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In case you haven’t heard, Google’s latest search algorithm update focuses on your website’s tech­nical per­formance. Specifically, on a group of metrics that Google calls “Core Web Vitals”. So what are these Google Web Vitals, and what’s all the fuss about them for?

What Are Google Web Vitals?

Google’s Core Web Vitals are a small set of key metrics focused on page speed and user exper­ience. Check these three impactful metrics first before under­taking deeper optimizations.

  • Largest Contentful Paint (LCP) measures how long it takes for the largest content element (e.g. a hero image or heading text) on your page to become visible. Aim for an LCP of 1.2 seconds or less.
  • Total Blocking Time (TBT) tells you how much time is blocked by scripts during your page loading process. A TBT of 150 mil­li­seconds or less provides the best user experience.
  • Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS) indicates how much your page ele­ments move around as your page loads. A CLS score of 0.1 or less is ideal.

Why Should You Care About Them?

Google now con­siders these as Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) for web­sites. So web­sites that score poorly will lose search pos­i­tioning to sites that score well. Losing search pos­i­tioning gen­erally means losing sales. That’s why you should care about them.

Still, why do these meas­ure­ments matter? Because they affect how vis­itors exper­ience your site.

Largest Contentful Paint and Total Blocking Time focus on the per­ceived speed of your website to vis­itors. Professional web designers have long known that site speed matters. Faster sites tend to convert vis­itors into cus­tomers better.

However, most small firms don’t track their con­version rates well enough to notice this. Also, optim­izing per­formance tends to require more work and better hosting. So with no clear indic­ation of the potential gains, many small firms skip that extra cost and effort.

By setting site speed meas­ure­ments as a ranking factor, Google is trying to provide clear bench­marks. Now those who make the effort to meet these standards will be rewarded by better search pos­ition, as well as slightly higher con­version rates.

By com­parison, Cumulative Layout Shift is more about not con­fusing users. Visitors are often keen to use the buttons and menus on a page before it fin­ishes loading. So it doesn’t help i the button gets reposi­tioned as they try to click. By using CLS as a ranking factor, Google is trying to dis­courage that.

How Can You Check Your Site’s Core Web Vitals?

There are lots of ways to check your Core Web Vitals, but one of the most useful is through the free ser­vices provided by GTMetrix. Their tests add Google’s own “Lighthouse” meas­ure­ments to their own per­formance tests to give your site an overall per­formance grade.

It’s worth noting that the results of any one test aren’t absolute. So it’s worth running mul­tiple tests to see averages and trends. The best score you get is still rel­evant, though. Network issues and server over­loads can slow down even well-con­figured sites, but poor con­fig­ur­ation will limit that top score.

How Can You Improve These Metrics?

Again, GTMetrix will let you drill down into the reasons for your site’s results. If they’re poor, it will suggest ways to fix problems with your Google Web Vitals or the other per­formance factors it tests.

A word of warning, though – this stuff is tech­nical. You won’t be able to fix it by editing the content and images on your site. Some details may be too tech­nical for inex­per­i­enced web designers. Others may require server access at levels that neither you nor your web designer may have.

So you may need to contact your hosting pro­vider, or switch to another one. Not all hosting ser­vices are created equal.

Finally, it’s worth noting that some problems may not be fixable at all. Notably, most modern web­sites use assets stored on other systems. Neither you nor the hosting company con­trols those, nor the net­works used to reach them. So if those cause problems, your only options may be to put up with that, or seek alternatives.

Need help with checking and fixing your Google Web Vitals?

Get in touch!