For the new algorithm rollout expected to come into force in May 2021, Google announced that Core Web Vitals will either help or hurt your search rankings.

The latest Google update shifts the focus to overall page experience for users — loading speed, responsiveness, and layout stability. However, if we take a look back, page experience has always been important for Google to make sure users achieve their purposes interacting with a website.

In 2015, Google began to take into account the mobile friendliness of websites. Then, starting from 2018, Google has already used page speed as a ranking factor in mobile search. Subsequently, in 2020, they came out with Core Web Vitals, the set of metrics that estimate page experience most users get landing upon your site. For May 2021, these metrics are going to be a part of their search ranking algorithm.

What does it mean for you as a publisher? Find out the basics that you need to know about Core Web Vitals and how we prepared for these changes at MGID.

Google’s rethink of ranking factors

The primary purpose of Core Web Vitals is to help webmasters identify what the users’ experience is like on their website. These metrics are field tools, i.e. they collect anonymized, real user measurement data rather than one-off experiment estimates or lab estimates (though you can pre-assess the page performance during development). Typically, the analytics reports for Core Web Vitals estimate the 75th percentile of actual page loads, segmented across mobile and desktop devices.

Core Web Vitals are the subset of Web Vitals measures of page experience and consist of the following three metrics:

  • Largest Contentful Paint (LCP)

It is all about measuring the page loading performance. Ideally, you would want to keep LCP under 2.5 seconds.

  • First Input Delay (FID)

This measure is focused on interactivity and responsiveness. Your page should have an FID of less than 100 milliseconds to get good rankings.

  • Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS)

This metric targets the issue of the visual stability on your pages. For example, if someone hits the go back button and the layout of the page shifts as compared to the version seen before, it can be frustrating for users. By Google’s benchmarks, your site should keep a CLS of less than 0.1.

In their official blog post, Google declared that Core Web Vitals are going to be the ranking factor in 2021. They also updated their popular tools such as Search Console and Lighthouse with Core Web Vitals reports. Also, in the planned update, the AMP format is no longer required for top-ranked stories in Google News.

How we prepared

At MGID, we constantly work on minimizing our impact on page load speed and browser performance. To prepare for the Core Web Vitals update, we’ve already launched a number of improvements in our widgets.

To ensure better performance for First Input Delay and Largest Contentful Paint, we implemented Progressive compression algorithms like Brotli, which proved to be more efficient over similar compression methods like Gzip. The same compression algorithm is also being used in Google Display Ads. Also, we added the lazy loading feature for images and JavaScript and we also use Progressive image formats (SVG, WEBP, JPEG 2000).

To optimize features for Cumulative Layout Shift performance, we adopted an approach similar to the one used by Google Display Ads. Basically, we reserve the ad placement on the page to avoid any unexpected layout shifts. MGID ads render within 150 ms on the site, so this reservation will not affect end-user experience even in ATF placements. Based on the tested outcomes, we can confirm that webpages with MGID widgets keep a CLS score of less than 0.1.

Bottom line

A good page experience is important for Google as it helps users stay on the website longer and find what they have been looking for. Be prepared, as it is just the start and Google will continue looking into granular aspects of page experience and prioritize these factors in search results.

At MGID, we always monitor the latest suggestions and technologies that are on the rise and implement the best solutions offered by browsers that improve HTML, JavaScript, and CSS performance. This way, we can guarantee that our widgets are optimized to meet Core Web Vitals benchmarks.