Google to Tweak Core Web Vitals – What do B2B Marketers Need to Know?
Google recently announced an upcoming change to its Core Web Vitals metrics.
It’s hard to talk about Core Web Vitals (CWV) this without resorting to a lot of Three Letter Acronyms (TLAs). So – TLA alert. Bear with me.
What is CWV?
CWV is a Google system for measuring web page user experience. We’re fans! User experience is important and making it easier to measure helps us all make improvements. We wrote in detail about why CWV is a good thing back in 2020.
Since the original release of CWV Google has created a new user experience metric (“INP”). INP has been available for a while in Google page speed reports, but it’s not currently one of the 3 “core” metrics that make up CWV. So INP doesn’t currently have a direct impact on SEO.
What’s Changing in CWV?
Google’s recent announcement says that the set of 3 core metrics will be changed in March 2024. INP will become “core” and will replace an older metric (“FID”). The other two core metrics (LCP and CLS) are remaining unchanged.
Because of this pending change, Google are sending alerts to some website owners. If you have Google Search Console (GSC) set up, you may have received a warning from Google about your site’s INP scores.
I’ll forgive you if you’re thinking, well, WTF, at this point. NGL, this is quite an esoteric technical change. But as a B2B marketer you don’t really need to know the details.
What Do I do Next?
The TL;DR: use Google’s Page Speed Insights tool to check your website’s INP score. Remember to check both desktop and mobile scores. If they are within the acceptable range, you don’t need to take any action. But if your INP score is bad, you should work with your website developers to improve it. Otherwise, your SEO will start to suffer from March 2024 onwards. You should expect any project to improve INP to be quite technical in nature. You’ll definitely need to involve your web developers.
One possible complication: the CWV report in Page Speed Insights relies on real world data that Google collects from a variety of sources. If your website has very few visitors – which is often the case for niche B2B websites – PSI might not be able to give you a score for some or all of the core web vitals values. For example, here’s what we see when we test our own sharpahead.com website:
In this case, the FID and INP values are both shown as “N/A” – Google doesn’t have enough data to give a score.
If that happens for your site, you might be able to get a score by changing the CWV option from “This URL” to “Origin”:
“This URL” tests a single page, whereas “Origin” combines all pages from your domain to give an average. In our case that’s enough to get an INP score:
What If I Care About The Gory Details?
(Feel free to skip this part!)
FID and INP both attempt to measure website “responsiveness”, that is, how quickly a page responds to a user interaction.
Both FID and INP are somewhat artificial measures. (That’s not surprising – user experience is complex and it’s hard to reduce it to a single measure.) Google are switching from FID to INP because they believe it gives a more accurate picture of the real user experience.
FID is “first input delay”. It’s the time from when the user interacts with a page (e.g. when they click on a button) to when the browser STARTS to process that interaction. Note that we’re measuring something internal to the browser here – nothing has actually happened to the page that is visible to the user, it’s just that the cogs have started to turn behind the scenes.
INP is “interaction to next paint”. That’s the time from when the user interacts with the page to when SOMETHING APPEARS ON THE SCREEN as a result of the interaction. That is: there’s a visible result of some sort in response to the user action.
I think it’s easy to see why INP is an improvement over FID. One could get a good FID score if the browser is “responsive” behind the scenes, but it might still take a long time for anything to appear on the user’s screen. With INP, the website actually has to show the response to the user quickly in order to get a good score. So INP is a more complete measure of what the user actually experiences.