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If you’re into marketing or SEO, you’ve no doubt heard of Google’s “new” search ranking metric set called Core Web Vitals. CWVs aren’t new, however: they indicate the latest trend in performance marketing – a user-centric view that takes into account how website speed and user experience affect your online metrics.
In this article, we dive deep into Google’s CWVs, discuss how performance marketing drives the online B2B experience, and analyze ways to accelerate your online presence and increase your marketing efficiency.
What are Google’s Core Web Vitals?
Google’s Web Vitals program explains what makes a great user experience. The new benchmarks outline three common metrics that summarize how your website is doing for customers.
Core Web Vitals’ efforts are the latest in a series of performance-based recommendations that Google has developed through its Chrome browser and search engine.
The relationship between the loading time of a site and the conversion rate is well known. A famous example is a 2008 Amazon study that found that every tenth of a second of additional loading time resulted in a 1% drop in sales. Since then, engineers have developed metrics that customers can use to measure website load times and see what is slowing them down.
“How fast is my website?” is a complicated question. Mobile devices load pages differently than desktops. Is “seeing” the page the same thing as “loading” the page completely?
By late 2019, there were 27 performance metrics that engineers focused on, from server response time to loaded DOM content (a fully loaded page) and everything in between.
To simplify the landscape, Google created the Core Web Vitals, which are made up of three “core” metrics:
- Greatest content color
- Delay of the first entry
- Cumulative layout shift
These three metrics will be crucial for marketing teams. Google only uses real user metrics (data collected in the field from actual website visitors) to determine the speed of your website. Real user metrics provide an accurate picture of how your website loads on many devices, rather than synthetic or laboratory data, which is more useful for auditing purposes.
As we say in web performance land, if you’re not looking at real user metrics, you’re by definition looking at fake user metrics.
Biggest Contentful Paint (Can I See It?)
A user’s journey begins with a page that changes from blank to non-blank. If the website is blank, customers won’t know if the website is actually working. Those first few milliseconds (and sometimes seconds) can cause the page to abandon – a costly mistake since online advertising is often cost-per-click rather than cost-per-view.
To define this early performance event, you can use the Paint API to measure the largest contentful paint that indicates when the main image, often the hero image, is being rendered. Since the browser can recognize the largest image, the LCP metric is reliably captured in field data.
Improving LCP times depends on improving your server’s response times and removing the page’s “blocking” resources. Focus on providing less data (that is, smaller, more efficient images) through image optimization.
The biggest win for B2B marketers? You can use your tag manager to delay as many tags as possible. Let’s say you have multiple retargeting trackers enabled for the website (LinkedIn, AdWords, etc.). This code is essential for advertising, but it doesn’t need to be executed until the page loads. Just delay tag triggering after content loads. In contrast to the conventional “Pageview” event, it is recorded as a “Window loaded” event in Google Tag Manager.
This small change can cut precious seconds of sideloading. Why try to chase a customer who is 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 the page load, the customer ideally interacts with the page. But modern sites often have many “event watchers” ready to fire.
For example, if the user scrolls down, there may be a tracker sending data that signals the depth of the scrolling. Perhaps there is another tracker that will record the site’s heat map for later analysis of customer interaction.
The same event triggers these trackers, and everyone has code that wakes up and runs. As a result, scrolling can be delayed as the browser is too busy triggering trackers to respond to customer input.
Entry: First entry delay. It measures how long it takes the page 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 using deep analytics, ask whether sampling is a core function. Why should you decrease your conversion rate just to see how customers interact with your website?
Cumulative layout shift (is it fun?)
The cumulative layout shift is a major cause of customer frustration. Have you ever read an online article and suddenly the text shifts? It moves down or an ad appears interrupting your process. In the worst case scenario, do you click a link or button and at the same time the layout shifts and you accidentally click something else?
This is a layout shift, and the CLS metric is how often it occurs when your page is rendering. Unlike the other Core Web Vitals, which are measured over time, CLS is a percentage of the page content. So a CLS score of 0.25 would mean that 25% of the page content was moved while the page was loading – which would likely drive even the most loyal customer insane.
If your website has a high CLS score (greater than 0.1), dynamic content – such as an ad – likely has undefined dimensions. To counteract the shifting of the page, dedicate a specific section of the website to dynamic content – with explicit dimensions.
* * *
To recap, the Core Web Vitals from Google:
- Biggest Contentful Paint (can I see it?)
- First input delay (can i use it?)
- Cumulative layout shift (is it fun?)
Performance marketing drives online B2B experiences, so you may lose users (whom you attracted with ads) if your website is slow.
Accelerate Your Online Presence and Increase Your Marketing Efficiency by Using Core Web Vitals to Evaluate Your Site.
More resources on Google’s Core Web Vitals
The Ultimate Website Checklist for Better UX and Search Rankings: A MarketingProfs Guide
Google’s Page Experience Update: What Every B2B Marketer Should Know
Four Ways SEO Marketing Has Changed in 2020 – and Where to Go in 2021