Inside Google’s Core Web Vitals

graphic showing screen and graph, data

A Q&A with Alexander Azarov, CEO and Founder, Clickio

How usable is your website? That’s a question everyone should be asking of themselves and their web presence regularly. Fortunately, the answer is easier to obtain than ever before, thanks to Google’s Core Web Vitals. Clickio’s CEO, Alexander Azarov explains.

Q: What are Google’s Core Web Vitals?

Advertisers are aware that driving consumer engagement increasingly requires more than maximum relevance; experience quality must also be exceptional. Through Core Web Vitals (CWVs), Google ensures this rule applies across the board by using experience-based metrics as the deciding factor in how digital content is ranked.

Since May 2021, its algorithms have started to assess mobile sites against additional user-centric metrics, looking beyond purely delivering accurate matches for search queries. Specifically, this includes three key measures considered essential to a good online experience.

First Input Delay (FID) and Largest Contentful Paint (LCP) are primarily about speed. FID tracks how long sites take to fulfill initial user interaction requests — such as clicks on links — and LCP monitors the time taken to load the biggest element on a page. Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS) evaluates stability in terms of disruption: the fewer unplanned structural moves occurring as pages render, the better.

Q: What are You Seeing in Terms of Compliance?

Meeting this new bar is becoming more of a priority for site owners, especially with the desktop rollout kicking off in February. According to an analysis of Chrome’s user experience report and Similar Web traffic data, global compliance averages have risen rapidly; jumping from 19% to 30%.

Moreover, swift responsiveness has enabled publishers to sustain strong FID adherence, while CLS rates have reached an encouraging 71%. That said, there are still many areas of low performance. For example, less than half are loading large content quickly enough to hit the 2.5-second LCP limit — and the top 1,000 sites fall consistently behind the pack.

When it comes to premium publishers, much of the reason behind this slow progress is due to their advanced monetisation approaches. Although the sizeable advertising appeal of media giants gives them more room to harness options such as auto-refreshes and multi-side ads, these sophisticated setups can cause issues without careful management.

This may also explain why sites in advanced markets, such as the United States, trail their European counterparts on compliance. Clearly, there is a need to better balance revenue generation efforts with user requirements to deliver the best mutual outcomes.

Q: What Issues Does Non-Compliance with CWVs Lead to, and How Can Publishers Continue to Meet These Benchmarks?

The obvious consequence of non-compliance is a reduced online standing. Failing to align with these key metrics will see sites slip down in search outputs; negatively impacting their organic traffic and ability to offer wide reach for advertisers.

This, in turn, hurts revenues. It’s also crucial to remember the main purpose of CWVs: to ensure optimum user experiences. If a publisher is non-compliant, it, therefore, signals that the quality of their site isn’t up to scratch, risking user frustration, poor engagement, and hampering relationships and long-term success.

Boosting their scores and share of audience attention will call for smarter strategies that focus on constant monitoring and optimisation. For example, removing heavy site assets that provide little value — such as unnecessary backup fonts, hero images and third-party scripts — will enhance render time and minimise layout shifts. Similarly, adopting lazy loading will only display weighty elements on a need-to-load basis as users scroll, fuelling speed.

Alongside this, consistent tracking provides publishers with an evolving view of their site performance so they can fine-tune as needed. Google already offers some tools to facilitate deeper measurement — such as Page Insights and Search Console — but there is a range of emerging solutions that are worth exploring. For example, we recently launched Core Web Vitals Monitoring to offer a real-time assessment of CWV ratings and immediately flag any underperforming areas.

Q: What are Your Predictions for 2022?

From the CWV perspective, broader implementation will see brands and publishers alike continue to improve when it comes to experience. Extending and putting analysis into action is set to be an integral part of this, with lessons from the past 18 months used to inform targeted activity.

On the advertising front, for example, the realisation that convoluted setups are affecting leading publisher scores will prompt further refinements, such as proactive reservation of ad space and tighter rules on where ad space can be based — chiefly below the fold.

As persistent performance analysis becomes more common, we can also expect 2022 to bring greater emphasis on testing. Publishers will not only be keeping a careful watch on how their sites fare on CWV measures but also looking at the effect of different vendors on compliance.

Tech choices will therefore increasingly be influenced by both the capabilities of platforms and whether they support the goal of delivering a great user experience. Or in other words: experience is set to be the new main measure for the ecosystem at large.