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Google’s Core Web Vitals And Ecommerce Website Builders – How to Optimize Your Site

If you want your website to rank well in Google’s search engine results, you need to play by Google’s rules. Right now, that means getting up to speed on its latest Core Web Vitals update – a set of factors that feed into the Page Experience rankings signal.

In simple terms? There are now more boxes you need to tick off in order to deliver a great user experience and, in doing so, show Google that your pages deserve to rank well!

There’s a lot of Core Web Vitals advice out there for WordPress users, but what about the impact on website builders like Shopify, Wix, and Squarespace? The Website Builder Expert team carried out research on 3,000 URLs across top ecommerce website builders to see exactly how they scored against Google’s performance goals.
New Infographic: Google's Core Web Vitals & Ecommerce Website Builders - How To Optimize For Them

What Are Core Web Vitals?

First of all, let’s be clear on what you’re dealing with, exactly. Core Web Vitals are made up of three main factors, which feed into Google’s overall Page Experience ranking signal. This is why Core Web Vitals are so important – score well, and your rankings will benefit. Score poorly, and your rankings will drop.

The three Core Web Vitals factors are:

1. Largest Contentful Paint (LCP): Measures how long a page’s main content takes to load – aim for 2.5 seconds or less

2. First Input Delay (FID): Measures how long a page takes to become interactive – aim for less than 100 milliseconds

3. Cumulative Shift Layout (CLS): Measures unexpected content movement – aim for a score of less than 0.1

Website Builders: Page Experience Signal Pros and Cons

Core Web Vitals feed into Google’s Page Experience ranking signal, which also measures factors such as speed, security, mobile-friendliness, and intrusive pop-ups.

So, how do website builders perform against Google’s Page Experience metrics?

Website Builders: Strengths

Mobile Responsiveness
These days it’s unusual to find a website builder that doesn’t provide mobile responsive templates as standard, and many even let you edit your mobile design!

Security
Good website builders include SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) certificates for free on all plans, to provide HTTPS encryption for data passing from visitors to your site – payment or login details, for example. This sends a good message to both visitors and Google, so it’s a win-win!

Website Builders: Weaknesses

Site Speed
Website builders struggle in this area – mostly they’re okay, but the general consensus is that they could be better when it comes to site speed. Slow loading can be especially frustrating as a website owner because you can’t edit your site’s hosting or code when you use a website builder.

Ecommerce Website Builders: Core Web Vitals Impact

The fact that website builders struggle with site speed isn’t just a generally accepted theory – the results of Website Builder Expert’s research confirm it. After analyzing over 3,000 URLs on both mobile and desktop, from seven top ecommerce platforms, it’s clear that Core Web Vitals will have a huge impact on non-optimized sites.

The overall performance scores show that even the best performing ecommerce website builder falls into Google’s “Needs Improvement” category – none of them are rated as “Good” in Google’s eyes!

Key Takeaways

#1. Mobile Performance Is Poor Across the Board
Mobile websites struggled to perform against Google’s Core Web Vitals in all areas of testing, which is a worrying sign – particularly because Google usually indexes mobile versions of sites, rather than desktop. Desktop sites performed consistently better than mobile.

#2. CLS Is One of the Most Challenging Metrics
Only Wix received a “Good” score for CLS on desktop – no platform managed it on mobile. Most platforms scored above 0.3 on both desktop and mobile, putting the majority of web builders in the “Poor” CLS bracket. This makes CLS one of the most challenging Core Web Vitals to score well in!

#3. Shopify Has the Fastest Server Response Time
Google’s recommendation for server response time is less than 600 milliseconds, which most platforms managed. The fastest on both desktop and mobile was Shopify, while the slowest was Wix’s mobile score of 1,218 milliseconds – over double Google’s recommended time!

How to Optimize Your Website

It’s clear that website builders have got some way to go in order to live up to Google’s expectations – but what can you do to optimize your website? A lot of advice talks about optimizing your hosting and code, which you don’t have much control over when you use a web builder. Luckily, there’s plenty you can do:

Before You Begin: Test Your Website

The first thing to do is to see exactly how your website is currently performing. This shows you which areas your website does well, and which areas need improving.

Google PageSpeed Insights is a great tool for testing your website’s performance. It’s free and easy to use – simply type your URL into the search bar and it analyzes the page for you, providing scores, insights, and advice on how to improve.

If you have Google Search Console, it’s also worth checking out its Core Web Vitals Report, which is a new report using the Core Web Vitals metrics.

Once you have these insights, you can prioritize areas which need the most improvement in order to quickly see overall improvements.

#1. Use Simpler Templates
A simple website template means less code, which, in turn, results in faster load times. Fast load times are an important SEO factor, so a simple template can go a long way to boosting your rankings.

#2. Be Ruthless With Apps
Apps add extra weight to your website, so be ruthless – delete any unnecessary apps and third-party plugins, and limit the number you install. Always ask if the app you’re installing is worth a slower website, and if the answer is no then leave it out!

#3. Review Your Website Builder Plan
While you can’t change your hosting, you can change the subscription plan you use. Basic plans tend to come with more limited features – which may result in slower loading times, or even website crashes. Make sure you have enough storage and bandwidth to keep your site running smoothly.

#4. Limit Your Code
Website builders automatically create code-heavy sites, and there’s not much you can do to change that. You don’t usually have access to your site’s code to delete unnecessary scripts or minify your existing code. So, be mindful about the edits you make that impact your site’s code – choose lighter fonts, for example, rather than heavy custom ones that need more loading.

#5. Compress Images
Images are important for engaging users and creating a great looking website – the trouble is, they’re heavy. To combat this, try compressing your images. This reduces the image file size without affecting the visual quality, and is easy and free with an online tool such as Kraken.io or TinyPNG!

#6. Identify Your Largest Contentful Paint
It’s important to know what Google identifies as your LCP, because then you can help it load faster and achieve a better LCP score – you should aim for 2.5 seconds or less. Run your website through PageSpeed Insights and view the diagnostics section to find out which element your LCP is!

#7. Prioritize Mobile Performance
Make sure you constantly test your mobile site – Google usually determines rankings based on your mobile site’s performance, so it’s vital to keep it running fast and smoothly. Loading speed and CLS are two big factors to look out for on mobile, so pay special attention to these in your PageSpeed Insights results.

#8. Use a CDN
A Content Delivery Network (CDN) helps websites load faster by storing copies of your site at different data centers, so that users can connect to the server closest to them. Some website builders come with a CDN already built-in, while others let you use your own – it’s always worth checking, as each builder has different rules and integrations!

#9. Plan Your Layout Carefully
The more your content jumps around as your page loads, the worse your CLS score will be. Elements such as adverts and pop-ups are big culprits for dragging CLS scores down, so try to minimize or avoid these on your site. Plan a fixed layout and give each element enough space so that things aren’t loading on top of each other or jumping around the page.

#10. Stay On Top of Your Usual SEO
It can be easy to get totally caught up in trying to get the best Core Web Vitals scores possible. But don’t neglect your day-to-day SEO practices – the main aim of optimizing for Core Web Vitals is to achieve good rankings in Google, but that’s pointless if you drop the ball on metadata, alt text, security, internal linking, and keyword-focused content! Keep up the good work in all those areas, as well as optimizing for the new Core Web Vitals update.

Final Thoughts and Infographic

Website builders are far from perfect – in fact, the research shows that they’re struggling to perform against Google’s Core Web Vitals so far, especially on mobile.

However, there’s still plenty you can do to optimize your site and achieve great rankings. Find out more in this infographic, which goes into even more detail on the impact of Core Web Vitals – and what you can do to manage them!

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