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Evaluating and Improving Your Website With Core Web Vitals

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Improving Your Website With Core Web Vitals

No one ever says, “I wish my website would run slower and register lower in search engine rankings.” If you aren’t keeping up with the latest trends and changes in search engine optimization, those negative outcomes will follow. Google announced its new Core Web Vitals in 2020 and detailed their important role in the user experience, as well as a 2021 integration of the new vitals into search ranking algorithms. [1]Vasilijević, V., Kojić, N., & Vugdelija, N. (2020, October). A NEW APPROACH IN QUANTIFYING USER EXPERIENCE IN WEB-ORIENTED APPLICATIONS. In Fourth International Scientific Conference on Recent … Continue reading

The Three Core Web Vitals

Google assesses your webpage user experience based on many factors, but the three Core Web Vitals carry the most significant weight.

Largest Contentful Paint (LCP)

Largest Contentful Paint (LCP)

The LCP designates how long the page takes to load. If the user clicks a link to a page on your site, the time before they see the majority of the page loaded matters significantly for gaining and keeping user attention. If the page isn’t ready to be read and interacted with in a timely manner, a rapid surge in bounce rate follows.

Google expects a page to achieve LCP in 2.5 seconds or less to achieve a good rating. Longer than 2.5 seconds but four seconds or fewer is considered to “need improvement.” Anything longer is considered “poor.”

First Input Delay
(FID)

First Input Delay (FID)

FID is the measure of how long before a user can initially interact with an aspect of the page. This can include selecting an option in the menu, clicking a navigation link, typing in a fillable field, or opening accordion text.

Consider how important FID is for log-in or sign-up pages. Once a page has achieved LCP, Google expects FID to take place within 100 milliseconds to achieve a positive rating. Many pages for log-in or signup have nothing of substance other than those fillable portions. If they aren’t accessible swiftly and efficiently, not only is it a loss in terms of initial bounce rate but consider the ramifications of a business losing a potential sign-up or subscription.

Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS)

Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS)

CLS is a measure of the stability of a webpage when it loads. As an example of stability, or lack thereof, if a user begins to scroll as the page loads and the page jumps to the top or becomes disrupted by an image causing content to shift, that has a negative impact on CLS. Images and ads, especially popups can make a straightforward webpage experience miserable if content and interactive features shift around.

Why Are Core Web Vitals Important?

The Core Web Vitals have the dual importance of providing a satisfying user experience and providing enhanced SEO discoverability. Google started to use the Core Web Vitals as part of its evaluation of user-friendliness in 2021, and as a result, implemented the user experience into how a website is evaluated for search score.

While page functionality does not outweigh unique, authoritative, quality content, it is important not just for Google ranking but for the customer service aspect. Fast loading pages that are easy to interact with and don’t lose their placement stability during the loading process drive down bounce rates and increase the amount of time spent on the site.

Why Are Core Web Vitals Important

When it comes to SEO, in many ways what Google deems to be important is what is going to be the currency of achieving high search scores. Google selected the name Core Web Vitals and established the timeframes associated with them. They likely aren’t going to cease being an important part of the ranking calculation any time soon. An efficiently designed and functioning website is also important for sustainability and limiting the carbon impact of the servers hosting the site. [2]Nayak, J., & Chandwadkar, A. (2021, July). Green Patterns of User Interface Design: A Guideline for Sustainable Design Practices. In International Conference on Human-Computer Interaction (pp. … Continue reading

How to Improve Core Web Vitals

It’s important to remember when you’re looking to improve your performance with Google, there is no magic bullet. Often a number of small improvements are the key to significant improvements. Below are just some of the ways to improve Core Web Vitals. No single one will make a middling website leap to number one in Google rankings, but all of them can create improvements in site performance. Even small improvements can mean a large impact for revenue-generating sites, like eCommerce. [3]Nichifor, E., Lixăndroiu, R. C., Chițu, I. B., Brătucu, G., & Trifan, A. (2021). How Does Mobile Page Speed Shape In-between Touchpoints in the Customer Journey? A Research Regarding the Most … Continue reading

Optimize Images

Optimize Images

Oversized images are a drag on LCP. A quick-loading page keeps visitors interested in pursuing the information they came to your site for, to begin with. Photos don’t need to be in hi-resolution to appear the way they are intended on most screens. Many content management systems today are becoming more effective at proactive optimization, but there are still pitfalls.

Make sure you are only uploading the optimized photo to the site. Don’t upload a full-sized one and then optimize, at risk of dragging down the site by making it downgrade the photo during the loading process. Making your site grapple with oversized images has always been a potential negative, and Google is docking rankings for this reason more than ever.

