« Back to front page

Core Web Vitals: A practical guide for website owners

Google’s Core Web Vitals were a major innovation for page experience in 2021. We explain why they matter, and how to ensure your website complies with them.

In the summer of 2021, Google introduced Core Web Vitals as search ranking factors. This made website user experience (WUX) became more important than ever. So how can you optimize your website for a page experience that scores highly on the Core Web Vitals? And will we be getting new Core Web Vitals in 2022? Let's find out in this guide.

What are the Core Web Vitals?

The Core Web Vitals are metrics that measure the loading speed, interactivity and visual stability of a website. They're part of Google's page experience ranking signal, which aims to guarantee a positive and smooth user experience.

In Google's words: “Page experience is a set of signals that measure how users perceive the experience of interacting with a web page beyond its pure information value, both on mobile and desktop devices.”

The Core Web Vitals of loading speed, interactivity and visual stability are represented by the metrics "Largest Contentful Paint" (loading speed), "First Input Delay" (interactivity) and "Cumulative Layout Shifts" (visual stability). Let's look at each of these in turn…

Largest Contentful Paint (loading speed)

How fast does a page load when the user visits it? This question is answered by the metric Largest Contentful Paint, or LCP for short.

More specifically, LCP measures the time taken to fully render the largest visible piece of content in the viewport. According to Google, the Largest Contentful Paint should be visible within the first 2.5 seconds of the loading process.

Why the largest visible element? Unlike similar metrics such as "First Contentful Paint", LCP is designed to measure loading from the user's perspective. It shows when the page content is actually clearly visible from a website user's perspective.

First Input Delay (interactivity)

How long does the user have to wait before interacting with the page? First Input Delay (FID) indicates this.

The time is measured from the first interaction of the user with a page to the reaction of the browser to this interaction. The key figure therefore records any delays, for example when a user clicks on a link or button.

Long waiting times cause frustration, and in the worst case a page appears to be "frozen". User tolerance here is very low! Therefore, Google recommends keeping the FID below 100 milliseconds if possible.

Cumulative Layout Shift (visual stability)

How visually stable is the website? Are there any visual changes while it loads? The Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS) metric answers these questions. It records whether or how much the page layout changes during the loading phase.

Layout shifts occur, for example, when a user scrolls through a page and reformats its appearance with buttons, videos, images or pop-ins that appear. So annoying.

This distracts visitors from reading the page, so bouncing elements should be avoided. Google gives a CLS value of less than 0.1 as a target.


Fig. 1: Google's Core Web Vital benchmarks

Google’s Page Experience Update of 2021

At this point you may be wondering where the Core Web Vitals actually come from, and why they're suddenly a hot topic. Let's review…

The Core Web Vitals were introduced by Google in 2021 as part of the Page Experience Update. “Page Experience” is a combination of the new Core Web Vitals and the three well-known factors Mobile Friendliness, HTTPS and guidelines for avoiding intrusive interstitials.

The result is a holistic approach to evaluating website usability, where the key question is: How do users perceive the interaction with the website as a whole?


Fig. 2: Google's Page Experience Ranking signals

Why the Core Web Vitals matter

With the Core Web Vitals, Google clarifies what a website must offer in order to meet user expectations – and therefore Google's own expectations, as it wants to serve high-quality search results!

A bad page experience is perceived by Google as a negative signal, and can therefore have a negative impact on a page's search ranking and organic visibility. Conversely, high usability can have a positive effect on organic visibility.

The factors measured by the Core Web Vitals are not fundamentally new, and have been relevant to a website's usability before. With their inclusion as an official ranking signal, Google is now putting a stronger focus on the topic of user-friendliness and, with the corresponding reports, offers new possibilities for identifying weak points on a website.

Of course, a bad user experience doesn’t just affect your rankings. The effects range from higher bounce rates and lower conversion opportunities to the decision not to revisit a site, according to the Chromium Blog. A bad user experience will cost you valuable sales.

This is a very good reason to tackle the topic of Page Experience! Regardless of how important your SEO rankings are to you, you should use the Core Web Vitals as an opportunity to take a closer look at your website and optimize it in terms of user-friendliness.

How to measure Core Web Vitals correctly

Clearly, before you can optimize your Core Web Vitals, you have to know where you stand – and that means first measure them, then optimize for them.

Luckily, getting an overview of your Core Web Vitals performance is pretty easy. Google helps site operators with a number of free tools. You can find your Core Web Vitals values in the Google Search Console, in PageSpeed Insights or in other tools of the Chrome User Experience Report, for example.

