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If you’ve been in marketing or SEO, you’ve undoubtedly heard of Google’s “new” search ranking metrics, called Core Web Vitals. However, CWVs are not new: they indicate the latest trend in performance marketing – a user-centric view that considers how site speed and user experience affect your online metrics.
In this article, we will dive deep into Google’s CWVs, discuss how performance marketing drives online B2B experiences, and analyze opportunities to help accelerate your online presence and increase your marketing effectiveness.
What are Google’s core web vitals?
Google’s Web Vitals program breaks down what makes for an excellent user experience. The new benchmarks outline three common metrics that summarize how your site is performing for customers.
The Core Web Vitals effort is the latest in a series of performance-based recommendations made by Google through its Chrome browser and search engine.
The relationship between a site’s load time and conversion rate is well known. A famous example is a 2008 Amazon survey that showed that every tenth of a second of additional loading time resulted in revenue declining by 1%. Since then, engineers have developed metrics to help customers measure the website’s load time – and find out what’s slowing it down.
“How fast is my website?” is a complicated question. Mobile devices load pages differently than desktops. Is “seeing” the page the same as “loading” the page completely?
At the end of 2019, there were 27 performance measurements that engineers focused on, ranging from server response time to DOM Content Loaded (a fully loaded page) and everything in between.
To simplify the landscape, Google Core created Web Vitals, consisting of three “core” metrics:
- Largest content-rich paint
- First input delay
- Cumulative layout change
These three measurements will be crucial for marketing teams. Google only uses real user metrics (data collected in the field from actual site visitors) to determine the speed of your site. Real user metrics ensure an accurate picture of how your site loads across many devices, rather than synthetic or laboratory data, which is more useful for auditing purposes.
As we say in Web Performance Country: If you are not looking at real user metrics, you are by definition looking at fake user metrics.
Largest content-rich paint (can I see it?)
A user’s journey begins with a page that goes from blank to not blank. When the site is empty, customers do not know if the site actually works. The first few milliseconds (and sometimes seconds) can lead to pages being abandoned – a costly mistake because online advertising is often based on cost-per-click. click, not price per display.
To help define the early performance event, the Paint API allows you to measure the largest content-containing paint, indicating when the main image, often the hero image, is rendered. Because the browser can recognize the largest image, the LCP metric is reliably collected in field data.
Improving LCP times depends on improving your server’s response times and removing the page’s ‘blocking’ resources. Focus on delivering less data through image optimization (ie smaller, more efficient images).
The biggest gain for B2B marketers? You can use your tag manager to delay as many tags as possible. Let’s say you’ve enabled multiple retargeting trackers for the site (LinkedIn, AdWords, etc.). This code is essential for advertising, but there is no need to run it until the page is loaded. Simply delay tags from being activated after the content is loaded. In Google Tag Manager, it is listed as the “Window Loaded” event versus the traditional “Page View” event.
The small change can shave precious seconds from page loads. Why try to track a customer who gets frustrated and leaves? When Vodafone (Italy) implemented optimizations for Largest Contentful Paint, it increased sales by 8%.
First input delay (can I use it?)
After page loading, the customer will ideally interact with the page. But modern sites often have plenty of “event watchers” ready to shoot.
For example, if the user scrolls down, there may be a tracker that sends data that signals the scrolling depth. Maybe there’s another tracker that records the page’s heatmap for customer interaction analysis later.
The same event triggers these trackers, and each has code that wakes up and runs. As a result, scrolling may be delayed because the browser is too busy triggering trackers to respond to customer input.
Enter: First entry delay. It measures how long it takes to respond to user input. How long does it take for the page to respond to users when they click a button?
When evaluating tools with deep analysis, ask if sampling is a core function. Why reduce your conversion rate just to see how customers are interacting with your site?
Cumulative layout change (is it fun?)
The cumulative layout change is a major source of customer frustration. Have you ever read an article online and suddenly the text changes? It is moved down or an ad is displayed interrupting your process. In the worst case, you click on a link or a button and the layout changes at the same time and you accidentally click on something else?
It’s a layout change, and the CLS metric indicates how much it occurs when your page is rendered. Unlike the other Core Web Vitals, which are measured in time, CLS is a percentage of the page’s content. So a CLS score of 0.25 would mean that 25% of the page’s content moved during page loading – which would probably drive even the most loyal customer insane.
If your site has a high (more than 0.1) CLS score, dynamic content – e.g. an ad – probably injected with undefined dimensions. To combat the shift of the page, you need to dedicate a specific section of the site – with explicit dimensions – to dynamic content.
So to summarize, Google’s core web vitals:
- Largest content-rich paint (can I see it?)
- First input delay (can I use it?)
- Cumulative layout change (is it fun?)
Performance marketing drives online B2B experiences so you can lose users (who you lured in with ads) if your site is slow.
Speed up your online presence and increase your marketing effectiveness by using Core Web Vitals to evaluate your site.
More resources on Google’s core web vitals
The Ultimate Website Checklist for Better User Usage and Search Rankings: A MarketingProfs Guide
Google Page Experience Update: What Every B2B Marketer Should Know
Four Ways SEO Marketing Changed In 2020 – And Where It Goes In 2021