Largest Contentful Paint (LCP)
This isn’t the first time Google has integrated some sort of metric to measure how long it takes for the main web content to be visible to users. In the past, developers recommended using tools such as First Meaningful Paint (FMP), which captures when the primary page content is available, and Speed Index (SI), which shows how quickly the contents of a page are populated for users. However, these metrics are not without their problems and often fail to represent the actual experience of the people who visit your site.
LCP, on the other hand, is designed to be a simpler and more accurate way to measure how fast content loads. This metric focuses on how quickly the largest image or text block within the viewport loads and better reflects how people view your site.
Google Developers suggest that to ensure that your users have the best experience, your site should aim for an LCP of 2.5 seconds or less.
Poor LCP can be caused by a number of things:
- If the browser is slow to receive content from the server, it can be slow to render any content on the screen.
- If you have lots of high-res images or lots of features on your page, it may take some time to load.
First Input Delay (FID)
When you interact with a site, you want it to be responsive. After all, a user doesn’t have time to wait around if your website doesn’t work, or takes its time to complete a task.
The FID records how long it takes for your site to respond to a user’s first interaction. When they click on a link, when does it go through to the next page? If they press a button, does it react instantly or are users forced to wait and wonder if they need to press it again? The FID begins from the moment they first interact to the second where the browser actually responds.
According to Google Developers, a fast FID is less than 100 ms.
Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS)
Ever been reading something on a website and the content just… jumps?
It’s incredibly frustrating for your users and can even interrupt their purchasing journey. One ill-timed layout shift can mean the difference between getting that customer and sending them packing to your competitors.
This is where CLS comes in. By looking at the total of all the individual layout shift scores for every unexpected shift, this metric determines the stability of your page. A good CLS score is less than 0.1, while anything higher than 0.25 is poor.
There are many reasons you may have poor CLS:
- If your images/videos don’t have width and height attributes, they may cause a shift when they fully load.
- Ads, embeds and iframes are often dynamic in size, meaning they can lead to an unexpected layout change.
- Certain fonts that need to be downloaded/rendered may be substituted or make the text invisible.
- Dynamic content (pop-ups, banners, forms, etc.) can appear as the webpage loads and interfere with the layout.
How does this affect my business and SEO strategy?
Put simply, websites that don’t meet Google’s Core Web Vitals will see a drop in the rankings. These metrics will be an important factor in how your site is evaluated by the search engine and will be a prerequisite to appear in Google’s Top Stories, which appear at the top of the results.
It isn’t all doom and gloom though; overhauls like these are the perfect opportunity to gain a competitive advantage. If you’re prepared and can take the new guidelines on board, you can quickly adapt to the new system and beat out any competitors who have been slow on the uptake. As Google says, these metrics aren’t the only factor for ranking; however, if pages have similar content, the ones that also provide a quality user experience will be prioritised. This is where you want to be.
You’ll need to renew your focus on the structure and function of your site. This doesn’t mean you can slack on the content side of things; rather, Google considers both what populates your webpages and how well they run. You’ll need to nail both in order to reach your customers.
Remember: Core Web Vitals are all about user experience. Focus on how your users actually use your site, and how you can improve, and you’ll be golden!