Core Web Vitals in Google Search Console

Google Search Console provides you with an overview of your Core Web Vitals performance on desktop and mobile devices – each with a graphic and examples of "bad", "to be optimized" and "good" URLs. The ratings are based on field data, i.e. on the data of the actual page visits.

  • The summary page of the report shows the cumulative data of the analyzed URLs broken down by device type and their status of good, needs improvement, and bad.

  • The detail view for each device type (mobile, desktop) shows the problem types present and their status for all analyzed website URLs.

  • Clicking on a listed issue will display example URLs where the identified issue is occurring.


Fig.3: Overview of Core Web Vitals performance for mobile and desktop in Google Search Console

Core Web Vitals in Google’s PageSpeed Insights

PageSpeed Insights provides measurements for individual pages on your website. In the results window under “User-side performance”, Google shows the Core Web Vitals values of the tested site. In addition, the tool shows whether the tested site passes the Core Web Vitals exam overall.


Fig. 4: Core Web Vitals results from Google's PageSpeed Insights

Core Web Vitals in Chrome Developer Tools

If you want to know exactly, you can use the Google developer tools to analyze the actual loading process of a page .

  • Open the Chrome developer tools with CTRL + SHIFT + I on a Windows PC, or with CTRL + OPTION + I on the Mac. Under the other tools in the tab above you will find the option “Performance”.

  • Then start a recording as described there and reload the page to be analyzed (hard refresh).

  • Stop recording as soon as the page is fully loaded.

  • In the recording of the loading process you will find information about the loading time of loading the LCP and potential layout shifts.

  • Hovering over the different values in the chart will highlight the respective element on the page so you can check which element is responsible for the LCP value and which elements are responsible for potential layout shifts.


Fig. 5: Recording of the page loading process in the Chrome developer tools

Core Web Vitals on the Ryte Platform

You can also use the Ryte platform to test and analyze the Core Web Vitals.

The "Web Vitals" report in Ryte Web Performance not only gives you an overview of the number of your "good", "improve" and "bad" pages, but also provides the individual LCP, FID and CLS values for all your pages. You can start a free Ryte trial to try out the report:


Fig. 6: Check Core Web Vitals values with Ryte

Practice Tips: Core Web Vitals Optimization

Now it's time for optimizing your website for the Core Web Vitals. In this section, we've summarized a few factors that often impact page experience. Additionally, look at the diagnostic tips from tools like Google PageSpeed Insights to identify the specific vulnerabilities of your website.

Improve Largest Contentful Paint

As a reminder, LCP is about the loading speed of the largest element in the visible area of your pages. The following tips will help you with LCP optimization:

  • Reduce server response time. First you should check the general response time of the server for the main document and optimize it if necessary, since all other requests – including loading the LCP – depend on it. Analyze the efficiency of your server-side code and ensure, for example, that static elements are stored in the cache to save resources.

  • Avoid render-blocking JavaScript and CSS. JavaScript and CSS resources take a relatively long time to be processed by the browser, delaying the loading of your pages and your LCP. Check which JS and CSS files are actually necessary for the immediate user experience and therefore make sure that as few JavaScript and CSS files as possible block the rendering process. For example by compressing JS and CSS files, removing unused files, enabling asynchronous loading of files or injecting critical CSS inline.

  • Optimize large image files. In many cases, the largest content paint on a page is a large image in the above-the-fold area – eg your page hero image, or a large banner. Identify the LCP of your pages (e.g. with PageSpeed Insights or with the Chrome developer tools as described above) and check options such as image compression and resizing.

  • Carefully select content at the top of the page. You can also consider whether you want to do without large images at the top of your pages in order to optimize your LCP value. Rethink page layout and use of images that appear first on load. Perhaps large files and videos can also be placed further down the page? You can check whether this change improves the loading speed of your pages with an A/B test of both variants.

  • Don’t forget the mobile version when testing. Mobile devices have smaller screens. So the content that appears in view immediately upon loading is different from the desktop version. Therefore, always test your pages for mobile devices as well and pay attention to the differences between horizontal and vertical display. Keep mobile file sizes as small as possible, as mobile users tend to have slower connections.

Improve First Input delay

When a page responds to user input with a delay, we speak of First Input Delay. The following tips will help you avoid FID on your pages:

  • Reduce JavaScript. Data from external sources can be easily integrated into websites using JavaScript. However, as mentioned above, the response time suffers if too much, too large JavaScript is used. Because the execution of JavaScript in the main thread prevents your browser from reacting to user interactions. If you have problems with FID, check the use of JavaScript, optimize files used and remove JavaScript that is not required.

  • Third-party code optimization. Widgets, forms and animations based on third-party code increase the load of simultaneous processes that need to be fully completed before your site becomes interactive. The following applies here: Limit yourself to the essentials and check whether your pages contain unnecessary third-party code that can be removed. You can also consider on-demand loading of third-party code and prioritize loading the elements most important to the user.

