In November 2020 Google announced that its page experience update would go live in mid-2021. The search giant will start to use page experience signals when ranking search engine results pages (SERPs) in mid-June 2021 and will start playing a full role in August 2021.
There are three-page experience metrics that Google search algorithms will be looking for, which collectively are known as core web vitals and they are incredibly important things your SEO or web development agency should be aware of.
Largest Contentful Paint (LCP)
Don't let the initially complex-sounding name put you off, as the LCP metric is essentially focused on identifying how quickly a page loads.
To do this, Google will specifically look at the largest thing in the viewport of both mobile and desktop pages. So, the largest piece of content on a page is fairly likely to be a video or an image, but it could also be text.
Importantly, this is different from page loading speed, which has been of importance to site owners for some time. LCP will specifically look at how long it takes for your site to effectively load the page elements a visitor will find most valuable.
Many developers place the most important content on a page above the fold, but if you aren't paying attention to how quickly that area of the page is loading, you may be losing valuable visitors who are simply bouncing and taking their custom elsewhere.
First Input Delay (FID)
This metric explores how long it takes for a page to become fully interactive. When a user clicks on a button, they want that action to deliver an immediate outcome.
Let's say your webpage contains a form that you really want your visitors to fill in. If they are spending time entering information into this feature only to hit submit and for nothing to happen, they probably aren't going to take the time to do that again.
Instead, they'll be irritated and are more likely to leave your site and visit one of your competitors.
So, this is a significant user experience metric precisely because it can mark the difference between successfully capturing a new lead and missing out completely.
After all, the reason why a visitor is taking action in the first place is that they have an interest in your business and what you're offering. Don't make the mistake of falling short right at the last hurdle.
Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS)
This metric will allow Google to understand how long it takes for a web page to become stable. Take a moment to think about the last time you were viewing a web page and you decided to click on a button, but right at the last second, the button shifted as content above it loaded properly and you were taken to a completely different page.
Webpages that do this are clearly providing a terrible user experience, so it's important to take steps to prevent this from happening on your site.
These metrics will join the likes of HTTPS and mobile-friendliness, which are both crucial to a pleasant and useful on-page browsing experience.
Although failing to optimise for core web vitals is unlikely to see your site slip from SERPs altogether, there is every reason to implement these optimisations.
A positive impact can be generated by devoting some attention to the kind of page experience you are providing to your audience. And if you are already delivering a first-class on-page experience, you may not even need to make any changes to meet the thresholds for these three particular metrics.
Why Is Google Making This Change?
Research indicates that web pages currently meeting core web vital thresholds are almost 25% more likely to retain the visitors they receive. We all know just how committed Google is to deliver only the highest quality results to its users and this is another tool for the search giant to utilise in this process.
So, Google will look at whether your webpage is loading quickly enough to prevent valuable users from bouncing. If your page is loading too slowly, you might find that your site is replaced in SERPs by a site that has fully optimised its page for core web vitals.
Improving your Core Web Vitals
This update is ultimately going to have an impact on all SERPs and core web vitals are also going to play a role in securing a place in Google Top Stories, which are the news results that typically sit at the top of a SERP. Core web vitals are going to replace AMP in this situation, meaning that you will need to meet a minimum threshold in order to retain or earn your place within this feature.
Information about your core web vitals can be easily accessed from your Google Search Console. Click on the 'Core Web Vitals' tab and take a look at your desktop and mobile reports. You will be provided with a list of sub-par URLs that will benefit from improvement alongside URLs that already meet the required thresholds.