Core Web Vitals measure page experience signals to ensure an engaging user experience for search users.
But can Core Web Vitals affect your organic search rankings?
Read on to learn whether there is any connection between Core Web Vitals and improved Google rankings.
The Claim: Core Web Vitals Are A Ranking Factor
What are Core Web Vitals?
According to web.dev:
Core Web Vitals are the subset of Web Vitals that apply to all web pages, should be measured by all site owners, and will be surfaced across all Google tools.
Each of the Core Web Vitals represents a distinct facet of the user experience, is measurable in the field, and reflects the real-world experience of a critical user-centric outcome.
The three Core Web Vital metrics are as follows.
In March 2024, Interaction to Next Paint (INP) will replace FID as a Core Web Vitals metric.
INP is a metric that assesses a page’s overall responsiveness to user interactions by observing the latency of all click, tap, and keyboard interactions that occur throughout the lifespan of a user’s visit to a page. The final INP value is the longest interaction observed, ignoring outliers.
The key differences between FID and INP include the following:
FID measures the time from when a user first interacts with a page (clicks, taps, etc.) to when the browser can respond to event handlers for that interaction, focusing only on the first input during page load.
It is intended to quantify the user’s first impression of a site’s interactivity and responsiveness.
INP, on the other hand, quantifies the time from all user interactions (clicks, taps, and key presses) to when the next frame is painted with visual feedback, considering all interactions throughout a page’s lifecycle, not just the first input during load.
It’s intended to assess a page’s overall responsiveness to input.
An INP of 200 milliseconds or lower indicates good responsiveness. Anything above this needs improvement.
The Evidence For Core Web Vitals As A Ranking Factor
In 2020, Google Search Central pre-announced ranking signals for the upcoming page experience metrics (Core Web Vitals).
The corresponding blog post stated the following:
Earlier this month, the Chrome team announced Core Web Vitals, a set of metrics related to speed, responsiveness and visual stability, to help site owners measure user experience on the web.
Today, we’re building on this work and providing an early look at an upcoming Search ranking change that incorporates these page experience metrics.
We will introduce a new signal that combines Core Web Vitals with our existing signals for page experience to provide a holistic picture of the quality of a user’s experience on a web page.
In 2021, Google hosted a half-hour “Ask me anything” session on Web Vitals. During the AMA, someone asked if page experience is a binary ranking factor.
Philip Walton, a Google engineer working on web performance, answered that Web Vitals were mostly not a binary ranking factor.
During the AMA, John Mueller, Google Search Advocate, confirmed that while CWV affects rankings, relevance also plays a strong role. If website A is faster than website B, but B is more relevant to the search user’s query, website B would still outrank A.
Mueller also noted that websites moving from “needs improvement” to “good” may see ranking improvements. But websites that are already good and improve speed by a millisecond or two may not see ranking changes.
In 2021, Google updated the original blog announcement for CWV. It confirmed that the page experience rollout would be completed in August 2021.
The following year, in September 2022, Mueller mentioned the page experience ranking factor in a comment on Reddit about accurate speed testing tools.
“If you pop over to web.dev, you’ll see that Google has a bunch of metrics, more than just a single number score.
Some of these are grouped together as “core web vitals”, and have ways that you can determine them in the field (using “real user metrics” [RUM] – what they actually saw) as well as “lab tests” (so you can test things on your side). Google uses the real user metrics / field data for core web vitals for search in the page experience ranking factor.
My recommendation is to use the core web vitals field data (it’s also called Chrome User-Experience Report data / CRUX, there are various ways to access it) as a way of getting a baseline for important pages within your site (pages will vary!).
Then use the lab tests for core web vitals to try to reproduce that, and then work with your developers to fix the issues. The lab tests let you try things out quickly, and see if there’s an effect. The field data takes about a month to update.”
Fast forward to April 2023, when Google “simplified” its guidance around page experience signals in search rankings.
While Google still recommends maintaining strong CWV for a good user experience and still uses these metrics as ranking signals, improving one or more metrics does not guarantee better rankings.
Page experience continues to be a ranking factor but is evaluated holistically by Google’s core ranking systems rather than as a single “page experience signal.”
Mueller also updated Google Search Central audiences on YouTube in July 2023 about INP coming to CWV in 2024.
Core Web Vitals Are A Confirmed Ranking Factor
Google has confirmed that Core Web Vitals affect rankings in search results.
However, they are not a ranking “system” on their own, rather they contribute to page experience evaluations.
They can have an effect within the helpful content ranking system and go toward page experience signals.
Google’s web.dev documentation offers advice on improving your LCP, FID, CLS, and upcoming INP to improve your users’ experience and rankings.
Featured Image: Paulo Bobita/SearchEngineJournal