What are the core vitals?


There’s no doubt that Google is a key traffic driver to any e-commerce site. Web designers and marketers spend a great deal of time and effort in ensuring that their site content ticks all of the right boxes. However, content is just one area that Google uses to assess the relevance of its search results. It increasingly takes site usability into account. The update titled the Core Web Vitals update means that search results now prioritise factors that impact user experience. So we look at how these factors are assessed and how it affects your website.

Google updates

The first thing to remember is that Google is always updating. Tiny changes and improvements are made all the time. The intention is to improve the search service that users receive from Google. This element of service means that the focus is increasingly about site usability. It’s only when these larger, more significant changes are made to search algorithms and systems, that website owners may be affected. When these changes take place, it’s done with notice so that action can be taken if needs be.

What are the core vitals?

The Core Web Vitals are the set of features that Google prioritises when it comes to page experience. In May 2020, Google announced that page experience signals would be included in Search Engine Results Page (SERP) rankings. Factors that make a difference are:

  • Mobile Friendly
  • Safe Browsing
  • HTTPS
  • No Intrusive Pop-up Ads

This was further developed in November 2020, when Google defined three new page experience elements that make up the Core Web Vitals. The update in June 2021 saw these three factors implemented in Google’s SERP ranking algorithm.

LCP - Largest Contentful Paint

Focus on - Loading Time

This vital measures the amount of time that it takes for the largest visible image or text block to load on the page. A good speed is a maximum of 2.5 seconds. Further to this, it prioritises the elements that appear at the top of the page, or above the fold. This means that the parts of the page that the user will typically see first or land on must be fully optimised to load as quickly as possible. Then other blocks or images below the fold can be allowed to load at slower rates. This benchmark applies both for desktop and mobile. Typically sites load slower on mobile, so it is crucial that your website is optimised for mobile use.

FID - First Input Delay

Focus on - Interactivity

This vital measures the amount of time between a user first interacting with your website to when the browser displays the response. The target time is a maximum of 100ms. Since this is the very first interaction that a user will have with your website, it is influential on their perception of their experience. By driving improvements in this area, e-commerce businesses are likely to see improved retention of customers on their site.

CLS - Cumulative Layout Shift

Focus on - Visual Stability

This vital scores your website’s page content based on how much it shifts while the site is rendering. The benchmark score is 0.1, with 0.25 tipping into a poor score. Visual stability refers to whether an element on your website shifts unexpectedly without user interaction. Especially relevant for mobile use, e-commerce sites can lose customers due to low visual stability. Therefore, ensuring that your site scores well in this vital is good for the business as well as SERP rankings.

Driving standards

Initially, these core vitals will have the greatest impact on more complicated, layered sites and those monetised through Ads. As more and more websites adopt Google’s best practices for adhering to its Core Web Vitals, though, simpler websites will see an impact in their rankings too. User expectations will continue to raise to higher and higher standards, so those sites not keeping up will suffer both in SERP rankings and customer retention. The service that Google provides carries a responsibility to optimise its search engine for users to provide the most relevant and high quality results. With this in mind, the changing focus of these updates can be seen as a sign that it’s time to prioritise user experience. Indeed, by doing so visitors are 24% less likely to abandon your site.

Content

All of this doesn’t invalidate the importance of content in how Google’s algorithms assess your website. Always take into account how a user will experience the content that you present. E-A-T stands for Expertise, Authoritativeness and Trustworthiness. These three elements encompass the central values that should form the basis of website content. You can also check content against key presentation and production considerations:

  • Content should be free from spelling and stylistic issues.
  • Content should appear well produced and laid out.
  • Content should not be distributed across a large network of sites.
  • Content should not have excessive numbers of Ads that detract from the main body of information.
  • Content should display well on mobile devices as well as desk top.

Action to take

So, bearing in mind this further shift of focus to user experience, which courses of action should you take in order to ensure your site performs well in Google’s rankings?

Website Performance Audit

This will help to evaluate the current position of your website and identify pages that need updating and optimising.

Use the Core Web Vitals

Assess the results of your audit to optimise your website to obtain a “good” score for all three of the Core Web Vitals. This will ensure your page continues to rank well in the SERP.

Ongoing Evaluation

Standards are continually progressing, so you must continue to evaluate and optimise your website. Monitoring compliance with the Core Web Vitals and other updates will ultimately help to drive customer retention on your e-commerce site.

Google will continue to add to its relevant experience factors, so now is the time to optimise your website’s usability. This will mean fewer large changes in the future. It’s true that there appears to be a mind-blowing number of things to take into account, so contact us if you feel your website can benefit from our expertise.

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SEO

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