Content. Backlinks. RankBrain. These are the top three ranking factors when it comes to Google SERPs – according to the search engine giant itself.

But, back in May 2020, Google announced that another ranking signal was going to be getting a lot of the search engine’s attention in the near future: Core Web Vitals.

In a nutshell, Google is beginning to place way more emphasis on user experience (UX), particularly when it comes to page experience.

What does that mean for your law firm SEO project? We’ll explain everything you need to know below and offer some actionable solutions to help you set yourself up for success.

What Are Core Web Vitals?

Through Core Web Vitals, Google simply wants site visitors to have an exceptional experience when browsing your website. Core Web Vitals are metrics that score user experiences when loading a webpage. 

SEO analytics optimization desktop dashboard blue flat design.

The three core web vitals of lawyer SEO include:

These metrics measure how quickly your page content loads, how fast a browser loading a webpage can respond to user input, and how unstable your content is when loading in the browser.

So, let’s look at these core web vitals in more detail.

Largest Contentful Paint (LCP)

Largest Contentful Paint (LCP) measures how long a web browser takes to render the largest image or text block.

In other words, it estimates how fast users can view above-the-fold content. To ensure a good user experience, you should strive for a Largest Contentful Paint load time of 2.5 seconds or less. 

source: web.dev

Critical CSS is the biggest influencer of LCP scores. It is a set of styles needed to display your page’s structure, feel, and look in the viewport or above the fold. 

Only two styles should load synchronously on a web page and be embedded into your site’s HTML output. The rest of the CSS should be loaded asynchronously after the first-page load. 

This eliminates CSS as a render-blocking resource, streamlining the browser’s ability to deliver the necessary assets faster and display the above-the-fold content much quicker. 

How Can I Improve My LCP Score?

To improve your LCP score further, here are a few things you should do:

  • Optimize Images: Images are often the largest bandwidth hogs. Use the right image type, size, and compression to reduce the extra bloat the browser will need to download the content, which ensures a faster LCP score.
  • Use the Right File Format: The two common image file formats are JPEG and PNG. Use JPEG for images with several colors (thousands or even millions) and PNG for line-art and images with fewer colors.
  • Compress Your Images: Use your image format’s compression algorithm to make even more significant savings. Fortunately, there are multiple available plugins to help you compress images in bulk.
  • Resize Images: Web pages and images have dimensions. You can set the right image dimensions using photo editing software or configure the HTML IMG tag’s width and height attributes.
  • Reducing Server Response Time: Typically, server response time is determined by your host’s server speed. Also referred to as the time to first byte (TTFB), server response time is the time it takes your webserver to respond to a user request, including the HTML, JavaScript, CSS, and font files. If your server response time is extremely slow, consider switching hosts or upgrading your package for better law firm SEO services.

LCP is only one piece of the puzzle. First Input Display is also an important component of Core Web Vitals.

First Input Display (FID)

First Input Display (FID) tracks the time from when a visitor first interacts with your web page after landing on it to the time the browser begins processing that interaction. 

In simpler terms, FID refers to the delay between when a user clicks on a link or taps on something like a social media button and the time the browser responds to the action and begins processing it. 

source: web.dev

Typically, FID is measured in milliseconds (ms). Your site should strive to achieve an FID score of 100 milliseconds or less. When users land on your law firm website, widgets and share buttons pop up at the start and can delay the user’s ability to take their first action. By making the right optimizations, you can reduce such delays and improve user experience.

How Can I Improve My FID Score?

Typically, if your FID score isn’t impressive, it’s an indication that your CSS or JavaScript usage isn’t optimized. The CSS files need to be downloaded and parsed faster to enable the browser to render the page layout. Minifying and compressing files or eliminating unused CSS code can significantly improve your site’s FID score.

Here are other strategies you can use to minimize your site’s first input display time:

  • Defer unused JavaScript: If you’re using modern JS, you can simply configure ES6 modules to load JavaScript on-demand.
  • Minimize Unused Polyfills: Older browsers usually require Polyfills. Ensure that polyfills don’t run when unneeded. You can deliver separate bundles with modules or no modules.

There’s one final piece to the Core Web Vitals puzzle: Cumulative Layout Shift.

Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS)

Even with a lot of emphasis on User Experience, it’s surprising that many website owners have done nothing to stabilize their layouts. Instead, they still stuff their pages with banners, interstitials, and intrusive ads that harm the user experience.

source: web.dev

That’s why Google introduced Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS) as one of the core Page Experience signals. The metric is calculated by summing up all layout shifts not caused by user interaction. CLS typically looks at the percentage of the viewport impacted by layout shifts and the movement distance of the parameters.

