience is going to be a good one. Now that you know what Google is looking for the next question is how can you tell if your website is going to get good results from Core Web Vitals?

Google is annoying in so many ways, but one thing it excels at is providing tools free of charge to monitor and execute on what they care about. People often think that Google wants to trick everyone and be secretive about what they’re looking for in search results but the truth of the matter is that they’re looking to make sure those results are as useful as possible for the people doing the searching and they want the websites that people visit to provide the same experience. While once you could stuff a website with keywords and show up in the results, even if your website was spammy and  terrible, nowadays that happens less and less often. 

There are a variety of tools you can use to ascertain your website’s core web vital’s performance. From Chrome extensions like Lighthouse to a custom report for CrUX in Data Studio, and more, check out the list below.

Lighthouse can be run on sites you run and ones you don’t and will give you a wholistic snapshot of search performance. It has audits for performance, accessibility, progressive web apps, SEO and more.

The CrUX report in Data Studio presents your core web vitals in an easy to digest format. The above link will walk you though how to set it up for your own site.

Of course, you can always go right to the source and view at a glance your performance from the Google Search Console. This lets you not only assess your core web vitals but also view individual page performance, see the terms people are using to find you and gain insights as to the types of content you might want to add to your site to improve it.

Beyond those there are a host of other apps and extensions including, PageSpeed Insights, the WebVitals extension, Chrome Dev Tools, and WebPage Test. Use them all to help paint the picture of your site’s performance and then make a plan to improve it based on the story that unfolds. Remember that each page is important and just one can throw off the results for your whole site. More and more, website maintenance, digital marketing and SEO can’t be done without the help of a developer and that is certainly true of Core Web Vitals. 

The good news is that we happen to have more than a few super talented developers on our team working hard to optimize Homefiniti for Core Web Vitals high-performance. Just last week we optimized the delivery of over 200,000 images on builder websites. This change reduces bandwidth requirements, speeds page load, and improves our clients’ Largest Content Paint performance ratings. Give us a shout if you need some help!

Molly White

Molly White

I am a passionate early adopter. At ONeil Interactive I help clients put their best technological foot forward while generating high quality leads with digital campaigns that consistently beat industry averages.