A guide to Core Web Vitals in Google Search Console
We include Core Web Vitals stats in our SEO audit reports and whilst I was summarising them to a client the other day, I thought it might be helpful to explain in more depth on the blog too. Why now? We asked digital marketing consultant, David Rosam of https://davidrosam.com: “Google has given us months of notice about Core Web Vitals and the associated Page Experience Update, plus some tools to measure them. That’s a big sign that we should be preparing our sites now”.
As the owner of a website or the head of a marketing department, you don’t have to know all site technicalities by any means, but when an important algorithm update lands, it’s wise to know about it and be able to ask your web developer how to adjust your website if needed.
I should warn you, there’s a little technical language ahead.
Google believes that the Core Web Vitals are critical to all web experiences; they are based around visual stability, interactivity and the largest element that a page has to load. So we’re talking about both user experience and site speed here and the metrics apply to all site pages, not just the homepage. Despite May being the month that CWV will be taken more seriously, Google announced, we can already see the test which provides a visual indicator of which pages provide a great experience for users. Brought in from the Chrome UX Report, the data section is located within Google Search Console under ‘Enhancements’ and provides scores for pages on desktop and mobile.
Take a step back a moment – if you haven’t connected your website to Google Search Console, do it now as it has to populate the data before it can start to provide insight for you. It’s very useful and free! For instructions in relation to a WordPress website, view this.
So, back to my guide to Core Web Vitals in Google Search Console. The page experience signals consist of three things:
Largest Contentful Paint (LCP) – measuring loading performance
First Input Delay (FID) – measuring interactivity
Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS) – measuring visual stability
Alongside these three core metrics, there are other supplementary metrics which check out a larger part of the site experience and are used to help diagnose issues with the Core Web Vitals:
Time to First Byte (TTFB) & First Contentful Paint (FCP) – diagnose issues with LCP
Total Blocking Time (TBT) and Time to Interactive (TTI) – diagnose issues with interactivity
So what CWV scores are you looking for?
The benchmarks across each metric can be seen in the image below for what establishes a ‘Good’, ‘Needs Improvement’ and ‘Poor’ url:
Core Web Vitals thresholds image courtesy of: www.wordowings.com
They are scores for your whole domain but you can check your scores for individual pages in Google Search Console too. You need to aim to have your URLs in the 75th percentile of page loads across each of the core metrics, on desktop and mobile. A ‘poor’ score counts as a fail. Even we have a long way to go to meet this standard, so don’t panic if your scores are way too low. A good tip is that when you are conducting a Core Web Vitals review, it’s important to do it with as few additional features operating as possible. So, clear your cookies, run your checks in incognito mode and temporarily disable any browser extensions you’re using – all in the name of getting as close to accurate reports for your website as possible.
Incidentally, new or low traffic sites may not show CWV data in GSC. If that’s the case, you can use Google PageSpeed Insights on a page-by-page basis. Or, there’s a tool to help site owners task developers in relation to CWV scores here.
What can be done to improve Core Web Vitals scores?
First, make sure that your content is of good quality, because working to improve CWV scores with poor content is going to mean wasted time. And, get your site working well technically. Then, in your next-level technical efforts make sure your Core Web Vital scores are great. It’s worthwhile work because it could give your site the chance to rank above competitors that have content of a similar quality.
- If your site has a low LCP, you’ll need to analyse the list of elements per page and see which elements are big and being loaded towards the end of the list. Work with your developer to identify the loading order and size of elements. Using a content delivery network (CDN) can help with this.
- If your site has a low CLS, things on the page are moving whilst the page is loading, like when you start reading text and then it falls down the page because an image arrives. Using font-display in CSS files can help, as well as setting height and width size attributes for visual media. Browsers then reserve the right size space while the media is loading.
Hope this guide to core web vitals in Google Search Console has helped you and the website you look after. Email us if you have any questions that you’d like answered or if you need SEO support.
Rachael Dines, Director of Shake It Up Creative