Four ways to improve page speed and master Core Web Vitals

30-second summary:

  • Websites that rank well on Google tend to have a higher Core Web Vitals score
  • Three core web vitals make up the majority of the site’s overall page speed score
  • Prioritizing user experience in web design and marketing campaigns could give you a competitive edge
  • This comprehensive guide prepares you for the rollout of the new Google Search algorithm update

Google’s latest major update to its search algorithm focuses significantly on the user experience through a new set of ranking factors metrics called Core Web Vitals. Early results from Core Web Vital audits reveal that the average website performs below these new standards. Searchmetrics’ research revealed that, on average, sites could reduce page load time by nearly one second by removing unused JavaScript. This provides a fantastic opportunity to outperform other websites by boosting page rankings. Here is everything you need to know about Core Web Vitals, plus four simple steps to improve your metrics—content created in partnership with Searchmetrics.

What are the Core Web Vitals metrics?

Core Web Vitals extends Google’s page experience signals, including mobile-friendliness and HTTPs. The three Core Web Vitals metrics measure loading performance, interactivity, and visual stability, which Google views as providing an accurate depiction of a real-world user experience.

Web Vitals

  1. Largest Contentful Paint (LCP) measures the loading time of the most prominent image or text block visible within the user’s viewpoint.
  2. First Input Delay (FID) measures the interactivity on the page by calculating the time from when a user first interacts with the site to when the browser responds to that interaction.
  3. Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS) refers to how much the content shifts during page rendering.

How to check your page speed insights

Many online tools check your page ranking score, including PageSpeed Insights, Chrome User Experience Report, Lighthouse Audit, and Search Console. These sites measure page speed in various elements and display the results using a traffic light system. PageSpeed Insights provides a breakdown of the results and highlights areas of improvement.

What does “good” performance mean in numbers?

To provide a good user experience, LCP should occur within 2.5 seconds of when the page first starts loading. Pages should have fewer than 100 milliseconds of FID and maintain a CLS of less than 0.1. Websites like Wikipedia have the highest page speed score due to a lightweight web design approach, mainly text and optimized images. Websites that rely heavily on video content and images are slower to load and have a poor user experience. Therefore, there is a balance to strike between design and user experience.

See where your site ranks. Visit PageSpeed Insights and enter your URL. Note: The top number is your Lighthouse score, also called PageSpeed score, measuring from zero to 100. At the same time, it’s an excellent general benchmark for your site’s performance. It’s not entirely related to the three Core Web Vitals metrics, which should be viewed as an analysis of LCP, FID, and CLS.

How to improve your page speed

Passing is considered a “good” score in all three areas. Making small changes can improve the page speed score by as little as one second, which can shift the site from a “poor” or “needs improvement” score in LCP to a “good” one. Reducing load time will make users happier and increase traffic to the site. Tom Wells, the creative marketing expert at Searchmetrics, says, “Anything that’s not needed on a website shouldn’t be there.” Putting it simply, identifying and removing elements that are not used or have a substantive purpose could improve the site’s page speed score.

1. Oversized images

Poorly optimized images are one of the leading causes affecting a site’s LCP score, as this is usually the most significant element to load. Ecommerce businesses and those who rely heavily on images may have poorer LCP scores due to the page rendering of multiple high-resolution images. Optimizing these assets using responsive design or next-gen image formattings such as WebP, JPEG 2000, and JPEG XR can improve the score by reducing rendering time. Often, images can be condensed to a much smaller size without affecting the quality of the picture. Free resources like Squoosh can do this for you.

2. Dynamic content and ads

Loading ads on a web page is one of the main causes of a bad CLS score. This can be down to elements on the page shifting to accommodate dynamic ads, which makes for a poor user experience. A smart implementation method, such as allocating size attributes or CSS aspect ratio boxes for all ads, videos, and image elements, is one way to reduce content shifting. Some companies may use a plugin or coding at the top of the website to place the ads. However, this could lead to a slower website, impacting the user experience negatively and indirectly affecting rankings. Also, never insert content on top of existing content, except in response to specific user interactions, as this ensures any layout shift that occurs. For example, when you click a CTA button and a form appears is an exception.

3. Plugin-centric web economy

Wells says that plugs can act like “plaster over the cracks” to solve website problems. Despite creating a temporary fix, it can slow down and hinder web performance as all the code needs to load before the user can interact fully with the webpage. Using plugins can increase server request counts and increase javascript execution time. All these factors can lower the site’s FID score. “Often we look for advanced fixes and solutions, but sometimes it’s as simple as deleting what’s unnecessary,” says Wells. Therefore, removing some plugins, especially unused ones, can improve the reactivity and speed of the website.

4. Too much code

Google advises focusing on the overall website performance. “Responsive and well-scored websites must be as lightweight as possible,” says Wells. “The more things a server has to load, the slower that load time will be overall.” While unused CSS and JavaScript may not directly impact the page speed score, they can still affect the site’s load times, create code bloat, and negatively impact user experience.

When should I start?

Google’s rollout of the new algorithm began in mid-June, so it’s worth getting a start on reviewing how well your site scores on page speed tests. Websites that rank well tend to have higher Core Web Vitals scores, and this trend is set to continue as Google places greater emphasis on user experience.

Tyson Houlding
I’m a lifestyle blogger with a passion for writing, photography, and exploring new places. I started this blog when I was 18 years old to share what I was learning about the world with family and friends. I’ve since grown into a freelance writer, blogger, and photographer with a growing audience. I hope you find inspiration and motivation while reading through my work!