Specify Room for Images and Features

This is another instance where manual attention paid by the webmaster or developer can make a difference. The CLS impact of not having specified dimensions for images or ad components can lead to the shifting of content Google will consider poor. Code your images with set dimensions for height and width. If using responsive images, make sure to maintain the same aspect ratio for all.

Increase Server Speed

If you’ve been trying to save money on web hosting, it may be costing you in terms of poor performance in the long run. Slow server speeds can impact all of the Core Web Vitals. If you have control over your server hardware, an upgrade could be in order for continued improvement.

Critical CSS Above the Site’s Fold

Strategically optimizing your site’s most visible portions “above the fold” for inline coding and out of the CSS can enhance performance and give the user the perception of a faster overall experience.

Increase the Speed of Third-Party Scripts

Outside scripts can slow your site down. Look for better-optimized options that don’t impede your server or consider whether that particular script is necessary for your site at all.

Critical CSS

Browser Caching

If you use a browser cache, it will help your user’s browser. It will navigate the Java Script faster.

The Tools to Test Your Core Web Vitals

Waiting for Google’s impact on your site to become evident or, even worse, waiting to receive negative reviews or feedback from users, isn’t a good practice. You should proactively use available tools to test your site’s Core Web Vitals and start making adjustments as soon as possible.

Google created the concepts behind the Core Web Vitals, so as you may expect, they provide tools to test their veracity as well. There are also plenty of options outside the Google family to evaluate the user-friendliness of your site.

These include:

  • Chrome UX Report
  • Chrome DevTools
  • Lighthouse
  • PageSpeed Insights
  • Search Console
  • Web Vitals Extension

All these tools can evaluate LCP and CLS. FID results vary because of the need for actual user data to be firmly assessed. While simulated “lab data” can evaluate LCP and CLS, the need for actual user interaction to assess FID is the difference.

Other User Experience Factors Google Considers

Other User Experience Factors Google Considers

Just as the user experience isn’t the only factor in how Google evaluates and scores a site, the Core Web Vitals are not the only factors in the experience assessment. [4]Krstić, N. (2021). А New Theatre Experience: Page Experience Signals.AM Journal of Art and Media Studies, (26), 129-141. Retrieved May 29, 2022, from … Continue reading Some of the other page experience factors Google pays attention to are:

  • Functionality on mobile devices
  • HTTPS
  • Interstitial pop-ups
  • Malware

A safe and secure browsing experience has increased in importance for Google’s rankings over the last year. As simple as it sounds, it’s imperative for a developer who spends the bulk of their time living in a website’s backend to also keep the minutiae of the page’s user-facing side top-of-mind as well. Everything to do with the user’s experience on the page matters, but the Core Web Vitals that impact the convenience of initial arrival and interaction appear to have the most weight for now.

As noted earlier, the experience vitals Google measures are far from the only thing being measured. Content is still king when it comes to SEO, and there are more than 200 total factors that come into play when Google ultimately decides how to rank a page in its search results.

If your website has been assessed a penalty by Google that is detracting from the value of your SEO efforts, we can help. Whether you overlooked a key aspect, or the demerit is the result of a misinterpretation of backlinks, user experience, or something else, these can be remedied.

It may also be necessary to disavow bad backlinks. Link building is yet another component of SEO that is complicated but has significant payoffs for improving and maintaining Google ranks. Being linked to is an important part of building SEO, although the process has been taken advantage of by SEO experts and spammers. Don’t let bad links be the cause of your site getting downgraded.

The Importance of Page Auditing

Any time a new digital marketing or other outreach campaign relies on SEO to bring traffic to a webpage, an audit is imperative. [5]Šimunić, M. (2021). HOTEL’S WEB SITE HEALTH AUDIT AND PAGES DISTRIBUTION BY THEIR STATUS: AN EMPIRICAL RESEARCH OF FIVE STAR HOTELS IN THE REPUBLIC OF CROATIA. Tourism in South East … Continue reading If the content isn’t substantial enough or if the design of the page is outdated, then the campaign is behind the eight ball at launch.

The launch of new initiatives shouldn’t be the only time auditing is important for your online real estate. Regular evaluation of your site and all its pages should be standard practice. If your website has suddenly become penalized in search engine rankings, it’s important to find the root. You don’t have to audit your site without help.

The Importance of Page Auditing

Are Core Web Vitals the Future or a Fad?

