The June 2021 Google algorithm update includes Page Experience, a new factor that ranks websites based on select evaluative user experience criteria.
Within Page Experience, ranking signals dubbed “Google Core Web Vitals” primarily focus on web page loading speed, interactivity, and visual stability. How well or poorly your B2B website design performs within these areas does more than reflect your site’s user experience. Core Web Vitals ultimately influence your site’s overall Google search engine ranking.
The broad core algorithm updates a substantial search ranking change in pursuit of what some are calling “a better web.” It’s also a call to action for marketers within B2B companies to understand the basics of Core Web Vitals and leverage them to maintain — and grow — their competitive advantage.
The 3 Aspects of Google Core Web Vitals
Within its Page Experience, Google has attributed three specific user experience factors to its Core Web Vitals: page loading, interactivity, and visual stability.
In “Google speak,” these areas are known respectively as Largest Contentful Paint (LCP), First Input Delay (FID), and Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS):
Source: Super Monitoring
Largest Contentful Paint, or Page Loading, measures the perceived load speed of the main site content. Staying at or under 2.5 seconds is considered the sweet spot. Tick up just a bit to 4.0 seconds and you’re setting yourself up for high bounce rates — especially on mobile sites, where prolonged loading increases bounce rates by 123%.1
Source: Super Monitoring
First Input Delay (FID), or Interactivity, measures the time between the moment a user first engages with a web page by click, tap, or similar activity to when the browser starts processing that interaction. At 100 ms, it appears and feels instantaneous. However, at 300 ms, the lag is noticeable enough to potentially trigger bounce.
Source: Super Monitoring
Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS), or Visual Stability, measures unanticipated shifts of visual content layouts. Ideally, 0.1 or less is the goal. Anything hovering around or over 0.25 will cause some disruption or, at the very least, user frustration.
How to Measure Core Web Vitals
Meeting Core Web Vital metrics requires diligence and some really great online measurement tools, such as:
- Page Speed Insights (known in the Chrome web browser as Lighthouse): Comprehensive and easy to use, this may be the only tool you’ll need to analyze web page content and gain insights into ways to make pages faster
- Pingdom Website Speed Test: Cost-effective and reliable uptime and performance monitoring for your website that measures page load speeds and identifies possible performance impediments
- GTMetrix: See how your site performs, reveal why it's slow, and discover optimization opportunities
These tools are easily accessible, but using them requires being mindful of a few things that could impact the outcome:
- There are outside influences. If the internet is particularly busy, servers are down or bottlenecked, or the distance between your site’s server and the test server is substantial, online tool numbers will fluctuate. To maintain accurate data, tracking numbers over time is imperative.
- Don’t take one online tool’s results as absolute truth. Online tools can be a bit fickle, and could inaccurately report issues. Use multiple tools to test and verify results.
- Power Lighthouse accordingly. Lighthouse uses your internet connection and computer versus a server. Your results are likely better if using a desktop computer with a fast internet connection instead of an older smartphone with a 3G connection. Apply that logic to effective B2B website design. Make your website fast for all real-world visitors, not just those with the most current technology.
RELATED: Boost Your Site Performance Using These 15 Website Grader Checks
Fast Fixes for Your B2B Website Design
There are a number of Google resources with ways to improve vitals. Instead of tackling every suggestion right away, prioritize these four critical web design fixes:
- Optimize images and video. If improperly formatted, a tiny image on your site could require a multiple-megabyte image to download. Using the correct image size and compression is non-negotiable. The same holds true for video.
- Lazy load below the fold images. Images below the fold can take their time loading; hence the term “lazy load.” Forcing these lesser important images to load at regular speed curtails the start of user engagement with your site. Lazy load waits until the user scrolls to the point of needing to see the image to load it.
- Preload key elements. Hero images and web fonts are important items for LCP. Set the preload so the browser loads these key elements as soon as possible.
It wasn’t that long ago when B2B websites were thought to be the cost of market entry for promoting any product or service. The evolution of sales and marketing has made websites powerful and proactive tools that are central to lead generation and comprehensive inbound programs.
The launch of Google Core Web Vitals underscores the importance of website performance and search results, as do the tips you’ll find in 10 Key Elements of an Inbound Website. Don’t miss this informative checklist!
1Search Engine Watch, Google Page Experience update is all set to launch in May 2021 - Webmasters, hang in there!, November 10, 2020