Google's Core Web Vitals update rolled out in June 2021. Google will factor your site's Core Web Vitals score to determine its page experience and SEO ranking. Core Web Vitals act as quality signals and help site owners deliver a great user experience. Unoptimized websites will get penalized. Core Web Vitals consist of Largest Contentful Paint (LCP), First Input Delay (FID), and Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS).
Core Web Vitals measure how users perceive the experience of interacting with a page. The performance metrics give every store owner an overview of how well their site is performing. It also helps them detect and fix issues that keep their website from taking off. In turn, these page experience signals help Google identify quality sites on the web.
eCommerce websites must optimize these metrics at the earliest. Since all three act as page ranking signals and influence a site's page speed, user experience, SEO ranking, and sales. Also, you cannot rely on an inexperienced freelancer or agency to optimize these critical metrics. What you need is a reliable and experienced Core Web Vitals developer.
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History of Google Updates
Google understands that users expect a stellar page experience as they navigate the web. Hence, over the years, Google has rolled out all the following updates. The goal always was to help users find quality sites with the best experience on the web.
2010 - Google announced Page Speed Score as a ranking factor. The performance of a website will decide its ranking on the search engine. In essence, page speed became a new signal in Google's search ranking algorithms. This was the first time Google indicated the value of page speed and its effect on SEO ranking. Google defined page speed as to how quickly a website responds to web requests.
2018 - Google highlighted the importance of mobile page speed and its effect on SEO ranking. According to the update, a site's page speed on mobile will contribute to its ranking on Search Engines. Google went mobile-first (Mobile-First Index) and prioritized mobile speed over desktop speed. As per the update, page speed became a ranking factor for mobile searches.2020 - Google announced the Page Experience Update. As per this, the overall page experience of a site, measured according to its Core Web Vitals, will affect its ranking on Google. It stated that the metrics would come into effect in 2021. Google wanted to help create a frictionless experience for users. Google announced the update in advance to give owners adequate time to improve their sites before the update went live.
Core Web Vitals - June 2021
Largest Contentful Paint (LCP)
LCP measures the time it takes for the largest element to load on the page. It can be an image, an H1 heading, or any other element on the webpage. Reduce the Largest Contentful Paint (LCP) time to improve the user experience. An ideal LCP score is 2.5 seconds or less.
First Input Delay (FID)
FID measures the interactivity and responsiveness of the page. After an interaction with a web page, any delay in responding to the user input is called First Input Delay (FID). Since the main thread was preoccupied (busy state), it couldn't free up event handlers to react to the input. Had it been in an idle state, it would have responded sooner. Keep the FID score below 100 ms.
Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS)
Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS) score evaluates the visual stability of the page. If the content in the viewport of a user shifts (Unexpected Layout Shifts), they click on the wrong element. The layout shift creates annoyance and depletes the quality of user experience. Since the user wasn't able to accomplish the intended task, keep the CLS score below 0.1.
Why Hire Core Web Vitals Developers?
Expert Core Web Vitals developers will execute impactful optimization tactics and solutions to improve a site's Core Web Vitals score. As a result of these improvements, your eCommerce store will witness a 90+ page speed score on both mobile and desktop.
The LCP score will fall below 2.5 seconds, the FID score under 100 ms, and the CLS score under 0.1. In essence, Core Web Vitals developers possess sound knowledge and expertise around optimizing a website's Core Web Vitals. An experienced developer holds advanced tactics and solutions to fine-tune your website.
Core Web Vitals developers will review various areas on your website, detect flaws, and implement impactful tactics to elevate it's page speed, reduce page load time, improve user experience, and create more engagement to drive sales. You need Core Web Vitals developers to optimize your online store.
Tactics and Solutions From Expert Core Web Vitals Developers
Compress the images on your website, especially those that take a lot of time to render. Choose the best file format (WebP, JPEG, PNG) for these images without compromising their visual quality. The image file size and dimensions can influence the LCP value.
Consider embedding videos through a 3rd party platform like YouTube. However, prefer third-party platforms that send the least amount of code. You don't slow third-party scripts loading inefficiently and creating severe page load delays. If need be, adjust the dimensions and resize your video.
- Decide correct image dimensions and don’t use oversized images.
- If possible, use a smaller image and thumbnails that appear as a larger pop-up when clicked.
- Use Lossless compression to reduce file size without reducing quality.
- Don’t use high-quality uncompressed images.
- Deliver animated content through MPEG4 or WebM video files.
- Limit the use of multi-hero-image slideshows.
- Use tools like Tiny PNG and Kraken to optimize your images.
Remove unused CSS in the style sheet. Focus on stripping all of the unused styles and leave the least amount of CSS. A smaller stylesheet is quicker to load and parse when the browser is forming the CSSOM (CSS Object Model). Furthermore, lessen the amount of CSS files and properly call your CSS file.