The metrics used to evaluate Google search scores are always subject to change. What isn’t as quick to change are the ramifications behind needing an improved user experience. Your site will always benefit from quicker loading speeds and easier interaction.

No website should consider itself the exclusive or clear best source of information at the expense of neglecting the user. A quick loading site that doesn’t display content while loading and can be interacted with quickly will engage the audience. Core Web Vitals are the most important part of Google’s means of evaluating the user experience currently and are likely to remain so in some form in the future.

Avatar for Jenny Stradling

Jenny Stradling

CEO, Business Consultant, Researcher and Marketing Strategist

Jenny Stradling is the co-founder and CEO of Eminent SEO, a boutique design and multi-channel marketing agency. Jenny began digital marketing in 2005, started Eminent in 2009 and is actively consulting some of the biggest brands in the US today. Her agency is headquartered in Mesa, Arizona, but her team is currently spread across the US.
Jenny is a mom, stepmom and grandma and there is nothing she loves more than spending time with her family. She also enjoys cooking, reading, podcasts, live music, yoga, singing, painting, writing, organizing and making – anything creative really!
Jenny is passionate about researching and sharing information on a wide variety of topics. Some of her current projects are focused on specific issues and causes she cares about, such as: mental health, recovery, personal growth, sustainability, wellness, cannabis, ethics, equality, marketing and business strategy. She also loves to share reviews, stories and content that helps support and feature other artists.

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References

References
1 Vasilijević, V., Kojić, N., & Vugdelija, N. (2020, October). A NEW APPROACH IN QUANTIFYING USER EXPERIENCE IN WEB-ORIENTED APPLICATIONS. In Fourth International Scientific Conference on Recent Advances in Information Technology, Tourism, Economics, Management and Agriculture(p. 9). Retrieved May 29, 2022, from https://www.itema-conference.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/04/ITEMA-2020_Conference-Proceedings_FINAL.pdf#page=25
2 Nayak, J., & Chandwadkar, A. (2021, July). Green Patterns of User Interface Design: A Guideline for Sustainable Design Practices. In International Conference on Human-Computer Interaction (pp. 51-57). Springer, Cham. Retrieved May 29, 2022, from https://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007/978-3-030-90176-9_8
3 Nichifor, E., Lixăndroiu, R. C., Chițu, I. B., Brătucu, G., & Trifan, A. (2021). How Does Mobile Page Speed Shape In-between Touchpoints in the Customer Journey? A Research Regarding the Most Trusted Retailers in Romania. Journal of Theoretical and Applied Electronic Commerce Research, 16 (5), 1369-1389. Retrieved May 29, 2022, from https://www.mdpi.com/0718-1876/16/5/77
4 Krstić, N. (2021). А New Theatre Experience: Page Experience Signals.AM Journal of Art and Media Studies, (26), 129-141. Retrieved May 29, 2022, from https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Natasa-Krstic/publication/356414963_A_New_Theatre_Experience_Page_Experience_Signals/links/6199438b07be5f31b7a219ef/A-New-Theatre-Experience-Page-Experience-Signals.pdf
5 Šimunić, M. (2021). HOTEL’S WEB SITE HEALTH AUDIT AND PAGES DISTRIBUTION BY THEIR STATUS: AN EMPIRICAL RESEARCH OF FIVE STAR HOTELS IN THE REPUBLIC OF CROATIA. Tourism in South East Europe…, 6, 739-756. Retrieved May 29, 2022, from https://www.proquest.com/openview/3122a7a967f6515eed76a87d128ce117/1?pq-origsite=gscholar&cbl=1936348
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Neuroscience and SEO

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Neuroscience and SEO

As technology creeps closer and closer to understanding and emulating the human psyche, we as marketers and consumers are beginning to see the effects in our everyday lives. Where we once had to type truncated key phrases into search engines to ensure proper interpretation, we can now speak our questions aloud conversationally as AI devices gather the answers. Where we once may have been blissfully unaware of impending health crises, our watches can now alert us to seek treatment. These technologies are, overall, a wonderful addition to modern life, allowing us security and access to entertainment, health advice, and information faster than ever.

These changes are now creating an interesting shift in the world of SEO. Though marketers have always known that including emotion-based information can help effectively pull in clients, the general consensus has been that it’s better to stick to SEO metrics that produce hard data for analysis and study. In general, advertisers have stayed away from what they call, “fluffy metrics” that depend on emotion and often-murky neuroscience rather than quantifiable activity.

