*Updated November 11, 2021
Is your site up to par according to the Core Web Vitals update? If yes, hats off to you. If not we’ve got you covered with our 16-point site health checklist.
Get the checklist in a digital pdf here so you can work through it and check things off as you go!
Our checklist aims to ensure your site stays on Google’s good side even after its algorithm update this summer. More importantly, it strives to safeguard your relevancy and visibility online.
We’ve broken down the checklist into three parts:
- Assess: Learn where your site’s pages experience currently stands.
- Fix: Learn how to fix issues you discovered from your assessment.
- Measure: Learn how to properly track and measure your fixes to stay on track.
Each part fleshes out key areas your team should follow to make sure your page experience is solid.
Here are the seven components that encompass Google’s page experience search signals:
- Largest contentful paint (LCP): How fast does your page load?
- First input delay (FID): How interactive and responsive are your pages?
- Cumulative layout shift (CLS): How stable are your site pages?
- Mobile-friendliness: How do the contents and functionalities of your site look in mobile format?
- Safe browsing: Are there any security issues that pose a risk to user safety?
- HTTPS security: Do you have a proper SSL certificate that safeguards your data?
- Intrusive interstitials: Do you have pop-up ads that might harm your user experience?
Site Performance: Why You Should Care
The user experience matters. Incorporating Google’s best practices can earn you a stellar ranking (hopefully the first page!) and help you bolster the number of leads and sales from your organic traffic.
Not convinced? Just check out these stats:
- When a site fulfills the core web vitals requirements, people are 24% less likely to abandon page loads.
- 80% of customers are willing to pay more for a better user experience.
- On average, every dollar invested in the user experience brings $100 in return.
To learn more about what Core Web Vitals are, be sure to read up on our article—Are You Up to Speed? What You Need to Know About Core Web Vitals.
Please note, as sites vary across industries and organizations, our checklist may not have the unique solutions your pages require. If that’s the case, contact our digital marketing team, and we’ll help you find a solution.
With that said, let’s dive in!
Part 1: Assess
1. Assess Your Page Experience
There are three components to Google’s definition of page experience:
- Load time of site pages (LCP): Don’t keep your visitors waiting around; in fact, they won’t even bother waiting—Google found if the load time of a page goes from 1 to just 3 seconds, the bounce rate increases by 32%.
- Interactiveness & responsiveness of site pages (FID): When people click on your button, how fast or slow they’re taken to the next step can either make or break the page experience.
- Stability of site pages (CLS): Does your site page shift in a weird way when loading? If so, your site visitors won’t be happy, and Google will count this against you.
What to Do
Your Core Web Vitals report will tell you where you stand and how you need to improve your website.
The data you find is based on the Chrome User Experience (CrUX) Report—a report that gathers anonymized metrics from users (users who have opted-in on syncing their browsing history) who visit your site pages.
- Explore the data on your report. Here are some things to keep in mind to help you read and navigate through your data:
- Toggling the Poor, Needs Improvement, or Good tabs on the overview page shows how your URLs are performing based on historical data
- Clicking Open Report takes you to the mobile and desktop summary page, illustrating your page performance on both platforms
- Selecting a row in the table shows you specific URL groups affected by a particular issue
- Find out where you need to improve. Now, when Google assesses your LCP, FID, and CLS, they give a rating. You can refer to the Poor, Needs Improvement, and Good ratings, but to really get a comprehensive view of your page experience, keep these numbers in mind:
- Your LCP, or page load speed, should not be more than 2.5 seconds.
- Your FID, or your page’s interactiveness and responsiveness, should be no more than 100 milliseconds.
- Your CLS, or the stability of your pages, should have a score of less than 0.1.
2. Assess Your Site’s Mobile Friendliness
Mobile users are 5 times more likely to abandon a task if the site isn’t properly optimized for mobile. So how’s your site looking on your phone?
What to Do
- Use Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test Tool. All you have to do is enter your URL, and Google will assess your site and let you know whether your site is mobile-friendly or if it needs some work.
3. Assess Your Site’s Security
User safety is a critical part of the page experience. After all, why would anyone want to browse a site that fails to safeguard their information?
What to Do
If your site is registered on Google’s Search Console, look at your Security Issues report for specific explanations of six different security issues:
- Deceptive pages
- Harmful downloads
- Uncommon downloads
Each comes with sample URLs to help point you in the right direction.
4. Assess Your HTTPS Security
According to Google, “A web with ubiquitous HTTPS is not the distant future.” Secure browsing is becoming the standard on Chrome.
An HTTPS (Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure) connection creates secure connections from a web server to a browser. How? Through the help of an SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) certificate.
An SSL certificate authenticates the identity of a site and encrypts information sent to the server. It’s a key component that ensures your HTTPS security is in good shape.
What to Do
Let’s start by assessing your site’s security:
- Open your website in Chrome.
- Check your site’s security status in the upper left-hand corner of the screen. If your status is:
- Secure, you’re good to go!
- Info or Not secure, your site isn’t using a private connection (aka people may be able to see or change the information you send or receive). Click on the icon to learn about what Google has discovered.
- Dangerous, your site is putting your user’s privacy at risk and has been flagged as unsafe. You will have likely received a warning from Google’s Safe Browsing about this. Click on the icon to learn more about what Google has discovered.
You can then see how your SSL certificate is looking.
- If your site is secure, click on the padlock to verify your SSL certificate is valid (it will say, “Valid”).
- Click on “Certificate” to ensure your SSL is issued by a certificate authority (CA) and is up to date.
- Ensure your HTTPS pages can be crawled and indexed by Google. You can do this by using the URL Inspection Tool to see whether Googlebot’s can access your pages.
5. Assess Your Pop-up Ads
Are you that annoying site that bombards visitors with ads?
Now, we’re not saying to get rid of pop-ups entirely; if executed well, pop-ups can help you win up to a nine percent conversion rate. Therefore, the key is to implement them strategically, so your bounce rates don’t go jumping off the charts.
What to Do
Start by auditing your mobile pop-up ads to see where and how you need to improve:
- Use Google’s mobile-friendly test and the mobile usability report in your Search Console. As much as pop-up ads can be annoying on desktop, it’s even more intrusive on mobile formats. So make sure your ads are looking good on mobile.
Then, begin analyzing your ads—how are they laid out on your mobile device? According to Google, here are three examples of intrusive interstitials that will be penalized:
- Pop-ups that take up most of the page
- Pop-ups that sits above the header of the site
- Full-screen pop-ups that block the entire content
Part 2: Fix
1. Fix Your Page Experience
Start by prioritizing your page experience issues. We recommend tackling everything labeled, Poor first.
Common LCP Issues & Solutions
Don’t let a slow page speed eat up your user experience. Fight back with these tips:
- Issue #1: There’s a lot of problematic third-party code (one third-party script can slow a page down by 34 milliseconds).
- Solution #1: Get rid of the code or implement lazyload (code that loads content only if the user scrolls down your page) by loading the content within your viewport. Remove any bulk (comments, spaces, and indentation) in your CSS.
- Issue #2: Your site experiences a lot of downtime.
- Solution #2: Upgrade your web host. The better the host, the faster the load times.
- Issue #3: The page is hosted on a single server.
- Solution #3: Route users to a nearby CDN (Content Delivery Network) that will minimize the physical distance between the server and user.
Common FID Issues & Solutions
When a user clicks on a button, is there a lag? There are a couple of issues and solutions to address this.
- Issue #2: A lot of third-party code in HTML
- Solution #2: Prioritize these scripts by lazy loading them
Common CLS Issues & Solutions
Shifty layouts harming your user experience? Use these to help mend your pain points:
- Issue #1: Your image/video look unstable on your site page
- Solution #1: Define your image/video width and height in your HTML. Or, implement CSS aspect ratio boxes
- Issue #2: Your third-party ads push your content further down on the page
- Solution #2: Follow Google ad optimization tips to reserve enough ad space
- Issue #3: Your fonts are hosted online, which cause flashes of invisible text (FOIT)
- Solution 33: Use font-display values like auto, swap, block, fallback, and optional. Or, you can preload font files using <link rel=preload>, so the browser will understand they are a priority.
