How to Test and Improve Your Core Web Vitals for WordPress

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 redundancy, they’re important enough for Google to dedicate an entire project. Core Web Vitals for WordPress measures your site’s performance based on real-world usage.

Core Web Vitals examines three metrics, and Google considers them all relevant to the entire User Experience (UX). This means learning about (and improving) them can lead to potential gains in the Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs).

As such, this post will examine Core Web Vitals for WordPress and specifically how to improve them. Before this, we’ll discuss the project itself.

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 that are 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 most significant 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) is 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 challenging to explain. It returns the 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 aspects of the page are loaded and rendered.

These metrics would be necessary even without the Core Web Vitals for the WordPress project. 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 could potentially affect 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., second-quarter 2021), the answer is a shaky “No”. However, starting in June 2021, Core Web Vitals will become a part of Google’s Page Experience signals.

In other words, you’ll need to put in the work now to make sure you’re ready. Core Web Vitals will affect search results for 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

Overall, to boost your ranking, you will need to meet all of the Core Web Vitals. They are necessary and central to your SEO, so bringing your sites into line now could help 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 your Core Web Vitals using 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. Core Web Vitals uses real-world data (also called ‘field data’) rather than lab data to report back.

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 more arduous to diagnose, although we’d suggest if your metric is marked as good, you should leave it be. There’s no direct insight 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 returned without any wounds, you’re in the clear. However, 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 anything is worth investigating.

fid diagnostics

From here, you’ll want to work on minimizing JavaScript loads, which have 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 ensure images, embeds, iFrames, and ads have set dimensions. This happens within WordPress anyway, so it’s going to be more relevant if you’re working on custom elements under the hood of your site.

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 in the other areas will benefit you.

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 examined how Core Web Vitals can improve performance, interactivity, and visual stability. The great news is that WP Tech Support can help you speed up your site, which is essential to preserving existing rankings and future growth. It can also improve 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.

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