What Are Google Core Web Vitals?

Heard about this new Google Core Web Vitals project but not sure how it connects to your WordPress site? Or maybe you have no idea what the Core Web Vitals project is and why it matters for WordPress?

Either way, this post is going to cover everything you need to know about Core Web Vitals and WordPress. We’ll tell you what they are, how to test them, and how to improve your site’s scores to create a better user experience and maybe even boost your search rankings in 2021 and beyond.

What Are Google Core Web Vitals?

Core Web Vitals are a new initiative from Google designed to measure and improve user experience on the web. Instead of focusing on generic metrics like how long it takes your entire website to load, Core Web Vitals focus on how your WordPress site’s performance connects to delivering a high-quality user experience.

Users care about how fast they can start interacting with a page. That’s precisely what the Core Web Vitals metrics aim to measure.

Currently, there are three Core Web Vitals: Largest Contentful Paint (loading performance), Cumulative Layout Shift (visual stability), and First Input Delay (interactivity).

According to Google, these metrics are the most important ones for providing a great user experience.

If you think that these names are confusing, and if you tend to mix one metric with another, don’t worry! We’ll explain each metric in the easiest way. We want you to understand what each Core Web Vital means and its impact on user experience.

It’s the first step for improving the scores and your overall SEO and WordPress performance.

Explaining Largest Contentful Paint (LCP)

Largest Contentful Paint

Largest Contentful Paint (LCP) measures how long it takes for the most meaningful content on your site to load – that’s usually your site’s hero section or featured image.

According to Google, how long it takes for a page’s main content to load affects how quickly users perceive your site to load.

Practical example: you land on a page and don’t see the top image fully displayed right away. You would be annoyed, right? You would even think about leaving the page right away. Here’s why the Largest Contentful Paint metric is closely related to user experience — more than the overall site’s loading time.

The LCP “element” is different for each site, and it’s also different between the mobile and desktop versions of your site. Sometimes the LCP element could be an image, while other times, it could just be text. You’ll get a clear example in the section on how to test and measure Core Web Vitals.

If you’re wondering what a good LCP time is, here are Google’s thresholds:

  • Good – Less than or equal to 2.5 seconds
  • Needs Improvement – Less than or equal to 4.0 seconds
  • Poor – More than 4.0 seconds.

On a side note: LCP is very similar to First Contentful Paint (FCP), another metric included in PageSpeed Insights.

The key difference is that LCP measures when the “main” content loads. FCP is focused on just when the “first” content loads — which could be a splash screen or loading indicator, that’s a less relevant user-experience element.

Explaining Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS)

Cumulative Layout Shift

The Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS) measures how much your site’s content “shifts” or “moves around” as it loads.

Practical example: you’re about to click on a link or CTA, and you can’t do it because your content has just gone down after being loaded. You have a terrible user experience, and that’s a layout shift. The same goes when you accidentally click the wrong button because the late-loading content caused a button to shift.

Or, have you ever been on a news website where the content in the article keeps shifting around as the site loads ads, and you are unable to keep reading? That’s a layout shift, too.

You can see from yourself how the cumulative layout shift is super annoying for users and how they will have a poor experience.

Here’s how Google defines the CLS scores:

  • Good – Less than or equal to 0.1 seconds
  • Needs Improvement – Less than or equal to 0.25 seconds
  • Poor – More than 0.25 seconds.

Explaining First Input Delay (FID)

First Input Delay

First Input Delay (FID) measures the time between when a user interacts with something on your page (e.g., clicking a button or a link) and when their browser can begin processing that event.

Practical example: if you click on a button to expand an accordion section, how long does it take for your site to respond to that and show the content?

First Input Delay is probably the most complicated metric to understand and optimize for, also because it’s heavily affected by JavaScript.

Let’s say that you land on a site from mobile and click on a link, but you don’t get an immediate response. It could be because your phone is busy processing a large JavaScript file from that site.

Here’s how Google defines FID scores:

  • Good – Less than or equal to 100 ms
  • Needs Improvement – Less than or equal to 300 ms
  • Poor – More than 300 ms.

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