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Expert tips for improved performance in a Google Core Web Vitals world

Expert tips for improved performance in a Google Core Web Vitals world

This is a sponsored post written by Cloudinary. The statements in this article are the sponsor’s own.

In our digital economy, patience for sluggish page loading is thin. A page with slow load means that visitors are likely to jump off, leading to a loss of page views and ultimately lost sales. Studies show that if a page takes more than three seconds to load, as many as 40% of its visitors would abandon the site.

Given today’s competitive landscape, brands simply can not afford to have a site that does not work well. To achieve SEO success – and keep customers happy – it’s important to optimize your media, website speed and user experience.

In this column, you will learn about the opportunities offered by Core Web Vitals (CWVs) and hear from web performance experts about where to focus your SEO efforts now to reap the best possible results.

The CWV countdown is (still) enabled

In 2020, Google announced that its Core Web Vitals (CWVs) along with previous UX-related search signals like mobile friendliness and HTTPS encryption will determine websites’ SEO page rankings by mid-2021.

CWVs are based on exhaustive research on the aspects of an ideal Internet user experience. The three measurements are Largest Contentful Paint (LCP), First Input Display (FID) and Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS), which assess a site’s load time, interactivity and visual stability, respectively.

The launch of the CWVs was recently postponed from May to a gradual rollout from mid-June 2021, leading to completion before the end of August.

In a company statement, Google stated that it made the decision to allow companies to “make improvements … with page experience in mind.” The delay is good news for organizations given the recent evidence that 47% of sites have an LCP score of more than 2.5 seconds, which means that almost half of all sites fall into the need for improvement or bad buckets. If an e-commerce site meets Google’s thresholds for all three metrics, visitors are 25% less likely to give it up.

Nevertheless, it is absolutely crucial, even with the longer time to be prepared, that brands move fast to improve their site’s CWVs.

Experts weigh in on web performance

Given the high expectations that consumers have for site visits, web performance is crucial to both user experience and business results. Where should you focus your optimization efforts?

Below are a few key takeaways from our recent conversations with Tim Kadlec, Harry Roberts, Tammy Everts, and Scott Jehl, who shared tips derived from their research and hands-on experience with brand websites.

Brands are rushing to remove performance barriers

Catchpoint performance engineering fellow Tim Kadlec says the company has received several requests from clients for optimization for CWVs.

According to him, these concrete goals are the “clearest signal from Google yet about what constitutes good web performance.” Tim also adds, “I have seen many organizations focus on the CWVs right now because SEO ranking and the resulting traffic is a massive component of business success. Your reputation will be on the line based on whether you hit these measurements. ”

Separately, consultant and front-end architect Harry Roberts told us that “almost every query we’ve received in 2021 pertains to CWVs.” Despite the search giant’s emphasis on the huge impact of these metrics on search, Roberts says: “I have advised against panic. These measurements are just one of many placement factors. ”

His advice: “Companies that are eager to increase the number of pages should focus on content delivery and metrics like LCP. Once a measurement is in hand, identify a page’s primary goal, work backwards from there to form a hypothesis as to why the page might be loading slowly, and then solve the problem. ”

Perception of speed is firmly wired

In his 2016 book, Time is Money: The Business Value of Web Performance, Tammy Everts pointed out that humans have a neurological need for fast, simple processes. She cited a study on task change, which showed that even a slight delay in the loading time of a website makes people work 50% harder in terms of mental capacity.

A similar study she referred to on mobile devices showed a comparable peak of user frustration. “This means our brains do not handle expectations based on a unit or task – we are frustrated in both ways with long load times,” Tammy added.

In an electroencephalogram (EEG) study, Tammy tested a hypothesis that performance affected mobile users’ long-term perception of retail brands.

Here are her findings: “Where the only differentiator was perceived as rendering time, those who experienced a slower location used three times more negative adjectives to describe the brand – boring, sticky, unhelpful – than those who experienced the faster version of the same place.”

New formats and tools can make websites more visual without compromising performance

According to Scott Jehl, a hybrid designer-developer at Filament Group, tools for delivering images using HTML alone are extremely effective. He notes that “since 2016, responsive images have worked on multiple browsers. Additionally, you can provide an appropriate size of HTML by setting and attributes on elements.

Why not also use all your options with CSS and SVG for a rich look? In addition, new and well-supported image and video formats, such as WebM, WebP and AVIF, help deliver media faster and keep their weights in check. Tools that effectively compress media and deliver pages are a huge help, especially for large e-commerce sites. ”

As today’s websites become more image- and video-centric, combined with the urgent need for digital businesses to improve the user experience, the timing of Google’s CWVs could not be more perfect. Not only is Google very clear with the metrics it uses, but it also gives website developers plenty of time – along with very clear guidelines – to raise page rank.

Ultimately, this initiative will lead to better experiences for the online audience and subsequently for Google users – a win-win for all. Keep in mind that metrics are based on actual page loads of actual user experiences in Chrome. This meaningful data is then used to increase the prominence of a site that Google believes will attract users.

With the digital economy taking precedence, optimized media will only grow in importance. Slower sites will be left in the dust, pushed further down on Google rankings, where they may be completely overlooked. Those with strong CWV scores get an uninterrupted boost from Google. So do not let the sum of your visual media hurt your web performance. Instead, make media optimization your priority now.

Image credits

Featured Image: Image of Cloudinary. Used with permission.

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