Last week on the Google Webmaster Central Blog Google announced the introduction of a new page experience signal which will be used to rank web pages in the future.
In addition to the existing factors which affect user experience, Google will use a new set of metrics–known as the “Core Web Vitals”–to measure the quality of user experience a page provides and rank it accordingly. We already know some of the existing factors out there which impact user experience, like mobile speed, HTTPs, safe-browsing and avoiding intrusive interstitials. So what are the Core Web Vitals?
What are Core Web Vitals?
Core Web Vitals are a set of quality signals that are essential for delivering a great user experience on the web. Now, user experience has many facets. Therefore, according to Google, Core Web Vitals represent a very distinct facet of user experience, such as loading experience, interactivity of a page, and the visual stability of content on a page. They are a set of real-world and user-centric metrics which as per Google are measurable in the field.
Measuring User Experience with Core Web Vitals
Let’s look at the Core Vitals metrics and their respective thresholds:
Largest Contentful Paint (LCP): is used to measure loading performance. For providing a good user experience, LCP should occur within 2.5 seconds of when the page first starts loading.
First Input Delay (FID): is used to measure interactivity. For providing a good user experience, pages should have a FID of less than 100 milliseconds.
Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS): will measure visual stability. In order to provide a good user experience, pages should maintain a CLS of less than 0.1.
Why Core Web Vitals?
With the page experience signal Google is taking into account what is the perception of users about the experience they have on your pages. Google wants to know how users perceive their experience on a site. However, measuring user experience is a complex task. On its own, Googlebot is not built to replicate how actual visitors experience a particular site.
Core Web Vitals quantify user experience.
Why is this update important?
As always, Google constantly updates its algorithm to rank those websites at the top which users love. Brand queries are and will continue to be a major signal to identify such sites.
User experience is another such signal.
Now, Google’s emphasis on user experience and its relevance is not new. Its collection of user experience metrics through the Chrome User Experience Report since 2017 and usage of same to evaluate speed, performance and user experience is publicly known and well documented. So by introducing a new ranking signal with a clear & specific focus on measuring user experience, Google is giving clear indications as to how strongly it believes user experience to be a key factor in determining sites which are loved the most.
By adding page experience to the hundreds of signals that Google considers when ranking search results, Google is giving signals on what lies ahead.
Core Web Vitals in Search Console
As part of this update, Google has replaced the Speed Report with the Core Web Vital to help site owners to measure and assess their user experience. This will help site owners to fully gauge the experience users have on their web pages and also see the results of fixes quickly and easily.
In addition to Search Console, Google is making available multiple web developer tools to support measurement of Web Vitals. Web.dev has a full list of tools webmasters can use to easily diagnose and fix user experience issues on their web pages.
Page experience and the mobile Top Stories feature
When the page experience ranking update will be rolled out, AMP will no longer be necessary for Top Stories to be featured in Top Stories on mobile. It will be opened to any page and page experience will become a factor to rank in Top Stories. Milestone Research has shown that adding AMP correlates to improved visibility and traffic because AMP increases page speed and enhances user experience. Milestone Research also finds that fewer than 2% of web pages are AMP-enabled, so AMP is a good competitive differentiator that generates results.
Very simply put, the update evaluates if a site is quickly and easily usable.
Hence, sites which provide a consistent and high level of positive user experience to their visitors will be rewarded. On the other hand, sites which fail to deliver great user experience or those which users dislike will face an uphill task to achieve high visibility on search results. Such sites may even get penalized eventually.
Replacement of Speed Report with the Core Web Vitals report in Search Console goes to show how Google’s thinking has evolved regarding user experience. In the eyes of Google, there’s more to keeping users happy than having a site that loads fast. Page speed alone is not enough.
Clearly, site owners offering poor web experiences have some work to do. However, with the update not to be rolled out before 2021, they have some time to work on getting user experience right.