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Core Web Vitals: Less Than 15% of Sites Meet Benchmarks

Data from a recent study shows less than 15% of websites are optimized well enough to pass a Core Web Vitals assessment.

Core Web Vitals: Less Than 15% of Sites Meet Benchmarks

A decidedly small percentage of websites are able to pass a Core Web Vitals assessment within PageSpeed Insights, according to a new study.

Screaming Frog analyzed 2,500 keywords and 20,000 URLs to find that 12% of mobile and 13% of desktop results passed the assessment.

For context, these are the benchmarks for each of the Core Web Vitals:

  • Largest Contentful Paint (LCP): Measures the speed at which a page’s main content is loaded. This should occur within 2.5 seconds of landing on a page.
  • First Input Delay (FID): Measures the speed at which users are able to interact with a page after landing on it. This should occur within 100 milliseconds.
  • Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS): Measures how often users experience unexpected layout shifts. Pages should maintain a CLS of less than 0.1.

Websites fared better when it came to meeting benchmarks for individual Core Web Vitals.

Assessing First Input Delay, 99% of desktop URLs and 89% of mobile URLs meet the 100 millisecond benchmark.

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That’s a good sign for searchers, as it means they’ll be able to immediately interact with nearly all pages they land on.

Here’s how sites measure up with the other two web vitals:

  • LCP: 43% of mobile and 44% of desktop URLs pass assessment
  • CLS: 46% of mobile and 47% of desktop URLs pass assessment

For searchers, that means a majority of pages they land on take over 2.5 seconds to load and have unexpected layout shifts.

Not exactly a great user experience if you have to wait for a page to load while the content is juddering up and down the screen.

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The reason Core Web Vitals exist in the first place is to maintain a consistently high quality user experience across the web.

So LCP and CLS are the main areas site owners need to focus on, according to the data from Screaming Frog’s report.

Core Web Vitals are not ranking factors yet, but they soon will be.

With that being the case, Screaming Frog examined the correlation between Core Web Vitals and search rankings as it stands right now.

Here’s what the study found.

Core Web Vitals and Search Rankings

Screaming Frog found that URLs in position 1 are 10% more likely to pass the Core Web Vitals assessment than URLs in position 9.

URLs in position 1 have a pass rate of 19% on mobile and 20% on desktop.

From position 1 to 5 there’s a 2% decrease in pass rate for each position.

URLs in positions 5 to 9 have a much lower pass rate of 10% on mobile and 11% on desktop.

Core Web Vitals: Less Than 15% of Sites Meet BenchmarksImage Credit: Screaming Frog

Does this mean Core Web Vitals are impacting rankings even though they’re not yet official ranking factors?

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Screaming Frog says that’s unlikely but not completely untrue:

“A major part of the CWV assessment focuses on load speed, which we know is already a ranking factor. Therefore, logic would suggest that quicker sites may rank slightly higher and end up passing the assessment in turn.

However, Google continually comments that speed is a minor factor. Instead, I suspect sites ranking in the first 1-4 positions tend to be better optimised overall. With targeted, rich, and user-friendly content. All while loading this information more efficiently.”

Core Web Vitals will not be ranking factors until 2021, so there’s not a lot to take away from this study with respect to optimizing CWVs for rankings.

What site owners can take away from this is: If you don’t pass the Core Web Vitals assessment, you’re not alone.

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You’re in good company with the vast majority of the web in that regard.

It’s no doubt a priority for SEOs right now to pass the CWV assessment ahead of the impending ranking factor update

Google is giving SEOs and site owners plenty of time to prepare for the update, and it seems like that’s a good move.

But don’t get discouraged.

If your site doesn’t meet the web vitals benchmarks by the time the algorithm update is rolled out, that doesn’t mean it won’t get ranked at all.

Search is complex and Core Web Vitals are just three out of the many factors Google looks at when ranking pages.

Ultimately, content relevance is most important. A more relevant page will usually win out over a faster page with less relevant content.

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For more about Core Web Vitals see these resources below:

Source: Screaming Frog

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Matt Southern

Lead News Writer at Search Engine Journal

Matt Southern has been the lead news writer at Search Engine Journal since 2013. With a degree in communications, Matt ... [Read full bio]

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