- Use WP Rocket plugin to eliminate render-blocking CSS or optimize CSS and improve site load.
Code minification helps to trim the excess of code pieces or even the unoptimized code pieces. You want to minimize the code size as much as possible. Fewer lines of code will speed up the delivery of the site’s files to the requesting browsers. Optimize the code by looking at the execution time and remove unwanted looping.
Remove all the jumbled and complicated HTML code, merge JS files, and trim the excess code pieces to reduce the number of server requests. Remove white space characters, new line characters, comments, and delimiters to improve the render time. Minify your CSS and optimize your critical rendering path to deliver the content more smoothly.
A bad hosting provider can affect your website's performance. if it stays busy with handling requests and delays serving files and scripts, your web pages will respond slower than usual. A slow hosting response time results in a high FID and LCP score.
Instead of using a shared server, it is recommended to move your website to a dedicated server. On WooCommerce and Magento, owners have the option to choose a top-notch server for their needs. SaaS platforms don't give the option to shift to a better hosting provider.
Content Delivery Network (CDN)
Users around the world mustn't access the central server. You don't want to overload the central server from global requests. Instead, aim to deliver the files through web servers closer to a user’s physical location - from the nearest CDN. The content within the CDN is replicated to exist in many places all at once.
Businesses often make the mistake of selecting the wrong CDN. Instead of choosing the CDN closest to their target audience, they opt for a random and popular CDN solution. This then slows down the site, depletes the UX and costs them valuable sales. Use a CDN to cache your content across a global network of servers and speed up your site.
Reduce HTTP Requests
HTTP requests happen when the browser requests files to download. Reduce the number of HTTP requests that visitors place on your server. A higher number of HTTP requests being sent to the server will affect the load speed. Reducing the number of HTTP requests will improve load times and improve the user experience.
- Reduce the number of 301 and 302 redirects as much as possible.
- Use a “cacheable redirect” to avoid overloading your server.
- Merge multiple JS files together to reduce the server requests.
- Disable, deactivate and uninstall unnecessary plugins and those that use external requests from other sites.
- Reduce running too many external scripts on your website - Google, embedding scripts, widgets, and more.
- Enable lazyload, except for the top-fold image.
- Using system fonts reduces the number of server requests and improves the LCP score.
Preload the cache on your website so a user's next visit guarantees a fast-loading web page. Full-page caching will allow for quick loading. Caching performs temporary storage of web pages to reduce bandwidth and improve performance. The visitor will receive a cached version on the next visit. This saves server time and makes things faster.
Caching will enhance performance, as it retains frequently used data like stylesheets, images, JS files, and other info. Cache-control headers are useful in helping web browsers cache the website. Set this up and optimize the cache to ensure best performance on your website. Try server-side cache to speed up the generation of the cached version of a page.
Loading a font can sometimes take precedence and that stops the rest of the code from rendering. Especially, if the fonts are hosted on a server. In this case, the browser waits to download the fonts and that delays everything, leading to Flashes Of the Invisible Text (FOIT).
- Stick to system fonts, such as Helvetica or Arial to prevent fetching a font resource.
- Modify the rendering behavior of custom fonts with values such as auto, swap, block, fallback and optional.
- Use the “Font Loading API” to reduce the time it takes to fetch fonts.
- Use a preload command <link rel=preload> to load the font earlier and avoid layout shifting.
- Look to combine <link rel=preload> and “font-display: optional to download fonts on priority.
Optimize your database to ensure top performance on your website. You need to check for unused indexes, loose indexes, redundant indexes, duplicate indexes, clustered indexes, and create additional indexes for faster access. You could even use a JOIN command to speed up the delivery of data.
Furthermore, you may need to check for slow queries, query limitations, and see if you are accessing, retrieving, and analyzing extra data than needed. Also, get down to optimizing your tables to make them more efficient to run. Use cache, force queries to use the cache where possible.
Drawbacks of Unoptimized Core Web Vitals
Merchants can expect to see a fall in the SEO ranking of their eCommerce website. Thus, the impressions on such website pages will be low since these pages no longer figure in the first page of Google. If the impressions are less, expect to see a downfall in Click-Through Rates (CTR) as well.
CTR and Organic Traffic
If the CTR suffers, it only means that you've got very few users clicking on your page on Google. The organic traffic to your online store would deplete. If users aren't clicking on the page link on Google, you'd have to depend on alternative means to draw traffic to that page.
Page Speed and Engagement
If the Core Web Vitals aren't optimized, be prepared to lose a significant amount of page speed, increasing the page load time. The increase in page loads diminishes user experience and leads to a drop in average session time. Visitors are less likely to stay, engage, and interact on the site.
