Core Web Vitals Ranking Study: How Do You Rank?

by Reflect Digital

Reflect Digital teamed up with SEO data experts Authoritas to explore how prepared four sectors – accountancy, eCommerce, insurance, and legal – are for the new CWV update.

The Core Web Vitals (CWV) update is approaching, and it’s approaching fast. June 2021 marks the month whereby Core Web Vitals will become a ranking factor for search. This is expected to have a notable impact on search visibility, something by which many companies will be feeling rather unprepared for.

It’s stated in Google Search Central that, “While page experience is important, Google still seeks to rank pages with the best information overall, even if the page experience is subpar. Great page experience doesn’t override having great page content. However, in cases where there are many pages that may be similar in relevance, page experience can be much more important for visibility in Search.”

Now, despite this update seeming incredibly daunting, this is in fact a revolutionary update in search history. This is providing websites an incentive to improve their interactions with their users – if driving conversions was not enough! For us at Reflect Digital we’re heavily invested in creating more human-focused experiences for users, so we’re 100 per cent behind Google on this update!

By creating a better website experience the relationship we build with our audience is stronger. If you relate this to the experience you have in a restaurant – if the service was slow, food tasty but a bit cold, you wouldn’t be rushing back – your website can cause the same reaction. We want to ensure that all aspects of a user’s journey through a website seem logical and thought through. This update focuses on the first interaction with the website, the time it takes to load, and what happens when it is loading which is all vital to your first impressions of a website. The update is a big shift, but it’s important to see the immense benefits that this will have on the customer journey and UX improvements.

We all know how annoying it is to open a webpage on your mobile, and to try and click a link only to find that the page is still loading, and that link has moved and you have clicked on the wrong link. This update focuses on making websites fit for human consumption, the ideal website loads fast, and all the elements don’t move about when loading. We think this is showing how Google is evolving and making sure the human aspects are being thought of. After all, if the interactions you have with Google are bad, people will go elsewhere.

To bring you this report, Reflect Digital teamed up with SEO data experts Authoritas to explore how prepared four sectors – accountancy, eCommerce, insurance, and legal – are for the new CWV update. We utilised Authoritas’ new Core Web Vitals tool to interrogate URL’s for the top sites for each sector, retrieving the following results across the following metrics; Largest Contentful Paint (LCP), First Input Delay (FID), and Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS).

Core Web Vitals explained

The three foundations

Core Web Vitals are three metrics used to measure the UX and performance of each web page, based upon three foundations of page experience:

  • Loading
  • Interactivity
  • Visual Stability

The three metrics

The three Core Web Vitals used to measure this page experience 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.

Agg. LCP (aggregated LCP) shown in the report is the time it takes for 75 per cent of the visits to a URL in the group to reach the LCP state.

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.

Agg. FID (aggregated FID) shown in the report means that 75 per cent of visits to a URL in this group had this value or better.

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 shift on the page. This is important because having pages 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.

Agg. CLS (aggregated CLS) shown in the report is the lowest common CLS for 75 per cent of visits to a URL in the group.


Each of these page experience metrics are measured upon different scores, highlighting whether the score is good, needs improvement or poor.

“People using the web are also on a journey, with each of their actions constituting one step in what would ideally be a continuous flow. And just like in the real world, they can be interrupted by delays, distracted from their tasks and led to make errors. These events, in turn, can lead to reduced satisfaction and abandonment of a site or the whole journey. In both cases, removing interruptions and obstacles is the key to a smooth journey and a satisfied user.” – Chromium Blog

The importance of Core Web Vitals

This revolutionary change in search metrics is key to building a high performing website. Here’s some of the benefits we’ll see from this update:

  • The implementation of user-focused metrics means user-focused experiences. Websites are finally being encouraged to be built with the humans at the forefront.
  • We’re becoming increasingly impatient – with smarter and faster interactions with technology, visitors love fast loading, easy-to-use websites – all of which the CWV metrics will be measuring.
  • Improved ROI – we’re now able to quantify the UX and understand how good the page experience is. Better page experiences will lead to happy visitors and therefore increased conversion.

Google generated page speed benchmarks from a study conducted in 2018 and found that when page load time went from one to five seconds, the probability of a user bouncing was a monumental 90 per cent. This increased to 123 per cent when waiting for one to 10 seconds.

Reflect teamed up with SEO data experts Authoritas to create a study exploring how prepared the top UK companies were for the new Core Web Vitals update. Click on the relevant sector to see the results: