Core Web Vitals & SEO – The shifting sands of optimisation

What’s important for Search now!

Nothing in life is static! And, SEO (search engine optimisation) is not exempt so why do we expect it not to change and continually complain when it does?


Since the post below was made, back in 2013, much has changed and much has remained the same.

Much if not all outlined below are still relevant and impact visibility and search engine results. What has changed has been mobile use and wireless technology. This impacts on the user experience and both speed and ease of use.

Core Web Vitals

In May 2020, Google announced that they would be releasing a new ranking factor related to overall page experience (how quickly pages load, mobile-friendliness, etc…).

Included in the existing page experience ranking signals are a set of metrics called Core Web Vitals.

The main goal of Core Web Vitals is to make sure websites are providing a great user experience. It’s really nothing new and has been a consistently stated aim of Google for some time.

Clearly, you want someone to have a great experience when they come to a page on your website. When they don’t they are likely to bounce (leave immediately without browsing further) and not return in future.

This is something we should always have be doing (and hopefully have been)!

Keep in mind that many of the “Page Experience” metrics are already being used to determine rankings and have been for a long time. Remember Mobilegeddon?

Back in 2015 Google announced that mobile-friendliness would become a ranking signal. They did this because more people were using their mobile phones. In order to provide a great user experience, a website should be mobile-friendly.

Core Web Vitals is no different. Here’s how the page experience update breaks down.

Core Website Ranking Factors
How Core Web Vitals add and complement existing metrics

What are Core Web Vitals?

Core Web Vitals are a set of page experience metrics related to page speed, responsiveness and visual stability.

They are user experience metrics like:

  • How fast does a page load?
  • Does content on a page shift unexpectedly?
  • Does the main content on the page load first?
  • Are there intrusive popups?

They are part of an existing group of page experience metrics that include:

  • Mobile-friendliness
  • Security – Https instead of Http
  • Intrusive popups
  • Safe browsing

What affects Core Web Vitals?

Core Web Vitals primarily consist of three metrics: Largest Contentful Paint, First Input Delay and Cumalitive Shift Layout. What affects each metric and how to optimize for Core Web Vitals.

What CWV are and how to improve them!

Link: How do I optimize my website for Core Web Vitals?

Credit: Orbit Media

SEO Ranking Factors – how they correlate to search visibility

Search engines use algorithms to evaluate websites by topic and for relevance to the term searched and the criteria for the evaluation is referred to as ranking factors.

Google, in particular, stress that it is relevance that drives their search criterion and change, tweak, update their ranking algorithm as time goes on. They keep these factors close to their chest and it is only by analysis of successfully ranking sites/pages that a picture can be built up to what they might be.

But to the observer it is like shifting sands

There is no hard and fast absolute conclusions and as SearchMetrics say,

“Please note the difference between correlation and causation. We do not make any statements about causal effects between factors and rankings, but we analyze correlations: and the coexistence of a factor and rankings indicates some kind of relationship. For our study, we have undertaken a comprehensive data collection which enables the analysis of the Ranking Factors for Google USA in 2013 and also allows us to draw  comparisons to our analysis of the Ranking Factors in 2012.“

Rank Correlation 2013 study by SearchMetrics

The results are based on observed correlations and it is important to understand that it does not show proof of any causal relationships.

The whole area of SEO is one of controversy and since the report was published there has been comments, criticism and questions surrounding it that proves the point.

SearchMetrics Ranking Factors 2013
Click for full size

In this subsequent post SearchMetrics has attempted to explain and clear up some of the doubts other SEO ‘experts’ and practitioners have raised and commented on.

The infographic is an overview of the original full report. What do you think?

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