Earlier this year, Google released a set of user experience and performance metrics that would be rolled out as a ranking factor in 2021. Known as Core Web Vitals, these metrics centre on when certain events complete, including what is interactive or visually affected as these events take place, while pages load until a point of stability relative to user experience.

Since then, a lot has been written about Core Web Vitals and Google’s Page Experience update, which is due next year. Many in the SEO community have requested more information from Google about things like site architectures and AMP, while others simply want to know whether their site will be affected.

In light of this, Google has published a comprehensive FAQ page that covers Core Web Vitals and the Page Experience update in greater detail. Here are the most important questions and answers.

Q: What are the metrics? Why are they relevant to users?

As Google explains: “User-centric metrics are a critical tool in understanding, measuring and improving the user experience of your website. Largest Contentful Paint measures how quickly users see content. First Input Delay measures how responsive a site is to user input like tapping a button or entering data in a form. Cumulative Layout Shift measures how often elements of the page move around while the user is trying to read or interact with it.

We recommend that websites use these three thresholds as a guidepost for optimal user experience across all pages.”

Q: If I built AMP pages, do they meet the recommended thresholds?

Another hot SEO topic of 2020 has been AMP – the open-source HTML framework that is used to create fast-loading mobile web pages. Google announced that it will no longer require AMP for the mobile version of its Top Stories section in search.

While this forced many to reassess the way they publish content, it seems as though AMP could be extremely beneficial when it comes to the upcoming Page Experience update:

“There is a high likelihood that AMP pages will meet the thresholds. AMP is about delivering high quality, user-first experiences; its initial design goals are closely aligned with what Core Web Vitals measure today. This means that sites built using AMP likely can easily meet Web Vitals thresholds. Furthermore, AMP’s evergreen release enables site owners to get these performance improvements without having to change their codebase or invest in additional resources.”

Q: Why are there differences in scores between mobile and desktop?

At this moment in time, using page experience as a signal for ranking only applies to mobile search. However, you may still find that your scores differ between mobile and desktop when measuring Core Web Vitals using an RUM (Real User Monitoring) tool.

“While the technology used to create the site may be similar, real users of the two versions will have different constraints such as device, viewport size, network connectivity and more,” Google says.

Q: Do Core Web Vitals impact ranking?

Core Web vitals will be included in page experience signals together with existing search signals including mobile-friendliness, safe-browsing, HTTPS-security, and intrusive interstitial guidelines from May 2021 onwards.

Even so, Google said that, “page experience is just one of many signals that are used to rank pages. Keep in mind that intent of the search query is still a very strong signal, so a page with a subpar page experience may still rank highly if it has great, relevant content.”

Q: What can site owners expect to happen to their traffic if they don’t hit Core Web Vitals performance metrics?

Google is hesitant to answer this one, or even give a prediction. However, it does hint at providing more information in the future when the changes actually come into effect. It finishes by saying that the content itself and its match to the kind of information a user is seeking remains a very strong signal.

Q: How do I improve my LCP/CLS/FID score?

Recommendations on how to improve your Core Web Vitals metrics are widely available from Google’s web.dev site. However, improvements will typically require web development knowledge. Non-technical users should look at suggestions in Google’s Search Console Help Center.

The importance of Core Web Vitals and Page Experience

From this FAQ page, it’s clear Google wants site owners to focus on mobile user experience. So for businesses in competitive industries where quality content has always taken precedence, user experience should now be a priority.