Site Speed and Core Web Vitals

As if we didn't already have enough to worry about with our blogs and now this – Site Speed and Web Core Vitals!

Google recently rolled out some new things that are going to significantly impact your ability to rank in search results – even if you rock at SEO.

If you've already looked at your site on a page speed tester, you are probably lost with all the terms like LCP, FCP, and CLS!! How are you supposed to fix it if you don't even know what it means?

Don't worry! Below I will break down some things that you can do on your site to help improve your overall scores so you can hopefully start passing your web core vitals.

computer on a small desk next to a window

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What Are Core Web Vitals

Web Core Vitals are basically like a health checkup of your site. More specifically, they are a set of specific factors that Google considers important in a webpage's overall user experience. While page loading speed has always been important, Google is looking at very specific things on your site and how fast they load, along with how they impact the user's experience on your site.

Page speed was always something to keep tabs on, but now this is something that you must prioritize fixing if you want continue ranking high in search results. If you've been doing well with organic traffic, you will begin losing rankings on keywords if your Web Core Vitals are not within acceptable parameters (passing).

The first step is to check your website using the Google Page Speed tester. There are other ones (GT Metrix, Pingdom, etc), but your grade on this one is the most important because it belongs to Google.

Things You Can Do to Improve Scores

There are a LOT of factors that impact your Web Core Vitals score. Your theme, the plugins you use, the images on your site, and anything extra that is added (videos, Amazon native ads, etc). Many of these things are necessary and, as a result, will add some weight to your site.

For example, I have Mediavine ads on my site and these ads do carry extra weight. The only way to get rid of that weight is to get rid of the ads – so this amount of weight is an acceptable one. Depending on what you have on your site, you may never get a 100%, but achieving a high gold to green is the goal.

It also important that you understand that you might have a passing score on desktop but failing on the mobile version of your site. Google prioritizes mobile scores so it is vital that your mobile score is passing.

Now, I am NOT a web developer!! So, I'm not going to get into the super-technical stuff. But I am going to explain some things in simple terms to help you better understand ways to improve your site's performance.

Let's take a look at some things that do impact web core vitals and what you can do to improve your scores.

web core vitals report

First Loading View

When you run your URL through the site speed tester, there will be a snapshot of what your site looks like on a mobile device. What you see there is the first loading view and significantly impacts overall web core vitals.

You know how, on your home computer, when you first turn it on, it takes a bit to fully load because of all the background processes that load upon start? You have many applications installed on your computer (Microsoft, games, etc) but they don't load until you need them. But your antivirus, for example, begins loading upon start.

My daughter installed Spotify on my computer once and it loaded was soon as the computer turned on. It took FOREVER for my computer to get fully loaded to where I could start working because of this one app.

Your website works the same way. There are processes that are necessary when first loading, and some that aren't. Some things you want to adjust include:

  1. Popup Forms – these should be completely disabled for mobile devices. But for desktop, ensure you have them set to popup upon exit intent and not immediately when the page loads. This includes Hello Bars that load at the very top of the screen.
  2. Social Share Buttons – If you are using Shareaholic for social sharing, I highly recommend getting rid of it because that is one of the heaviest plugins out there! A good alternative is Grow by Mediavine. Additionally, avoid putting your share buttons at the top of blog posts. Keep them to just the floating scroll on the side and at the end of the post.
  3. JetPack – This plugin doesn't actually do anything to improve your site's performance. It is mostly things that benefit you as the admin. This is a very heavy plugin!!! I highly recommend getting rid of it completely.
  4. Captcha – If you have a contact form or optin form that uses a captcha, this will impact page loading.
  5. FB Pixel – If you aren't actually paying for FB ads, remove the FB Pixel from your site.

Images

Images are typically one of the main “hits” on your web core vitals score.

  1. You must use an image compression plugin. I've tried many different ones and so far the best one I've found is ShortPixel.
  2. Only upload JPG files (not PNG – except for transparent PNG for header images)
  3. For blog posts, keep images below the fold (put your pinnable image closer to the end of the post instead of the top).
  4. If you have a lot of images and/or banner ads in your sidebar, I'd recommend getting rid of them. Only desktop views see your sidebar and since Google prioritizes mobile versions, this extra stuff on the sidebar does add to your page loading time.

Site Caching

You must have a good caching plugin installed. There are many different ones to choose from but not all of them are created equally. If you use Siteground for hosting, you probably have the SG Optimizer plugin. Unfortunately, this plugin does not optimize well enough. You will most likely see it in the “hits” on your report.

I was using Nitropack for about the last 2 years and it did very well until the latest update from Google for web core vitals. Then my scores tanked.

The best caching plugin I've found so far to replace it is WP Rocket. Once I got rid of Nitropack and installed this one (along with ShortPixel), I am not staying in the green and passing all 3 web core vitals.

Themes

Every website needs a theme but not all themes are created equal. There are many themes that enable you to create beautiful websites but they are super heavy and negatively impact your overall web core vitals.

Builder themes such as Divi and Thrive Themes are the worst for web core vitals!

Other builders such as Elementor can be heavy if you overuse the builder components. In other words, you can use Elementor but don't use the builder for creating the actual blog posts (just use the Gutenberg blocks).

Some of the best ones that are lightweight and very good for passing web core vitals include:

  • Astra (free and paid) – I use Astra Pro for all of my websites. (Works well with Elementor)
  • Kadence – similar to Astra and also works well with Elementor
  • Feast Themes (these are good for bloggers who have recipes on their website)

Site Speed Course

Like I mentioned earlier, I am not a web developer and can't give you more in-depth help with your website. I actually took a really great site speed course which helped me to understand all this techy stuff!

Check out the Site Speed Course here and if you decide to enroll, you can save 15% using code BFTK15

If, after you've implemented the things I've mentioned above and you still can't get your score within acceptable parameters, you might consider taking that same course as it offers tons of video tutorials for some of the more techy stuff.

It also provides specific help related to different themes to help you further optimize your site. Grayson Bell (Blogging on WordPress) is an expert on this stuff and he explains everything in a way that you can understand when you don't speak the tech language.

As always, if you have any specific questions about any of this (or anything with your blog), please hop over to our Facebook group and ask!

Also, be sure to visit our Blogging Tips Index Page where you can find additional tips and tutorials to help you on your blogging journey!

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