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How To Improve Core Web Vitals And Keep Your Site Ranking

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Are you trying to improve your Core Web Vitals after hearing that phrase mentioned elsewhere?

Are you not sure exactly what it means, or are you perhaps worried that your site’s SEO performance will suffer due to something you don’t understand?

Fear not.

Core Web Vitals are three simple metrics that Google is now looking at when deciding where your website should rank within search results.

This is just another step for Google as it continues to ensure that people who use Google are served the best content – fast, honestly, and accurately.

In this article, you’ll see:

  • What are Core Web Vitals?
  • How to improve your Core Web Vitals
  • How to make them part of your more comprehensive SEO strategy

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What are Core Web Vitals?

Core Web Vitals are three metrics that play a pivotal role in the way a user experiences your page. That’s an integral part to remember throughout this entire process:

…the way your user experiences your page.

Google has made these changes as it wants pages that serve a user to rank higher. A page that loads fast, loads accurately, and loads well is a determining factor.

These three metrics are directly related to the speed of your site, its visual ability, and its responsiveness.

Google has defined the 3 Core Web Vital metrics as the following:

  • Largest Content Paint (LCP)
  • First Input Delay (FID)
  • Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS)

It’s important to note that these are just another three ranking factors and are not the only ranking factors – there are over 220 of those. Core Web Vitals will be combined with the following factors to ensure that you give your users the best experience possible:

  • Unique content
  • Mobile-friendliness
  • HTTPS
  • Security

Let’s take a close look at what exactly these new Core Web Vitals are about.

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Largest Content Paint (LCP)

The images, videos, and other large files on your site have a significant impact on the loading time of your site and therefore affect the user experience.

A high LCP time is indicative that those types of resources are slow to load. A high LCP time also may mean that your server is slow to respond, your site isn’t taking advantage of pre-loading, and that you have client-side rendering implemented.

First Input Delay (FID)

FID is a metric that measures the time between a user first interacting with a page to when the browser responds to that interaction. It’s a vital metric for websites that rely on account creation, e-commerce cart purchases, and lead generation.

It’s important to note that FID is the most complex to optimize for, as it’s heavily dependent on JavaScript.

Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS)

Cumulative layout shift is a measure of how visually stable your site is as it’s loading. If buttons, images, and text move significantly as it loads and your user interacts with it, that’s very poor performance. For example, clicking ‘Log In’ but just as the user clicks, a ‘Sign Up’ button appears, and that button is clicked.

Elements that are constantly changing creates confusion and unsatisfactory experiences. Unoptimized CSS is usually the culprit.

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Why Core Web Vitals are important

Google has already begun its rollout of Core Web Vitals being a ranking factor, with completion expected around August 2021.

Why are core web vitals important?

They provide a better user experience.

If you can improve your Core Web Vitals, you’ll be giving your customers a better experience – provided that you’re actually matching your keywords with the search intent behind them!

Using a page that’s painfully slow and sluggy to load or a page that then changes once it has loaded isn’t enjoyable for anyone – whether on a blog, an ecommerce site, or a forum. Therefore, Google is taking steps to ensure that web admins are aware of and willing to improve elements that are directly related to providing a fast and honest experience.

Testings your CWV score

Google has, unsurprisingly, made it easy for you to measure your Core Web Vitals through its existing tools, mainly the Chrome User Experience Report, and Google Search Console.

These reports are the best tools to use, as they’re Google tools that talk about a Google ranking factor based on reports collected from real users as they browse your site.

In Google Search Console, you’ll see your Core Web Vitals for your entire domain, broken down on a page-by-page basis. This report also takes into account data from the Chrome User Experience Report.

The Chrome Web Vital Extension is an often overlooked tool for measuring and improving Core Web Vitals. It gives you readings of all three factors as you browse and edit your web pages.

Fun fact: This tool can also be used to measure and assess the Core Web Vitals of your competitors.

Improving your Largest Content Paint (LCP) score

When trying to improve Core Web Vitals, your LCP score is the first place to look for some quick wins. Start by taking a look at your server. Serious delays will stifle your performance, so it may be time to go from a shared to a dedicated server.

