Google doesn’t want to rank websites that have poor user experiences, which is why it created the Core Web Vitals test back in 2020. 

Just as a physician checks your vitals to ensure you’re in good health, the Core Web Vitals test does the same thing for websites. 

The only difference is that Google checks for things like loading speed, interactivity, and visual stability instead of weight and blood pressure.

hospital meme with caption about core web vitals

However, one of the Core Web Vitals, known as First Input Delay (FID), is about to go by the wayside. 

Google introduced a new Web Vital metric called Interaction to Next Paint (INP) back in May 2023 with the aim of replacing FID in early 2024. 

The new year is here, and INP is about to become an official part of Google’s Core Web Vitals on March 12th. 

How will this affect SEO?

If you aren’t able to pass the Core Web Vitals test, you won’t be able to rank in the top spots on Google’s SERPs. So, if your website has slow interactions (which is what INP measures), you may see negative effects on your Google rankings. 

Stay tuned to learn everything you need to know about INP, how it differs from FID, and how you can ensure you pass the test. 

What is Interaction to Next Paint?

You can separate Google’s Core Web Vitals into three key areas that affect a website’s user experience the most, which are:

  • Speed
  • Interactivity 
  • Stability 

Accordingly, Google has a metric that measures each:

  • Last Contentful Paint (LCP) measures a website’s loading speed.
  • First Input Delay (FID) measures how long it takes for users to begin interacting with the site.
  • Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS) measures the visual stability of a website. 

These metrics were the ‘big three’ up until last May when Google announced Interaction to Next Paint, which is a new and more comprehensive way of measuring interactivity. 

Why does Google need two metrics for interactivity?

They don’t, which is why INP is set to replace FID, the current interactivity metric. 

Google discovered some key limitations with First Input Delay in 2022. This led their team to experiment with a different way of measuring a website’s interactivity, leading to the creation of INP. 

While it’s still in the ‘pending’ phase, INP will become a stable Core Web Vitals on March 12th, 2024. 

How is INP different from FID?

It didn’t take long for the cracks to begin to show with First Input Delay, as it’s not a very reliable way of gauging a website’s interactivity.

Why is that?

It’s because FID only measures a user’s first interaction with a website and doesn’t consider any interactions that take place after. 

Going by FID alone, the Core Web Vitals test could determine that a website has ample interactivity since the first interaction loaded quickly. What FID failed to uncover, though, is that the same site struggles to load other interactions during the lifecycle of a user’s visit. 

For example, let’s say you visit a web page and click on the login box. The click registers almost immediately, causing Google to assume the site has acceptable interactivity (going by FID). 

Right after logging in, you attempt to interact with the site’s navigation menu, which is meant to drop down whenever you hover over an option like this:

However, it takes several seconds for the drop-down menu to appear, causing you to assume that the feature is broken (and making it difficult to navigate through the site). 

That’s why FID isn’t a good metric for interactivity; it only measures the first interaction. 

INP measures interactions during the full lifespan of a user’s visit 

That brings us to INP, which takes a more comprehensive look at a website’s interactivity. 

Instead of only measuring the first interaction and calling it a day, INP measures every interaction a user has during their visit to your website. 

Here are the interactions that INP measures:

  • Mouse clicks 
  • Touchscreen device taps 
  • Physical or onscreen keyboard key presses

If you want your website to have a pleasant user experience, then your site’s responsiveness must be on point. 

We’ve all experienced the frustration that comes with delayed interactions, such as trying to click on an accordion-style menu only for the site to freeze up for several minutes before completing the task. 

Improving your INP will reduce instances like this, boosting your user experience as a result. 

Is Your Website Prepared for the Change to INP?

The good news is if you’ve already been optimizing your website for FID and the other Web Vitals, you shouldn’t have much trouble. 

Optimizing for FID provides a strong foundation for improving your INP, so you’ll already be well on your way. 

Even if you haven’t done any tweaking to improve your Core Web Vitals, it’s never too late to start, and there is no shortage of tools out there to help you. 

In particular, Google’s PageSpeed Insights should be your go-to when improving your site’s loading speed, interactivity, and stability. It’s an official tool from Google, and it lets you view how well your site scores on the Core Web Vitals test. It also provides helpful insights and actionable tips for improving your user experience. 

Here’s an overview of the INP threshold:

  • A score of 200 milliseconds or under means your site has good responsiveness.
  • Scores above 200 milliseconds but under 500 milliseconds need improvement. 
  • An INP score over 500 milliseconds means your website has poor responsiveness.

Therefore, achieving an INP score of 200 milliseconds or less should be your goal. 

Suggestions for improving INP scores 

If you discover that your website has poor responsiveness, here are a few things you can do:

  • If your interactions are taking too long to begin processing, you should optimize your input delay.
  • Look out for excessively complex CSS selectors, as they can cause delays when users try to interact with your site. 
  • Longer tasks may need optimizing if you have a lot of JavaScript getting in the way. 
  • Minimize DOM size wherever possible. 

Should none of these suggestions resolve your issue, you can always check out this Google-recommended guide for optimizing INP. 

Making a Smooth Transition to INP from FID 

As long as you optimize your site to have quick responsiveness, the transition to INP from FID shouldn’t affect your website too much. 

Improving your INP score will make drastic improvements to your user experience, so there’s no reason to ignore it. With a strong responsiveness score, you’ll enjoy better SERP rankings, user engagement, and dwell times, which is why improving INP is worth the time and effort. 

Do you need help optimizing your website for INP?

Then you need HOTH X, our managed SEO service that lets you put your digital marketing on autopilot. If you’re ready to remove all the complexity from SEO while enjoying stellar results, don’t wait to get in touch.