Google’s Core Web Vitals update

Google’s Core Web Vitals update
16th June 2020

Google have just announced the Core Web Vitals update which is set to be rolled out in 2021. Learn how this algorithm update will affect you.

On the 28 May 2020 Google announced a new algorithm update which will be launched in 2021 via its Webmaster Central Blog. This update will focus on how a user perceives the experience of interacting with your page. As a site owner, providing high quality user experience should always be a priority of any long-term digital strategy, but with user experience about to become a ranking factor, now is the time for businesses to plan ahead.

What to expect from the Core Web Vitals update?

Trying to create an effortless user experience (UX) is nothing new for digital designers and marketers, as it’s an important contributor to website and SEO performance. Most of us are aware of the benefits a seamless user experience can bring, in terms of building customer loyalty, and driving conversions. The importance of a well-designed user experience is endless and can be the difference between you and a competitor. Nevertheless, many businesses are yet to optimise key elements of their website that impact it, often due to lack of time and/or resource. However, with Google’s Core Web Vitals update on the horizon, never has it been more important to prioritise UX and invest the time in SEO-led development work to achieve optimal performance.

What are the Core Web Vitals?

The Core Web Vitals are being introduced by Google as a unified signal in delivering a great user experience. They serve as means of providing quantifiable metrics to benchmark how well a given web page performs in terms of user experience. Currently, Google have only announced three Core Web Vitals metrics, but have informed us that these Core Vitals will likely evolve over time. The 2021 algorithm update will only take into account three key areas that will determine the score of your web pages:

  1. Largest Contentful Paint (Loading): measures perceived load speed and marks the point in the page load timeline when the page’s main content has likely loaded. An ideal speed is 5 seconds or faster.
  2. First Input Delay (Interactivity): measures responsiveness and quantifies the experience users feel when trying to first interact with the page. An ideal measurement is less than 100 milliseconds.
  3. Cumulative Layout Shift (Stability): measures visual stability and quantifies the amount of unexpected layout shift of visible page content. An ideal measurement is less than 0.1.

Google explained that the three core areas are the subset of Web Vitals that will apply to all web pages. Each area should be measured by all site owners and will be surfaced across all Google measuring tools.

Current page experience signals

We have seen previous Google page experience updates that will now combine with the new Core Web Vitals.

Existing page experience signals which we are all familiar with:

  • Mobile friendly
  • Safe-browsing
  • No intrusive interstitial (pop-ups)

It’s evident that the user experience is a crucially important factor and can be the difference for where your page ranks in Google’s search engine results pages (SERPs). Google still seeks to rank pages that provide the user with the best information, even if the user experience is inferior. Nevertheless, providing the user with a great experience can be the differentiator for Google when it’s deciding where you and your competitors appear in organic listings.

How can your organisation plan for the Core Web Vitals update?

Google believe that the Core Web Vitals are critical to all web experiences. This is reflected with the commitment of surfacing the metrics across the popular Google measuring tools:


The new Core Web Vitals metrics are incorporated into the latest version of Lighthouse 6.0. The Largest Contentful Paint (LCP) and Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS) are lab implementations of the Core Web Vital update. Lighthouse provides crucial diagnostic information when optimising your site for the user experience. An additional diagnostic to the Lighthouse 6.0 update is the Total Blocking Time (TBT) which quantifies load responsiveness. TBT measures the amount of time between the First Contentful Paint (FCP) and Time to Interactive (TTI), a diagnostic that connects with the First Input Delay (FID), a Core Web Vital.

Chrome User Experience Report (CrUX)

The CrUX report allows website owners to track how real-world Chrome users experience your website, or even your competitors. CrUX provides a true understanding of how your site performs in the field as those users are loading and interacting with it. Unlike lab data, CrUX data comes from opted-in users in the field. If your site does not have Real User Monitoring (RUM), CrUX can provide an easy way to assess your Core Web Vitals through a real-life chrome experience.

The CrUX report is a powerful tool and provides you with first-hand data that is essential for a true understanding of how users interact with your site.

Google Search Console (GSC)

Google hasn’t wasted any time in updating the speed report in GSC to facilitate with the new Core Web Vital metrics. As you open GSC, you will be most likely presented with a notice about the new Core Web Vital report. Similar to the old speed report, it breaks down the different metrics but now shows the updated metrics. Google haven’t announced the exact changes within the report but the new metrics analyses URL performance across mobile and desktop. This update to GSC can provide crucial insights into the performance, highlighting areas which require improvement. However, with the Core Web Vitals expected to evolve, these metrics are inevitably going to evolve further.

Chrome DevTools

Chrome DevTools is a set of web developer tools built within a chrome extension, which allows you to promptly edit and diagnose issues across your site. At first, the Chrome DevTool may seem overwhelming, but rest assured, this tool is crucial for preparing your site for the Core Web Vital update.

It is particularly useful in terms of identifying any unexpected layout shifts (CLS), something crucial for user experience and the Core Web Vital update.

PageSpeed insights (PSI)

PSI is a useful tool that many digital marketers are already familiar with. PSI has the benefit of reporting on both lab and field performance. PSI provides insight into how users experience pages on your website in real-world circumstances. One of the most beneficial aspects of the PSI is the list of recommendations that it provides for improving this experience. Like many Google tools, the PSI tool has been resurfaced which enables your site to be benchmarked against the Core Web Vital metrics, something that can be found under both the lab and field sections of the report.

Merging the PSI report with the GSC data can be a great starting point when identifying which URLs are performing badly and require attention, and what actions are needed to address any issues.

Core Web Vitals Extension

Google have also recently released a Web Vitals Chrome Extension which is available to download. The Core Web Vitals Extension measures all three of the Core metrics in real-time on desktop. Like any extension on Chrome, they can be great for an ‘on the go’ performance review, with the results being available at the click of a button. This extension like many others gives you the opportunity to review the competition.

How to set your organisation’s website up for the Core Web Vital update

Dealing with yet another Google page experience update will undoubtedly seem like yet another worry for already under pressure digital marketers. However, Google have given us months to prepare for this update, so whilst it might seem like a stress you could do without, ensuring that this update is at the forefront of our digital strategies moving into 2021 is crucial.

To make it a bit easier, you can contact us to learn more about how to best optimise your website or to book a digital marketing audit to check your current performance. We are Kagool, we have been helping enterprise-level businesses achieve their digital goals since 1999. We are top tier Google and Sitecore Partners that has a specialised digital marketing team that work closely with our clients on all aspects of performance and search marketing. Get in touch to discuss your project requirements, we’d be happy to help.