How to Test and Improve Your Core Web Vitals for WordPress

Running a website can sometimes seem like a never-ending stream of tests. Despite the potential tedium though, they’re important enough for Google to dedicate an entire project to them. Core Web Vitals for WordPress measures how your site performs based on real-world usage.

There are three metrics Core Web Vitals looks at, and Google considers them all relevant for the entire User Experience (UX). This means learning about (and improving) them will net you potential gains in the Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs).

As such, this post will look at Core Web Vitals for WordPress, specifically how to improve them. Before this, we’ll talk more about the project itself.

improve your core web vitals

What Core Web Vitals Are (And Why You Need to Measure Them)

In a nutshell, Core Web Vitals for WordPress is a Google project that formalizes three metrics as important to UX. The metrics have ‘wordy’ names, but they’re easy to digest once you understand their context:

  • Largest Contentful Paint (LCP). This measures how long it takes for the largest element on the screen to load once a user navigates to a URL. In other words, it’s a loading performance metric.
  • First Input Delay (FID). This will be the time it takes between a user clicking an interactive element and the browser responding to it. It measures the interactivity of your web page.
  • Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS). The final metric is a touch more difficult to explain. It returns the sum total of any ‘layout shifts’ during a page’s lifespan. In other words, it will log whenever your page’s elements change position. CLS is a visual stability metric, and looks at how elements of the page are loaded and rendered.

Even without the Core Web Vitals for WordPress project, these metrics would be important regardless. The core concepts of performance, interaction, and visual stability are crucial elements to monitor, and as such, “Core Web Vitals” is an apt name. What’s more, they are going to have a potential effect on your entire SEO strategy.

How Your Core Web Vitals Affect Your Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

If you’re asking us whether Core Web Vitals affects your SEO at the current time of writing (i.e. mid second-quarter 2021), the answer is a shaky “No”. Though, from June 2021 Core Web Vitals will become a part of Google’s Page Experience signals.

In other words, you’ll need to put the work in now to make sure you’re ready. Core Web Vitals will affect search results for both desktop and mobile, and will even determine whether your pages are included in the Top Stories panel (as opposed to using Google AMP to tick this box in the past).

google top stories

On the whole, to get your ranking boost, all of the Core Web Vitals will need to be met. It’s going to be necessary and central to your SEO, so bringing your sites into line now could see you break away from the competition.

How to Test Your WordPress Site’s Core Web Vitals

The good news is that Google lets you monitor all of your Core Web Vitals from multiple tools within its ecosystem. PageSpeed Insights, Search Console, and the Chrome UX Report all let you measure the three metrics.

Despite this, Chrome’s DevTools and Lighthouse don’t let you monitor all of the Core Web Vitals, and we wouldn’t rely on the latter in any case. This is because Core Web Vitals uses real-world data (also called ‘field data’) to report back rather than lab data.

In our opinion, PageSpeed Insights provides the best and most straightforward way to test Core Web Vitals. Once you plugin your domain and begin the analysis, you’ll get a report showing the field data at the top, and the Core Web Vitals marked with a blue ribbon icon:

google pagespeed insights

This will give you an overview of how your site performs. For more details on what PageSpeed Insights has found, scroll to the Diagnostics section. This will display almost every metric recorded. Each Core Web Vital will be displayed, along with specific elements taken into account:

lcp diagnostics

In some cases, you may need to scroll to the Passed audits section and find the specific metric:

cls diagnostic

FID is tougher to diagnose, although we’d suggest if your metric is marked as good, you should leave it be. There’s no direct insight found in the audits list, although next we’ll discuss what you can look at instead.

How to Improve Your Core Web Vitals

If your PageSpeed Insights report has come back without any wounds, you’re in the clear. Though, for most websites, there will often be one or two elements you can improve.

First Input Delay is the toughest metric to fix, as there isn’t any direct correlation between the audit list and the metric itself. Our advice is to start with the Minimize third-party usage audit, and see if there is anything worth investigating.

fid diagnostics

From here, you’ll want to work on minimizing any JavaScript loads, because this has a direct impact on FID.

When it comes to CLS, WordPress does a lot of this work for you. For example, you’ll want to make sure images, embeds, iFrames, and ads all have set dimensions. This happens within WordPress anyway, so it’s going to be more relevant if you’re working under the hood of your site on custom elements.

When it comes to LCP, there are a lot of areas to look at, and most are simple fixes:

Fixing LCP often has a knock-on effect with other Core Web Vitals, so spending more time here than on the other areas will benefit you across the board.

Wrapping Up

Google is the most dominant search engine, so anything they decree is often crucial to heed. The Core Web Vitals project merges three key site metrics and formalizes them as central to the user’s web experience.

In this post, we’ve looked at how to improve performance, interactivity, and visual stability through Core Web Vitals. The great news is that WP Tech Support can help you with ensuring your site confirms to the new Core Web Vitals which is essential to preserve existing rankings and future growth, as well as improving the overall page load time and user experience for desktop and mobile visitors to your website. 

To find out more about how we can help click here.

improve your core web vitals

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