306: Core Web Vitals – What Food Bloggers Need to Know About User Experience and Google with Andrew Wilder

Listen to this episode of The Food Blogger Pro Podcast using the player above or check it out on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, or Spotify.

An image of a laptop on a desk with code on the screen and the title of Andrew Wilder's episode on the Food Blogger Pro Podcast, 'Core Web Vitals.'

Welcome to episode 306 of The Food Blogger Pro Podcast! This week on the podcast, we’re sharing part of our most recent member Q&A with Andrew Wilder from NerdPress where he talks about Core Web Vitals.

Last week on the podcast, Bjork chatted with Jason Glaspey about optimizing your life and business for maximum happiness. To go back and listen to that episode, click here.

Core Web Vitals 

Google has already started using things like mobile friendliness, security, and intrusive popups to impact search rankings, and the big news on the block is that Core Web Vitals, a way to quantify user experience on a website, will impact rankings soon as well.

There are three signals that measure “good” user experience:

  • Largest Contentful Paint (LCP)
  • First input Delay (FID)
  • Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS)

Google wants readers to have a good experience on the sites that are ranking in the first few spots in search results, and Core Web Vitals are one of the ways they’re tracking that.

If this all sounds confusing, don’t worry –– you’ve come to the right place! In this episode, we’re sharing part of our most recent member Q&A with our incredible WordPress and Site Speed Expert, Andrew Wilder, where he covered the ins and outs of page experience and Core Web Vitals.

A quote from Andrew Wilder’s appearance on the Food Blogger Pro podcast that says, 'Content is the most important thing –– answer the user's query intent.'

In this episode, you’ll learn:

  • What Core Web Vitals are
  • When Core Web Vitals are launching
  • How and when Core Web Vitals will impact the Google search algorithm
  • What other search ranking factors are
  • What Largest Contentful Paint, First Input Delay, and Cumulative Layout Shift are


If you have any comments, questions, or suggestions for interviews, be sure to email them to [email protected].

Learn more about joining the Food Blogger Pro community!

Transcript (click to expand):

Bjork Ostrom: Hey folks, Bjork here, jumping on kind of for a fun episode here, it’s a shorter one. It’s a conversation that happened on a live Q&A for Food Blogger Pro members, you know what these are. For those of you who aren’t members, this is a little bit of a sneak peek into a live Q&A. It’s actually just the first part of the conversation that we’re having with Andrew Wilder from NerdPress. And the live Q&As happen for Food Blogger Pro members every month and we talk about a specific subject. Sometimes we have a general Q&A, but usually it’s a specific subject.

Bjork Ostrom: And this time we were talking to Andrew about this idea of core web vitals and all of the information that comes along with that. And we had this great conversation before we even got into the Q&A section, which we’re not going to include that, that’s kind of members only content. But we wanted to chunk out this section that Andrew shared about everything that’s happening and everything that you need to know, kind of the foundational knowledge around these movements that we hear from Google prioritizing things like content layout, shift, and Largest Contentful Paint, all of these different abbreviations and implementations of ad technology. And there’s just a lot of considerations around it.

Bjork Ostrom: So excited to share this with you. And my hope is that you have some takeaways. When I was listening to Andrew explaining, I was like, “Gosh, we got to share this on the podcast.” And then after, Alexa was like, “What do you think about sharing that first part on the podcast?” I was like, “Yeah, totally. Let’s do it.” So we can roll the tape. This is Andrew talking about some of the movements coming from Google and how that impacts the search algorithm and some things for you to consider as a publisher. So let’s take it away, Andrew.

Bjork Ostrom: Hello, hello everybody. Andrew, welcome to the live Q&A.

Andrew Wilder: Hello. Happy to be alive.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, it’s going to be a great conversation here. We already have some good questions coming in. We were talking today about page experience, core web vitals. And what happened was, and this conversation came up in Slack for our team, Food Blogger Pro team, “We got to do a Q&A on this.” And I was like, “How about we also do Andrew as a guest?” Because you know a lot about this. So my guess is most people will be familiar with you and what you do from past podcasts, live Q&As. We might even have some NerdPress folks here. Do you have an internal name for them, NerdPressers, NPs? If you don’t have one, you should come up with one.

