Core Web Vitals – What Does This Mean for Small Businesses?

Changes are coming to Google Search. If your business relies on being at the top of search results there are some website performance issues that must be addressed.

If your site doesn’t rank at all and you are not concerned about generating website traffic then you may not need to do worry about the new ranking factors.

Core web vitals are the metrics that measure how well a website is performing and are indicative of the user experience. They can be used to diagnose problems with a site or identify opportunities for improvement.

Do you know what your core web vitals are?

If you’re not sure, then it’s time to find out.

The good news is that there are many tools available to help small businesses monitor their core web vitals so they can make changes as needed before anything goes wrong.  Throughout the page, we’ll tell you about these tools. But first thing’s first – we need to know the state of your core web vitals.

If you don’t want to do it yourself and don’t have a developer on board already, pop your details into the form and we will tell you the state of your core web vitals.

For Home Improvement Businesses

Free Core Web Vitals Report

Table of Contents.

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1. Do Small Businesses Need to Worry About Core Web Vitals?

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2. How Much Will a Drop in Website Traffic Cost Your Business?

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3. What are Core Web Vitals?

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4. What Does This Mean For Small Business Websites?

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5. Your Website Doesn't Need To Be Perfect.

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6. Measuring Your Core Web Vitals.

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7. What's in a Core Web Vitals Report?

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8. First Contentful Paint.

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9. First Input Delay.

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10. Cumulative Layout Shift.

1. Do Small Businesses Need to Worry About Core Web Vitals?

If your business relies on traffic from search engines, you need to be concerned about core web vitals.

You may get confused when researching core web vitals because a lot of the information is written for bloggers and big companies who will be impacted hugely if they drop in the rankings. Often these sites rely on revenue from advertisers so if their website is not seen, there will be fewer clicks on their advertisements.

This article focuses on what core web vitals means for small businesses and whether there are other ranking factors that you should be concerned about before tackling technical issues.

Drop in search traffic

How much will a drop in website traffic cost your business?

Google doesn’t usually give warning about changes. The fact that they have given plenty of notice and been specific about what is changing is an indication that website owners must take notice.

2. How Much Will a Drop in Website Traffic Cost Your Business?

Have you analysed your website traffic and its relationship to your turnover? It’s a good way to predict and plan your business growth.

So far we estimate that for a local home improvement business you need approximately 500 visitors from good sources with no more than 60% bounce rate per £1m turnover.

That’s a reasonable starting point if you are using traffic numbers to predict growth. I’m talking about businesses that sell products such as windows and doors, kitchens, bathrooms, solar, fitted bedrooms, etc.

By good sources, we mean traffic that comes from search engines rather than ads. Visitors from Google, Google My Business or any other search engine are usually motivated and will buy from someone soon. They know what they want and have typed their query into a search box.

To put a monetary measure on it using this calculation a business with a £2million turnover could drop £400,000 in sales if traffic dropped by 20% because of poor core web vitals.

If none or very little of your business comes from Google or other search engines then you are unlikely to be affected. A 20% drop of zero is still zero.

Far better to worry about what you can do to start ranking rather than core web vitals.

3. What are Core Web Vitals?

Core Web Vitals are an extensive list of metrics that will be a part of Google’s “page experience” score. It’ll measure how users feel about the speed, responsiveness and stability on every page they access through their search engine.

Without the jargon, Google is asking:

How fast is this site to load?

How easy is this site to use?

How responsive is this site?

 

Page Speed Insights test

Overall, Google is asking if the website gives the visitor a good experience? Remember that web visitors are Google’s customers and they want them to have good service.

4. What Does This Mean For Small Business Websites?

The first thing to understand is that your website is not going to disappear. Google has said that it won’t apply penalties to sites.

These metrics will become ranking factors so if your core web vitals are poor you may appear further down the list of websites offered.

As rankings are a competition with other businesses, the necessity for optimisation depends on what your competitors are doing.

You already cannot compete with the national companies so don’t worry about what they are doing. Large companies no doubt have full-time teams working on their websites.

What matters is what other companies in your area are doing.  Most of your competition are like you. They don’t have the time or the budget to spend on their websites and half don’t realise the potential value of their websites.

The reality is that most small businesses haven’t dealt with the first steps of optimising their websites for search engines and those should be of concern before core web vitals. If you don’t know what the basics of ranking are, hop over to this page: 10 Website Promotion Essentials for Small Business.

The small business that takes local SEO seriously can dominate the area in a short time.

If you are happy that your website is optimised for search engines, the next step is to see how your website measures up.

5. Your Website Doesn’t Need To Be Perfect.

It’s important to understand that your website probably cannot be perfect. Most small business websites are built with page builders or sites like Wix and Squarespace. Your hosting affects speed also and you may not have control over those.

The report below shows that this website still has some issues but it does pass the Core Web Vitals test. Sometimes you do have to sacrifice performance for user experience. Features such as animations or plug-ins for reviews and connecting to social media add to the load but these may be important to you. Sliders in the heading are a common problem especially if the images are not optimised properly. These are old hat now anyway so can easily be sacrificed for performance.

Page Speed Insights test core web vitals pass

Google notifies you when there is an issue with your site. It is really important that your site is connected to Google Search Console. This email notified me that anyone using a www to reach my site was receiving a ‘site not found’ message. This was a problem caused by hosting that could have gone unnoticed for months if I didn’t track my sites weekly.

If your site is connected, you will receive notifications like this for mobile usability, coverage issues and core web vitals. It’s easy then to click the blue button which will take you to the Google Search Console where you can see which pages are affected.

