SEO – it’s a real pain in the arse, right?

Even as someone who lives and breathes this stuff, I know what it’s like – you think you’ve finally mastered the latest ranking signals and then Google announces another update to the algorithm that means you need to once more re-shift your strategy, to the dismayed cries of wider marketing teams because that damned SEO person is kicking off again. Right now, core web vitals for SEO continues to be one of the hottest talking points in digital marketing circles, and one I’m still hearing a lot of rumbling about from advisory clients and their internal teams.

Google has heavily promoted the importance of CWVs, but are they really that much of a game changer? Well, I’d argue no, and here’s why.

I love the idea of Core Web Vitals… in theory

Let’s be real: I’m in no way downplaying the importance of Google and the SERPs. We all know that search engine traffic can deliver up to 10x the number of clicks as social media while a strong ranking also gives brands added credibility as well as visibility. It’s kind of what I do for a living. Duh.

And I will say this: core web vital SEO focuses on improving the user experience. So, adjusting a website with CWVs in mind still has huge potential impacts in terms of engagement and conversion. So it seems likely that core web vitals will be sticking around – although I’d hesitate to suggest anything in digital is 100% certain once you look five or more years into the future. Or anything non digital, for that matter…

Of course I understand Google’s on-paper desire to give a higher ranking to websites that deliver the best UX. After all, 88% of consumers won’t return to a website with a bad experience. If Google has sent them to that site, it’s only natural that the user will think negatively about the search engine too, 

From day one, though, I’ve been committed to making Puglet about real, measurable results – not theoretical ones that are all about tickboxing lists.

My issue: CWVs don’t seem to be worth the effort

I don’t want to turn into a cliché, but time is money. Core web vitals SEO will require an enormous investment of time and money, not to mention precious developer resource, to make any progress. Bang for buck-wise, I honestly think this could be better spent elsewhere.

  • Up to 85% of sites failed the web vitals at launch, and that figure is still around the 50% mark. Yet, I’ve not seen or heard any news of sites taking a noticeable SEO hit as a result. (Have you? Tell me about it, please)!
  • Websites have to pass all CWVs to pass overall. Seems like bum. IMO, getting two out of three issues under control without any benefit is a real disappointment.
  • When websites pass, it seems like a very minor ranking factor at best. Outperforming competitors doesn’t seem to give a website an edge compared to other SEO activity, whatever John Mueller claims is the case. I do think this could change in future years if Google starts weighting experience signals more heavily, but at the moment… eh.

I feel that it might be better to wait a little while longer before making a conscious effort to work on CWVs, especially as they were only introduced last year. Although I’d still suggest that it’s a good idea to know what the Largest Contentful Paint (LCP), First Input Delay (FID), and Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS) are.

Ultimately, though, the other aspects of SEO are all built to deliver a better user experience across mobile and desktop. Security, mobile-friendliness, content, site speed, and off-site marketing will all continue to play key roles. Even if CWVs do turn into the future of digital marketing.

For now, though, my advice is to be aware of core web vitals but realize that their impact isn’t currently that huge. If a website is performing well without them, and there are bigger wins to be had with other activities, maybe it’s time to step off the web vitals panic pedal for the time being.