Google’s new ‘responsiveness’ metric and what marketers need to do

Google is about to replace the Core Web Vitals metric for “responsiveness”. In this blog we take a look at what this new metric is, how it's different from before and what marketers need to do about it.

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Back in May 2022, Google announced a new Core Web Vitals metric called Interaction to Next Paint (INP). This will replace the existing metric for responsiveness – ie: how quickly interactions actions like form submissions take to complete.

The new metric calculates responsiveness differently, making this aspect of UX design more important than ever for SEO. So let’s explain how this is different for the old metric and what search marketers need to do about it.

What is Interaction to Next Paint (INP)?

Interaction to Next Paint is a new Core Web Vitals metric for measuring the responsiveness of websites. Anytime a user clicks on an element that performs an action ( eg: form submission, video play, add to cart, etc.), this metric tracks the time it takes to complete.

“INP is a metric that assesses a page’s overall responsiveness to user interactions by observing the latency of all click, tap, and keyboard interactions that occur throughout the lifespan of a user’s visit to a page. The final INP value is the longest interaction observed, ignoring outliers.”Interaction to Next Paint (INP);

Interaction to Next Paint will replace the current metric for interactivity in March 2024. Most importantly, the new metric measures responsiveness in a completely different way to the current one. Marketers, UX designers and developers will have to optimise experiences to stricter measurements once the new metric is introduced.

How is the new metric different?

Unlike the old metric, Interaction to Next Paint measures every on-page action. The current measurement only measures the first interaction on any given page and ignores anything that follows. This changes with the new metric so you can’t simply optimise for the actions users are most likely to complete first on each page.

The other key difference is that the new metric measures the total completion time of each action. The current metric only measures the delay between a user click and the start of the action – this is called the input delay.

However, Interaction to Next Paint will also measure the duration of each action.

As of March 2024, you’ll no longer get away with optimising the starting times (input delay) of the first action users complete. Instead, you’ll need to optimise every on-page interaction and you’ll also have to optimise the complete duration of each action

How to optimise for Interaction to Next Paint

Optimising for Interaction to Next Paint is more challenging than the existing metric. You can find a technical breakdown of optimising for the new metric on this documentation page. As a quick summary, you need to know three fundamentals:

  1. What’s a good INP score?
  2. Measuring the speed of page interactions
  3. Identifying the cause of poor INP scores

Ultimately, marketers will have to work closely with developers and product designers to incorporate INP optimisation into the UX design process.

What’s a good INP score?

As with all of its Core Web Vitals metrics, Google has set three ranges for the new metric: Google, Needs Improvement and Poor.

Interaction to next paint scoring brackets

Any score at or below 200 milliseconds means your page has good responsiveness. In this regard, the scoring system is identical to the existing metric but the calculation is very different. Aside from measuring every on-page interaction, the new metric will also track the competition of actions in three phases (not only one).

Measuring the speed of interactions

The existing Core Web Vitals for interactivity only measures input delay: the time between a user click and the start of the action in question. The new metric also tracks input delay, but as one of three phases for interactivity:

  1. Input delay: Starts when the user initiates an interaction and ends when the event begins to run.
  2. The processing time: The time it takes for an event to complete.
  3. The presentation delay: The time it takes for the user to see the event completed in the browser.

Each phase adds to the time it takes for interactions to complete so measuring all three phases will help you achieve good scores and identify issues.

Detailed image showing the stages of the interaction to next paint calculation

To optimise for the new metric, you’ll need to incorporate all three of these phases into your development and analytics processes. Otherwise, you’ll have no visibility or means to identify and fix the cause of poor scores that could harm your organic search rankings – not to mention engagement and conversions.

Identify the cause of slow INP

Once you identify a poor score, you’ll need to work with your developers to identify the cause. It could be some bloated JavaScript, a poorly-written plugin or all kinds of other technical issues affecting one or more phases of interactivity.

By tracking the new metric properly, you’ll be able to identify the interaction/page element causing problems and which phase is the issue.

Let’s say you identify a form submission that’s getting poor scores and your analytics flags up processing time as the issue. This might point your developer in the direction of some validation code that’s slowing things down.

While the new metric is more difficult to optimise for, it’s also significantly more helpful for UX optimisation.

Start preparing for Interaction to Next Paint now

If you’re struggling to optimise for Core Web Vitals or to keep up with the latest ranking signals, our SEO specialists can help. Call us on 02392 830281 to discuss your options or send us your details and we’ll get back to you.

Josh Wilkie profile picture
Josh Wilkie

Josh is an SEO specialist who joined Vertical Leap at the beginning of 2022. He studied journalism and was a reporter for a local newspaper before moving into digital marketing to combine his passion for the written word with his love for all things data-led. He believes content is king and that the key to success in this highly competitive landscape is to be uniquely useful. His main passion outside of work is skiing and he spent six winter seasons in the French Alps.

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