Get ready to witness fewer order placements on your online store. When the retention time on a site falls, you get a small window of opportunity to convert the visitors. Very often, this isn't enough to captivate and convince visitors to place orders. The slow speed means users will abandon the site, and this will then result in an increase in bounce rates.
Revenue and Profits
The lack of sales from your eCommerce store will ultimately affect your revenue and profits. Your online store may have to rely on social media, run ads, influencers, and other such sources to generate revenue and profits.
Despite knowing that organic traffic contributes the most to a site's traffic and sales, your online store failed to exploit this opportunity. Why? Because you didn't optimize your website's Core Web Vitals on time and improve its performance.
Lab Tools Vs. Field Tools
Core Web Vitals developers use Lab and Field tools to conduct a holistic analysis of an eCommerce store. An audit through almost all of these tools will reveal the best picture of your eCommerce site's health.
Lab tools reveal how a potential user will experience your site. In some cases, it may not be reflective of what the users experience in the real world. In contrast, Field tools will analyze Real-World Experience. They reveal how real users experience your website - it's also called Real User Monitoring (RUM). Each tool offers distinct values for optimizing your online store.
Given below are all the tools that will assist you with measuring Core Web Vitals.
Chrome User Experience Report
Search Console (Core Web Vitals Report)
Lighthouse is an automated open-source website auditing tool for optimizing websites. It helps developers diagnose issues to improve the UX. It measures several parameters of UX quality in a lab environment, including performance and accessibility.
Lighthouse measures and factors the Core Web Vitals score to determine the performance of a website. It also measures the Total Blocking Time. Lighthouse also appears as a feature in Chrome DevTools. Lighthouse runs a series of audits and generates a report on how well the page did.
PageSpeed Insights (PSI)
PageSpeed Insights is a lab and field testing tool that analyzes the performance of a URL. Enter the URL of your website to evaluate its performance. It'll assess the content of the page, then provide suggestions for speed improvement.
It'll assign a score that gives an overview of the page's performance. You can even run the Page Speed Insights test from DevTools. PSI got upgraded to use Lighthouse 6.0. As such, you can now measure Core Web Vitals on Page Speed Insights.
Google Search Console Report
The Search Console groups URLs based on status, metric type, and similarity. The Google Search Console report contains pages across your site that require improvement based on real-world data.
The report will contain all the Core Web Vitals metrics: LCP, FID, and CLS. However, a URL that doesn't meet the minimum data standards required may get omitted from the report. You can also receive email alerts whenever Google identifies issues on your eCommerce site.
Chrome User Experience Report (CrUX)
The Chrome User Experience Report analyzes experience metrics for real-world Chrome users on a website. CrUX doesn't rely on virtual tests in simulated environments. The data gets collected through users who opt-in to sync their browsing history and enable usage statistics reporting.
Site owners can extract a detailed (URL level) analysis and insights about their site's performance. They can use the standard web platform APIs to get comprehensive real-world user measurement (RUM) data. Presently, CrUX only focuses on loading performance. The Chrome User Experience Report also sets different dimensions.
The dimensions help to gauge a website's performance based on device type, effective connection type, country, and other variables. This helps to segment and understand UX across all the key segments. The report gets generated through Google BigQuery.
Web.dev Measure Tool
Owners need to enter their website URL to start the test and see how well the site performs. They'll also get tips to improve the results and overall user experience. Web.dev will reveal information about each Core Web Vitals metric.
Web.dev relies on Lighthouse to audit your website. Web.dev will check for performance, best practices, SEO, and accessibility. All the tests are run using a simulated device. Site owners get complete visibility on the problematic areas and helpful steps to improve them.
Web Vitals Chrome Extension
Website owners can even measure site performance using this extension. The extension provides immediate feedback on loading, interactivity, and layout shift values. It'll evaluate a page and display a badge (grey, green, red) depending on whether it passes the metrics.
The red badge indicates that the URL fails one or more of the Core Web Vitals metrics. You can drill into the individual metric values to get further information. It also integrates with CrUX API to help you understand how similar your experiences are to other desktop users on the same page.
Owners can easily find new ways to make their websites load faster and even analyze their runtime performance. Use the tool to find and fix memory issues that affect page performance. Use the Issues tab to find solutions to problems detected by the browser.
The Google Core Web Vitals update is here to stay. The only path that you can take is to review, detect, and improve your website's metrics at the earliest. You don't want to see pivotal pages getting demoted on the search engine, losing impressions, organic traffic, and sales.
Hire an expert Core Web Vitals developer at the earliest. For only they know the best insights, tactics, and practices to optimize an online store's performance and user experience. Do not mess with your website code, CDN, database, and other aspects without consulting a Core Web Vitals developer.