Google’s newest update, set to be released in May 2021, is going to be extremely important for businesses of all sizes. The newest update of 2021 will put a focus on webpage experience and aims to create a friendlier internet for all users. What this means is that websites with difficult navigation, bad design and slow load speeds will either be forced to create a more inviting experience on their website or they will be ranked lower in Google’s search results.

For small and medium businesses, how are you supposed to know what Google thinks is a “good experience”? Larger companies have teams that have been preparing for this update for months but as a small to medium sized business what can you do to get ahead of this update? In this post I’ll give you a crash course on what the update will mean for your business and provide you with some tools you can use to get your website ready for the Core Web Vitals update.

What are Core Web Vitals?​

Core web vitals are “a set of metrics related to speed, responsiveness and visual stability, that help site owners measure user experience on the web and their own website.” Simply put, Core Web Vitals are a way to measure the health & usability of your website and can be a great tool for any business!

Those metrics, speed (loading), responsiveness (interactivity), and visual stability also have more technical terms associated with them that you will see when measuring each metric.

Speed – Largest Content Paint (LCP)
The Largest Content Paint measures how quickly your website loads the most important information for that page. Oftentimes, this could be your main hero image, video, or a text block that you’re using to create a first impression with your website visitors.

Responsiveness (Interactivity) – First Input Delay (FID)
Think of the First Input Delay as the delay when you’ve reached a webpage and how long it takes for a button you’ve clicked to actually lead somewhere. How long does it take for your website to load and be interactive for visitors?

Visual Stability – Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS)
Have you ever gotten to a web page, gone to click a button but as you click the button shifts to a completely different part of the screen? That is what is being measured by CLS. Cumulative Layout Shift measures how long it takes for visible elements to stop moving and become stable.

Each of these metrics have a score associated with them as well. The below graphic was taken from the Chromium Blog.

LCP and FID are both time measurements while CLS is a measurement that combines two fractions: distance and impact. If you’d like to read about each measurement in detail, visit the Google Search Central blog, but for the purposes of this post, just remember that ideally, you’d like your website to be ranked “Good” in all three web vitals. Those websites ranked “Poor” will be facing an uphill battle when trying to get ranked in Google’s Search Results.
Right now you might be thinking, “That’s all well and great but I’ve never even seen these measurements on my Wix or Squarespace site, where do I find them?”

Google has provided a few free tools to help us figure out how our websites are performing.

How Can I find out the score of my website’s Core Web Vitals?

Along with the Core Web Vitals update that’s being released, Google has updated some of their tools to help us smaller businesses figure out how usable our website is for prospective customers. I’ve compiled a few of those handy dandy tools below.

Tool #1

If you aren’t already using Google Search Console, it might be a good idea to start. Not only does it give you great insight into google searches that your company may be showing up for but it has a tool to measure your Core Web Vitals. If you’re already using it, here is how to find that report: Login into Search Console and you’ll see a tool called “Speed Report”. This tool will assess how all of the URLs on your site are performing. You can compare your “Good” urls with the “Poor” ones and make updates to those pages. It will also give you insights on why those pages are failing like, “LCP issue: longer than 4s (mobile)”.

Tool #2

Another great tool to use is called PageSpeed Insights . This tool will take a second to load as it crawls through every page of your website but will break down performance for mobile and desktop. You’ll see familiar terms like “Largest Contentful Paint” and “Cumulative Layout Shift” but PageSpeed Insights also breaks up these issues into Opportunities & Diagnostics. If you don’t have experience in web development, just focus on the opportunities section. There will be some quick fixes like fixing the margins on your mobile layout, reducing files sizes, and removing other features like animations in order to make your website faster.

Tool #3

If you’re a user of the web browser Google Chrome, you can run diagnostics on your website by going to your URL, right click and move down to “Inspect”. 

Directions for Google Chrome Lighthouse 1

Once you click that you’ll see a complicated screen that shows the coding of your website.  From here, click the “>>” icon across the header and then click “Lighthouse”. On the next screen, click “Generate Report” then wait for the report to load.

Directions for Google Chrome Lighthouse 2

Similar to the other tools we discussed, you’ll see a score for performance and accessibility. If these scores are in the red or yellow you may have some work to do. Scroll down further into the report and look at some of the suggested changes that are listed.

Google Chrome Lighthouse Scores

Not sure how to fix those things or don’t want to handle this yourself? 

I especially like this tool because it provides two other ratings for Best Practices and SEO. If you’re not a web designer, best practices will let you know if your website is up to par with other websites in the industry. The SEO rating gives you an overview of performance like other plugins, I prefer Yoast for WordPress, and will let you know that you’ve done the bare minimum for Search Engines to Recognize your website.

Once you’ve read through the report, focus on the major problem areas first. Get those red areas into the yellow and green then keep working your way through the list. I’ve listed some of the common fixes in the next section but note that some changes may need the assistance of someone with more experience.

You should always be designing your website with a mobile first approach in mind. According to Statista, “In 2020, 274.7 million people in the United States accessed the internet through any kind of mobile device. About 83% of the U.S. population are mobile internet users.”

How can you prepare for the update?

It’s important to first see how your website ranks/scores using one of the tools listed above. Then use that information as a benchmark to help create a roadmap for improvements and areas of growth. Looking for a good workflow? Run your preferred tool then follow the steps below.

  • Fix the highest value items first – Look at what’s labeled “Poor”, then work to fix the issues that affect the most URLs. You can also try to find the issues that are taking the most amount of time to load and fix those first. Once all of your Poor URLs are fixed, move onto “Needs Improvement”.
  • Once you’ve pinpointed the highest priority pages try a few of the following fixes to try and speed up the page:
    • Reduce your page size: best practice is less than 500KB for a page and all its resources.
    • Limit the number elements to 50 or below in order to increase mobile performance.
    • Remove unused plugins and unnecessary bells and whistles. On Mobile, try hiding some features like animations & videos if they aren’t necessary for overall performance.
  • Test your fixes using one of the tools mentioned above.
  • Rinse and Repeat!

Why should your small business care about Core Web Vitals?

Optimizing Core Web Vitals may potentially be a way to increase rankings in search results. Think about it this way, if you’re searching for a new restaurant to eat at are you going to be more inclined to research the spot who’s website loads quickly or the one who’s page takes a full minute to show up? In a world where everyone is looking for a quick and easy way to find a new mechanic or dentist or photographer, the quicker you’re able to make that connection with your customer, the better off you will be!

There are so many tools that help your business get found by prospective customers. In today’s day and age people search for new spots on Instagram, Google, Facebook and, the always awesome, word of mouth recommendations from friends. But, optimizing your online presence and implementing some of these fixes for your website may help you get found by even more customers!

If all of this sounds like too much work, I specialize in managing fixes and other marketing operations for your business. If all of this sounds like too much work, I can do it for you! I specialize in updating websites, fixes, and other marketing services for businesses. Contact me for a free 30 minute consultation and let’s get your website issues fixed and have you back to running faster than ever.