96.6% failure rate on Google’s Core Web Vitals


Core Web vitals, eh?

Unless you have been out soaking up the summer sun without your phone, you can’t have missed all the posts on LinkedIn and Twitter giving out tons of advice on Google’s latest new thing: Core Web Vitals and User Experience algorithm update.  So we thought we’d chip in with some actual data on how SMEs are performing.

We took a look at the data passing across our platform and sampled over 200,000  SMEs to see if they are passing Google’s User Experience benchmark.  While many argue that the “User Experience” is way more than Google can test empirically, those other factors will not impact SERP results in the same way that Google’s point of view will.

So let’s look at what Core Web Vitals is measuring:

  • Layout Shift: The amount of unexpected moving around a page does as it loads
  • Largest Contentful Paint: The time it takes for a page’s largest element (usually a hero image or main heading) to load
  • First Input Delay: Whether there could be a delay when a user tries to click something or type something on the webpage

Note:  Is Contentful really a word? Apparently, yes, but obsolete. 

So let’s get the bad news out the way early:  96.6% failed overall meaning only 3.4% passed all three core vital tests.

This high failure rate is a bit surprising since many SME websites are simple 5-page brochure sites that on the surface don’t seem that complicated.  However, Google begs to differ!

So, where did these sites fail?

Core Vital MeasurementPass Rate
Layout Shift70%
Largest Contentful Paint6.6%
First Input Delay13.5%

Layout Shift

The good news is that most of the sites tested were not jumping about as measured by Layout Shift, but with only 70% passing there is still room for improvement. By taking a careful look at how videos, contact forms, buttons, images and fonts are loading businesses can improve this metric significantly.

Largest Contentful Paint

Largest Contentful Paint is absolutely the worst performing (and worst named) metric with only 6.6% of SMEs passing this test. But again, this is a test that many SMEs will not understand, and the majority wouldn’t know where to start to improve this score.

Put simply, this is how long it takes for the largest element to appear on screen when the page loads. This is typically a large hero image or a main heading. For agencies building more complex sites, there are many different solutions to improve the score, such as optimising the server, eliminating used CSS and dealing with Javascript.  A handy resource for this can be found at web.dev.

First Input Delay

First Input Delay is something that many SMEs would not have a clue about because to optimise for this element would typically require delving into the Javascript.  Sometimes, as might be the case with some “off-the-shelf” website builders, businesses can’t do anything to improve this score as most of the variables are in the control of the software provider. 

FID could become a significant issue if businesses are penalised for something they can’t control, but we will have to wait and see.  However, as almost all website platforms are working to address this issue, it will be interesting to see how this number changes over the next year.

Overall Results

The overall results show 96.6% of businesses fail the Core Web Vitals test.

We would like to think that everything is black or white, but Core Web Vitals is viewed on a continuum so looking at the overall Pass/Fail rate is not best way to help businesses improve their performance.

If you want to see where we can help businesses improve, the following table presents a more nuanced view of areas that require attention:

Layout ShiftLargest Content PaintFirst Input Delay

There is still significant room for improvement but, as discussed earlier, most of the changes are beyond the skills of small business owners and they will need help from their digital agencies.

Some Afterthoughts

The question for us on Core Web Vitals is if this will be similar to Mobile Optimisation? Google pushed mobile optimisation ad nauseam but it took several years before it was effectively universal for almost all websites. 

As our data shows, 96.6% of businesses are failing Core Web Vitals, so this is an opportunity for agencies to improve the performance of many websites, but for some, the knowledge required will be out of reach. 

The main conclusion we can draw so far is that we do not have a clear picture of how rankings will be affected and if this really is a true reflection of User Experience. Only further monitoring and listening to the complaining on Twitter with let us know for sure.

To obtain these statistics, we measured 231,000 businesses that were tested on our platform. For the purpose of our check, we run the default configuration of Google Lighthouse in a controlled environment. All tests were conducted from our data centre in Virginia, USA.