2. Fix Your Site’s Mobile Friendliness
Here are a couple of common issues and solutions to help boost your site’s mobile friendliness:
Common Issue & Solution
- Issue #1: Your site’s layout and design look funky on mobile devices.
- Solution #1: Implement responsive design. Your webmaster will need to work in CSS to adjust the screen size, orientation, resolution, color, and more characteristics of your user’s device.
- Issue #2: Your mobile site pages take forever to load.
- Solution #2: Boost your mobile page speed by minimizing your CSS, JS, and HTML code, reducing redirects, and/or removing unnecessary plug-ins. Tap into the common LCP solutions from earlier as well.
3. Fix Your Site’s Security
If you’ve got malware, deceptive pages, and/or more that are outlined on your Security Issues page in Search Console, don’t worry.
Google will offer tailored recommendations your webmasters can use to resolve each issue. They’ll even provide sample URLs you can dive into to evaluate the root cause of the problem.
And if you’re having trouble resolving these issues on your own, lean on a team of web developers to help guide you through it.
4. Fix Your HTTPS Security
Here are some possible issues and solutions that can help your team bolster your HTTPS security:
Common Issue & Solution
- Issue #1: Your site is running on HTTP.
- Solution #1: Transition over to HTTPS by:
- Issue #2: Your SSL certificate has expired.
- Solution #2: Renew it by generating a Certificate Signing Request (CSR) from your web host. This validates your server’s identity. Then select your SSL certificate, choose the validity/time frame, and make your payment.
- Issue #3: Googlebots are not crawling your HTTPS site.
- Solution #3: Edit your robots.txt to allow Google to access your URL.
For more fixes to common pitfalls, be sure to check out Google’s HTTPS page.
5. Fix Your Pop-up Ads
Are your ads creating an intrusive experience? Use the following techniques and guidelines from Google to help you make the right adjustments:
- Turn your pop-ups into banner ads. These banners should leave enough room that your visitors can see the site’s content. Google Web Designer is a free option that can help you build banner ads for your web pages.
- Make sure your ads are easily dismissable too. For example, you can add a “No Thanks” button, so people can close your pop-up.
- Leave your pop-up ads that exist for legal obligations (cookie usage or age verification) as is. They will not be penalized by Google.
Part 3: Track
So you’ve done the fixes? Great! You’re done, right? Nope.
You need to track and measure your results. Otherwise, how else would you know something is or isn’t working?
Making data-driven decisions is key in winning long-term results.
1. Track Your Page Experience
There are a few ways to measure your progress. Which method you choose may depend on whether you have Google Search Console or PageSpeed Insights setup.
Google Search Console
If you have Search Console configured, do the following after implementing your fixes:
- Log in to Search Console
- Browse to the Core Web Vitals page
- Click “Open Report >”
- Select an issue in the Details section
- Click “Validate Fix”
- Repeat steps 2-5 for each issue listed in the Details section
Next, you will need to wait up to 28 days for Google to verify the issue has been fixed. After validation is completed, Google will indicate within Search Console whether validation passed or failed.
Sometimes your fixes will take care of it. Other times, it may only resolve the issue on some pages. If this happens, then Google will indicate pages where the issue remains, and you can reassess what’s causing this on those pages.
Google PageSpeed Insights
Another way to track your progress is using the PageSpeed Insights tool.
Some Things to Be Aware Of:
- This tool doesn’t show historical data so to track your progress, you’ll want to run this tool before your fixes and after your fixes to compare the progress that is made.
- By default, PageSpeed Insights only shows scores for the page which you run the test for. It does not, by default, provide scores for your entire website.
For example, if you run the test for https://www.bigleap.com it will return the test scores for Big Leap’s homepage. It won’t return the test scores for any of the other pages or blog posts on our site.
