Russ Jeffery is Duda's Director of Strategic Integrations and leads integrations with industry partners
Core Web Vitals is the set of website user experience metrics — and soon-to-be ranking factor — released by Google last year. These new metrics evaluate what Google calls “page experience” and provide a score accordingly.
There are three aspects of page experience covered by Core Web Vitals: Largest Contentful Paint (LCP), First Input Delay (FID), and Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS).
While the LCP and FID metrics focus on different aspects of what makes a website experience feel “fast” to a user, CLS focuses on the amount of content “movement” that occurs on a web page as it loads. If you’ve ever tried to click on a button, link, or image while a page loads but were unable to because the element kept jumping around, that was layout shift and it’s a poor experience.
Though all three of these aspects — LCP, FID, and CLS — are weighted equally when Google calculates the Core Web Vitals score, improving the CLS score for a website sometimes can be the most difficult.
Let’s go straight to the source. Google explains Cumulative Layout Shift like this:
“Have you ever been reading an article online when something suddenly changes on the page? Without warning, the text moves, and you've lost your place. Or even worse: you're about to tap a link or a button, but in the instant before your finger lands—BOOM—the link moves, and you end up clicking something else!”
It’s good that this perennial web problem is finally receiving substantial attention from Google, and it’s clear the company takes it seriously.
In Google’s Lighthouse testing tool, CLS has a relatively low impact on the overall score (5 percent of the total score). In Core Web Vitals, however, CLS contributes one-third of the overall score. This has all the more significance when you remember that the Core Web Vitals score will soon be included as a ranking factor in Google’s algorithm.
Some website builder platforms will do a lot of the heavy lifting required to improve CLS for you by automatically performing a number of optimizations in order to align with best practices. However, if you aren’t using one of these platforms, you’ll need to manually ensure your sites meet Google’s new guidelines.
Whether you work with a website builder or not, it’s still beneficial to familiarize yourself with the following best practices.
Every time Google comes up with a new website testing or scoring approach — from the mobile-friendliness test to Lighthouse and now to Core Web Vitals — there is a mad dash by digital marketers, developers, and web professionals to understand the latest benchmark metrics and align sites with Google’s latest recommended best practices.
True to form, the search giant’s release of Core Web Vitals last year, and the subsequent announcement that these metrics will be added to its ranking algorithm in May 2021, has yet again thrown the web into a mild panic in some circles.
In fact, according to a recent study by Duda, “Roughly 92 percent of web pros feel these updates will eventually have a moderate to significant impact on their websites’ search rankings.” However, the same study also found that more than half of respondents indicated “the majority of their websites were not yet ready for any Google algorithm change that emphasized the importance of Core Web Vitals.”
Hopefully, armed with the information we’ve covered in this article, you won’t be among them. By following the approaches outlined above, you should find yourself well-positioned to prepare any websites you manage for great CLS scores and Google’s upcoming algorithm changes.
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