Times Are Changing

While the metrics may be harder to monitor, incorporating neuroscience not how we search for, display, and process information is a natural next step for an industry focused on streamlining the human experience. As a result, where we once avoided incorporating aspects of neuroscience into SEO that were difficult to quantify, we are now starting to use them to our advantage.

Aspects of Neuroscience in SEO

Neuroscience is a fairly broad term, which makes sense, as the human brain itself is incredibly complex and difficult to understand.

Broadly defined, neuroscience as the study of the brain and nervous system includes aspects of anatomy and physiology, molecular biology, mathematics, and even computer science. From what we understand right now, some of these neuroscience disciplines can help us create dependable results when it comes to the humans that interact with our web pages.

As any SEO-savvy marketer knows, creating a website that is intuitive and simple to interact with is the ultimate goal. These interactions are more likely to last longer and prove more productive, boosting search engine rankings and the general standing of a website while maximizing sales and other conversions. This is how neuroscience can help increase website engagement.

Here are some common categories of neuroscience that can be integrated into your SEO strategies for more interaction.

Color Theory and Psychology

Eminent SEO - Color Psychology Infographic

Psychologists have known for a while that color plays an important role in people’s thoughts, behaviors, and feelings. Whether this is simply because of societal conditioning or inherent instinct is unclear, but the end result is the same. Humans have been proven to react in similar ways to certain colors:

  • Red. The hottest and most dynamic color. Activating and stimulating, this bold color is known to evoke assertion, courage, determination, energy, excitement, passion, desire, sexuality, strength, leadership and vigor.
  • Orange. Not as overwhelming as red, but still bold. Orange is balanced, vibrant, energetic, friendly and inviting. Science reports people associate orange with success, creativity, warmth, health, happiness, fun, determination, sexuality, freedom and compassion.
  • Yellow. The brightest and most energizing of the warm colors. Happy, warm, stimulating and expansive. This color has been shown to prompt mental activity, inspire cheerfulness and joy, and grab attention. However, too much yellow has been shown to become disturbing to viewers.
  • Green. Known for inspiring positivity and representing stability, green is calming, balancing and rejuvenating. Green also works well for expressing growth, freshness, harmony, safety, ambitiousness and relaxation.
  • Blue. Often used in healthcare and business marketing, blue says trust, loyalty, sincerity, confidence, stability, faith, intelligence, tranquility and calmness. Blue characterizes calmness, spirituality as well as safety and security.
  • Purple. The color of royalty, magic, and mysticism. Many folks find this color to be stabilizing, in theory because purple is a combination of two other stabilizing colors: blue and red. Purple is a luxurious color, and implies wealth, nobility, abundance, and dignity. But can also stand for creativity and imagination.
  • Pink. Not as commonly used in big brand marketing, pink implies youth, tenderness, and vulnerability. It’s calming, non-threatening, and associated with femininity and nurturing. It can be a great balance as a supporting color when a brand is overly masculine and wants to bring in some feminine elements.
  • White. In general, people associate white with purity, perfection, cleanliness, and goodness. White is usually seen as an indicator of a new beginning, and most people have a positive association with the color.
  • Black. For most of the western world, black is easily associated with funerals and mourning. To many, it symbolizes fear, negativity, evil, mystery, and unknown. Dark and heavy designs tend to work well for serious messaging and as a counterbalance to a bright color pallet.

Loss Aversion

Loss aversion is another key neuroscientific tactic when it comes to boosting website traffic and creating business. On its most basic level, loss aversion describes how humans are constantly concerned that they’re missing out on a positive opportunity. In fact, the vast majority of us have either heard of or experienced what many call FOMO, or the fear of missing out—that intrinsic, automatic, drive to avoid not being able to participate.

While it may seem cruel, capitalizing on this very human condition can do wonders when it comes to digital advertising.  Even if someone held only a mild interest in your site or product, if they feel that they’re risking missing out on something, they’re much more likely to take the time to browse. This can be especially effective for sales on ecommerce websites. Whether you have an item low in stock, a discontinued special, a sale going on, or some other option that you want people to notice, including the risk of loss into your web copy and content can help you catch viewer attention.

Social Proof

Humans experience a natural motivation to do what their peers are doing. The need to be an accepted part of a group stems back to our basest, most animal instincts, with the primitive parts of our brain understanding that there is safety in numbers. Using this basic instinct is one of the most straightforward ways to get people interested in and willing to navigate through to your site.

Displaying the amount of customers you currently have or giving real time updates on signups and followers can provide an automatic sense of trust and build user interest. Collaborating with major companies or influencers can help you prove you have social clout. If users see that other people are consistently using your product, service, or website, more of them are going to want in—it’s just how our brains work.

