If your blog is on our modern platform, it got much faster this week.  Major SEO benefits as well.  Why?  Core Web Vitals (CWV).

CWV is a new set of website performance measurements authored by Google. They measure the way a website actually behaves for a human user, rather than assess things that might look statistically significant to a machine, but don’t affect people as much. The CWV are detailed at https://web.dev/vitals/.

Google claims these measurements will begin to affect SEO in May, 2021.  For a couple of months I’ve been preparing our platform for this by improving our CWV scores.  I’ve been measuring that progress in Google’s excellent Lighthouse tool.  I’d like to share a few things I’ve learned.

It wasn’t that bad.

Before making any changes, I first gathered batch of scores from various sites on our network.  I was pleasantly surprised to see that most of our sites scored in the 60-70 range, out of 100, as measured by Lighthouse.  This might sound a bit low, but in my experience that’s a pretty good opening score for an assessment tool you’ve never before attempted to please.  I attribute our half-decent initial scores to:

  • By default, every single blog on our core platform enjoys massive performance optimization thanks to our unique integration between Cloudflare and WP-Engine.
  • No, or very few, scripted ads.
  • No analytics tracking beyond basic Google Analytics.
  • Very little third-party tooling.  We mostly make our own stuff, and therefore we don’t have to worry about scripts that call scripts that call scripts etc…
  • We offer an AMP front-end for mobile users, and AMP sites are five times more likely to pass a CWV test.

Like most developers though, if you show me a number, and tell me that I need to solve problems in order to make that number increase toward a particular limit, I get … involved.

There was a lot of low-hanging fruit.

We designed and developed the front-end for our core platform a few years ago, and in the ensuing period, many HTML/CSS/JavaScript features have gained browser support.  Some of these impact front-end performance and we were not taking full advantage of all of them:

By just quickly shoring up those three things, maybe a couple others, I immediately started to see scores in the 80’s and low 90’s.

There were only a couple of annoying problems.

One of the more time-consuming problems was transitioning off of Font Awesome icons, in favor of individual SVG images, for our AMP front-end.  Not a terribly deep problem, but labor intensive.  There’s a reason why we chose Font Awesome:  The developer experience is highly scalable and convenient.

Another snag was that some performance improvements were merely a Cloudflare setting or two away — but we have over 1,000 properties on Cloudflare and we like them to all work the exact same way.  Fortunately, a few years ago we built a custom dashboard for configuring a variety of CloudFlare settings across our entire network with one click.

Simpler is still better.

After all these years on and around the web, I still believe content is king.  I think almost anything other than content and primary navigation is likely unnecessary.   This intuition bore out well during the CWV process.  Sites that insist on loading third-party scripts for things like image sliders, custom email marketing or ads hit a ceiling on their CWV scores that is not present on our core platform sites.  For our core sites, the ceiling is quite literally 100.  After resolving a total of probably 10-12 issues, I started to see scores like this all across our network:

This site has a large body background image, high-resolution logos, custom fonts, yet it still scores 100 in the performance category.

Why stop at 100?

This is an addicting, highly gamified task.  I’m finding it hard to want to move on to our next major initiative.  Probably the next steps for improving our CWV even more are the various Cloudflare features that are tucked away at a higher tier than what our core platform uses.  Things like next-gen image formats, for example.  That’ll be something we examine later on this year.



We don’t have many sites on our network that run ads. On the whole, this fact contributes to the success of both our platform and our customers who use it. But in some cases, ads are an inescapable fact of internet life, and we have to deal with them properly.

One problem we have with ads is that they change a lot. Therefore they trigger false positives in our visual regression testing (VRT), and they do so in two ways:

  1. Their content changes very frequently, as different ads come and go within an ad slot, sometimes on every page load.
  2. The ad slots themselves come and go, because ad stakeholders tend to want to manage them closely and frequently.

This kind of false positive looks something like this:

The testing suite says, “Hey! Scott! Look! Something has regressed! But actually it’s just that a site admin has placed a new ad on the page and no one manually excluded it from VRT.

Point #1 is easy to resolve. We have developed a custom UI in WordPress admin for excluding a widget from QA testing:

The admin UI for manually excluding a widget from VRT.

Point #2 is harder because most customers, or even employees, are not in the habit of routinely thinking about excluding widgets from QA testing. So I’ve taken a different tact. I’ve started using some heuristics to determine if a widget seems like it contains an ad. If so, automatically exclude it from QA:

Improving our VRT’s is probably my favorite way of improving platform stability. Ads may have nearly destroyed a democratic society, but they won’t bother our VRT’s!

I’ve spent the majority of my time at LexBlog visiting attorney websites and reading their blogs. Just last Friday, I went through about 500 attorney websites that claimed to have a “blog”. This batch of url’s has been filled with wonderful blogs and others that were more than lacking. This morning I came across a farewell post to a great blog that I had not known existed. The post can be read here: The Legal Whiteboard Farewell Post. While I normally would quickly scan this kind of post and move on, I felt the need to stop and really read the wisdom from a well-seasoned professor/lawyer. It’s a good read and I highly suggest taking ten minutes to dive in and take something of value out.

Continue Reading Stale donuts: Understanding Dead blogs

Last week, I hosted a live webinar giving those interested a look into how the publishing team makes editorial decisions for our network of 22,000 bloggers (now 23,000). It was a joy to engage with bloggers who hoped to make their blogging more impactful, wanted to get more out of their relationship with LexBlog, or were simply interested in learning more about our legal publishing company. That webinar has led to many follow-up conversations with participants about blogging and their inclusion on LexBlog. If you missed it, you’re in luck–I will be doing it all over again on Wednesday June 26 2019 at 1:00 p.m. EST, but this time with an expanded focus on information primarily relevant to platform members.  

Continue Reading How LexBlog Makes Editorial Decisions: Round Two

It’s been a hot minute since I’ve blogged on the LexBlog. I wanted to post some general soft-knowledge lessons I’ve picked up with my time here about life at a small company. Many of these I’ve learned from others directly, but many of them are from my observations. They are also good little quips that seem to float around the office as a sense of daily culture.

Continue Reading Sprinkles on the donut: Advice I’ve received from LexBloggers

(It’s Tuesday morning in Japan so I’m speaking to you from the future!)

The LexBlog Seattle headquarters are located at the WeWork Holyoke building in downtown Seattle and as members of the WeWork community, we can “rent” a workspace at any WeWork location in the world. Pretty cool!

Continue Reading LexBlog in Tokyo

It has been six months now that our customer success and design teams at LexBlog have been upgrading and redesigning our legacy blogs to our latest software. Each member of our team will take responsibility for assigned legacy blogs each week to reach out to bloggers and editors and introduce our project and the benefits of upgrading. These benefits can range from the visual appeal of having a modern design and a blog responsive to a different desktop and mobile devices to the search engine optimization positives and ongoing software updates for security and new features.

Continue Reading Communication is Key