Reading time: 7 minutes
Tags: SEO, internet marketing, google, usability
What the article is about:
- How Google will measure site quality using Core Web Vitals;
- How to measure and improve site performance according to Google requirements
- Why it’s important to start preparing for the Core Web Vitals update now.
Who would benefit from this article:
- SEO specialists and web developers to assess the readiness of the site for the new requirements of Google;
- For media owners and publishers, for a general understanding of the importance of new ranking signals and competitor evaluation;
- Marketers to evaluate the effectiveness after the implementation of improvements on new ranking signals.
How does Google measure page and site quality?
The issue of SERP quality is strategically important for Google. To solve this problem, Google will begin to apply the new Core Web Vitals, which will take effect from May 2021. Web Vitals consist of a dozen parameters, but there are three main ones (Core) that you need to pay attention to right now. Quality Google recognizes those resources on which:
the main content is rendered quickly;
low latency before the first interaction with the content;
content elements are visually stable and do not interfere with interaction with the content.
Thus, at the heart of Core Web Vitals is the user experience of the site, positive or negative. The stumbling block for business is the level of website usability and technical optimization. The main question for Google is this: how to reduce the number of sites in the SERP, interacting with which the user will get a negative experience, and increase the number of those that meet the user’s expectations?
Core Web Vitals score is based on three metrics:
LCP – loading speed of the main content (Largest Contentful Paint);
FID is the waiting time before the first interaction with the content (First Input Delay);
CLS – stability of layout and elements that do not interfere with interaction with content (Cumulative Layout Shift).
The positive side of Core Web Vitals, unlike other factors, is transparency: they are clear, publicly available criteria that can be monitored and improved using a dedicated set of tools. Plus, from the moment of announcement to the official launch, there is plenty of time to get started on Core Web Vitals already.
How do I improve Core Web Vitals?
Core Web Vitals will have a potential impact on a site’s rankings and SERPs. As we wrote above, you need to start evaluating and improving the technical optimization and usability of your site now. To get started, Google recommends doing the following:
– Conduct a large-scale audit of site pages to see the potential for improvements. The Search Console report for Core Web Vitals provides a complete picture of site performance and details metrics.
– Page Speed Insights and Lighthouse help you iterate through any issues you find.
– With the help of web.dev/vitals-tools tools, you can get comprehensive information to get started.
– Harness the potential of AMP technology. It makes it easy to work with pages and is effective.
Andrey Lipatsev (Google Web Partnerships) spoke about how to integrate Core Web Vitals into business at the Optimization-2020 conference:
Andrey Lipattsev, Google Web Partnerships:
“How to integrate Core Web Vitals into your business? No need to make pinpoint improvements. If the company implements a philosophy of user experience – “all solutions must meet the capabilities and expectations of users” – then organizational and time efforts are simplified. You don’t have to dedicate five Full-time employees to run around and fix metrics. Every employee of the company, from advertising people to website developers and analysts, will think about the impact of changes on the user experience. This will make it cheaper and easier to maintain Core Web Vitals metrics. ”
Core Web Vitals Tools
Andrey also shared a detailed list of tools with which you can evaluate and improve Core Wev Vitals right now:
– Lighthouse allows you to check the interactivity, accessibility, speed of loading site pages in a “laboratory” environment. You can work with it through the command line, the Page Speed Insights web interface, developer tools in Chrome. Use the tool after improvements or changes to the site.
– What users see is available in the CrUX database – a publicly available set of real-world user performance data. This database contains about 8-9 million pages. You can see competitors and industry leaders.
– PageSpeed Insights aggregates data from Lighthouse and CrUX and displays it in a report.
– Google Search Console has Core Web Vitals data and is available for each individual page and its dynamics.
– All three indicators are traced in Chrome Dev Tools – LCP, CLS, TBT.
– Web Vitals Chrome Extension for real-time measurements on the page.
