Google Search Console has made some recent changes that will affect reporting in Core Web Vitals. The way that Core Web Vitals work impacts how your site performs in search, so these updates are worth learning about. Here’s what our SEO staff says you should know about the latest Google Search Console update for law firms.
What Is Google Search Console?
According to Google resources, the Search Console “ tools and reports help you measure your site’s Search traffic and performance, fix issues, and make your site shine in Google Search results.” Search Console lets you easily monitor and in some cases resolve server errors, site load issues, and security issues like hacking and malware. You can also use it to ensure any site maintenance or adjustments you make happen smoothly with respect to search performance. It’s one of the most powerful (free) tools that marketers can use to optimize their site’s search efforts.
What are Core Web Vitals?
Google support says that a Core Web Vitals report “shows URL performance grouped by status (Poor, Need improvement, Good), metric type (CLS, FID, LCP), and URL group (groups of similar web pages).” The report is based on three metrics as measured by actual user data: LCP, FID, and CLS. Once a URL has a threshold amount of data for any metric, the URL group’s status is its most poorly performing metric. So, for example, if a URL group has poor CLS but good FID, the URL status is “poor.”
The metrics are:
- LCP (largest contentful paint): The amount of time to render the largest content element visible in the viewport, from when the user requests the URL. The largest element is typically an image or video, or perhaps a large block-level text element. This is important because it tells the reader that the URL is actually loading.
- FID (first input delay): The time from when a user first interacts with your page (when they clicked a link, tapped on a button, and so on) to the time when the browser responds to that interaction. This measurement is taken from whatever interactive element the user first clicks. This is important on pages where the user needs to do something because this is when the page has become interactive.
- CLS (Cumulative Layout Shift): CLS measures the sum total of all individual layout shift scores for every unexpected layout shift that occurs during the entire lifespan of the page. The score is zero to any positive number, where zero means no shifting, and the larger the number, the more layout shifts on the page. This is important because having page elements shift while a user is trying to interact with it is a bad user experience. If you can’t seem to find the reason for a high value, try interacting with the page to see how that affects the score.
Google Search Console Changes
Google Search Console is set to start reporting on the Core Web Vitals scores of individual URLs, along with aggregate scores for URL groups. That means that users can access more granular data. The updated reporting within the Console will allow you to identify URLs that are holding your site back from achieving the “Good” scores that matter to your site. This is important because updating reporting will allow you to see where you need to focus your efforts if your CWVs aren’t what they should be.
Before this update, the CWV report provided aggregate scores based on groups of URLs. Though Google will continue to evaluate CWV for URL groups, now you can go one level deeper. Clicking on a URL group in your Search Console report will introduce a new panel on the right side with URL-level data.
For example, if you are investigating CLS scores that need improvement, you can click on the URL group in the report and see individual URLs that should receive attention. Furthermore, the report shows which URLs in a group are achieving “good” CLS scores so that you know you can skip those pages when finding and fixing issues. That will be a lot more effective than going through every single URL in the group and finding issues that may or may not exist.
The changes that Google Search Console has made will allow marketers to more efficiently optimize each and every URL that shows up in search. Take some time over the next few months and explore your Search Console reporting. Theoretically, you should be able to save a lot of time by only focusing on improving the pages with lower scores. For more advice on specific SEO tools and strategies, get in touch with our search engine optimization team.