Core Web Vitals Ranking Factor is More than a Tie Breaker

Google’s John Mueller answered a question on Reddit that expressed skepticism of Core Web Vitals as a ranking factor. Mueller affirmed the importance of CWV as a ranking factor and noted that it is far more than just a tie breaker.

Ranking Factors

Back in the early 2000’s Google used ranking factors tied to keywords to understand what a web page was about. Anchor text, number of links, keywords in headings and titles all helped web pages rank at the top of the Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs).

Websites could acquire thousands of reciprocal links and do the on-page SEO and rank at the top.

But that was before natural language processing, advanced machine learning and AI technologies put a stronger emphasis on relevance signals.

Google Has Lowered Expectations of CWV Ranking Factor

It’s not unexpected that members of the search community would express skepticism of the CWV ranking factor.

Google itself has been downplaying how powerful CWV is as a ranking factor.

John Mueller himself said this about Core Web Vitals:

“…relevance is still by far much more important.

So just because your website is faster with regards to Core Web Vitals than some competitors doesn’t necessarily mean that …you will jump to position number one in the search results.”

Google published a Core Web Vitals FAQ that also lowered expectations of the CWV ranking factor.

The FAQ stated:

“Page experience is just one of many signals that are used to rank pages.

Keep in mind that intent of the search query is still a very strong signal, so a page with a subpar page experience may still rank highly if it has great, relevant content.”

Skepticism of Core Web Vitals Ranking Factor

Thus it’s not surprising that today there are some who express skepticism of the power of CWV to influence search rankings.

This is what was published on Reddit:

“Anyone else not buying Core Web Vitals?
I just find it hard to believe that this actually becomes a greater part of the ranking algo. Has anyone seen dramatic gains or decreases based on it so far?”

Someone else observed:

“I believe Google admitted it’s basically just a tie breaker.

If two pieces of content are equally high quality and relevant to the search term and all the other ranking factors are equal, but one site has better core web vitals, it will rank higher.

I imagine it’s quite rare for two articles to be equal on all other factors so I think that’s why we don’t see much impact from it.”

Given Google’s recent history of lowering expectations of achieving top rankings with a high core web vitals score, it’s not unreasonable to hold the opinion that the CWV ranking factor is a minor and lightweight ranking signal.

CWV Ranking Factor Is More than a Tie-breaker

Google’s John Mueller replied that affirmed that core web vitals should not be dismissed as a ranking factor.

He insisted that it could be felt more strongly in some sites than others.

Mueller wrote:

“It is a ranking factor, and it’s more than a tie-breaker, but it also doesn’t replace relevance.

Depending on the sites you work on, you might notice it more, or you might notice it less.

As an SEO, a part of your role is to take all of the possible optimizations and figure out which ones are worth spending time on.

Any SEO tool will spit out 10s or 100s of “recommendations”, most of those are going to be irrelevant to your site’s visibility in search.

Finding the items that make sense to work on takes experience.”

CWV Has Value Beyond Being a Ranking Signal

Mueller next stated that CWV has value that extends beyond a ranking signal, rightly pointing out that speed related user experiences can affect how much a website earns.

He pointed out the self-defeating nature of promoting a site to the top of the SERPs only to have the earnings never reach their potentials because of low page speed experiences.

It’s a good point!

Mueller wrote:

“The other thing to keep in mind with core web vitals is that it’s more than a random ranking factor, it’s also something that affects your site’s usability after it ranks (when people actually visit).

If you get more traffic (from other SEO efforts) and your conversion rate is low, that traffic is not going to be as useful as when you have a higher conversion rate (assuming UX/speed affects your conversion rate, which it usually does).

CWV is a great way of recognizing and quantifying common user annoyances.”

Core Web Vitals is Important

Mueller expressed that Core Web Vitals is stronger and more important than a tie-breaker. He also pointed out how speed and page experience are important for monetizing a website to the fullest of its potential.

Mueller mentioned conversion rates but page speed can also improve ad impressions because there will be less people backing out of the site when it has a quality page experience.


Read the Reddit Discussion
Anyone Else Not Buying Core Web Vitals?