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SEO and web performance: What to measure and how to optimize

Chances are, you're here because of Google's update to its search algorithm, which affects both desktop and mobile, and which includes Core Web Vitals as a ranking factor. You may also be here because you've heard about the most recent potential candidates for addition to Core Web Vitals, which were just announced at Chrome Dev Summit. 

A few things are clear:

  • Core Web Vitals, as a premise, are here to stay for a while.
  • The metrics that comprise Web Vitals are still evolving.
  • These metrics will (I think) always be in a state of evolution. That's a good thing. We need to do our best to stay up to date – not just with which metrics to track, but also with what they measure and why they're important.

If you're new to Core Web Vitals, this is a Google initiative that was launched in early 2020. Web Vitals is (currently) a set of three metrics – Largest Contentful Paint, First Input Delay, and Cumulative Layout Shift – that are intended to measure the loading, interactivity, and visual stability of a page. 

When Google talks, people listen. I talk with a lot of companies and I can attest that, since Web Vitals were announced, they've shot to the top of many people's list of things to care about. But Google's prioritization of page speed in search ranking isn't new, even for mobile. As far back as 2013, Google announced that pages that load slowly on mobile devices would be penalized in mobile search. 

Keep reading to find out:

  • How much does web performance matter when it comes to SEO?
  • Which performance metrics should you focus on for SEO?
  • What can you do to make your pages faster for SEO purposes?
  • What are some of the common issues that can hurt your Web Vitals?
  • How can you track performance for SEO?

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Test agent updates: Chrome 95, Firefox 93, Lighthouse 8.6

We have released the latest version of our synthetic test agents to all regions. This release includes updates to several pieces of core software, including:

  • Chrome has been updated from version 91 to 95
  • Firefox has been updated from version 85 to 93
  • Lighthouse has been updated from version 8.0.0 to 8.6.0

New and improved Support Hub!

One of the things I love about SpeedCurve is our commitment to writing help documents that actually help. Every time we release a new feature, we make sure to give you an accompanying support doc – often written by the same team member who led the feature development. Luckily, we have great writers on our team, so our docs are exceptionally clear, concise, and easy to follow (if I do say so). 

We just celebrated our eighth birthday – hooray! Eight years of building new features means eight years worth of support docs. That's a lot of docs! Earlier this year, we realized that we had well over a hundred articles in our support centre. Inevitably, some duplication had crept in and some dead wood had accumulated. So we decided to give our docs a complete overhaul. That meant editing, organizing, purging – we gave them the full KonMari treatment.

Our brand-new Support Hub is live! Here's a quick overview of what you can expect to find, including new goodies like our "Web Performance 101" guides, as well as recipes for completing common tasks and our improved and expanded API documentation.

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NEW: Bookmarks dashboard now includes RUM Sessions

We have released new functionality for bookmarking in SpeedCurve. This update includes two important new capabilities:

1. Access your bookmarks from the main navigation -> Bookmarks

2. Ability to bookmark RUM sessions

Check out the support article for more information about using bookmarks.

NEW: Exploring RUM sessions

If you want to understand how people actually experience your site, you need to monitor real users. The data we get from real user monitoring (RUM) is extremely useful when trying to get a grasp on performance. Not only does it serve as the source of truth for your most important budgets and KPIs, it help us understand that performance is a broad distribution that encompasses many different cohorts of users.

While real user monitoring gives us the opportunity for unparalleled insight into user experience, the biggest challenge with RUM data is that there's so much of it. Navigating through all this data has typically been done by peeling back one layer of information at a time, and it often proves difficult to identify the root cause when we see a change:

"What happened here?"
"Did the last release cause a drop in performance?"
"How can I drill down from here to see what's going on?"
"Is the issue confined to a specific region? Browser? Page?"

Today we're excited to release a new capability – your RUM Sessions dashboard – which allows you to drill into a dataset and explore those sessions that occurred within a given span of time.

SpeedCurve Sessions dashboard

Continue reading...

UPDATE: Bookmark and compare synthetic tests

One of the huge benefits of tracking web performance over time is the ability to see trends and compare metrics. Last year we added new functionality that makes it easy for you to bookmark and compare different synthetic tests in your test history. We recently added some additional enhancements to make comparing tests even easier.

With the 'Compare' feature, you can generate side-by-side comparisons that let you not only spot regressions, but easily identify what caused them:

  • Compare the same page at different points in time
  • Compare two versions of the same page – for example, one with ads and one without
  • Understand which metrics got better or worse
  • Identify which common requests got bigger/smaller or slower/faster
  • Spot any new or unique requests – such as JavaScript and images – and see their impact on performance

Along the way, we've also made it much more intuitive for you to drill down into your detailed synthetic test results. Let's take a look...

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New feature: Streamlined test comparison

A short while ago we introduced the ability to bookmark and compare synthetic tests. Today we've made comparing tests even easier by including an option to compare directly from the chart you are focused on. While the capability to bookmark tests remains, this enhancement streamlines the process for quick comparison. Happy sleuthing!

NEW: Lighthouse v8 support!

Google Lighthouse logo

After Google's announcement about Lighthouse 8 this past month, we have updated our test agents. We've gotten a lot of questions about what has changed and the impact on your performance metrics, so here's a summary.

Continue reading...

Test agent updates: Lighthouse 8.0.0

We are rolling out an update to our test agents. Changes include:

  • Lighthouse has been updated from version 7.5.0 to 8.0.0

LUX update: lux.js v216

We have released v216 of lux.js. This release contains bug fixes and other improvements:

  • Long tasks buffering (which was previously reverted in v214) has been reinstated, enabling LUX to instrument long tasks that occurred before the snippet.
  • JavaScript page labels are now evaluated quicker than before.
  • LUX can now use a simpler beacon mechanism with LUX.beaconMode = "simple". This sends a beacon by inserting an image into the page, rather than a <script> tag.
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