Andrew Wilder: One thing we figured out is, you know how if you have a flock of seagulls. If you have a group of nerds, it’s called an Awkward.

Bjork Ostrom: Okay. So Awkwards.

Andrew Wilder: Yes, yes.

Bjork Ostrom: Which isn’t fitting, even in saying it. So would love to hear a little bit about your background real quick because we jumped into it, Andrew. And then as Andrew’s sharing his background, would love to hear, anybody who’s tuning in live, where you’re tuning in from. Maybe your site’s name or if you’re just on social, where that is and drink of choice. That’s kind of what we go with. Before we pressed record, we both have an Ember mug, which is awesome. I’m not using it because I have a cold press right now. So yours is a coffee, a tea? Is that what you’re kicking things off with?

Andrew Wilder: I got some black coffee in here, yeah.

Bjork Ostrom: Nice. And then your background, Andrew?

Andrew Wilder: Hi. So I’ve always been interested in websites since I was a kid, or computers. I guess we didn’t have websites going back that far. So for years I dabbled with websites on the side and then in the late 2000s, through a career change, I started a food blog in 2010 actually. And I got into the food blogging space. And then when other food bloggers found out I knew what I was talking about with tech stuff, they’re like, “Can I hire you?” And things kind of grew from there. And oh my gosh, we’re 11 years later and my food blog still exists. It’s sadly neglected, but it’s still around. And we are now basically focused on website support and maintenance just for WordPress websites. And because of this community, most of our clients happen to be food bloggers. So we do have some other e-commerce clients and other lifestyle bloggers and some nonprofits and foundations, but 95% of our clients I think are in the food space and wellness space.

Bjork Ostrom: Which is awesome because your background is that you understand food, you had a food site. And so it’s an area that you know and like. And then also, one of the things that I love about your story is one of the things that we find is sometimes a pursuit, in this case, of food blogging can be a gateway to another successful career. And we’ve seen that multiple times where somebody will get into it and they’ll be like, “Oh my gosh, I love video, and I didn’t realize that before,” and then they build a successful career in video. And for you, building a successful company, multiple employees with supporting other food creators, which is great.

Bjork Ostrom: And today we’re going to be talking about something that I’m guessing you’ve been talking about with a lot of NerdPressians, Awkwards, NPs.

Andrew Wilder: We’ll go with NerdPressers.

Bjork Ostrom: Okay. And that is page experience and core web vitals. So this is an important consideration, something that Google has pushed out and said, “We think this is a priority.” And in the food space where search is so important, anytime Google says something, everybody pays attention to that and wants to make sure that they are making Google happy. And our goal in this conversation is to make sure we understand what it is and understand how we can improve it. But before we get into the specifics, we have to understand what is this thing that you hear people talking about? So can you lay foundational knowledge for us to build on as we get into these questions?

Andrew Wilder: Sure. So Google, in May of last year, I think it was said, “Hey, we’re going to release this new algorithm change. We don’t know when it’s going to be exactly, but we’ll give you six months notice and it’ll be sometime in 2021.” So we got basically a year’s heads up and we’re like, “Okay, what do we do with that?” Right?

Bjork Ostrom: Right.

Andrew Wilder: But at least we knew it was coming at some point. And then in November they said, “Hey, okay, we’re going to launch this in May of 2021.” About a month ago, they decided to postpone till mid June because they realized people weren’t ready, even with the morning. We’ll talk about some of the nitty gritty, but it’s because it’s hard. This is really hard to do. So they already had the page experience algorithm actually. So this is really just an expansion of it.

Andrew Wilder: So Google, they use these algorithms that are hundreds of ranking factors. Some of them we know, very few of them we know, but then the rest we have to deduce, what is a ranking factor, what is Google looking for? Right?

Bjork Ostrom: Like what are the ones that we know, what would those be?

Andrew Wilder: Well, the page experience ones are some that they tell us actually. Right?

Bjork Ostrom: Sure.

