If you’ve been following our blog, you’ll know that we’ve been talking a lot about Google’s launch of three speed-related metrics, together known as Core Web Vitals. In this post, we explored the ‘what’, the ‘why’, and the ‘when’. Now, we want to take some time to really take a deep dive into the ‘how’.
More specifically, how Core Web Vitals will affect your business.
And it’s a tricky area. The situation is clearer for businesses building a new website from scratch. Using Core Web Vitals as part of the framework can help to create something with a great customer experience built right into the core. But for those that already have a website, what Core Web Vitals means for your business isn’t quite so clear. That’s what we’re going to take a look at below.
Site speed and SEO are closely related. So, when Core Web Vitals was introduced, some businesses initially thought that if they didn’t meet the criteria, they wouldn’t be listed in the Google results.
But they were.
Businesses found that they were still showing up, even though their sites weren’t optimised for Core Web Vitals. And not only that, but many were still showing up in the same position in the rankings.
So it’s easy to think that Core Web Vitals won’t have much impact. Or any impact. That’s a problem.
A common myth that needs to be dispelled is that a poor Core Web Vitals report will result in a site being removed from Google. It won’t. Another common myth is that poor results will see a site’s ranking drop to the second, third, fourth, or 50th page of results. Again, that’s not exactly true.
What is going on, then?
Businesses are given one of three results for each Core Web Vitals metric:
Imagine you achieve a ‘poor’ score of 4.1s for largest contentful paint. A ‘poor’ score of 301ms for first input delay. And a ‘poor’ score of 0.26 for cumulative layout shift. Now imagine a competitor achieves a ‘poor’ score of 4.2s for largest contentful paint. A ‘poor’ score of 302ms for first input delay. And a ‘poor’ score of 0.27 for cumulative layout shift. What does that mean for your business?
It means you’re still in the lead. You’re still ranking well on Google, because ranking is relative. You don’t have to be good to be visible. You just have to be better than everyone else.
It’s easy to see Core Web Vitals as being something you don’t really need to think about for existing sites that are performing well. After all, there’s no guarantee you’ll notice any impact from not meeting the criteria. But it takes just one competitor to take action, and it all comes crashing down.
When one improves – and they will – they will have the advantage. That’s because, while Core Web Vitals alone don’t determine the exact position in the SERPs, they do play a big role in ranking.
It’s important to consider what happens, from a user perspective, when a competitor enhances their site; when they move from ‘poor’ to ‘needs improvement’, or from ‘needs improvement’ to ‘good’.
What happens is that customers are able to engage with a fast-loading site that’s been designed with their needs in mind. It’s easy to interact with. It’s simple. It’s streamlined. It’s a stress-free experience. They’ve seen what an on-site experience should look like. And they want more of it.
This is what’s going to see your position in the results pages drop lower and lower.
Why? For two reasons…
Visitors are getting increasingly impatient. If a site doesn’t load quickly, visitors will bail. And they won’t return. They’re going to stick with sites that are speedier. This will drive your organic traffic down, which is a major problem for ranking. Google uses Chrome data to understand how many people visit each site, ranking sites with more traffic higher as they’re more likely to be high quality.
Even if a visitor is willing to wait around for a slow site to load, they’re still less likely to convert if a site is sluggish. Even 0.1s can make all the difference. Google relies on a range of interaction factors for ranking, including clickthrough rate and bounce rate. So if users aren’t interacting with your site and taking action because your site is slow to load, you’ll be missing out on visibility.
Even if you don’t think Core Web Vitals are affecting your business right now, it takes just one of your competitors to roll out improvements for you to lose your advantage. You could lose traffic. Lose conversions. Lose your ranking. Lose visibility. Lose trust. And ultimately, lose customers and sales.
Don’t be the business left behind. Give us a call or send us an email to find out about how to use Core Web Vitals to your advantage.