We have approached a fork in the road.
There are two pathways forward in the web development environment: one way is towards digital business functionality and the other heads towards digital consumer experience.
Leading up to the first path, companies are increasingly feeling pressed for time as well as money when it comes to unleashing marketing functionality across digital.
Leading up to the second path, digital consumers are increasingly wanting and expecting better and faster experiences which are anchored to site speed, structure, and nimbleness.
Fortunately for companies looking to build a bridge between the two pathways, Core Web Vitals are Google’s attempt at providing visibility surrounding the mechanics of a webpage’s performance.
With this in mind, a recent study found that out of 2 million URLs that were analyzed, just 4% of pages achieved a good score in all three Core Web Vitals metrics.
Why are so many metrics scoring low?
Among the myriad of reasons that explain the overwhelming poor performances is the fact that apps, plugins, and software that are great for marketers (think of analytics tracking or automatic email segmenting) actually weigh down the speed of a site quite a bit. That’s because they anchor all the extra external resources, which need to be gathered, before the page can fully load.
This is a big issue because the plugin environment has ballooned over the years and is part of the setup of every website whether it’s a major brand’s ecommerce site or an individual’s personal blog for food recipes.
In other words, it is business functionality that has been winning in its struggle with digital experience.
So where does Google’s Core Web Vitals fit into this? And are they going to give support to websites that are using third-party apps?
These questions were recently put to Martin Splitt, a search developer advocate for Google. To which he’s recorded as saying along the lines of: “The rules are the same for everyone – anything that worsens user experience could be punished by Google. So even if the functionality helps users, if it slows down the page, you could get punished.”
Let us look into the specifics of the failure.
Overloading of resources
From the study mentioned above of 2 million URLs, most of the sites had a lot of render blocking resources, with the average page size weighing pretty hefy and in need of a digital diet.
Under optimized resources
Lack of dev skills
For many if not most companies, they don’t have the abilities to modify code or web templates. There is a tendency to look at items like plugins and site templates as products that simply work without knowing the true mechanics within them. And so once they are installed that’s it – move on to the next task at hand.
Despite the mysterious inner workings of plugins and templates for many businesses, they are in fact a core piece of the puzzle for SEO optimization that can help boost pages up the search engine rankings.
When we break down industries we can see that now all of them are performing at the same level.
From the study mentioned above, we see the breakdown of each industry’s performance for each of the Core Web Vitals metrics.
The industries included are: General, B2B, News, Electronics, Travel, and Dictionary-Type Sites.
Largest Contentful Paint
A strong score for Largest Contentful Paint is 2.5 seconds or under – according to Google. From the study, we can see that across all industries analyzed, all of them on average score poorly. General, B2B, and News, in fact, were only within 0.01 seconds of one another. Electronics performed slightly worse, coming in at 3.16 seconds.
The two more extreme cases were travel sites and dictionary-type sites. The former scored on average 3.5 seconds while the latter scored 2.79 seconds. This can be explained by the fact that travel sites rely on using larger, heavier images and videos to promote destinations, whereas dictionary-type sites, such as Wikipedia, rely more on text and much less on images and videos, and even when they do they’re smaller in size.
Developing further Largest Contentful Paint numbers, and to cement the scores mentioned above, we can also see the clear differences in savings from responsive images.
Here we can see that the dictionary-type sites have the best optimized images in the industries that were analyzed, while the travel sector had the worst.
Total Blocking Time
A strong score in Total Blocking Time is 0.3 seconds or under. Looking at the metric across the industries that were analyzed, the average score was 0.7 seconds. All industries analyzed score over 0.3 seconds, even the best-scoring industry, B2B, which scored on average 0.5 seconds.
The travel industry and dictionary-type sites both scored in the 0.6s, with the former on 0.63 seconds and the latter 0.61 seconds. General scored 0.71 seconds. The two worst-performing industries were new and electronics – the former with 0.86 seconds and the latter, the worst performing, was electronics with an average score of 0.88 seconds.
We can see that B2Bs tend to be more tech-savvy when it comes to optimizing their pages for their visitors.
When we view the average size of web pages, we can also see that B2B sites are on average the smallest, weighing 2.36MB. The heaviest among the industries was the news, weighing 4.12MB. All otherindustries scored within 3MB.
Cumulative Layout Shift
A strong score in Cumulative Layout Shift is typically within 0.1 seconds. However, the average score from the industries analyzed was 0.38 seconds. In fact, around 95% of websites in the US are underachieving when it comes to Cumulative Layout Shift.
The most likely culprits behind poor CLS scores are things like cookie banners, pop-up banners, email signups, consent forms, and ads.
News sites and travel were the worst-performing industries; in fact they tied with the same score of 0.42 seconds. This is likely due to these types of companies relying on ads and subscription services, particularly news for the former.
However, even the best-performing sites, the dictionary-type sites, which scored an average of 0.32 seconds, were still a long way from an ideal time.