Andrew Wilder: So existing page experience algorithm factors, or ranking factors that existed before or that exists now and have been for a few years, “Is you’re site mobile friendly?” for example. Right? And they switched to mobile first indexing. So if your site’s not mobile friendly, you will not rank as well.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah.

Andrew Wilder: It’s literally that simple, right? Because they’re really pushing for mobile web because that’s what people are doing. Is your site safe? Has it been hacked, right? Is there any malware on it? So that’s actually a ranking factor, right?

Bjork Ostrom: So HTTPS versus HTTP.

Andrew Wilder: That’s the other one.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah.

Andrew Wilder: Because I think it was 2014 or maybe earlier where they said, “Hey, this is going to be a ranking factor.” So Google makes these decrees, they say “We want to make the web a better place.” We could argue whether or not Google should be the ones doing that, but they do it. I think in terms of HTTPS, I totally agree. It’s great that we’re all SSL now, it’s actually faster too. So they’re pushing technology forward this way. Right? Another one of them that many people have probably heard is no intrusive interstitials. So if you click through from a search result to a site and then you get this big pop-up right away, that gets in the way of your content, that can actually penalize you on the rankings because it’s interfering with your experience of going from Google and getting your answer.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah.

Andrew Wilder: So all of the ones we just mentioned already exist, they’re part of the page experience. So what’s happening now is they’ve created this metric, or group of metrics I guess, called core web vitals. And right now they’re starting with three specific metrics and they’ve said this will probably evolve. So once a year, they’re going to revisit this and say, “Hey, there’s a new metric,” or “We’re changing this metric.” This is going to be a moving target so it’s not a set it and you’re good for 10 years kind of thing. But basically, they’re looking at improving user experience as part of this. And part of that is site speed, so you want to make sure the site loads fast. Part of that is that the site is interactive. So when you swipe or slide through, it doesn’t lag or you tap a button and it actually responds.

Andrew Wilder: And then part of that is visual effects, visual stability. How many times have you gone to click on a button and an ad pops up and it pushes down and then you click on the ad…

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, yeah.

Andrew Wilder: Super annoying. So that’s the third one. So they’ve set criteria, measurements and criteria for those three metrics or for three metrics, which we should talk about in a sec.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah.

Andrew Wilder: And said, “Hey, you have to hit this score or better.”

Bjork Ostrom: Yep.

Andrew Wilder: And either you pass or you don’t pass by passing that specific score. It’s the same score for every website. It doesn’t matter if you’re a food blog or Facebook or google.com. And then either you pass all three metrics or you don’t.

Bjork Ostrom: So it’s like a pass fail?

Andrew Wilder: Yep.

Bjork Ostrom: Yep.

Andrew Wilder: I say pass does not pass.

Bjork Ostrom: Okay.

Andrew Wilder: I use the word fail.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, sure. Do we know how much that actually impacts your result?

Andrew Wilder: That’s the million dollar question. Big, big question, right? Now Google has said this will not cause massive ranking changes when they roll this out. I want to stress that. Your site will not change rankings because of this in mid June. The change will probably be imperceptible. There might be a couple of sites that move up or down a couple of spots, but you probably won’t notice it. So Google has said, first of all, they’re rolling it out slowly. So they’re going to start rolling out mid June and then it’ll fully roll out by the end of August. And then they’ve said over time, it will become more important.

Bjork Ostrom: Sure.

Andrew Wilder: And part of that is as more sites get on top of this and improve their metrics, it becomes more of a ranking factor. But right now, 10 or 15% of sites even match those.

Bjork Ostrom: Sure, sure.

Andrew Wilder: So the trick is because we know it’s a ranking factor, everybody’s glommed onto that and said, “Oh, we should fix this. It’s super important.”

Bjork Ostrom: Because we don’t have that many things that we do know are ranking factors. So when there is something, there’s a big to do about it and it’s like, “Oh my gosh, we got to make sure that we do this because now we actually know this Google’s going to rank this or this is going to be a ranking factor.” So if we know we got to improve it.