Google Search Console Alert For Website Issues

On clicking the blue button, you’ll be taken to the Google Search Console where you can see any issues. If you have only just set up Google Analytics or your website does not receive much traffic, you may be directed to use Page Speed Insights. 

Google Search Console Core not enough data

If you click on core web vitals, you will then see graphs for mobile and desktop and you can click through to the reports. They appear like the image below. You can then click through for a list of pages. All this red can look alarming but in this case, there are some images that need a specific size set instead of a percentage, so an easy fix.

Google Search Console Core web vitals report

NB. Most small business sites that we analyse are not connected to Google analytics. You will need to connect your site to Google Analytics before you can connect to Search Console. This relies on a small piece of code being inserted into your website. There are various ways of doing this depending on who your website is hosted with and how your website is built. If you don’t know where to start with this, get in touch and we’ll help you figure it out.

6. Measuring Your Core Web Vitals?

You can measure your own core web vitals by using the Page Speed Insights Tool.

It’s easiest to open up your website and copy and paste the page you want it to analyse.

Alternatively, you can fill in the form at the top of the page and we’ll run a complete report for your whole website. It’s worth running a couple of pages through the page speed insights just for a quick overview of how your pages perform.

Googles Page Insights Tool

7. What’s in a Core Web Vitals Report?  

This is a simple explanation of what the main elements of core web vitals mean. Hopefully, it’s written so the average non-technical person can read it. If you want to understand it more fully you can read the Google Core Web Vitals explanation.

Core Web Vitals consists of measuring the following:

LCP – Largest Contentful Paint.

FID – First Input Delay.

CLS – Cumulative Layout Shift.

If you have a developer, you may be able to hand the problem over to them but bear in mind that this is not necessarily a fault that they should have been responsible for. It’s possible that you didn’t pay enough for an efficient site. Also, these things weren’t considered so important before. It’s likely that you will need to pay a fee for a developer to fix the technical issues. If you have access to the back end of your website, you may be able to fix the most obvious problems yourself. These are the issues that this page is most concerned about.

Let’s break these down into more easily understood language.

8. First Contentful Paint. 

FCP refers to how quickly your viewer sees that something is happening. As soon as something appears, they know the page will load and are likely to wait a few seconds for the rest to appear.

On the top left of the page speed insights report, you will see that you can toggle between mobile and desktop. No doubt you will be shocked by mobile because it is usually worse than desktop. This is because websites are usually built for desktop with no thought that images are too big for mobile.

Try this yourself on your own website and see if you find it acceptable. Google wants to see something happening within 3 seconds. The mobile report will show something like this. Each view represents 1 second. Personally, I cannot see this 1-second delay and for me the website loads quickly. I’m not going to be concerned about it.

You must use some personal judgement in what you spend time and money fixing. Generally, it’s considered that if a website doesn’t load within 5 seconds you run the risk that the viewer is likely to click back and visit a different site – your competitor.

First contentful paint

Your website also needs to be mobile-friendly. This means that it must be easy to use on mobile. You will receive alerts in Google Search Console for things like text too small, clickable elements too close together and content wider than the screen. You can test your site on Googles mobile-friendly tester.

Mobile Friendly test screenshot

What can You Do to Improve First Contentful Paint?

The most common culprit in slow loading is the header. If you have a slider, get rid of it. Moving sites looked clever at one time but they’ve had their day. People want information quickly so they are not likely to stop and look at your slider anyway.

The same applies to videos in the header. They are not necessary for home improvement customers.

Make sure your images are the correct size. You can run your page through Cloudinary’s Webspeed test.

This is a really handy tool because it identifies your heavy images, shows you the savings and lets you download images of the correct size and shows you the saving. Remember to save your images as the same name as your alt tag.

Easy way to download correct size images

If your image is not essential for the mobile version, it may be worth excluding it from showing.

Other typical issues are render-blocking, preloading key requests, unused CSS and JavaScript. It’s unlikely that you will be able to manage these yourself and it’s possible that due to the way your site is built that they can’t be improved. Be careful before paying someone a lot of money to do work that isn’t necessary.

First Contentful Paint opportunities

9. First Input Delay. 

Sometimes, your website visitor is looking for something specific. They may not be interested in what is on the front page. They want to click a button to get to what they are interested in. Although the button may appear, its processes could be busy loading meaning that the action your visitor wants to take doesn’t work.

There are plugins available that can help with these issues but be careful because reports suggest that some do not cure the problem. They mask it and Google does not like websites that try to outwit them.

If you have a button or clickable element early on the page that regularly creates a problem, a temporary solution may be to move it somewhere else on the page or change the way it appears to discourage clicking before the processes complete.

10. Cumulative Layout Shift.

What is Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS)? Have you ever been on a website and you go to scroll down or click on something and the content shifts? You can’t find your place again and when you do it happens again. This is particularly annoying if you click one button but it shifts so you click something else by mistake. Nobody wants to chase content so this is considered a bad experience.

The most common instance we’ve found so far is that images are continuing to load, pushing content down. Without a specific size set your page doesn’t know how much space to leave so it waits for the image to load. Some images are set at a percentage so an easy fix is to set your images at specific sizes.

Sian Wood

Note from the Author – Sian Wood

Websites are a big responsibility but given the right care, they can do more to help you to grow your business than any other resource. This article isn’t written to worry you, more to make you aware that ignoring the issue may cost you money. If you find your enquiries drop in May this may be the reason.

Our customers are business owners who are too busy running the business to do their own SEO. We freely give help to those who can do it themselves. Please feel free to get in touch if you have any questions. 

Connect with me on Social Media @HisaMarketing

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