Google recommends services like Google Cloud and Cloudflare to make your load times as short as possible. A Content Delivery Network (CDN) like this ensures that your site loads quickly no matter where you and your user are in the world.

Next, consider serving your HTML pages cache-first. When HTML code that doesn’t change is cached, it doesn’t have to be loaded each and every time a user comes to your site.

As you read earlier, LCP has a lot to do with images, graphics, video, and other files hosted on your site. Optimize and compress text, PDFs, images, and other native assets, so they load as quickly as possible.

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Improving your First Input Delay (FID) score

Improving your CLS score relies a lot on JavaScript and telling browsers how much ‘space’ to give an element as it loads. Most FID problems will happen during the initial loading of your site, as a priority may not be given to the correct components.

To improve your FID, Google itself recommends:

Still need to improve that score?

  • Incorporate browser caching so your visitor’s cache is used as much as possible.
  • Prioritize what loads when. You want the page to become interactive as soon as possible, so elements like Google Analytics can be loaded last.
  • Turn off heat maps, click attribution, and other Third-Party JavaScript.
  • Google recommends UglifyJS to make your JavaScript itself smaller.

Improving your Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS) score

Improve your CLS score by simply using the right tool for the job.

  • Use an HTML tag and aspect-friendly ratio boxes in your CSS code to specify the size of an image or video so the user’s browser knows the exact space it will take up as it’s loading.
  • Use 2 or 3 fonts as max. Cumulative Layout Shift occurs when basic fonts are loaded, and then several more fonts have to be loaded and rendered.
  • Allocate space for dynamic ads if you’re using AdSense or similar.

Remember that Core Web Vitals aren’t everything.

While you’ve just read a lot about Google’s Core Web Vitals, it’s important to note that there’s still more to healthy SEO and organic marketing than focussing on these three metrics. As of June 2021, Core Web Vitals will become a ranking factor – of which there are already over 220 ranking factors. Google search also takes into consideration technical SEO, security, mobile-friendliness, and much, much more.

The main takeaway is this:

Make these 3 Core Web Vitals something that your marketing team (and dev team) pays a little more attention to and works on getting as low as possible.

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Extra improvements

The Core Web Vitals just you’ve seen are but 3 of over 200 ranking factors. These ranking factors are used to determine how well your website gives users the information they’re after.

Here are several other simple improvements that can complement any efforts you’re about to make to improve your Core Web Vitals.

Tweak your photos

JPEG XR, JPEG 2000, and WebP are the best types of file formats for your photos. They’re the best balance between quality and compression, and therefore set the foundation for quick loading times and quality visual appeal. Images that look good, load fast, and don’t throw out the layout of your page help your LCP and FID, but they also help you provide a better experience to your user – and don’t forget your image ALT tags!

Double-check your site structure

If you’re running an ecommerce store, your product page is your ‘money’ page. If someone ends up there, you don’t want them to go and read your latest blog. You want to give them as much information on the product as possible and compel them to purchase your product.

Similarly, if a user lands on your landing page for a webinar, you don’t want them to go and look at your ‘about us page. Structure your site accordingly so that Google can index it as efficiently as possible and that users can easily take the desired action.

Refine your copy

The words you use on your site are a double-edged sword. The text on your site gives Google an idea of what your page is about, from which Google pulls out keywords. But most importantly, your text is also responsible for pushing your user to what they want. That might be navigating them around the page, assuring them that they’re in the right spot, or telling them to take the desired action. Ensure there’s a balance between copy for ranking and copy for UX purposes.

Preparing for more changes

Many SEO specialists, including the team at Rank Higher Agency, firmly believe that CWV is the ‘web 3.0’ and will go on to define the next generation of websites and organic digital marketing.

Improving your Core Web Vitals isn’t an easy task, but this is also why they’ve become a ranking factor. No longer will mass-produced websites and inadequate copy rank and get traffic – it’s now sites with the resources to create a website that is optimized for the user that will get traffic.

Prioritize your most problematic pages or issues and deal with them first. Moving forward, you’ll see that working on your Core Web Vitals is just another way to give your user the best experience possible, and traffic will be your reward.

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