Adam    Dan   

Google recently confirmed that the Core Web Vitals will be included as search signals from May 2021. This means that everything else being equal, sites that score well on the Core Web Vitals are going to rank higher than those that don't.

A quick refresher of Web Vitals

The Core Web Vitals consists of three metrics, chosen to measure user experience when browsing a website. Here they are along with the current thresholds for obtaining a 'Good', 'Needs Improvement', or 'Poor' rating:

Largest Contenful Paint
First Input Delay
Cumulative Layout Shift

Web Vitals also defines several other metrics, eg Time to First Byte (TTFB), and First Contentful Paint (FCP). While these aren't 'core' metrics, they are very useful for helping to diagnose where performance problems lie. The target TTFB in the current version of Google Lighthouse is listed as 100ms, while poor is 600ms. FCP has targets of < 2 for Good, > 4 is poor.

How will Australian sites fare?

We asked the question, "what percentage of Australian websites are ready for the introduction of Web Vitals as a search signal, and what percentage will be punished?" Having asked we decided to have a look by running them through our recently released Website Speed Comparison tool, which gathers Web Vitals metrics as part of its report.

Methodology

As there are a LOT of Australian websites we decided to break our analysis down by technology platform, to begin we chose online stores running on Magento as our subject.

We started with an initial list from builtwith of around 4000 domains. We then trimmed it down by eliminating any development and demo sites, and sites returning an error, resulting in a total of 2998. This list has some of the largest retailers in Australia, including Harvey Norman, Sportsgirl, Philips, Dyson just to name a few.

We then ran our competitor report for every one of them, the report was run from our Sydney office over a business class internet connection. The test throttles the connection to simulate typical 4G mobile phone speeds, and uses a mobile phone user agent/screen size to view the mobile version of the site. Note we didn't throttle CPU performance like Lighthouse does.

NOTE We're excluding First Input Delay in our results as Google defines First Input Delay (FID) as a Real User Measurement (RUM). FID measures the time taken for the website to respond to the first interaction from a user, eg clicking a link or button. Technically this interaction can happen any time after the first content is shown in the browser, however most people won't click something until after a page is visually complete and this timing will be highly variable. We do measure First Input Delay by simulating a click, but our interaction happens soon after the FCP, while content is still loading. This will result in more sites failing the metric than would in real life, so we're excluding them from our calculations.

So on to the results, while we weren't expecting great results we were still surprised!

The results

The first check was for the number of websites that achieve a good rating in any of the Web Vitals metrics.

Percentage of sites that are 'Good'
TTFB (< 0.1s) FCP (< 1s) LCP (< 2.5s) CLS (<.1)
Result 99 (3.3%) 71 (2.37%) 254 (8.47%) 1074 (35.8%)

The biggest winner was for CLS which isn't a surprise, the remaining results however aren't encouraging, only 8.5% pass LCP. Let's see how many need improvement.

Percentage of sites that 'Needs Improvement'
TTFB (< 0.6s) FCP (< 2s) LCP (< 4s) CLS (< .25)
Result 383 (12.7%) 728 (24.3%) 470 (15.7%) 625 (20.8%)

We get an additional 15.7% bettering the cutoff of 4s for LCP. However, that still means that 3/4 of Australian Magento stores take longer than 4s to be visually loaded on a mobile device. If we visualise the numbers its not pretty.

Australian Magento sites are missing out on a LOT of potential sales. Recent performance studies show:

  • The probability of a customer bouncing increases 90% if the page load time increases from 1s to 5s. (source Google)
  • A 100 millisecond delay in load time can hurt conversion rates by 7% (source Akamai)

The experience of our own magento 1 clients and magento 2 clients confirms the effect of improving website speed on conversions and revenue.

Sites that pass all criteria

Of our 2998 websites we only found 163 that pass Core Web Vital 'good' criteria, that's only 5.5%.

If we again relax to include 'needs improvement' that list grows to 520, or 17.3% of sites tested.

How you can test your site

Google provide online analytics which you can query via BigQuery. If you want to reproduce the report we based this analysis on and compare your website to your competitors, then you can use the Peakhour.IO Website Speed Comparison report. We automatically discover your competitors, run them through Web Vitals and graph the results.

Conclusion

If nothing changes then quite a few Australian Magento Stores are going to be penalised in May 2021. The majority of sites don't leverage Magento 2's ability to cache dynamic pages, and if they do then they're not serving optimal images.

WebVitals is coming next year Magento, it is time to get ready!

Website Performance Web Vitals Magento