A CLS score can be 0 for fully static pages and goes higher as more layout shifts occur on the web page. Typically, the lower your CLS score, the greater the visual stability of your site. Google recommends that you maintain a CLS score of below 0.1.

A poor CLS score is common with commercially oriented websites striving to monetize traffic through advertising. When users land on your site, they shouldn’t be met with pop-ups and things moving around. It hurts their browsing experience instead of letting them find answers to their questions – which is why they’re visiting your law firm’s website in the first place.

How Can I Improve My CLS Score?

Luckily, you can make some tweaks to improve the cumulative layout shift. They include:

  • Using link rel=preload and font:display values: If your law firm website uses fonts hosted online, you may experience FOUT (Flashes Of the Unstyled Text) and FOIT (Flashes Of the Invisible Text). When a browser downloads fonts from the server, it usually displays a blank page until the custom fonts load. Once the displayed font is downloaded, the layout may move quite a lot. Using link rel=preload and font:display values can help stabilize the layout.
  • Including width and height aspects for images and videos: It’s always best to resize images using aspect ratio, the width to height ratio (e.g., 16:9). It allows browsers to calculate the space required to display the image, reducing the risk of layout shift. With responsive images, use the srcset attribute to set up several image sizes to display suitable sizes. 

Now that you have a better understanding of what Core Web Vitals are, it’s important to take a peek behind the curtain to check on your own website’s scores.

How Can I Measure Core Web Vitals?

Since Google introduced Core Web Vitals, the number of ways to check, or measure, a website’s performance has skyrocketed. Today, there are dozens of different Core Web Vital measurement tools. 

These tools fall into one of two categories: field tools and lab tools. Field tools provide raw data collected from users, while lab tools provide data based on how users probably experience a site. 

The most popular tools for checking Core Web Vitals include:

So which tool should you use? Take some time to check out how the different tools work. Our SEO experts love Lighthouse – it’s the leading lab-based tool and provides flexibility as a Chrome extension.

To check a website’s scores, simply run the Lighthouse developer tool on your Google Chrome browser, visit the site you want to measure, and generate a Core Web Vitals report.

After a quick audit, you’ll get detailed results about your site’s performance (including metrics above and beyond the three primary Core Web Vitals), along with suggestions for improving your overall scores.

How Core Web Vitals Affect Lawyer SEO

Core Web Vitals combined with other site variables can create a great score for user experience. 

Blue graphs and icons.

Although Core Web Vitals represent the lion’s share of user experience score, other factors influence them as well, including:

  • HTTPS: Secure websites often deliver a better user experience since many people avoid unsecured sites. Ensure that all addresses in your site are HTTPS pages to help your user experience score.
  • Mobile friendly: Google treats support for mobile devices as an important user experience signal and will improve your ranking in search results.
  • Safety: Any virus or malware on your website can hurt your user experience score. Safe browsing is essential to a positive user experience with your content and is a ranking factor Google considers to be vital.
  • No interstitial pop-ups: If your site is filled with pop-ups, they can overwhelm the page and become a nuisance, resulting in a negative effect on Google’s ranking. Always avoid overbearing ads to improve user experience.

Although these parameters play a significant role in user experience scores, Core Web Vitals greatly affect your user experience and Google ranking. If your site’s Core Web Vital scores are not impressive overall, you might notice a drop in your site’s rankings. And, the more weight Google places on Core Web Vitals as a ranking signal, the more you’re likely to see significant changes in how sites rank.

LawRank Can Help You Improve Your Core Web Vitals and Achieve SEO Success

Ultimately, optimizing your website based on these three metrics will improve the user experience. The last thing you want is for visitors to reach your law firm website and get frustrated by slow loading pages or layouts shifting unexpectedly from their mobile device. Such negative experiences will ultimately reflect poorly on your legal practice. 

Optimizing your law firm website for Core Web Vitals is a particularly complicated aspect of the SEO process. Getting the best results will require time, an experienced hand, and in-depth working knowledge of technical on-site SEO for lawyers.

Focus on providing the best possible service to your clients – let the attorney SEO specialists at LawRank enhance your firm’s website for the ultimate user experience. We’re a leading SEO company for lawyers – we get law firms just like yours to rank when and where it matters most – and our results speak for themselves. That’s because we take a comprehensive approach to SEO, meaning there’s no stone left unturned and no detail left unchecked.

Contact us today to learn more about how our team can help you improve your Core Web Vitals and other aspects of your SEO campaign.