Core Web Vitals: How to Measure & Improve Your Scores

by | Dec 21, 2020

There are many metrics that look at aspects of the overall user experience. Some of those metrics have much more impact on the experience than others. The goal of web developers and webmasters has always been to make sure the visitor is having the best experience possible on the website. Different sites take different approaches to what their users will most important, looking at things like loading times, messaging, design elements, and navigation.

User experience (UX) has always been considered a fairly subjective measurement.

Until now.

Google has outlined Web Vitals to help clarify measurements that impact some of the most important elements in the user experience. In May of 2020, Google announced it would be releasing the Core Web Vitals and rolling them into the algorithm for 2021.

What are Core Web Vitals?

Web Vitals are metrics Google uses to measure the page experience signals of your website. These performance metrics help Google rate what your site offers a visitor. These factors will include things like:

  • Clean/safe site for safe-browsing (not malware loaded or full of popups)
  • Navigation (not being a dead-end page)
  • Responsive design (mobile-friendliness)

Core Web Vitals are the most important website factors that Google has outlined. Core Web Vitals are a subset within Web Vitals that Google has given extra weight. They are considered the most important elements of the user experience. There are three aspects that impact user experience that have been highlighted as most important:

  • Loading: Largest Contentful Paint (LCP)
  • Interactivity: First Input Delay (FID)
  • Visual Stability: Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS)

Each of these metrics has been given a recommended target range (or threshold) that should be reached for the majority of users. These Core Web Vitals are supposed to boil down some of the most important aspects of your page into an objective formula. In this way, webmasters and developers have a much easier time predicting at least part of what will impact their ranking factor with Google.

Based on Google’s announcement, Core Web Vitals will make up a significant chunk of your site’s overall ranking signals (maybe even the biggest chunk).

Why are Core Web Vitals Important?

There are some things about your page that matter more than others.

For example, the images should be captivating and fit your brand. However, if they don’t load quickly, your visitor is very likely to bounce from your entire site. So, maintaining a fast loading time is more important than how those images appear. While users care about the look, that is secondary to seeing them in the first place.

The fact that Google plans to make page experience an official ranking factor makes them even more important.

Google is the top search engine, and most websites will be adjusting to optimize their placement in the search ranking. So, getting to know these Core Web Vitals and meeting their thresholds will be a pretty big deal for SERP.

To rise through the search engine results and land on the first page, websites have to create valuable content that centers on keywords users are searching with. Now, SEO (search engine optimization) to improve organic listing results will need to include Core Web Vitals.

Of course, meeting these experience expectations and getting a good score isn’t going to push you to the top. Google stated there are around 200 factors used to rank sites in their search results. The company specifically noted in an announcement that, “A good page experience doesn’t override having great, relevant content. However, in cases where there are multiple pages that have similar content, page experience becomes much more important for visibility in Search.”

How to Measure Core Web Vitals

Before Google changes the algorithm to heavily weigh in the Core Web Vitals score, you will want to adjust your site. We are going to go over each of the three Core Web Vitals and look at how each is measured.

Check Your Largest Contentful Paint (LCP) Score

Page loading time is a big deal. Most users are going to bounce if your web page takes even a fraction of a second too long.

Google found that pages that went from one second to five seconds to load increased their bounce rate by 90%.

That is a very significant number. People aren’t going to stick around and see what loads. If your home page or landing page is slow, they will assume the entire experience is going to be slow. And that research was done by Google in 2017. If we know anything about users, it’s that over the past three years, they are more demanding and not less. Google realizes how important this number is, making it one of the three biggest factors in your website score.

This is not a new focus. In fact, Google first announced the “Speed Update” in 2018, pushing companies to improve their page load times. However, the update at that time was focused on penalizing the very slowest pages and most sluggish sites. Google noted, “The ‘Speed Update,’ as we’re calling it, will only affect pages that deliver the slowest experience to users and will only affect a small percentage of queries.”

The newer change with LCP is different and much more intensive for websites. LCP measures the amount of time it takes for the majority of content to appear after the initial click. A better LCP score means that users can see and interact with your page faster.

This is very different from First Contentful Paint (FCP), which measures how long it takes the first element to load. Largest Contentful Paint is looking at the majority of page elements to consider how long your real users have to wait to utilize the page.

Largest Contentful Paint

You can check your LCP score through Google PageSpeed Insights.

The results will be measured based on performance with Google Chrome and give a score for performance over the past 30 days. A Chrome user experience report will give you a good idea of what a real user experiences when visiting your web page, but it can be a hassle to check each individual page this way.

To check your entire site’s LCP score, use your Google Search Console.

This will look at every page and tell you which ones are good, bad, or need improvement.

  • Good LCP is anything under 2.5 seconds
  • LCP Needs Improvement is 2.5-4 seconds
  • Poor LCP is anything over 4 seconds

From code to high-res images, several factors will impact your loading time. If you need to improve your LCP score, Keep reading, and we will cover that below.

upgrow speed site

Check Your First Input Delay (FID) Score

The next Core Web Vital measures how users can interact with your page. This score measures responsiveness and how long it takes to be able to do things like:

  • Operate the menu
  • Click a link to navigate to another page
  • Enter an email into a field
  • Use the search feature
  • Open “accordion text” in responsive design

These all affect how your users are able to operate elements of your website. Like the LCP factor, a sluggish website is going to frustrate users and make them more likely to bounce. Google is trying to give the upper hand to websites that are optimizing the UX.

This is huge for pages that require a login or a