Posted: Thursday 20th May 2021 in Services.

What is the Core Web Vitals update? 

The Core Web Vitals are a new ranking factor introduced by Google to ensure that user-experience is considered when deciding which sites should rank. As well as the usual ranking factors, such as page speed, mobile friendliness and meeting search intent, this adds an additional three metrics to Google’s official ranking factors, and these are: 

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

I won’t go into detail about each of these here, but essentially Google wants brands to focus on user-experience and what better way to do this than introducing it as a ranking factor? If brands have a user-friendly design and interactivity this will help them rank higher in search results.  

When will this update happen? 

This update is scheduled for “May”, although no concrete date has been given. There has been a lot of chatter around whether this will be delayed, especially as we near the end of May. There has also been speculation around whether the rollout will have a longer tail, taking a couple of weeks rather than occurring entirely on a single day. These are all rumours at this point, so all we can do is prepare and wait until we hear something from the horse’s mouth before jumping the gun.  

What does this update mean for SEO? 

This essentially means we have another ranking factor to consider when looking at ways to outrank our competition. The impact that the Core Web Vitals update will have is still to be determined and, although there are some doubters out there, you can be sure we will be doing heaps of analysis in our SEO team once the change goes live.  

How can retailers check their current Core Web Vitals? 

The quickest and simplest way to check how you perform against these new metrics is to run a Lighthouse audit on any page you are curious about. This is a manual task but is great for spot-checking. If you want to check at scale, other tools like Screaming Frog have an API which can pull these metrics out by URL. If this sounds like something you’d like to explore, get in touch with your SEO team or contact Summit at [email protected] 

At Summit, we prefer to pull CrUX data together into a dashboard, which gives us a view of all pages and their respective performance across real users and utilises a range of different internet connections too. This is quick and shows the performance of an overall domain, rather than specific URLs, making it great for getting the bigger picture, before diving into the nitty-gritty.  

How can retailers prepare for the Core Web Vitals update? 

In terms of preparation, the time is certainly tight, but I would implement any quick wins, such as allocating image size attributes to reduce your CLS and deferring any non-critical and render-blocking scripts you may have to get your LCP as low as possible.  

After these are in place, I would benchmark your performance for these metrics against your core competitor set and sit tight until the change is rolled out into the wild. Following this, you will be able to see who the key winners and losers in our target sectors are.  

Top Tip from Ross: 

To discover which content block is your Largest Contentful Paint, you can use the performance tab in Web Developer Tools (right click and inspect). In the ‘timings’ section, there are tags for various stages of loading, one of which is the new Core Web Vitals factor. This is a simple and visual way to know which piece of content you need to prioritise in the loading process.  

If you want any advice about Google’s Core Web Vitals or you’ve been impacted by a previous update and need support, get in touch with us today at [email protected] and ask to speak to our brilliant SEO team. In the meantime, have a look at the great work we did for our clients H.Samuel and Ernest Jones when they were previously hit by a Google update.