With the ever-evolving digital landscape, it is important to stay up to date with new metrics that could potentially impact your SEO.

Here, we investigate Google’s Core Web Vitals update due to take place in March 2024 and explain what it is, if the changes could influence SEO, and how you can navigate the year ahead with effective technical SEO strategies.

What Are Core Web Vitals?

In May 2020, as part of Google’s ongoing initiative to improve user experience, they introduced a set of standardised, user-centric metrics known as the ‘Core Web Vitals’ which were designed to transform how website performances are measured. These focus on three main user-centric performance metrics to provide a holistic view of a website’s user experience;

Largest Contentful Paint (LCP)

Largest Contentful Paint, also known as “LCP” measures loading speed, so how long it takes for the biggest content element on a page to load which in order to deliver a good user experience should be less than 2.5 seconds.

First Input Delay (FID)

FID measures interactivity, how long it takes for the browser to respond to the user’s first page interaction such as a tap or a click. This response should be less than 100 milliseconds to deliver a good user experience.

Cumulative Layout Shifts (CLS)

CLS measures visual stability which is how much the page’s layout shifts as it loads and for a good user experience this should be less than 0.1.

By analysing these metrics, website owners are able to easily identify areas that require improvements and can take practical steps to enhance the performance of their site to create a better user experience.

Why Are Core Web Vitals Important?

Core Web Vitals are a crucial part of optimising a website’s performance and improving them can go a long way to attracting more traffic and increasing conversions. Here are just some of the many reasons why Core Web Vitals are so important;

Optimising Core Web Vitals helps to provide smoother interactions, faster loading times and more visually stable browsing for an enhanced user experience that directly contributes to improved user satisfaction and engagement.

Because Core Web Vitals are incorporated by Google as a ranking factor, websites with better scores are more likely to have higher visibility in Google search and therefore attract more organic traffic.

Websites with optimised Core Web Vitals generate more pageviews and are able to better convince visitors to advance their user journey. This means that optimised sites have increased opportunities to monetise effectively, whether it’s an ‘add to cart’ or newsletter subscription.

Websites that are optimised for Core Web Vitals can result in a significant boost in both conversions and revenue. This is achieved by positively impacting their user’s behaviour through quicker loading times and a seamless user experience. These optimised sites are more likely to have lower bounce rates, higher rates of engagement and increased conversions which improve their business outcomes.

Core Web Vital optimisation can greatly improve user retention by helping to remove performance barriers and create a seamless conversion process. Websites with a positive loading experience can benefit from increased time spent on site as users are more likely to explore more content and stay on longer as well as return in the future.

How Do Google’s Core Web Vitals Impact SEO?

Whilst high-quality content is still deemed as the most important ranking factor, there is no doubt that having good Core Web Vitals can also contribute to this, as well as helping to improve the user experience when they visit the site.

In addition to the tactical impacts on SEO, integrating Core Web Vitals into the Google ranking algorithm has resulted in a substantial shift in SEO strategies. This means that more than ever, content creators, developers and site owners are prioritising user experience, visual stability and loading speeds alongside keyword optimisation and quality content, to ensure that their sites rank well.

To put it simply, having good Core Web Vitals is about more than SEO. It’s about making sure that not only will Google love your website, but that your visitors will too.

Source: Backlinko.com

What is the Core Web Vitals March 2024 Update?

Core Web Vitals are constantly changing and evolving but on 12th March 2024, there is an update that site owners, businesses, and developers need to be aware of so that they can prepare and adapt their optimisation strategy accordingly.

This update will see First Input Delay (FID) being replaced by Interaction to Next Paint (INP). The reason for this is that FID only focuses on the first user interaction delay, meaning that it doesn’t provide a sufficient or comprehensive understanding of the visitor’s whole website experience. INP however is able to consider the website’s overall interactivity, factoring in subsequent actions the user has beyond any initial delay. This means that it can better support the holistic evaluation of a website’s performance throughout the user’s entire visit.

The INP metric will assess the overall responsiveness of a page to the interactions of the users and give it a score, counting interactions such as;

  • Mouse clicks
  • Tapping on a device with a touchscreen
  • Physically pressing a key on a screen or keyboard

Scrolling and hovering will not factor into INP.

With interaction metrics such as INP, it is difficult to define what would be classified as a good or bad score, but anything up to 200 milliseconds means that the page shows good responsiveness.

How Can I Prepare for the Core Web Vitals Update?

A good place to start is to get an idea of how your website is performing in terms of its current Core Web Vitals. You can place your site URL here, PageSpeed Insights and it will provide you with a score of passed, needs improvement, or failed as well as an overall performance rating out of 100 and diagnostic details to help identify where any issues lie.

The update from FID to INP will likely require most websites to adapt some of their optimisation strategies, including things like;

  • Reducing delay by focusing on interactivity as a whole. This might mean streamlining rendering processes, optimising server response times, or minimising JavaScript execution.
  • Improve client-side performance and INP by optimising JavaScript code, compressing images, and leveraging browser caching.
  • Evaluate third-party services that may be affecting interactivity and consider removing those that hinder responsiveness and cause delays.

Looking into cache storage, lazing loading, and service workers to leverage browser features and APIs can help to improve overall performance and INP.