The Element of Surprise

Most of these neuroscience-based techniques have the secondary effect of reminding us that very little of the information on the internet is unique. Whereas at one time, there may have only been a few websites covering niche topics, there are now hundreds, thousands, or even millions. Depending on the search, to the user there is often not a large amount of difference between the first few results on an SERP, especially if the search terms are relatively straightforward.

Our brains are designed to flush unnecessary information from our consciousness on a regular basis, which is a problem for brands trying to draw user attention. In a sea of information that appears the same, how is one website or brand supposed to stand out? One route neuroscientists suggest is to surprise the user. Surprises grab attention, cutting through the sea of sameness to become prominent in the minds of the user. Tactics like personalized email marketing and e-cards, a catchy tagline, a surprisingly innovative new website, and more are some of the few ways to stand out when practically everything a person could ever want to know is a Google search away.

Neuroscience Creates an Emotional Pull

Humans are emotional creatures, whether we want to admit it or not, which is one of the major aspects of our makeup that differentiates us from computers. At the root of each of the above tactics is the power of using emotion to drive marketing. As you can see, neuroscience-based methods can elicit an emotional response from audiences, creating the impetus to act in the ways you want. Though all of the above tactics work well in creating an emotional response, each of them does so by subtly appealing to the user’s emotions.

Sometimes, simply making content openly emotional can be an effective way to pull in viewers. Take Bing’s 2013 Heroic Women Ad.

The content has little to do with the search engine itself, but it was so emotionally impactful at a time where women’s liberation was once again beginning to creep to the forefront of American thought, that it served to make a lasting impression on user minds. Bing used strong music with an empowering message and dubbed over lines from inspirational speeches by women. By linking itself to the birth of a movement that already had inspired deep, meaningful feelings in its users, Bing created an advertisement that had little to do with logic and everything to do with emotion—and it worked.

Emotions Drive Decision

What’s perhaps most important to note about emotional pull is that it has incredible clout when it comes to affecting our decisions, a concept that is especially true when money is involved. Every one of us can likely think of an instance where we purchased an item for ourselves or a loved one that didn’t make much logical sense. Perhaps the product in question was something that didn’t have an important function in our daily lives, or a new version of something we already owned that still worked perfectly fine.

If these purchases aren’t logical, why do we make them? It’s simple: emotion has a great deal to do with how we make decisions in life, including purchase decisions. If every decision were logical, we would live with the bare necessities and nothing more. In reality, few of us do that. As a result, emotions are a key driver behind most of the neuroscience-based marketing tactics listed above.

Neuroscience + UX

Eminent SEO - Neuroscience + UX

Using neuroscience to drive advertising and marketing success is not a new concept. Marketers have known for years that human beings are most swayed by emotional appeals over other tactics. However, with the evolution of SEO, leveraging the science of the brain really began with understanding the customer, their journey and optimizing every step with the right keywords and content.

Now, in addition to building on critical SEO elements like target keywords and on-page optimization, SEO experts are adding elements of the advertising techniques that drove the Mad Men to success. Playing on emotions, incorporating color to make important page elements pop, and showing users what they could be missing are all ways of using neuroscience elements to encourage the human brain to desire access to your website, products, and services.

While this doesn’t directly improve your ranking based on traditional SEO criteria, it certainly does improve UX, which is more important than ever as Google’s Core Web Vitals add a new set of standards for a successful website. By using neuroscience to create websites and inform our SEO tactics, we can help ensure user experience is directly linked to the human experience.

Avatar for Jenny Stradling

Jenny Stradling

CEO, Business Consultant, Researcher and Marketing Strategist

Jenny Stradling is the co-founder and CEO of Eminent SEO, a boutique design and multi-channel marketing agency. Jenny began digital marketing in 2005, started Eminent in 2009 and is actively consulting some of the biggest brands in the US today. Her agency is headquartered in Mesa, Arizona, but her team is currently spread across the US.
Jenny is a mom, stepmom and grandma and there is nothing she loves more than spending time with her family. She also enjoys cooking, reading, podcasts, live music, yoga, singing, painting, writing, organizing and making – anything creative really!
Jenny is passionate about researching and sharing information on a wide variety of topics. Some of her current projects are focused on specific issues and causes she cares about, such as: mental health, recovery, personal growth, sustainability, wellness, cannabis, ethics, equality, marketing and business strategy. She also loves to share reviews, stories and content that helps support and feature other artists.

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