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How to optimize your website’s Core Web Vitals

Google announced this week that it will delay the rollout of it’s page experience update to mid-June 2021, with it taking full effect by the end of August. While it gives you more time to get ready, it’s not a cue to let off the accelerator. Good Core Web Vitals are a key indicator of great user experience (UX) which leads to more conversions and happier customers. 

A great place to start is by testing your page speed. There are a number of tools out there that show you where you stand and provide information on each of the Core Web Vitals. Once you know your current scores you can start to make adjustments and measure improvement.

Here are 4 areas where you can collaborate to optimize your website for faster load times and improved page experience.

Optimize images

There are a couple of techniques to leverage to ensure your on-page images don’t contribute to slow speeds or layout shifts.

Modern formats
Compressing image sizes and updating image files to modern formats like WebP (rather than PNG or JPEG) can also speed things up. This can have a big impact on overall page load speed especially if your current pages are image heavy. 

Preload images
You might also consider preloading visual elements where possible to improve load times. This technique helps in particular with improving LCP measurements.

Fixed-height placeholders
Leveraging fixed-height placeholders reserves space for page elements and images. This limits the amount of layout shift that occurs on the page while they load. 

Clean up your code

As your initial website layout loads, the browser makes calls to your server to paint the initial content on your site. In order to speed load times, we recommend that you inline any CSS that is important for your overall website layout and design. This minimizes the number of individual files the browser needs to render.  

While you’re at it, take a look at your JavaScript as well. Is there any code that can be converted to features in HTML5 and CSS3? This is particularly important for older websites, but minimizing as much JS as possible can speed your site tremendously. What may seem like a minor change can have a big impact on revenues. Staples reduced median homepage load time by just one second and saw a 10% increase in their conversion rate as a result.

Don’t forget security

While it may not be a Core Web Vital, site security is a ranking signal, so while you’re doing that code clean-up, take some time to do an audit of your site security. HMTL pages are more vulnerable and pose a higher risk to your users and their data. Protecting your customers is a core of the user experience after all.

Make sure your applications and plug-ins are current as vulnerabilities in out-of-date versions are often exploited by hackers. Check your SSL/TSL certification expiration dates and create an automated process to remind relevant team members to renew starting at 90 days out. 

Rethink pop-ups and other interstitials

We’ve all had the experience where we thought a webpage was done loading, only to click on an ad accidentally because a pop-up rendered at the last minute. Google calls these “intrusive interstitials.” But the rest of us call them annoying.  

Pop-ups for cookies and other legal obligations (e.g. age verifications) are okay. But any interstitial that covers too much content or that is too difficult to dismiss can negatively affect UX. They can also impact CLS by causing layout shifts.

If you must use a pop-up or other interstitial, make sure they’re mobile friendly. They should be easy to dismiss with a prominent X. You should also ensure there’s a delay in place so that it doesn’t displace content that’s already rendered, either through a timing delay or a scrolling delay. And definitely make sure any pop-up doesn’t slow your page load time!

With this update to its ranking factors, Google is giving users what they want—fast website experiences that are easy to use and navigate. In order to stay on top of the competition, web teams must now expand their SEO focus from content and keywords to page performance. It’s time for marketing, UX and engineering teams to collaborate to optimize for Core Web Vitals and keep their customers coming back.

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