June 23, 2021
In the new mobile internet era, speed really matters and who better than Google to show us how website speed can impact consumer behaviour.
Watch this video of an experiment that Google conducted when it gave people 60 seconds to buy whatever they want from a mobile site. The catch was the website speed was controlled by Google
The outcome of the experiment clearly suggested that any business that has a mobile presence has a simple choice: either provide customers the kind of mobile experience they expect, or be prepared to watch those customers go elsewhere — and fast.
So, what’s this got to do with this blog and what should you be concerned about?
Google rewards those websites that provide a great user experience to visitors and is changing its website ranking algorithm to include website speed and user experience as ranking factors.
How will Website Page User Experience become a ranking factor?
The upcoming Google algorithm is called ‘Page Experience’ update and includes of some key parameters that Google calls ‘Core Web Vitals’ that focusses on 3 specific aspects of a website and the resultant experience a visitor has. Specifically, it measures – How quickly a page loads, how soon a visitor can interact with the page and thirdly how stable a page is as it loads and as the user interacts with that page. Other SEO ranking factors such as ‘mobile friendliness, SSL or HTTPS, Safe browsing combined with Core Web Vitals is termed as the ‘Page Experience’ ranking factor.
Google has indicated that this algorithm update will essentially rank websites higher on search results if they provide a good page experience and websites that unfortunately don’t’ will rank lower. Google is also considering adding a ‘badge’ or a ‘checkbox’ against websites that meet the guidelines to indicate to the website visitor on what kind on overall experience they can expect before they visit that website.
Google’s Core Web Vitals Explained in Simple English!
Largest Contentful Paint’ or LCP
The first of the Core Web Vital metric called ‘Largest Contentful Paint’ or LCP – simply speaking measure the load time of the website. But technically it is measuring how long it takes for the ‘largest element’ of your website to fully render or ‘load’ to view or interact with it. in most cases it would be banner image or a block of text above the fold. The passing score for this metric according to Google’s standards is that the largest element on your website has to load within 2.5 sec or lesser and this has to be case 75% of the time when users visit any of your web pages.
It is important to note that Google is measuring real-world user interaction on your website to come up with the metrics and not using lab data. So, what it means is that if your website gets more mobile traffic and considering that mobile connection speeds are generally slow – your website needs to be more aggressively optimised to reach a higher LCP score.
It also means that websites that are more frequently visited like the home page need to load as fast as possible in order to achieve a good LCP score of 2 secs or lesser. To find out where your website LCP score, you can either use Google Search Console where you can see real data on your web pages and will be used by Google to measure your website.
In case your website is yet to be launched, you can use the Google Page speed Insights tool that can take in a URL and then process a preliminary result for you. Keep in mind that this report is more a lab generated report and even though it strongly correlates to real-world human experiences, it won’t be exactly the same but in 99% of the cases it would be good enough to work on to fix a low LCP score.
First Input Delay (FID)
The second metric is called First Input Delay or FID in short. FID is intended to reward website that provide a good user experience in terms of the response time after a user offers an input into a page like a click or a keystroke in a search field. Google measures the time between the event (the click /keystroke) and how long it takes for the page to process that request. Websites that have a lot of scripts or programs that are running in the background while a page has loaded usually runs into problems with this Core Web Vital metric.
The ideal good-to-have FID metric for a website according to Google is 100ms or less. So, it is 100ms or less from the time a user enters data or clicks in your website to the time the browser takes to process that information. It is important to note that FID data can be obtained only from Search Console and not available from Google Page speed Insights since this data relies on human interaction with a page. That said, the Total Blocking Time (TBT) data from Google Page Speed insights can be used as a ‘proxy’ as it strongly co-relates to First Input Delay.
Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS)
The third metric is Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS) – a metric that goes to show that Google rewards websites that give users a great visual stability. It refers to the quality of a website where nothing about the layout shifts significantly without some sort of user interaction. Simply put if you have visited a website and while wanting to click on an article and suddenly the layout shifts and you are shown a notification like an advertisement shows up and instead of clicking on the article, you end up clicking on the ad. The Goal for this metric is to ensure 0.1 or less cumulative layout shift. So CLS is the sum total of the layout shifts that happened on the page. Each layout shift is calculated by the percentage of the page that gets moved multiplied by what percentage of the page it moves – like the Area X the distance moved. So, if 100% of your page moves 10% down – then you are at 0.1 CLS. The data for how your website is doing on the CLS score can be obtained from your Google Search console interface.
So that is the current state of the Core Web Vitals and how it should look when Google rolls out the algorithm update in this month of June 2021 and the next 2-3 months when you start seeing a shift in website ranking.