Core Web Vitals of a Prestashop store - Google optimization
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We've known for some time that Google prioritizes sites that provide a quality user experience, but we haven't always had the data or testing to help determine if our sites are as user-friendly as Google wants them to be. This brings us to Google's long-awaited search algorithm change: Core Web Vitals. Created by Google, Core Web Vitals are a set of factors that determine a site's effectiveness in delivering a quality website.
What are key web metrics?
Core web metrics measure three specific factors that indicate how fast a page loads, the responsiveness of a page, and overall visual stability. The factors that make up core web metrics include the largest content rendered, first-entry latency and cumulative layout offset. Introduced in early 2020. Google has decided to delay the introduction of these ranking signals due to pandemonium.
Why are key web metrics important?
You may think Core Web Vitals are important just because Google tells us they are, and you're partially right. These metrics introduce new best practices that webmasters need to follow to help rank, just like other SEO factors such as content relevance, backlinks and image optimization. Whether Google tells us they are important or not, it comes down to creating a site that is easy to understand and find what they need. The Core Web Vitals all indicate factors that contribute to a positive or negative site experience, and a site with good UX is good for both users and Google.
When does this change go into effect?
Google has announced that Core Web Vitals will become official ranking signals in mid-June 2021. This phased rollout will be a multi-step process that is expected to end on an unspecified date in August. Whenever Google announces an update ahead of time, we know that there will be a pretty significant change to search results. This will be part of a larger update that will combine key web metrics with other UX factors to impact rankings.
According to Search Engine Journal, Core Web Vitals will also combine with other site quality signals such as "mobile-friendliness, secure browsing, HTTPS security, and intrusive full-screen ad tips."
The three main signals of the Core Web Vitals
There are three main signals within the Core Web Vitals data:
Largest content rendering (LCP) - how fast does the page load?
First inbound latency (FID) - how fast is the site interactive?
Collective Layout Shift (CLS) - how stable is the layout during page load?
Highest Content (LCP)
Considered the most traditional ranking factor of the three, LCP measures the perceived loading speed of a website. It marks the point during the page loading process where all of the main content has loaded; the faster the LCP, the faster the page becomes usable. At its core, LCP reports the time it takes from the beginning of a page loading sequence to the rendering of the largest image, block of text, or element in the visible area.
What is a good LCP score?
Anything under 2.5 seconds is considered "good" for LCP scores; the faster the better. A score between 2.5 and 4.0 seconds is rated as "needs improvement," and anything above 4.0 seconds is "poor."
What factors affect LCP and how can I improve it?
First Inset Delay (FID)
This is considered the first impression of your website. FID measures how quickly a website becomes interactive, meaning how quickly a user is able to actually use it and take action. For example, when a user clicks on something, such as a button or link, if it doesn't work as soon as the elements are loaded visually, it can be extremely frustrating for users and cause them to leave. FID looks at how quickly the browser can start processing these requests and generate the actual result of that action.
What is a good FID score?
Unlike LCP, FID is measured in milliseconds. To get a "good" experience, webmasters should aim for an FID score of 100 ms or less. A range of 100 ms to 300 ms indicates that the site "needs improvement," and scores above 300 ms are considered "poor."
What factors affect FID and how can I improve it?
Collective Layout Shift (CLS)
When our team delves into Core Web Vitals, the CLS score is the hardest to understand. CLS measures the amount of movement of a web page during the loading process, essentially checking how quickly a page becomes stable and if there are any changes to the layout after the page loads.
Basically it comes down to the stability of the site while we are using it. This works so that we are as a user of the site ready to click a link or in the middle of reading an article when suddenly the layout changes, the text changes, and we lose our bearings. Not only is this a negative user experience, it is also extremely frustrating.
Instead of using timing to determine the result, CLS analyzes the cumulative results of individual layout shifts versus unexpected layout shifts that occur during the page load cycle. According to the Google web.dev article on Cumulative Layout Shift, "The browser analyzes the size of the visible area and the movement of unstable elements in the visible area between two rendered frames. The layout shift score is the product of two measures of this movement: the impact fraction and the distance fraction." The impact fraction shows how unstable elements affect the view between two frames. The distance fraction takes the largest distance that an unstable element has moved and divides it by the largest dimension in the view.
If you're lost in understanding how CWV works, don't worry. Just know that it comes down to how many elements on your page move vertically or horizontally as they load. CLS is by far the most abstract of the three key web metrics.
How good is the CLS performance?
To ensure an optimal user experience, Google defines a "good" CLS score and 0.1 or less. Anything between 0.1 and 0.25 is classified as "needs improvement," and scores above 0.25 are "poor."
What factors affect CLS and how can I improve it?
Just as the score is more complicated to calculate for CLS, the factors affecting the score are also more technical. Some of the most important factors are images, ads, iframe elements, or graphics that do not have dimensions set or content injected dynamically. Adding size attributes to images, ads or other media will ensure that the browser can reserve enough space for that element. Another good rule of thumb is to never insert new content on top of content that already exists, unless it is in response to a user action (such as a thank you message after submitting a form).
How to measure key web metrics?
Fortunately for us, Google has provided us with some helpful tools to measure these new metrics. The three primary tools we use on our team are Google Search Console, Google Lighthouse Tools, and Google PageSpeed Insights.
Google Search Console
Google introduced a beta version of the Core Web Vitals report in Search Console in early 2020, giving us our first hint that a new ranking factor is coming. The Core Web Vitals report in Google Search Console provides a report on the desktop and mobile versions of your site. As long as your site is verified in Search Console, you can see which URLs are considered good, poor, or need improvement for each of the three core web metrics results. The tool displays sample URLs and provides tools for further testing. The only downside to this tool is that it doesn't use actual data for the site, so it can take Google up to 28 days to check verification requests and update results.
Google Lighthouse Tools
Configured as a Google Chrome browser extension, Google Lighthouse allows you to view more real-time data for basic web metrics, as well as some other site performance indicators. Lighthouse provides results, details, and specific suggestions for improvement.
Google PageSpeed Statistics
Google PageSpeed Insights uses field and lab data to get real-time performance data. This tool is where Google Search Console connects you when you want more information about an error in a report. Like the Lighthouse tools, PageSpeed Insights shows a few additional data points, but includes all key web metrics. This tool provides recommendations and more detailed ways to boost results and improve things like site speed, SEO, and accessibility.
As with all Google algorithm updates and best practice changes, it's hard to know exactly how search rankings will be affected right away. What we do know is that because these best practices are fairly new, they will have some impact on all organizations and their websites and will require updates and ongoing maintenance. It all comes down to creating a site that is as useful and accessible to your visitors as possible; ultimately, this benefits both your organization and your search rankings. If you're curious about what Core Web Vitals looks like for your site, contact our team to start the conversation.
Increase your speed
First impressions count. Customers are impatient, so the speed of your site has a big impact on conversion and rejection rates.
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Milliseconds make millions
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Make it seamless
When you design a service specifically for them, customers will be more likely to convert. Make key steps like registration, login, and payment seamless.
77% of smartphone shoppers are more likely to buy from companies whose mobile sites or apps allow them to make purchases quickly.
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