Andrew Wilder: Right. And so I say that because you shouldn’t ignore it, but don’t panic. We’re getting emails from people freaking out because they’re afraid June 1st, their rankings are going to drop and I can tell you right now, if your rankings drop, it’s not because of this.

Bjork Ostrom: Sure.

Andrew Wilder: There may be other reasons, right? And Google posted a frequently asked questions on this and they even underscored repeatedly content is the most important thing. Answer the user’s query intent. When somebody searches for the best gluten-free chocolate chip cookies, give them the best gluten-free chocolate chip cookies. And if your site takes a little bit longer, if your recipe is better, it’s still going to rank well.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. I think that’s a really important reminder because sometimes, I think to your point, it can seem like, wait a minute, if I don’t do this, then I’m going to get cut off and I’m not going to get any more search traffic. And it’s more of the culmination of 200 different things that you’re doing well, of which, the most important is content. All those other variables, core web vitals, a fast site, no interstitials, those all become multipliers on really good content. So if you have really good content and you check all the boxes off for the other recommendations or best practices, awesome. If you have super crummy content and you check all the boxes of the recommendations, it’s like a multiplier on zero, right? Zero times 100, times 100, times 100, times 100 is zero. And you got to start with that core foundation of technology, which I think is such a great takeaway. So should we jump into some of these specific questions that are coming in or anything else that you want to say to lay the foundation?

Andrew Wilder: Let me explain what the three scores are, actually, because I think that will be helpful.

Bjork Ostrom: Yep.

Andrew Wilder: So there’s three specific metrics that they’re now tracking as part of the core web vitals. The first measure is how fast your site loads and it’s called Largest Contentful Paint, or LCP. And what that’s doing is saying, “How long does it take, when you hit go on the URL, for the biggest thing above the fold to show up?” So before you scroll, like in your first view on mobile, is your title the thing, your header? Whatever the biggest thing is in terms of dimensions, how long does that take to load and display? They basically picked biggest as a proxy for most important.

Bjork Ostrom: Sure.

Andrew Wilder: There’s another metric called First Contentful Paint where it’s like, how long does it take for anything to show up? That metric is still part of the site speed overall. But they said, “Well, okay, largest is more important.” So depending on what that is and when it loads in the sequence, that’s going to change your score. So the target to hit with that is 2.5 seconds or faster. So if your largest thing, whatever it is, takes less than two and a half seconds, then you’re good.

Andrew Wilder: I should also mention the way this stuff is measured, it’s actually, they’re looking at real-world measurements. So many of you are familiar with Google PageSpeed Insights where you can run a test and in the lab data it’ll show you like the simulated 3G test where we’re like, “Hey, we’re pretending this is a slow phone and here’s this…”

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. Right.

Andrew Wilder: But what Google is actually using for the rankings is what’s called the Chrome User Experience Report, or CRUX. And what that is, is basically they’re looking at people using the Chrome web browser. That browser is sending back those timing data to Google. So it’s-

Bjork Ostrom: Real world.

Andrew Wilder: It’s real world user data. So if your users are on lots of slow devices, if you have a blog where maybe you’re focused on budget stuff and your users are likely to have slower phones or slower internet-

Bjork Ostrom: Tools for rural communities with slow internet access.

Andrew Wilder: .com, yeah.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, right, .co.uk.

Andrew Wilder: Yeah. Since it’s a real world metric, we’re talking about actual, like I’ve got an Android phone with the Chrome browser, if it takes 2.4 seconds for that largest element to load, we’re good. If it takes 2.6, we’re not. And so all of that data is being sent back and it takes time to collect that data. So Chrome looks at 28 days of data. So when you make a change, it actually needs 28 more days to collect more data to show you this…

Bjork Ostrom: Interesting. So even if you improve it, the next day you check it, that one day is going to be one day of improved content and 27 days of non-improved content?

Andrew Wilder: Yes. And that’s, I think, one of the reasons why they’ve had to delay this roll out, because it takes so much time to really tweak and make sure it’s working and see the results. So let me get back to the three metrics. So we’ve got Largest Contentful Paint. Then the second one is a measurement of interactivity, and so that’s first input delay. That’s basically like when you try to do something, how long does it take? In our experience, most food blogs don’t have a problem with this.

