Prepare Your Website for Google’s Core Web Vitals SEO Update
What is this Google Core Web Vitals Update you speak about and why should I care?
You may not know this, but way back in May 22, 2017, Google started rolling out a new update called “Core Web Vitals“. This update basically takes your site’s success metrics(mostly webpage load speed & mobile usability) and compares them against other sites in your industry to see how you’re doing. It’s important because if you are lagging behind in any of these areas- especially load time – to Google, it is going to look like you don’t care about your website user experience. In Google’s eyes, it is important that your web pages load quickly and display well on Mobile devices, such as the smartphones we all use every day.
Websites that score well in Core Web Vitals will have better SEO rankings and those that score poorly will lose organic search traffic.
How do I find out my Core Web Vitals scores?
Google has provided several tools to view your sites scores and the first one to start with is Pagespeed Insights:
As shown in the core web vitals Pagespeed Insights report screenshot above, we are striving to get a score in the 90s(Green). For most websites, an increase in score will be achieved by optimizing image sizes, but as we mentioned in our Managed WordPress Hosting post, some web hosts will be slower than others. First Contentful Paint (FCP) is more a reflection of your hosting server response time than anything you manipulate directly with code or other optimizations we mention below.
As you go through the “Opportunity” details, you may see suggestions such as this to reduce/compress image sizes.
You will probably see another “Opportunity” about Lazy Loading images such as this:
How Do I Improve My Core Web Vitals Scores?
There are different ways to achieve these opportunities to speed up your website and increase your core web vitals report scores.
The first and easiest way is to reduce image sizes before you upload them to your website. We use a program called ImageOptim to compress images after we manually reduce the size using the built-in Mac Preview program. Most of us don’t need 5000px wide images on our websites and reducing to 2000px or 1400px will reduce the size immensely.
There are also WordPress plugins/services such Imagify that can automatically reduce and compress image sizes when you upload them to your website. These are just a few suggestions and you are free to use whichever services or plugins you are comfortable with.
In addition, if you over-optimize your website images, they can look grainy or blurry. Make sure you clear your browser cache and check the website after making changes.
Also, after making changes to your website, be sure to clear your site cache if you have it and wait at least 5-10 minutes before testing again.
There are other things to look out for in this report such as RED scores in LCP, FID, and CLS. You can read more about these here on the Google Web Developer site: https://web.dev/vitals/
A bad score for Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS) might mean your mobile layout needs improving.
We have noticed non-consistent results with PageSpeed Insights on occasion, so we also like to use https://www.webpagetest.org/ to test website speeds and it seems to be more consistent. They have added a Web Vitals section to their test reports. The test below was done using Chrome & 4G LTE in the test settings because we want to see results typical for smartphones.
What else can I do to prepare for Core Web Vitals Update?
If you don’t have your site set up in Google Search Console, you really need to make this a priority(along with Google Analytics).
Search Console provides insights on how Google “sees” your website along with providing some search data.
While there is a lot of info to be gaines in Google Search Comsole, for t purpose of Core Vitals we will only focus about the 3 modules in the Experience section. Take a look at the screen shots below:
If any of these issues, you (or your web developer) need to address them.
Some popular WordPress caching plugins include: WP Fastest Cache, WP Super Cache, WP Rocket, Perfmatters, and our current favorite is Nitropack.
We also use some of the paid features that Cloudflare offers.
Other things that can affect website speed are poorly coded themes and plugins, or in some cases too many active plugins.
If any or all of this seems too techy for you, don’t worry as no one expects you to be a web and SEO expert while simultaneously running your business.
But if you don’t address these issues, your website and hence your business could start suffering from a decrease in organic search traffic. Google had already started rolling this update out and it looks like it will be in full effect come August 2021. Don’t let your competitors get the jump on you and as always contact us if you need help with any of this.