In their never-ending quest to optimize the online search experience, Google has updated their ranking system to include new page experience factors known as Core Web Vitals.

First announced last year and rolled out in mid-2021, the purpose of this initiative is to provide unified guidance for quality signals that are essential to delivering an exceptional website user experience. Core Web Vitals are a subset of Web Vitals that attempt to quantify key aspects of the user experience and apply that to all web pages. Ranking signals derived from Core Web Vitals will be combined with Google’s existing search signals, including mobile-friendliness, HTTPS-security and intrusive interstitial guidelines, to provide a more holistic picture of page experience.

What Are Google’s Core Web Vitals?

The current metrics of Core Web Vitals focus on three aspects of user experience (UX) —loading, interactivity and visual stability. These aspects of UX are measured using the following three metrics and their thresholds:

1. Largest Contentful Paint (LCP)

Largest Contentful Paint (LCP) is a Google user experience measurement of the loading time for the first meaningful content on the visible screen. LCP typically includes the large hero image or video, messaging and/or block of text located within the user viewport (“above the fold” in the browser window) of a web page. This metric is a critical measurement of user experience because it assesses how quickly a web page can be used by a visitor.

According to Google, LCP should occur within 2.5 seconds of the page first starting to load. Anything less than that threshold is considered a good user experience, as it allows users to access your content quickly and increases the chances of the user staying to interact with your web page. There are several factors that impact LCP load time including image and video size/dimensions, server speed and response time and render-blocking JavaScript and CSS.

2. First Input Delay (FID)

While LCP measures how quickly the content on your webpage loads on the visible screen, First Input Delay (FID) measures your web page’s interactivity and responsiveness while it is loading. According to Google, FID measures the time from when a user first interacts with a web page (e.g., clicks a link or button) to the time when the browser begins to process event handlers in response to that interaction. This is known as input latency and can cause frustration (and a less than stellar user experience) when there is a noticeable delay for users waiting for the website to respond.

To provide good user experience, a webpage should have an FID of 100 milliseconds or less. There are a number of contributing factors to an unacceptable FID score, some of which are beyond your control (such as a user’s device capabilities and internet speed). What you can control is how web developers include the usage of 3rd-party JavaScript, adding HTML attributes that control how scripts are loaded and by optimizing images.

3. Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS)

Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS) is a user-centric metric for measuring the visual stability of a web page, as it helps to quantify how often a visitor experiences unexpected layout shift while a web page is still loading. CLS measures whether elements in a visible viewport change position from one rendered frame to the next. These layout shifts affect the placement of text, images, forms, buttons and other content featured on a web page. CLS reflects the difficulty a user will experience when trying to interact with elements on a web page.

Minimizing CLS is critical because shifting layouts lead to accidental clicks and unintended outcomes, resulting in poor user experience. To provide a quality user experience, web pages should have a CLS score of 0.1 or less. There are several development-related factors that impact CLS including images, ads, embeds and iframes without dimensions, dynamically injected content, improper usage of web fonts and actions waiting for a network response before updating Document Object Model (DOM).

Why Should B2B Marketers Be Concerned About Core Web Vitals?

While B2B marketers have long understood that search engine optimization (SEO) was largely about quality content, and more than just technical wizardry, SEO continues to evolve. For the last several years, Google’s algorithm updates have highlighted that user experience is an increasingly critical factor in page ranking. It’s no longer enough to simply publish quality content and “be the best answer,” B2B marketers must also be concerned with providing exceptional user experience if they want to rank high in search results.

Core Web Vitals point to page experience as a critical component of the user experience and one of the critical page ranking factors. While content still sits at the top of the ranking factors, page experience and overall user experience truly matter. Providing a poor user experience will not only negatively affect website performance, but it will also hinder success in search engine optimization and generation of organic traffic.

How to measure and report Core Web Vitals for your website

Google has committed to providing marketers and web developers the ability to measure Core Web Vitals in all of their popular developer tools. This includes Lighthouse, PageSpeed Insights, Chrome DevTools, Search Console, web.dev’s measure tool, the Web Vitals Chrome extension and a new Chrome UX Report API. With Google’s inclusion of Core Web Vitals as a foundation for evaluating page experience, it’s important for marketers to measure these metrics and take appropriate action when necessary.