Bjork Ostrom: Sure.

Andrew Wilder: The metric to hit is a hundred milliseconds or less, so a tenth of a second. So basically it has to feel responsive. Unless there’s something really wrong with your site, you’re probably find on this one, unless you’ve loaded up with tons of JavaScript that’s really bugging down.

Bjork Ostrom: Sure.

Andrew Wilder: And then the third one, and this is really the hardest one, it’s a measurement of visual stability and it’s called Cumulative Layout Shift, CLS. And that’s basically a measurement of how much do things move around on the page and get in your way?

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah.

Andrew Wilder: The crazy thing with this is basically all layout shifts are treated equally. And so if it’s like the pages loading and stuff is moving, that counts as layout shifts versus you’re reading through and an ad loads and pushes your content down, that’s when it’s really annoying, right? That is counted as well. So this is where we’re spending most of our site speed optimization time on. CLS has really hard and I think we’ll get into some more details on that. But the metric on that is 0.1 or lower is what you want to hit to pass.

Bjork Ostrom: What does that metric represent?

Andrew Wilder: It’s some crazy calculation that they keep changing.

Bjork Ostrom: Super helpful.

Andrew Wilder: Yeah, super helpful. So basically they’ve come up with a scoring system for CLS.

Bjork Ostrom: It’s like a CLS score, which is-

Andrew Wilder: It basically looks at how big the thing is that moves and how much it moves. But then it’s a cumulative shift. So if you’re scrolling down and something shifts again, it shifts again. You can actually install a Chrome browser extension that’ll show it to you in real time. It’ll calculate it and say as an ad pops in, suddenly you see the score go up.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. And what does that? Do you know what that extension is called, if people want to try that out?

Andrew Wilder: I can tell you in just a second. There’s a few of them. I just found it, I’ll drop it in the chat here real quick.

Bjork Ostrom: Okay, that’s awesome.

Andrew Wilder: Awesome. There are a few that out there, this happens to be the one I’m using and it has 80,000 users. So I think it’s a good one.

Bjork Ostrom: It’s called Web Vitals.

Andrew Wilder: Yes.

Bjork Ostrom: And it will show you that, the web vital score.

Andrew Wilder: One other thing I should mention is right now, they’re only using mobile scores as a ranking factor. In the future, they will add desktop as well.

Bjork Ostrom: Okay.

Andrew Wilder: We don’t know when.

Bjork Ostrom: Awesome. So super helpful. And then last piece that would be important to point out, where do you find these? Where does this information live?

Andrew Wilder: So there’s a few places to find it. The one that we found is the most reliable right now is through PageSpeed Insights. So when you run a PageSpeed Insights test, you can just run any URL from your site through that. Also, side note, if you look at the CLS score on that tool, it’s pretty bad. I’m just saying. There’s a lot of Google saying do, as I say, not as ideal. So we’re internally getting a little cranky about that.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. Being that Google is failing its own tests. Yeah, right.

Andrew Wilder: All right. So anyway, sorry too much coffee.

Bjork Ostrom: Warm coffee because of the Ember.

Andrew Wilder: It’s nice and warm. Go to Google PageSpeed Insights. Alexa just posted the link in there. Drop the URL from your site in, and it’s going to run a test and actually let me walk through the different blocks of that. The top, it’s going to be an overall score. For right now, please ignore that. People give way too much weight to that score. Then you’re going to see a section called field data and below that will be origin summary, I’ll talk about those two in a second. And then below that is the lab data. So the lab data are six metrics that are from that simulated test that you literally just ran seconds ago. So that’s going to give you a LCP time a First Contentful Paint time, a site index, total blocking time. There’s a bunch of technical things in there.

