The update came after Google research showed that users tend to prefer sites with great page experience. So, this update will help show site owners what to measure and where to improve their page experience. Here’s everything you need to know.
What Is The Google Page Experience Update All About?
In essence, with the Google Page Experience update, the search giant’s algorithm is going to look at how good or bad a website’s user experience is. Using this Page Experience signal in combination with a set of other site performance metrics, it will then rank the site accordingly in its search results.
These metrics include Core Web Vitals that measure loading performance as well as interactivity and visual stability of the page. Other search signals that come into play are: safe browsing mobile responsiveness HTTPS and intrusive interstitials
Google will roll out the Page Experience update gradually, starting mid-June 2021 - giving site owners time to make changes. Only at the end of August 2021 will sites be fully measured according to the new signals.
Google also intends to incorporate more page experience signals on a yearly basis. This is to accommodate changing user expectations and be able to measure those expectations in new ways.
Google developers say that pages with the best information or content will still rank higher, even when the user experience is not great. In other words, a great page experience won’t necessarily override great content when it comes to ranking in the search engine results pages (SERPs).
The only time page experience will outperform content is when there are too many pages that are similar in relevance.
Important Factors In The Google Page Experience Update
Because Google wants to provide users with the best experience, there are dozens of variables that contribute to a site’s ranking. Good content, along with a good user experience, is set to become the most important when it comes to moving the needle in the right direction.
But, what signals affect your page experience in the new update? Here’s what you need to pay attention to:
Core Web Vitals
Core Web Vitals are a set of user-centred, real-world metrics that will become Google ranking signals with the new update. They measure key aspects of the user experience such as page speed, responsiveness, and the visual stability of content as it loads.
The better these metrics score on a website, the better its chances of a boost in rankings.
3 Core Web Vitals developers need to focus on for the current update
Largest Contentful Paint (LCP) measures how long it takes for the main content of a page to download and be ready for interaction. Content can be block-level text or large images. For a good user experience, LCP should occur within 2.5 seconds of when the page first starts loading. A poor LCP is anything over 4 seconds.
First Input Delay (FID) measures interactivity from when a user first interacts with your website to the time the browser responds to the interaction. For a good user experience, pages should have an FID of 100 milliseconds or less.
Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS) measures the visual stability of a page. This is calculated according to the sum total of layout shifts that occur when a visible element on a page changes size or position, affecting the content around it. For a good user experience, pages should maintain a CLS of 0.1 or less.
When calculating user experience, Google’s algorithm will measure how well a web page performs on mobile devices. Since Google’s rollout of the mobile-first index change in 2016, web developers have prioritised mobile layouts for their websites. Websites without a mobisite - or a website that’s not mobile-friendly - will be left behind.
Consider some mobile usage stats. In April 2021 54.8% of global web traffic was on mobile phones. In many countries, far more people own a smartphone than own a personal computer. In fact, there are 3.8 billion smartphone users in the world - more than half of the global population.
With this shift in how users prefer to access website content, Google Search will continue to place a higher priority on mobile-friendly websites. Users increasingly use their phones to buy, sell, blog, browse, book and search. As such, Google will prioritise sites that offer a positive user experience.
Is your website mobile friendly? Google can help you determine how your pages perform on smaller screens with their free Mobile-Friendly Test Tool. If it performs badly, it is now more important than ever to focus on improving your mobile offering.
Some of the immediate remedies include a responsive website design that renders equally well on all devices.
Website owners should also interrogate page speed. Fast page loading times offer a happy user experience. Improving your load time by as little as 0.1s can boost conversion rates by 8%!
Other important factors are quality visuals and ensuring the same content on both versions. If you want to know how to create mobile-friendly content, be sure to check out this article.
Google’s security team built Safe Browsing to identify unsafe websites and alert webmasters and users of potential harm.
Any security issues for a website that is found via the Google Search Console disqualify all URLs on that website from a “Good” status in the Google Page Experience report.
These security issues can include malware, harmful or uncommon downloads, and deceptive pages. Google will also detect hacked content and social engineering (content that tricks visitors into revealing confidential information or downloading harmful software) and will alert website owners about them.
Owners will need to fix all security issues on all pages in order to restore their “Good” status.
HTTPS ups customer privacy standards
Part of a good user experience is secure and private online usage when visiting a website. Google Chrome requires websites to use certificates from trusted organizations to confirm they are safe for users.
HTTPS (Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure) is an encrypted network protocol and a secure alternative to HTTP. To make the Internet more secure, in 2014, Google announced HTTPS as a ranking signal. A year later, half of the first-page search results were secure with HTTPS.
HTTPS encryption makes for secure browsing, enables improved performance, and introduces features that benefit site conversions. So, it’s clear why it’s already a ranking signal. If your website has a high percentage of HTTP URLs, Google will alert you via a Failing warning in the Page Experience report.
If website owners have not transitioned to HTTPS, this will impact user experience in terms of reputation and customer privacy standards. Worse yet, these websites will be punished by the Google Page Experience Update. As a result, it will impact their site ranking in the search results pages.
Just like migrating your website to a new domain or URL structure, migrating from HTTP to HTTPS can negatively affect its visibility if the migration isn’t managed properly. Things to look out for and that impact SEO are internal and external links that don’t point to the new HTTPS URLs, as well as incorrect redirects.
Minimising annoying interstitials
Intrusive interstitials make content hard to access and create a poor user experience. These include pop-ups, surveys, ads, banners, and overlays that are distracting and interrupting.
Google has never liked them. But, with the Google Experience Update, they will be even more heavily considered.
In 2017, Google started ranking pages lower in mobile search if they showed intrusive elements that take users away from the core content. This was primarily because mobile screens are smaller, and it remains the case.
The disruptive nature of these interstitials closely relates to the CLS metric described above under Core Web Vitals.
Google Developers identified examples of annoying interstitials that make content less accessible:
A popup that covers the main content on a page, whether the user browses the page or navigates to it from search results. A standalone interstitial that the user has to interact with or dismiss before the user can access the content. When the layout of a web page above the fold looks like a standalone interstitial but the original content actually lies below the fold.
So, to improve your Google Page Experience, make sure that any interstitials on your site are unobtrusive.
The Google Experience Update shows Google is serious about making UX a ranking signal. In April, the Google Search Console rolled out the Page Experience report.
Google has for some time been able to quantify your content to determine its ranking. But now, finally, user experience will now also contribute to your SERP rankings through the Page Experience update.
In the end, this user-first approach will motivate website owners to follow best practices all around!