Despite the fact Google makes hundreds of changes to its algorithm every year, not all of them are announced. But that wasn’t the case for Core Web Vitals, which is set to change the face of SEO from 2021 onwards.

But what are Core Web Vitals? How is it going to change the rankings and what do you need to do about it?

What are Core Web Vitals?

Core Web Vitals are real-world experience metrics that refer to things like how fast a page loads and how stable a website is.

They work in parallel with ‘Page Experience’ metrics, which include mobile friendliness, HTTPS and intrusive interstitials.

In essence, Core Web Vitals are less about traditional ranking signals such as text on a page and more about user experience.

There are three main signals that go into Core Web Vitals:

  • Largest contentful paint (LCP) – This is basically how fast a page loads. It is influenced by render time, image and video sizes, and text in the viewport i.e. whether it’s a desktop or mobile page.
  • Cumulative layout shift (CLS) – How fast is the page stable. For example, loading a page on mobile and going to click a button only for it to shift at the last second. Google considers this a poor user experience.
  • First input delay (FID) – How fast is the page interactive. In other words, when a user clicks on something, how fast can the browser start to process that and produce a result. Speed is of the essence once again.

How will Core Web Vitals affect you?

It’s important to bear in mind that the impact of any one signal against a backdrop of hundreds is typically not that great. However, websites that are particularly poor at these metrics will suffer according to Cyrus Shepard, founder at Zyppy.

“If you’re in a highly competitive environment, competing against people for highly competitive terms, these can make a difference,” he says. “So it probably is not going to be huge based on past experience with other ranking signals, but it is still something that we might want to address especially if you’re doing pretty poorly.”

Another thing to consider is that Google signals have outsized impact beyond their ranking factors – Google’s own studies show that for pages that meet these thresholds of Core Web Vitals, visitors are 24 per cent less likely to abandon the site.

Even now before Core Web Vitals have come into force, the things they’re evaluating are still important because they provide a better user experience.

What do you need to do about Core Web Vitals?

Google has made it very simple to discover how you’re performing with Core Web Vitals, as well as how to fix those issues. First of all, look in Search Console and you’ll see a new Core Web Vitals report that details which URLs are poor, need improvement or good.

Every report in Search Consoles links to a report in Page Speed Insights too, which will help diagnose any problems with Core Web Vitals.