Core Web Vitals 2021

What’s happening?

Google is trying to improve the experience for everyone by enforcing the need for speed and a good experience. They’ve already been ranking fast-loading sites above slow ones, but this is a bigger push towards a better overall experience.

This update will cover all sites in the Search pages, but also, those optimising for News results will no longer be required to use AMP, as their websites should be faster by this point anyway.

It’s not likely to affect the ranking of a website too much if you’re doing everything else well, but it’s definitely worth optimising for when you need that extra push to get onto page one, or above your biggest competitor. Google says that “on average, visitors are 24% less likely to abandon the site when it has optimised for these metrics”. That’s quite a lot of traffic to keep!

Action needed

Fast loading times (Largest Contentful Paint)

Try to work on reducing the time it takes to load the page. Use Google’s Pagespeed Insights or the friendlier GTmetrix to work out which areas need optimising. Usually, you’ll find that compressing images will work wonders, and if you’re using WordPress, adding the Optimole plugin is a godsend.

Stability speed (Cumulative Shift Layout)

Google will be measuring how quickly everything is loaded and in place. It wants to make sure that when someone is using a website on a phone and they make a decision to press a button or link etc. fairly quickly, those elements won’t move when they try to do so; unexpected layout shifts.

Working on the speed of the page as a whole should work towards this very well, but if you can, try to fix elements in place such as adding fixed dimensions for images and other large elements — carousels particularly suffer from this when the content size differs between slides.

Interactivity speed (First Input Delay)

How quickly does the website respond to a user’s action? When someone clicks through to another page, or something happens on the same page, the intended action will need to be quick.

Bloated websites are common when plugins are added carelessly, and this could slow pages down by trying to load too much behind the scenes.

A large number of WordPress plugins aren’t coded with speed in mind, so removing those that are unnecessary should cut this down.

Beyond that, it’s likely that you’ll need a freelancer or an agency to really make any headway because coding knowledge will be needed to refine files that use JavaScript and third party files.

Measuring the points above

As I have previously mentioned, Pagespeed Insights and GTmetrix will help to show what needs fixing, but Google have also added the information to Search Console. If you haven’t used this yet, then you really should.

Search Console’s Performance page shows how well your site is doing on the Google Search pages

If you use a freelancer or an agency then they should have already set this up. If they haven’t, then you’ll want to know why. It’s used to fetch a variety of important information straight from Google, such as traffic numbers, the keywords visitors used to reach your site, submitting a full list of pages to make it easier for Google to list in search results, and much more.

Most importantly, it will alert you to any issues and the new Core Web Vitals section is where all of the 2021 update’s information will be.

Within this section will be a list of pages and a grade of ‘Poor’, ’Needs improvement’, and ‘Good’, so you can see exactly which pages need work.

However, even without setting up Search Console, Pagespeed will instantly show you what needs fixing. Just be warned, you may need a professional web developer (not Dave’s mate who makes websites on the side) to tell you what they mean.

You’ll find out how to do most of these tasks in my DIY step-by-step videos. This is a hugely technical subject though, so you may not be able to do everything yourself without someone’s help.

Final word

In August 2020, Screaming Frog (the technical SEO tool) reported that if this would be implemented straight away then only 12-13% of websites would be good enough. So, if you’re finding it hard to not only deal with the information but also implement it, then you’re not alone.

However, this will be taken seriously by Google, and to use a great cliché, it’s for the greater good — everyone will benefit from an improved experience.

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