Core Web Vitals Scores
Core Web Vitals are a set of page experience metrics that will become ranking factors in 2021. There are two kinds of Core Web Vitals scores, Field Metrics and Lab Measurements.
Field metrics are actual scores derived from visitors to a site. Lab data are scores generated from a simulated visit through various tools offered by Google.
The purpose of Lab measurements is to give publishers and SEOs a way to test and diagnose site performance in order to identify areas of improvement.
The purpose of field metrics is to provide actual real-world feedback. There are many analytics tools that offer Core Web Vitals as features.
But most importantly, Google uses field metrics in order to generate a score that will be used for ranking purposes.
Manipulating Core Web Vitals Scores
Preventing the Core Web Vitals score from dropping is the concern of the person who asked Martin the question.
The idea is that if Google is using real-world field data, then it’s possible that site visitors who are on a slow Internet connection will negatively skew the Core Web Vitals score, thereby impacting site rankings.
Some countries have slow Internet connections, so the person asking the question wanted to block those users in order to sculpt the Web Vitals scores so that only visitors with fast Internet connections contribute to the final scores.
This is the question asked:
“Does it make sense for an informational site to block all countries out there except the few bigger ones in order to get the best average field score for that speed?
I know I can do that. The question is if I have, for example, low return on investment from countries with slow internet connections with a large population, does it make any sense to cut them from accessing my website since they have a slow connection that hurts my field scores?”
Martin’s answer was split between the pragmatic reality of the futility of trying to sculpt the Web Vitals scores and a recommendation to look at the big picture.
“No. That’s thinking that is laser focused on the Core Web Vitals and that’s really, really risky.”
A, Because people from these countries, if they want to access your website, they will through a proxy or what’s called a “VPN” which really is mostly a proxy for most cases.
And then the speed is even slower, so not helping.”
Martin suggested that blocking users will just cause them to use a Virtual Private Network, a service that hides the country and IP address of the user. VPNs typically cause the Internet connection to be slower than a bare Internet connection without a VPN.
Martin continued, this time implying that focusing on just one ranking factor element may negatively impact other more important factors.
“The other thing is, Core Web Vitals and Page Experience is one ranking factor out of hundreds of ranking factors.
So you should not overestimate the power of this ranking factor.
It is important. It is not the most important.
And I think if you have useful information and you can get this information to people and get some ROI, you should probably do that.
Because again, there’s hundreds of ranking factors. Speed is not the only thing.
Because if speed would be the only thing, then a blank website would rank really well because it’s really, really, fast. Right? That’s not the point.
Fast is an important quality signal but there are other quality signals that really, really matter, too. So, I would not do that.
Also, that implies a more complex setup, which usually invites more problems.
I would not do that. I don’t think that’s a reasonable thing to do here.”
The last part about a “more complex setup” is a reference to the idea that keeping a site as simple as possible helps eliminate unintended problems. The more complex something becomes the more opportunity there is for something to go wrong.
When a publisher adds layer upon layer of complexity there may come a point where one layer interferes with another one and the site stops working as intended.
Core Web Vitals are important regardless of whether there’s a ranking factor benefit or not. It’s important to get that part right.
But don’t take extra steps to try to manipulate the scores as that might backfire, both by changing the user behavior to create even worse scores for your site or introducing a needless layer of complexity that might impact ranking in a completely different manner.
Finally, there are many ranking scores that are more important than the Core Web Vitals. These more important ranking factors are, presumably, related to the popularity of the site and to the relevance of the content to search queries.
That’s not to say to focus on those factors over Web Vitals, because Web Vitals can indirectly contribute to better popularity signals and also to more conversions and ad clicks.
It’s just an encouragement to take a wide view, to see the forest and not be overly preoccupied with a “laser focus” on one tree.