How do core web vitals affect Google search ranking?

New research suggests these metrics lag other key ranking factors in Google’s algorithm

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Is better user experience a search ranking factor? Site loading speed has long been a key measure of user experience on a website, and Google’s Core Web Vitals (CWV) metrics were launched as part of an effort to encourage websites to adopt UX-friendly measures. After these were officially adopted by Google as ranking signals, it was natural to assume that performing well on CWV metrics would lift pages higher in search results. But is that happening in practice? Advanced Web Ranking partnered with WattSpeed to analyze search positioning against CWV results.

So, do Core Web Vitals affect Google search ranking?

This study analyzed more than three million pages on both desktop and mobile devices to see how higher-ranking pages performed in terms of CWV compared to those that rank lower. See here for Wattspeed’s high-level data and Advanced Web Ranking’s analysis. On review, the results are less impactful than you might expect:

  • 61% of analyzed pages did not pass, including a majority of pages at each search position – even in the #1 ranking position. To the extent that there is some positive correlation between passing CWV and a higher ranking, the effect is slight.
  • Some CWV metrics lack any meaningful correlation with search position. In the case of First Input Delay (per Google, “how responsive a site is to user input like tapping a button or entering data in a form”), they even seem to have a negative correlation, with higher ranking pages performing worse on average.
  • There is no clear correlation between having enough traffic data to report CWV results and ranking highly in search results, especially on desktops.

So does that mean you can throw CWV out the window? Not quite.

Emphasizing Core Web Vitals metrics still leads to a good user experience.

Even if efforts to reduce input delay or page load speed don’t directly result in higher ranking, they’re still measures that are likely to help users stay on your site longer (and convince them to come back). Google’s algorithm is apt to change and as long as the search engine points to CWV as part of the algorithm, it could certainly become a larger ranking factor over time. So at the end of the day:

  • Keep creating good editorial and marketing content: Regardless of where CWV sits in terms of ranking factors, good and relevant content will continue to be emphasized by Google — and is always appreciated by humans.
  • Consider page speed metrics as a complement to editorial decisions: Before adding heavy multimedia elements to your next article, consider whether they add to the user experience.
  • Realize that it’s not about chasing the algorithm: It’s about chasing what the algorithm is chasing, which is happier humans.

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