By Chuck Leddy
Google search has long been an important focus for B2B marketing, as brands seek to be “found” by more customers either by investing in paid search (via Google Ads/keywords) and/or through search engine optimization (SEO) strategies. Google is now making “on-page experience” a significant factor in how it determines its search rankings. Google refers to the on-page user experience as Core Web Vitals. These Vitals are a set of metrics that take into account indicators of user experience such as a website’s page loading speed (faster is better), the site’s responsiveness, and its visual stability.
In this blog post, we’ll explain exactly what Core Web Vitals are, why Google is using them for serving up its search rankings/results, and finally explain what you can do to improve your CWVs as well as your Google search rankings (and B2B marketing results).
The why and what of Core Web Vitals
Google says that it’s relying on CWV as a way to improve the search experience for its users: “At Google Search our mission is to help users find the most relevant and quality sites on the web. The goal . . . is to highlight the best experiences and ensure that users can find the information they’re looking for.” The better experience your website offers for users, the more Google improves your search ranking, all other things being equal.
Needless to say, you shouldn’t need Google to spur you to create a good user experience on your webpages (all B2B marketers should be in the business of creating good experiences across every channel) — but when Google talks, marketers listen. As of May, 2021, updated page experience/CWV signals will be included in Google Search ranking, so you still have some time to make related changes to your website(s) that will impact your CWV report and hence your Google search rankings.
Google wants it known that it’s not judging clunky websites or calling out “bad UI creators” (i.e., those who design websites with poor user experiences): “the data for the Core Web Vitals report comes from the CrUX report (Chrome User Experience report), which gathers anonymized metrics about performance times from actual users visiting your URL (called field data),” explains Google. User data informs the report, not Google engineers.
User-centric performance metrics
Marketers know that different websites perform differently based on a large variety of factors, from the device or network used to access the website to the makeup (i.e., type of content) of the specific webpages. For instance, images generally take longer to load on a webpage than text. And while a website might load quickly, it might also respond slowly to user requests/interactions once loaded. With that said, there are objectively quantifiable indicators of website performance, called user-centric metrics.
As Google engineer Philip Walton explains in his blog post, User-centric performance metrics, there are several “metrics that are relevant to how users perceive performance,” including (according to Walton):
- Perceived load speed: how quickly a page can load and render all of its visual elements to the screen.
- Runtime responsiveness: after page load, how quickly can the page respond to user interaction.
- Visual stability: do elements on the page shift in ways that users don’t expect and potentially interfere with their interactions?
- Smoothness: do transitions and animations render at a consistent frame rate and flow fluidly from one state to the next.
Measuring, tracking & improving your website’s CWVs
#1 Measuring the quality of user experience includes multiple factors. Google believes that “core user experience” includes three basic elements: loading experience (LCP below), interactivity (FID below), and visual stability (CLS below) of page content. Here’s how Google defines each in its Chromium blog post, Introducing Web Vitals: essential metrics for a healthy site:
- Largest Contentful Paint (LCP) measures perceived load speed and marks the point in the page load timeline when the page’s main content has likely loaded.
- First Input Delay (FID) measures responsiveness and quantifies the experience users feel when trying to first interact with the page.
- Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS) measures visual stability and quantifies the amount of unexpected layout shift of visible page content.
#2 Tracking your Core Web Vitals is as simple as going into Google’s search console and accessing your Chrome UX Report, looking at each web property on a case-to-case basis. Once you’ve pulled your report, and analyzed the results, you can then consider making some changes.
#3 Improving CWV. You’ll be able to improve your metrics by focusing on each one of the 3 basic elements listed above (LCP, FID, and CLS). To improve LCS, for example, limit the amount of content you display at the top of the web page to only the most critical information. If it’s not critically important to a problem that the user is trying to solve, move that content down the page to hasten page loading time. As a general rule, you’ll want to carefully weigh the use of any content type, such as video and animation, that takes significant time to load.
- Reduce the “cluttering” impact of third-party code: If you have a bunch of different processes happening simultaneously on a page, it will take longer for the action to start working.
- Minimize main thread work: The main thread does most of the work, so you should be reducing the complexity of your page’s style and layouts.
- Keep request counts low, and transfer sizes small: If you want to improve page performance and usability, do not try to transfer huge files all at once.
Conclusion: CWV is here to stay
Google will continue updating its Core Web Vitals and how it uses them to determine search rankings. What this means is that B2B marketers will need to monitor and keep revisiting CWV. Again, if it matters to Google and how it ranks your search results, it should matter to you as a B2B marketer seeking to get found by customers.
If you’d like to read more about Google’s Core Web Vitals and/or similar B2B marketing topics, please reach out – we’d enjoy hearing from you, and would love to showcase your knowledge as well!