– Connect the web-vitals.js library weighing less than 1 kb to analyze users and track the effectiveness of improvements.
Core Web Vitals Study Among 50 Sites
To see if sites are ready for the upcoming Google update, we looked at the Core Web Vitals survey of 50 media sites.
Why the media?
In the news niche, the competition, like nowhere else, is off scale, and in order to get through to the user, materials are carefully “packaged”, from the texture itself to placement on the resource. In the presence of exclusiveness in several media at once, all other things being equal, the winner is the one who was able to optimize the site and achieve the best UX and technical characteristics.
Large media sites are also categorized as YMYL, for which the reliability of information is a key factor in meeting the EAT criterion. We wrote more about YMYL and EAT in this article. However, today, for better ranking of materials, it is not enough to come up with a provocative title or add “yellowness”, you need to pay attention to user behavior, internal optimization of the site and the technical parameters of the resource in the long term.
Organic traffic is the main source of news sources. Also important for the media is the user’s interaction with the content, the number of clicks, the time spent on the site. At the same time, the media compete with social networks and their news feed. Therefore, any algorithm updates can actually increase or decrease the chances of online publishing success.
How data was collected for the study
Based on three Core Web Vitals metrics: Largest Contentful Paint (LCP), First Input Delay (FID), and Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS), the domains of the 50 most visited global news sites were selected and analyzed. Study conducted by the British agency Impression. Using these results, it is possible to predict which publications will benefit from the algorithm update and which still have a lot of work to do in the coming months to avoid SERP penalties.
Data was collected using the Chrome User Experience Report (CrUX), which looks at average LCP, FID and CLS scores over the three-month period from July 1 to September 30, 2020. This allowed us to better understand the trends and take into account all the updates made during the quarter. Then a percentage was taken based on good, average and bad for each metric, as defined by Google:
for the LCP, “good” was defined as less than 2.5 seconds and “bad” more than 4 seconds.
for FID, “good” was defined as less than 100 ms, and “bad” was defined as more than 300 ms.
for CLS, “good” was defined as less than 0.1 and “bad” more than 0.25.
The results include an average Core Web Vitality score for each domain in the study, and create two overall rating lists with “good” and “bad” ratings.
We can see from the top media that the Nikkei, The Guardian, Financial Times, and the LA Times have solid victories on three core Core Web Vitals metrics. That being said, The Guardian boasts impressive page load times (LCP), while the Nikkei does a good job of interacting (FID) and stability (CLS) content. The study included two Russian media at once – “Rossiyskaya Gazeta” (rg.ru) and “Komsomolskaya Pravda” (kp.ru), and the RG indicators can be assessed as “average” and without scatter for all three indicators in the range of up to 80%.
Among the media with “bad” indicators, we can mention the news portal inquirer.net, which gets a low score on FID, and the Daily Mail, with a low CLS. On all three metrics, Core Web Vitals lag behind The Mirror, Manorama, and Marca.
Of course, an integral part of working with a site should be close attention to all indicators, and not improving just one factor.
Assessing and monitoring Core Web Vitals across devices will improve media consumption and help users meet search queries. Media brands should set a course for “excellent” performance on new ranking factors when they become rankings meaningful in 2021.
Tips for preparing for the new Core Web Vitals ranking factors:
● Use Chrome User Experience data to highlight the percentage of users with negative site experiences. This data is much more relevant than scoring tools and much more informative for professionals.
● Use Google Search Console to understand how the site is performing on both mobile devices and desktops with these metrics.
● Identify template pages that are causing Core Web Vitals-related issues. Referring to these templates will help improve your pages when scaling.
The competition for organic traffic is now more tangible than ever. The one who gets the most attention can manage big advertising budgets and leverage commercial channels. This is especially important for highly competitive niches. In the future, such nuances in ranking factors like Core Web Vitals may play a significant role in a site’s ranking.
By James Watkins & Edd Wilson from impression.co.uk