Google’s Core Web Vitals show that website speed and user experience are intertwined.
Users will leave your site if a webpage takes too long to load. That’s nothing new.
Google stated years ago that going from a 1 to 5-second load time will result in 90% of users leaving your site without interacting with it.
So, even if your website ranks high on Google, a slow site will impact your performance.
Why? Because as user experience declines, people will exit your site without buying your products, reading your content or interacting with the site.
That said, speed goes far beyond just user experience impact. Core Web Vitals make it clear that speed is an essential factor.
What are Core Web Vitals?
Core Web Vitals (CWVs) are a set of metrics used to evaluate user experience. They measure the following for both desktop and mobile users:
- Loading speed
- Page responsiveness
- Visual stability
CWVs were introduced in 2020 to provide user-centric, real-world metrics that SEOs and site owners can use to measure usability. The three main elements of CWVs include:
- Largest Contentful Paint (LCP): Measures the loading performance of a page. LCP accounts for the first 2.5 seconds of a page’s loading.
- First Input Delay (FID): Measures interactivity between an action on the page and a response.
- Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS): Measures a page’s visual stability.
CWVs work to offer a technical SEO aspect with a focus on page experience and usability.
Understanding page experience
Page experience – which includes Core Web Vitals – is a ranking signal that Google uses to understand “how users perceive the experience of interacting with a web page.”
The search engine aims to offer the best results for search queries. If a site is slow, isn’t responsive or accessible, and doesn’t perform well on mobile, then it may not be the best result to deliver.
Multiple signals make up page experience, including:
- Core Web Vitals
- Non-intrusive interstitials
“While page experience is important, Google still seeks to rank pages with the best information overall, even if the page experience is subpar. Great page experience doesn’t override having great page content. However, in cases where there are many pages that may be similar in relevance, page experience can be much more important for visibility in Search.”
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Where page speed fits into page experience and SEO
Google’s statement on page experience shows that if everything else is created equal, page experience may improve visibility in the search results.
So, while page experience is certainly not the only thing you want to focus on, it’s one more element in your control to improve your site’s visibility on the SERPs.
Page speed is a significant element because it hits heavily on Core Web Vitals and will improve all three components. To find areas of improvement, make sure to run a PageSpeed Insights report.
Here are a few ways to eliminate page speed issues.
1. Minify coding
2. Remove unused coding
Installing caching on the application level can help.
WordPress and most other CMS options have caching plugins that will reduce the load on your site’s database and can improve CWVs dramatically.
If your site hits a database often, this may be a bottleneck for your site, so something like Memcached may be needed.
4. Optimize videos and images
A major part of LCP is images and videos.
It’s best to compress all image and video files. In most cases, GIFs should be replaced by videos.
If your images or videos are large, consider a content delivery network or third-party hosting.
5. Use lazy loading
One way to improve the loading of an image-heavy site is to have asynchronous loading, also called lazy loading, to help speed up your site’s first render.
6. Use a content delivery network
A CDN is an ultra-optimized network with servers worldwide that hosts your files, improves delivery speed and reduces the load on your site’s server.
7. Reduce redirects
Your site may have redirects, and they’re 100% natural in a site’s evolution.
However, you ought to remove any redirect chains, where one page redirects to another that redirects, because they will impact your site’s speed.
8. Audit your plugins
If you’re running a popular CMS, it’s not uncommon to have dozens of plugins installed.
You should review all of these plugins and replace those that are not used or can be replaced under one plugin.
9. Upgrade your hosting
Finally, if you’ve done everything else and page speed won’t improve, you may want to upgrade hosting.
Some hosts have slow older systems, but most will allow you to add more RAM and CPUs to help improve site speed if traffic is causing the server to hang.
If you’re running an Apache or Nginx server, you can install the PageSpeed Module on your server. The benefit of this module is that it works on the server level to improve speed, meaning your site’s application will not be altered.
Note: You may need to work with IT or server administrators to implement some of the changes above to improve site speed.
Tips to improve page speed further
On top of just focusing on speed, you want to improve page experience using the tips below.
In 2022, your site needs to be mobile-friendly. There’s no excuse for not using a responsive design on your site that will improve user experience.
Next, if you follow the speed tips above, you’ll improve mobile site speeds, too.
- Eliminating or reducing pop-ups.
- Create mobile-friendly content with short paragraphs.
Safe and secure browsing are two elements of a site that you should already be offering. You’ll want to:
- Run a secure site using HTTPS
- Run security checks on your site
- Scan all uploads to the site for malicious coding, malware, viruses and more
Routine monitoring is also essential. If your site is compromised, it will be quickly flagged by Google and cause many would-be visitors to the site to abandon it altogether.
Interruptions are never good for user experience, but they may be necessary to generate revenue or add subscribers to your newsletter. However, you’ll want to do your best to:
- Reduce pop-ups
- Reduce interstitials
Mobile devices have limited screen space, and if your site has a lot of pop-ups and interstitials, it can make it difficult or impossible to interact with the site, creating a poor page experience.
Review ad networks
If a site is displaying ads, there’s another element of page experience impact that needs to be considered.
Ad networks will require you to put coding on your site to serve the ads, but if the network is slow to load, it will cause a significant drop in page speed.
You should review:
- Ad networks to see the impact they have on your site’s speed.
- All plugins or third-party elements on your site that are out of your control.
If an ad network, script or service impacts site speed, it will hurt your page experience.
While page speed’s impact on SEO shouldn’t be the only thing to focus on, it’s an integral part of optimization that is mostly in your control.
Using Core Web Vitals as a guide, your site speed and page experience should improve along with a potential boost in rankings.
Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.
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