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Google: New Lighthouse 8.0 Version For Stricter And Easier Scoring

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SEO specialist agencies and website owners are eager to use Google’s recently updated Lighthouse version 8. The search engine company changed its way of scoring websites with new adjustments to the weights of its speed metrics. With these added features, many websites can now easily get higher page speed scores. SEO specialists and webmasters can also get higher Cumulative Layout Shift scores as the tool’s other metrics become stricter.

Google Lighthouse 8.0

Publishers, site owners, and developers use Lighthouse to measure page speed and other metrics relevant to accessibility and SEO. This tool works with the online PageSpeed Insights tool and also serves as one of Chrome’s developer tools.

The new Lighthouse version 8.0 will ship in Chrome 93, but everyone can find it in their PageSpeed Insights tool. Here are a few changes to Google Lighthouse Tool:

  • First Contentful Paint (FCP) scoring has become stricter
  • Total Blocking Time (TBT) scoring has become stricter
  • Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS) scoring has become less strict
  • Performance score has been re-weighted

How Scores Have Changed

According to Google, about 20 per cent of the websites will have their scores drop five points or less, while another 20 per cent might not find any significant differences. The search engine company also estimates that 60 per cent of sites will see an improvement in their scores, with 30 per cent gaining a massive increase of five points or higher, while the other half would see a moderate improvement of a few points. This means the search engine company estimates that there would be more winners with the Lighthouse 8.0 update overall.

As for websites that will suffer the biggest drops in score, the TBT scoring and the metric’s slightly higher weight are the main reasons. As for those with the biggest score improvements, the changes in TBT scoring also have something to contribute, especially in the windowing of CLS and in the long tail, as well as both metrics’ higher weights.

Total Blocking Time Scoring

TBT measures the time it takes for a web page to respond to keyboard taps or scrolling. SEO specialists and webmasters strive to achieve a low TBT score, which implies that a webpage is nearly immediately interactive. Therefore, the lower the TBT score, the more responsive the page is to scrolling and keyboard tapping.

With the newly updated Lighthouse, the TBT scoring is now described as being stricter. TBT scoring was actually supposed to be even stricter than this based on the documentation, but the engineers decided not to proceed with this plan.

According to the TBT GitHub page, the engineers thought it would be “too jarring and aggressive” to make the TBT scoring much stricter than it currently is. They also admitted that there are a lot of areas for improvement; therefore, they decided to make TBT scoring only a bit stricter than before.

Before And After Lighthouse Scores

Google publicly released a Lighthouse Scoring Calculator, where one can see the differences between versions 8, 6/7, and 5. In their given example, they published several screenshots to compare the exact same Lighthouse scores in the three versions.

The website received a Google Lighthouse score of 55 in version 5. Next, it was run in version 6/7 and received a score of 54. When it was run on Lighthouse’s latest version, the website received a score of 50. One can conclude that it gives a lower score in every recent version released.

Lighthouse API Update

Google wrote a statement regarding the API changes, saying that the cumulative_layout_shift will take on the new Cumulative Layout Shift definition as its default metric. As for the previous Cumulative Layout Shift metric, it will be accessible for only a limited time because it is now phased out as experimental uncapped cumulative_layout_shift.

On the other hand, the Largest Contentful Paint was updated in CrUX and similarly underwent adjustments in recent Chrome versions. Its tri-binning thresholds where also updated to [0-1.8s], (1.8s-3s), [3s-∞].

What Motivates The Changes To The Performance Score?

According to the Lighthouse 8.0 FAQ, the engineers made changes to the tool so SEOs and publishers can measure user-experience quality accurately and holistically. And just like any other Lighthouse score update, they improved the tool as they wanted to focus their attention on key priorities.

They also addressed worsening problems in the SEO industry, such as heavy JS and long tasks. Moreover, Field FID is too lenient at the moment and is not enough to solve such issues. On the other hand, Lighthouse originally measured its interactivity metrics at 40-55 per cent of the performance score. Since interactivity is crucial for a better user experience, they maintain a 40 per cent weighting (TBT and TTI together) in Lighthouse’s latest version.

The engineers adjusted the FCP’s score curve to align with the current de facto “good” threshold, which results in stricter FCP scoring. They also shared that the TBT scoring was more lenient than what their methodology states, and so they made it much stricter so that it would more closely approach the ideal score curve. The new TBT scoring is more linear, meaning that as pages perform better, the score will also improve a lot.

They also explained that FCP’s weight slightly dropped from 15 per cent to 10 partly because it is captured by Speed Index, and it is fairly gameable.

The new PageSpeed scores are now available at the PageSpeed Insights tool. The launching of the Lighthouse 8.0 will soon come to Chrome 93 on 31 August 2021.

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