In a never-ending mission to deliver the best search results to the user, Google is rethinking how site performance is considered. In mid-June, the search engine will begin rolling out their Core Web Vitals update.
This update will allow Google to measure perceived performance rather than just actual performance.
Google regularly rolls out changes to their algorithm and usually, if you follow best practice, you’ll find website’s position in the search results won’t change too much or could even be rewarded. If you don’t follow that best practice, however, you will likely experience a drop in your ranking position.
This latest update is different as it effects both search and web practices yet is likely to be deemed more important by businesses who rely on their sites for lead generation or invest heavily in organic search.
In this blog, we consider Core Web Vitals from a developer’s perspective to help you understand how these changes could affect your website.
What are Core Web Vitals?
A set of metrics used to measure a website’s loading speed, responsiveness and visual stability; this update has been formed to provide guidance to brands on ranking signals that are essential to delivering a positive user experience.
The update will focus on ensuring websites are following Core and Other Web Vitals. The Other Web Vitals, shown in grey below, are already followed by the vast majority of websites. However, the Core Web Vitals, shown in green, are more technical and could require the support of a developer to adhere to.
So, what can we expect from the anticipated Core Web Vitals update?
A better experience for your audience
We have always been advocates for creating an exemplary user experience. Our focus is heavily on the discovery phase, your user personas, their journey and ultimately designing a website that supports them in reaching their goal. A fundamental part of this is creating a browsing experience that is seamless, enjoyable and memorable – for all the right reasons.
Site speed, one of the Core Web Vital metrics, plays a key role in achieving a better online experience. Deferring code and asynschronicity support the perceived performance of your site and are things you could consider. With the power to impact user satisfaction, if your site is too slow to load, users will quickly go elsewhere. After all, there’s nothing more frustrating than trying to navigate a slow loading site. Decreased site speed is also a telltale sign that your website needs updating.
While you’re busy satisfying the needs of your audience, it’s also important to satisfy Google. When creating or evolving your user personas, it’s worthwhile considering the search engine giant as one of your personas in the process. What Google wants from your site is not always on par with what your users want. It’s about marrying up the two to satisfy both your audience and the search engine.
Cause for collaboration
The Core Web Vital update creates a need for your web development agency, marketing agency and marketing team to work together. Each party plays a role in your website’s performance and can impact success.
For example, to successfully adhere to the metrics, a website may require substantial changes making it more developer reliant. In turn, this creates the need for collaboration and expertise across different fields.
The impact on web design
Building on the need for collaboration, there are certain elements that a developer cannot control or change on a website. For example, the design of your site.
Communication between your developers and design teams is pivotal. It’s also important for the developer to educate the designer where relevant so that they understand how certain design decisions can have an impact on optimisation and site performance.
Open communication will encourage discussion around how the site can be designed with performance and speed in mind. This doesn’t necessarily mean the way a website is designed needs to change, but it does allow elements that can have an impact on performance, such as image-led headers, to be considered.
Factors to consider
Time for a performance audit?
Your site’s performance plays a role in creating an enjoyable user experience. A low level of performance means a low level of usability and is partly responsible for making users return again and again.
Now is a good time to undertake a performance audit to ensure your site is working in the way your users and Google expect it to. This is something we regularly do for the clients we work with, including LCCI, as part of our Website MOT service.
While issues with performance can vary from small delays to major issues, tools such as Lighthouse can help you find out what’s impacting site performance and identify quick wins to fix the issue. Lighthouse is Google’s page speed analysis tool which allows you to drill down into performance issues and see what’s causing the problem.
This tool can be run against any webpage and offers audits for performance, accessibility, progressive web apps, SEO and more. Simply provide the URL to audit and a series of investigations will be run to generate a quality report of that page along with how to fix the issue(s).
Do you really need to add all those scripts?
Have you considered if every script on your website is necessary? Between Google Analytics to Hotjar, Facebook, LinkedIn Insights tags and countless tracking codes, all this activity can have a significant impact on your site’s performance.
We recommend considering how you can streamline your scripts and if you need as many onsite as you currently have. From our testing, we have found that simply removing unnecessary third-party scripts from your website can improve your optimisation score by as much as 15 points!
The testing process
While you are going through your site’s testing process, it’s worthwhile to consider performance and site speed in more depth. For example, rather than just looking at generic site speed, the testing process should consider internet speeds as slow as 3G on mobile.
Your web budget
As Core Web Vitals become a key ranking factor, will this present the need for a performance budget to be considered within your wider website budget?
If you have a larger business, you may be able to allocate a budget for this extra cost. However, if your business is small, will your budgets be able to stretch to this? As these metrics become integral to overall site performance, it becomes all the more important to invest in your site on an ongoing basis.
Adding content to your site
Adding content onsite without a second thought could be detrimental to your website’s performance. If you simply upload several YouTube videos onto a page and embed them, they won’t be optimised which can impact performance and speed.
It’s important that your web agency provides you with the tools and knowledge to manage your content and add new content in a way that preserves site performance.
The need to compromise
From imagery to video, written content to design, tracking to analytics, there are numerous factors that have the power to affect your site’s overall performance.
If your aim is to achieve a score of 90 out of 100 when it comes to this new update, there may well be compromises to make on your site. You will need to weigh up what matters most to your business and what you are willing to change. For example, would you be willing to remove a specific design element if it means you can achieve this higher score?
Your next SEO audit
It’s important to remember that your next SEO technical audit will likely contain a result that says ‘improve CLS’ or something similar. Although this will show within your SEO audit, it’s actually outside the organic space and will not fall under the responsibility of your SEO team or agency.
While the improvement will sit with your web developers, it won’t necessarily be an easy fix. It could take months of work and significant investment which is why it’s so important to maintain communication between your SEO and web agency.
Your score isn’t everything
Your CWV score is important, but it’s not everything. If your website doesn’t have a high CWV score, it doesn’t necessarily mean your website was badly built or your developers are to blame.
Website builds are complex undertakings. Developers have to weigh up multiple elements when building a solution including platform constraints, budget, timeframe, legacy code, design requirements and required functionality.
In some cases, these elements can compete against the ability to achieve a good CWV score. Equally, technologies that were common-place or even best practice a few years ago may now be considered poor when scoring against the CWV criteria. Again, this is a reason to work alongside your web development agency to help you strike the balance and consider CWV within your ongoing website development.
The future of site performance
The Core Web Vital metrics are subject to evolve as user expectations continue to develop. Google has said that they plan to review and update guidance on an annual basis. Where does this update leave us when it comes to the future of site performance and the importance of fast loading websites?
This update could see us moving towards building sites in a way that delivers or removes certain types of content for certain users to ensure a positive experience every time. For example, what you see on mobile could be different to what you see on desktop.
For web development teams, a focus on page speed could well become a full-time job that requires dedicated resource in order to provide the attention required to maintain high performance.
While we can make judgements, the reality is, no one knows how big an impact the update will have. UI Architect, Rich Shackleton, suspects there will be no major immediate impact. Instead, predicting a gradual uptake as businesses invests which pushes them ahead of the competition and subsequently fuels further companies to consider the changes.
Need to know more about Core Web Vitals?
If you would like more information about the Core Web Vital update and how you can start preparing, please get in touch with our team. We stay at the forefront of industry updates and work with our clients to ensure their site will be impacted as little as possible.