When it comes to creating an optimized experience for your shoppers, there are many things to consider. From visual elements such as site design and page layout to behind-the-scenes things such as speed and page weight. All of these, regardless of whether they are customer-facing or not, are key factors not only for conversion but for organic search ranking.
Google has put together a set of standards that they are encouraging site owners to adopt in order to deliver a great user experience. These standards, or guidance, are called Core Web Vitals (CWV) and they apply to all pages within a site.
Each CVW focuses on a specific user experience and is measurable. Right now, Google is focusing on three distinct CWV – loading, interactivity, and visual stability. Each of these has specific thresholds that site owners are encouraged to be within. They break down as follows:
Loading – Largest Contentful Paint (LCP): The LCP metric reports the render time of the largest image or text block visible within the viewport, relative to when the page first started loading. To provide a good user experience, LCP should occur within 2.5 seconds of when the page first starts loading.
Interactivity – First Input Delay (FID): The First Input Delay (FID) metric helps measure your user’s first impression of your site’s interactivity and responsiveness. FID measures the time from when a user first interacts with a page (i.e. when they click a link or, tap on a button) to the time when the browser is actually able to begin processing event handlers in response to that interaction. To provide a good user experience, pages should have a FID of less than 100 milliseconds.
Visual Stability – Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS): measures visual stability. Have you ever been reading an article online when something suddenly changes on the page? Without warning, the text moves, and you’ve lost your place. The Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS) metric helps you address this problem by measuring how often it’s occurring for real users. To provide a good user experience, pages should maintain a CLS of less than 0.1.
Google is going to be showing CWV in the popular free tools it provides to site owners so these metrics can be measured on a continual basis. You’ll find CWV data in the Chrome User Experience Report, PageSpeed Insights, and Search Console’s Core Web Vitals Report.
While loading, interactivity, and visual stability are the three core CWV Google is focusing on right now, there are others that may be added as time goes on.
As a site owner, you should be concerned about making sure you reach the desired threshold for these vitals. If your site has hundreds or even thousands of pages, it’s understandable that you won’t be able to meet the threshold on every single page for one reason or another, but the majority of pages on your site should.
The immediate impact of meeting these vitals is the obvious improvement in the customer experience. The long-term impact will create a faster web for all of us as site owners and developers work together to build and maintain sites based on meeting these guidelines.
If you’re serving up an AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages) version of your site for mobile users, chances are you’re probably already within the desired thresholds, as AMP pages are specifically designed for speed and an optimized experience.
If you’re not serving up AMP pages, doing so remains a recommendation from Google. However, that doesn’t mean your site doesn’t meet the thresholds. The advantage of using AMP is that you get these web development best practices baked into the framework without added effort on your part.
Keep in mind that for a while now, site speed (not the fact that a site has AMP enabled) has been considered a ranking signal for mobile searches. Simply put, when someone searches on a mobile device, AMP-enabled sites and fast-loading non-AMP sites will rank higher. That’s a key takeaway considering the amount of commerce that takes place on mobile devices.
Another important consideration is that starting May 2021, Core Web Vitals will be included in page experience signals together with existing search signals including mobile-friendliness, safe-browsing, HTTPS-security, and more. This means it’s more important than ever to make sure your eCommerce store or website is meeting these thresholds. More information on this can be found here.
You may be thinking, “what happens if my site doesn’t meet these thresholds?” As with all things Google, there is no published answer to that question, so it remains up in the air as to whether or not sites will be penalized. However, that doesn’t mean you can just ignore them!
The data Google is using to determine the thresholds for CWV is coming from actual user visits to websites, as opposed to visits simulated in a computer lab. That means the thresholds are set based on real-world situations and should be relatively easy to meet.
So how do you get your site to hit the CWV thresholds? It’s a simple question with a complicated answer. Older websites and eCommerce stores probably will need a complete redesign in order to meet the thresholds. Code has evolved over the years to be more lightweight and many older sites are full of old code, scripts, and elements that add to page weight eventually leading to slow page loads.
Older, or poorly written code, not only leads to slow page loads but can also contribute to visual stability issues. When was the last time you were on a website where the page “jumped?” Minutes ago? That particular page would not have a good score for CLS.
One area where we see websites and stores fail speed tests, in addition to bloated code, is with images. Sites that don’t use some form of image compression to reduce the size of images without sacrificing quality, load a lot slower than sites that do.
To see how your website or online store does with CWV use one of the tools mentioned above and check your scores. If you’re not in the thresholds defined, there’s some investigative work that needs to be done in order to determine how the issues could be rectified.
If you’re not sure whether or not your site is meeting the thresholds, or you’re looking for help getting a better score, fill out the contact form below and we’ll schedule a time to review your site and provide our recommendations on how to improve.
In the meantime, Google has put together two pages of frequently asked questions that you can review for more information on CWV:
- Core Web Vitals & Page Experience FAQs (Updated: March 2021)
- Core Web Vitals & Page Experience FAQs (Updated: December 2020)
Scott Sanfilippo began his eCommerce journey in 1994 by co-founding one of the Internet’s first online retailers, TheFerretStore.com, which was acquired by PetCo in 2006. In 2001, he co-founded the eCommerce design and marketing firm Solid Cactus, which was acquired by web.com in 2009. Today, Scott is the General Manager of Your Store Wizards and is part of the Cast that makes happiness at the “Most Magical Place on Earth.” Scott lives in Delray Beach and Orlando, FL. Scott can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.