Today we’re talking page speed and SEO. Google has a new set of metrics for measuring how fast a web page is and they plan on using these metrics in the algorithm to help rank pages.

There’s three main things you need to know!

  1. When this is happening
  2. What the hell these metrics are
  3. How you can check your site

The Algorithm Impact Isn’t Due Until At Least Early 2021

Google announced on May 28th on the Google Webmaster Blog that they are introducing these new metrics.

The first thing you need to know – there’s no need to panic!

It’s not due to become part of the algorithm until early 2021 at the earliest. When it does though, having a bad rating on some or all of the Core Web Vitals metrics may impact your rankings.

A note on timing: We recognize many site owners are rightfully placing their focus on responding to the effects of COVID-19. The ranking changes described in this post will not happen before next year, and we will provide at least six months notice before they’re rolled out. We’re providing the tools now to get you started (and because site owners have consistently requested to know about ranking changes as early as possible), but there is no immediate need to take action.
Google Webmaster Central Blog, 28 May 2020

However, it is time to start thinking about your plan if you need to get some work completed for your site to be faster by the time the algorithm changes come into effect. That’s why Google is letting us know about them now.

Meet Your New Speed Metrics – LCP, FID and CLS

Google’s web.dev site has a great page on the new Core Web Vitals.

LCP or Largest Contentful Paint is the time it takes to load the bulk of the content that is useful for users; so between when they first request the page, to when something useful appears.

FID or First Input Delay is how long it takes for the site to respond to the first user interaction. You might have seen when a site seems to load but clicking on things doesn’t do anything for a while, that’s what this metric tries to measure.

And finally CLS or Cumulative Layout Shift. This is the amount the site changes without any immediate user input. You might have experienced this yourself on a page where you’ve tried to click on a button just when an ad loads, and you’ve clicked that instead, or when you’re scrolling down a page and an image loads and you lose your position on the page. CLS is a measure of how much of that kind of thing is going on.

Google has also given us some numbers, some benchmarks that are considered good, needs improvement and poor for these metrics so we can work towards improving them.

From our perspective, it’s great to finally have this clarity to be able to say objectively that a site is too slow and needs improvement, or is nice and fast and we can focus our energies elsewhere.

Google Is Giving Us a Few Ways To Measure Our Sites

Google is surfacing these metrics in a few different places,

Google PageSpeed Insights

This tool is great if you want to do a quick check of one of your pages or perhaps one of your competitors. You can access the tool here.

You’ll notice the three Core Web Vitals metrics tagged with the blue tags above. These are the ones you need to worry about for now.

The Field Data section is based on the Chrome User Experience Report, which basically means they track the speed performance of the site for some users that are using Google Chrome and consolidate that data. This is the real world data and comes from a variety of real users, so you should be paying attention to it.

The Lab Data section is based on how the page performed on the crawl Google just did. Obviously that one pageview is a smaller sample size than the field data if you have any available, but it is that analysis that informs the recommendations that Google includes below.

Google Search Console

Some great progress is the introduction of the new Core Web Vitals report in Google Search Console. This report can give you a picture of how all the various pages on your site are loading.

To find the report, you need to open Search Console, and in the left hand side menu, look for Core Web Vitals in the Enhancements section and click that.

The report is divided into Mobile and Desktop sections, giving you insight into the differences in performance between Mobile and Desktop; again, this data is from the Google User Experience Report data.

There’s a minimum amount of data that needs to be collected about each of your URLs, on either mobile or desktop, before you’ll be able to get useful insights from this report. Depending on how much traffic your site gets, you might need to switch to the PageSpeed Insights tool to get some live data for each URL.

When you open the report for either mobile or desktop, you’ll be able to see tabs on the top for Poor, Needs Improvement and Good. Underneath, you’ll see the Core Web Vital that you need to address and how many pages apply.

You can click into each of the issues to get more detailed information about which URLs have issues so that you can direct your development efforts appropriately.

Lighthouse Audit (Inside Chrome)

The last way to check your performance against these metrics is actually built into the browser you are possibly using, Google Chrome! Lighthouse is one of the audit tools that are available if you open the Developer Tools by pushing F12 on your keyboard. Then in that tab, select mobile or desktop and choose the Performance categories, then hit Generate Report. We won’t get into the Lighthouse report in detail as it’s more geared towards web developers and technical SEOs, but it’s good to know we can measure our own Core Web Vitals metrics if we want to.

So What’s Next? What To Do?

If you’ve got a site that has some Core Web Vitals issues that need resolving, that’s to be expected as a lot of these metrics have just been introduced or have just started to be pushed by Google. There’ll be lots of sites needing work.

If your SEO performance is important to you, you’ll want to ask your web developer what can be done to improve your site’s performance against the Core Web Vitals metrics as in time, neglecting them could lead to sub-optimal results.

As I said in the beginning though, don’t panic. There is some time before these changes start to impact and Google have said they will give us around six months heads up before the changes are implemented. As of June 2020, that hasn’t yet happened.

If you’d like a free evaluation of your site and how well it adheres to the new Core Web Vitals, please get in touch with us.

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