Andrew Wilder: It’ll also give you a cumulative layout shift score. So those six scores are actually, what’s used to make the top score, the big score above. That big score is literally just a calculation based on those six scores. So if one of those changes dramatically, that can cause your overall score to swing 10 or 20 points. So don’t give too much credence to that overall. I would just get rid of the overall score because it just confuses people. So that lab data is what you just ran on a simulated test on whatever server Google happened to use. So going back above, we’ve got field data and origin summary. So field data, both of those are pulling from the actual data from the Chrome user experience report. This is the information that’s pulling from the same database that Google is going to use for rankings.

Andrew Wilder: So field data is for that specific URL that you just tested, if there’s enough data for that one URL, it’ll show that there. So if you have a really popular post that gets a lot of traffic, there might be data in there. And then the origin summary is the average scores for all URLs on your site.

Bjork Ostrom: Okay.

Andrew Wilder: So if there’s no field data, it’ll just show the origin summary automatically. If there is field data, you can check a box and it’ll show the origin summary.

Bjork Ostrom: Sure.

Andrew Wilder: So the origin of summary score is those four that it gives you will be the same, no matter what URL you test in. So in there, that’s showing the 28 days trailing information and three of those four scores are the core web vitals. And it’ll say right above, based on the 28 days of data, this passes or doesn’t pass.

Bjork Ostrom: Yep.

Andrew Wilder: Yep.

Bjork Ostrom: Got it.

Andrew Wilder: And so the other place where, and this is also causing a lot of confusion, is if in Google Search Console, you can find this information, right?

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah.

Andrew Wilder: And they’ve actually created a page experience dashboard that they released a couple of weeks ago in the Search Console that it’s supposed to be pulling from the exact same data. But we found it’s often delayed or buggy. We’ve seen sites that pass in Search Console that fail horribly when we look at the origin summary data or vice versa, and we’re looking at like the actual speed going, “This doesn’t make sense.” So I do want to mention in the Search Console, they want you to validate fixes, right?

Bjork Ostrom: Sure.

Andrew Wilder: And they’re giving you all this information. The information presented in Search Console and whether or not you validate your fixes has no bearing on your actual search results. It’s just another tool to help you track that stuff.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, yeah. Right. So if you want your data in Search Console to reflect more accurately, you validate the fix. Validating the fix doesn’t make your page show up higher because the page is the page and then there’s these tools, like Google Search Console, that are looking at it and analyzing it. But it’s not Google Search Console that then is reporting back to Google and saying do or don’t show this, well, those are kind of separate things. Yeah.

Andrew Wilder: Yeah. And there are some tools in there that can help, like you can re-index a page. You can trigger certain things in there, but in terms of this stuff. So as a team, we’ve decided, we’re looking at the origin summary. That’s our source of truth. As far as we can tell, that’s the best way to go right now.

Bjork Ostrom: Cool. That’s great.

Bjork Ostrom: Thanks Andrew, for your expertise, sharing that with the Food Blogger Pro audience. For those who aren’t familiar with Andrew, he’s been on the podcast a few times. You’ve seen him around the Food Blogger Pro forums. And obviously when we do these live Q&As, we’ll see them as well. And just has a wealth of knowledge around this because that’s what he does, day in and day out. If you are interested in connecting with Andrew and his team, you can check out nerdpress.net. And if you’re interested in joining in, on these conversations that we have, whether on the Food Blogger Pro forum or in the live Q&A that we do each month, or just checking out any of the course content on demand that we have on Food Blogger Pro, you can go to foodbloggerpro.com/membership. That will give you some more information about what’s involved with a Food Blogger Pro membership.

Bjork Ostrom: You can sign up for a monthly or yearly plan. And even if you just want to kind of kick the tires for a month and see what’s going on, there’s no contract or ongoing… It’s not like a cell phone plan where you can’t cancel. You can come and go as you’d like. So we’d love to have you around, even if it’s just for a month to check things out. A lot of folks stay quite a bit longer and become part of the community and use it as part of their tool belt in growing their blogs. So props to Andrew for all of his insight and knowledge and sharing that. And thanks for following along on this podcast. If you haven’t yet, make sure you subscribe on your podcast player of choice. And the reason that we exist is we want to help you get a tiny bit better every day forever. Hopefully this episode today with Andrew did that. Thanks for tuning in.

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