Why does speed matter in digital marketing? Users who experience faster rendering times are more likely to stay on the page and browse around. This, in turn, can positively impact your overall SERP rankings. Moreover, the time it takes for a web page to render the first display area is becoming increasingly more interesting to search engines. In fact, almost half of all Google ranking factors are directly related to improving the user experience. Search engines are known for emphasizing certain ranking factors, including several aspects of loading, known as core web vitals (CWV). Apart from having a direct impact on rankings, your page experience is also likely to influence how engaged users will be while browsing your content and how likely they will return to it.
Three Components of Core Web Vitals
Google’s algorithms are continually changing to promote high-quality, user-friendly sites and demote those that don’t meet their quality standards. One part of these algorithms is the core web vitals, which play an important role in the recent rollout of a wide range of updates. Google’s objective with CWV is to encourage developers to focus more on user experience when optimizing their site’s performance.
Largest Contentful Paint, First Input Delay, Cumulative Layout Shift — these are the three components of core web vitals.
- Largest Contentful Paint — The largest contentful paint (LCP) is an important criterion because the visual perception of a website is greatly affected by the loading speed of the largest element of the screen. The time between DOM content loaded and the moment the user sees something on their screen – a large image or a block of text – is the CPL or contentful paint latency. It is essentially the time that elapses between a user’s click (for instance, to load a page) and the moment they see some kind of content. If your contentful paint takes over 4 seconds, it could negatively affect your SEO score.
- First Input Delay — The first input delay is how long a page responds to your input after you click on something. The FID is usually measured in milliseconds (ms). For example, when a user clicks on a site element and waits for the screen to update with new information, the browser processes this action and delivers a result. The shorter the FID, the quicker users can start navigating your page, where you can keep them for a more extended time and increase your conversions. Google clarified that it would tolerate a first input delay of 100ms for an excellent score and 300ms for a poor score.
- Cumulative Layout Shift — Have you ever been scrolling down a page and suddenly noticed a large chunk of the page shift up as you scrolled? Cumulative layout shift (CLS) is when content moves around the page after it’s been painted. The result is that your user has to comprehend and reparse the content of your page, especially if there is a lot of text. A sufficient cumulative layout shift score is under 0.1, and a poor is under 0.25.
How to Measure Core Web Vitals on WordPress Sites?
To optimize your core web vitals for WordPress websites and ensure that your website is running at a maximum efficiency level, it’s essential to have all the necessary tools in place for monitoring, tracking, and analyzing the important data points.
Google Search Console
After measuring the actual user data, Search Console generates CWV reports with the number of pages where the issues were found separately for the desktop and mobile versions of the website. It covers the URL performance based on its status (Poor, Need Improvement, Good), core web vitals (CLS, FID, LCP), and groups of similar pages. It is also important to note that if a URL does not have enough reporting data for a particular metric, it will not be included in the report.
At the same time, PageSpeed Insights lets you view your site from the perspective of Google crawlers and users, providing an analysis of your page’s issues and offering suggestions for improving the performance. The report allows you to understand better which resources contribute to increased load times. You’ll also get a report that provides key insights into the page and lets you know how to make the necessary changes.
Along with the tools mentioned above, Website Audit by SE Ranking also offers a core web vitals section separately for desktop and mobile versions. This tool may be even more informative for SEO specialists, as it detects any possible technical issues your website may have. Based on the audit results, the tool provides the website’s overall health score and a list of problems impacting its performance with detailed descriptions and tips on how to solve them.
The Most Common Core Web Vitals Issues and How to Fix Them
1- The server is too slow
It’s important to remember that not all WordPress websites are created equal. This can lead to some websites performing slower than others with identical setups. The reason for this is that many factors can affect the server’s speed: the number of plugins you’ve installed, the amount of scripting and CSS, server location, etc.
However, there are hostings optimized specifically for WordPress websites. They usually have a faster loading speed due to caching software and can handle many visitors. Such hosting can manage many technical issues and has many pre-installed plugins. So you can just create one or multiple websites and let the WP hosting do all the technical stuff for you.
2- Large images and videos
When you’re working on a website, and it comes time to run a core web vitals test, you’ll probably see some issues related to images and videos. The underlying cause of slow page speed is images and videos weighing too much. The age-old cliché question of “how many megabytes is too much” has certainly come up of late in the world of core web vitals. More specifically, the question of how you should go about optimizing your site’s use of images, video, and other large files has arisen.
The rule of thumb is to have one primary image and video size, then include the width and height attributes in your images and video elements. It is often better to customize your images to a specific width before uploading them and create a new image element that cuts off specific areas like backgrounds, unnecessary text, etc. There are many free image editing applications online that allow you to crop and resize photos. The issue with displaying larger images is the larger download size and bandwidth it can take to display them.
The same applies to videos – pre-customizing the video can significantly improve page speed as no shrinking will be needed by the browser – the video can be played in normal-sized dimensions. Moreover, since native videos are heavy, you can replace them with Youtube embeds, which speed up the site quite a bit.
Using lazy loading is another great way to improve page speed without compromising the user experience. Lazy loading is a technique of loading images only when they enter the viewport (or screen section). This approach causes images to load progressively as you scroll, increasing page speed. The best part? It’s elementary to implement using WordPress lazy-loading plugins like Lazy Load. This will significantly improve user experience. Users don’t have to wait for the page to load. After a few scrolls, the images will load on their own.
3- Non-optimized code
4- Layout shifts
A layout shift is a phenomenon that occurs when your visitor’s browser window gets resized. And elements of your website, such as images, fonts, and colors, loosen up or change positions. This makes it hard for readers to focus on what you’re trying to present. Layout Shift Score is a score that tracks how much your site is affected by layout changes across devices. It’s a pretty big deal when talking about viewports. Because if your designs shift too much, you could lose visitors and conversions. Minimizing layout shifts and optimizing them as much as possible will lead to less churn and, ultimately, more page views.
Furthermore, significant layout shifts may negatively affect your SEO efforts. However, designing a large layout can be difficult to maintain. This is because unless you’ve specifically designed the site with a responsive design. So, the layout needs to be adjusted to fit all devices. Having to do this on a regular basis can be time-consuming. It requires persistence and consistency to be successful without compromising quality or functionality. That’s why the best solution is to make your website’s design responsive. Responsive screens resize according to the screen size they are viewed on. Implementing responsive screens means that your website will adjust without slowing down or crashing.
5- Caching issue
Different caching policies are used for different resources when building a web resource. Caching policies define how each resource will be cached and provide information on how long the resources should be cached. You need to set these policies up. So that web resources can be reused without having to create them from scratch every time users access them. To improve performance, it’s important to ensure your servers aren’t wasting time creating resources that have already been created. With the help of server-side script technology,you can take advantage of this policy. Make sure that vital resources are never recreated unless something has changed in them.
Signed exchange (SXG) is a new initiative that enables content to be prefetched from the web in a privacy-preserving manner. A signed exchange contains a specification for which resources a website wishes to prefetch. Also, ensure that those resources are fetched safely (without revealing private information). The signed exchange binary format is an asset transfer format. It means the content will be transferred over HTTPS with an additional header attached. This is an exciting new way of enabling Google Search to improve page load performance. Especially on AMP pages or any other type of page that relies on external resources.
Core Web Vitals are three metrics developed by Google that score a user’s experience loading a webpage. The three core web vitals are critical in understanding how fast a page loads. How responsive the browser is to users’ inputs, and how unstable the content is as it loads in the browser. Slow loading times affect whether or not visitors will stay on your site. They could leave altogether or spend less time engaging with your content on the site.
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