  • General relief of the main thread. The more processes a page has to go through when loading, the higher the computing load for the main thread. This must handle user processes and paint processes as well as code embeddings. The main thread is relieved by less complex layouts and the absence of special effects.

Improve layout shifts

Problems with the Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS) metric occur when a website unintentionally changes its visual appearance during a visit. Here are a few tips on how to avoid such layout shifts:

  • Keep sufficient distance around visual elements. If there is not enough space between the text and the image and, for example, the text on a website flows around images, the entire layout can shift depending on the screen size. Therefore, avoid grouping text and images and provide sufficient spacing around visual elements. Such settings are already made in most website themes. Nevertheless, you should play it safe and check your settings.

  • Avoid images, animations, and embeds without dimensions. Elements without size information or with dynamic sizes can cause significant shifts in the layout. You can avoid such shifts by adding width and height size attributes to images and video elements and reserving as much space as possible for dynamic ads.

  • Avoid adding dynamic content. The appearance of new content on top of existing content (e.g. content appearing in response to user interaction) results in unexpected layout shifts. It’s best to avoid such subsequent changes to the layout. If dynamic elements such as GDPR notices or newsletter pop-ups are necessary, you should reserve sufficient space in the viewport for them in advance (placeholders).

Tip: You can also use our Core Web Vitals checklist to help you optimize your Core Web Vitals. You can download it as a PDF for free.

Outlook 2022: New Core Web Vitals metrics planned

Don't forget, the Google algorithm never stands still. As soon as we got used to LCP, FID and CLS, the next innovation is already on the agenda: the introduction of two new Core Web Vitals for “Smoothness” and “Responsiveness”.

Google announced the expansion of the Core Web Vitals in November 2021. According to Google, the new key figures for measuring smoothness and responsiveness should join the metrics for loading speed, interactivity and visual stability in 2022.

The smoothness metric is currently still being planned. The metric “Interaction to next Paint ” was presented for “Responsiveness” in May 2022. Here's what we know about the new Core Web Vitals:

Responsiveness: Interaction to Next Paint (INP)

In May 2022, Google introduced "Interaction to Next Paint", or INP for short. According to Google , it was developed to better capture the end-to-end latency of individual events and provide a holistic picture of a page 's overall responsiveness.

While First Input Delay (FID) measures the time between the user interacting with the page and when the event handlers can be executed, the new metric is intended to capture the entire event duration, i.e. from the first user input to the next frame, after all event handlers have run.

More specifically, Interaction to Next Paint (INP) logs the latency of all interactions throughout the lifecycle of the page and records the highest value as INP. Accordingly, website operators should aim for the lowest possible INP value. This shows that a page responds reliably at all times.

Google currently defines an INP of up to 200 milliseconds as a good response time and an INP of over 500 milliseconds as a bad response time. Since INP is currently still an experimental field metric , this information can still change.

You can already measure Interaction to Next Paint with Google's PageSpeed Insight, the CrUX API, the Chrome Web Vitals extension and other Google tools.

Tip: If you want to delve deeper into the new Core Web Vitals, we strongly recommend the web.dev blog. There, Google's developers explain and document the Core Web Vitals metrics in detail.

Smoothness: metric planned

So far, the new smoothness metric is just an idea from the Chrome developers.

The new metric is intended to help avoid “not smooth” experiences . This means, for example, pages that stutter when scrolling or animations that freeze.

Exactly what “animation smoothness” will look like, how the two new metrics will change Core Web Vitals, and when they will officially become part of the Page Experience signal remains to be seen. But one thing is clear: website operators who strive for the top positions in the SERPs should be prepared for the increasing importance of page experience.

Closing thoughts: Understand Core Web Vitals as an opportunity

Google's goal is to provide users with the best possible and most relevant content for their search queries. To achieve this goal, Google is constantly working on improving its search algorithm. The topic of page experience will certainly continue to play an important role in the future.

That being said, factors like page speed, interactivity and mobile-friendliness of a website are more than ranking signals from Google. They have a decisive influence on the user journey and shape the experience that users have when visiting a website and which they associate with a brand or a product.

As a website operator or SEO, your goal should not just be achieving good Google benchmarks. Your goal should be to improve the usability of your website in order to provide visitors with the most pleasant experience possible. The better rankings then come automatically.

From this perspective, the Core Web Vitals are less of an additional hurdle and more of a welcome opportunity to improve one's website user experience. Time to optimize!

Ryte users gain +93% clicks after 1 year. Learn how!

Published on Jul 1, 2022 by Miriam Deck