- For some sites, Google will also provide a scores section for the entire website. If available, these scores are shown in the Origin Summary section.
Here are some step-by-step instructions you can follow:
Before Implementing Fixes
- Visit https://developers.google.com/speed/pagespeed/insights/
- Enter the URL you want to test and click “Analyze”
- On the results page, Mobile tab, click the “Show Origin Summary” checkbox
- Take a screenshot of the scores (we recommend taking a screenshot of the entire page using a tool such as Fireshot).
- Save the screenshot to your computer including the date and which scores (mobile or desktop) in the filename. An example filename would be “PageSpeed Insights scores www.bigleap.com mobile 05-01-2022”.
- Repeat steps 3-5 for the scores on the Desktop tab.
After Implementing Fixes
You may complete the same steps as the “Before Implementing Fixes” section and see how your scores have improved. You can do this immediately after implementing the fixes if desired. This will tell you how your scores improved for the specific URL you run the test for.
To understand how your website scores improved in aggregate (for all pages), you will:
- Need to wait 28 days after implementing the fixes
- Repeat the steps in the “Before Implementing Fixes” section
- Compare the prior scores (before implementing fixes) from the Origin Summary to the Origin Summary scores 28 days after implementing fixes.
Understanding the PageSpeed Insights Scores
While we won’t attempt to explain everything on that page in this article, it is important to understand what the different sections of the PageSpeed Insights results pages show to have an apples-to-apples comparison. Here are the three score sections you may see on the page:
This section displays the average scores from the past 28 days for the single URL you ran the test for.
This section displays the average scores from the past 28 days for all URLs on the domain you ran the test for. If you run the test for https://www.bigleap.com then it will show the average scores for (averaged over the past 28 days) for all URLs on bigleap.com.
This section displays the scores for the single URL you ran the test for. The scores are based on the test you just ran.
Because these scores are not averaged over time, you may see more fluctuation in these scores. For example, you might see slightly different scores if you run the test in the morning vs running the same test a few hours later in the afternoon.
The Lab Data section will always be available when you run the test. The Field Data section only displays if Google has enough information about your site to display it. Some sites with lower traffic volume will not have this section.
The Origin Summary section also will only display if Google has enough data to display it and then it will only display if you click the “Show Origin Summary” checkbox.
2. Measure Your Site’s Mobile Friendliness
Look at your Mobile Usability Report in your Search Console periodically. This will help you stay up to date on your site’s mobile usability issues.
You can also refer to the following website performance metrics in Google Analytics to see if your mobile experience is proving to be successful:
- Traffic rates
- Bounce rates
- Engagement rates (clicks, dwell time, etc.)
- User behavior via heatmaps (tools like VWO and Crazy Egg can help).
3. Track Your Site’s Connectivity
Keep an eye on your Security Issues report in Search Console. This report will note when security issues, like malware, harmful downloads, and deceptive pages, were last detected on your site.
4. Track Your HTTPS Security
Keep tabs on your HTTPS Security by periodically checking the icon next to your URL in your Chrome window.
Also, ensure your SSL certificate is set to auto-renew, and keep your credit card information up to date. One common reason SSL certificates don’t get renewed is due to an expired credit card on file for the account. You can check this with your WebHost or whoever issued the certificate.
5. Track Your Pop-up Ads
Using various conversion rate optimization (CRO) tools, like VWO and Crazy Egg, you can A/B test different variations of pop-up ads to see which ones bring in the least amount of bounce rates and the most conversions.
6. Track Your Results in Google Analytics
The changes and (hopefully!) improvements should be reflected in your Google Analytics. For example, with proper HTTPS security, your traffic numbers may go up. With a better page experience, your session times and bounce rates may improve.
Google Analytics can give your team a good bird’s-eye view of your results in one place, so be sure to keep an eye on this to help you make smarter decisions.
Get Your Site to Perform Its Best—Contact Big Leap
If you need a hand making sure you’ve got everything in check, contact our team. With over a decade of experience helping businesses amplify their online presence, we’ll help you make sure your site is in good shape before the Core Web Vitals update.