In May 2020, Google announced that a Page Experience update would be rolling out at some point in 2021. In this blog, we explore what will change and how this ranking factor is going to impact websites.
The main focus of the algorithm update is UX or user experience.
According to Google, “The page experience signal measures aspects of how users perceive the experience of interacting with a web page. Optimizing for these factors makes the web more delightful for users across all web browsers and surfaces, and helps sites evolve towards user expectations on mobile”.
The Search ranking update will combine existing ranking criteria, such as page load speed and mobile-friendliness, with something called ‘Core Web Vitals’ – which measures the speed, responsiveness and visual stability of a web page.
In simple terms, they want to eliminate all those frustrating interactions that can happen when you load a website, whether that’s a web page that doesn’t load quickly enough, incidents of accidentally tapping the wrong button because it shifts, or difficulty navigating through a mobile site.
It seems that this will occur at a page level – in other words, the experience of a particular web page will be measured more closely than the website as a whole.
Largest Contentful Paint (LCP) measures loading speed.
First Input Delay (FID) measures responsiveness (allowing users to click, scroll and interact).
Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS) measures visual stability (how often users experience unexpected shifts in the layout of a page).
These terms sound complicated but it mainly comes down to optimising the speed and the design of your website so that users can navigate it with ease.
Google often makes improvements to its algorithm with the aim of providing users with a better search experience. Previous updates have included a shift towards valuing high-quality web content, putting users’ searches into context and responding better to natural language, and rewarding websites which demonstrate expertise, authority and trustworthiness.
With the new page experience update, it seems that the focus is very much on making sure users have access to the best-quality websites in terms of their experience interacting with the site, not just those with the most relevant content and information.
Google has stressed that they are aware website owners are dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic and that they do not need to take any immediate action. The Page Experience update is due to happen at some point in 2021, but they will provide at least six months notice.
Although Google has stressed that there is no need for immediate action, there are a few things that website owners can begin to do to prepare for the algorithm update:
Page speed has been an important ranking factor for a while now, and this will only be solidified with the new update. You can check the speed of your pages (along with the Core Web Vitals mentioned above) by using PageSpeed Insights.
One element that can create a poor user experience is when someone clicks through to a page and that page no longer exists. You should audit your website and make sure there aren’t any broken pages.
This is closely linked to the above, but you also want to check all the links on your site (both internal and external) to make sure that none are broken or redirecting to irrelevant pages.
This has been an SEO recommendation for a long time now, but the new algorithm update will make it more important than ever before. To stand a chance in the rankings, you must get an SSL certificate for your website.
Pop-ups are seen as ‘intrusive’, as they obstruct a user’s access to content and interaction with a website. Of course, some pop-ups that cover cookie usage and age verification are important, and small banners that are easily closed may be permissible, but it’s time to say goodbye to giant pop-ups!
User experience is related to how intuitive your website is and whether things respond as someone would expect them to.
A common example of a design flaw is when it is difficult for users to click the correct button when given several options. Another would be when they click something and it doesn’t take them to the web page they were expecting.
It can be beneficial to get people to test your website out and offer any feedback. You could also try heatmapping to see the popular areas of your website and whether you can make them more responsive.
Another useful way to identify any potential issues with your site is to analyse user behaviour through Google Analytics. Is the bounce rate high on a particular page? Is your cart abandonment rate high? If yes, there is likely to be a reason for this, so do some investigating and see if you can make these pages more user-friendly.
It’s likely that you’ve already got your eye on your competitors and know roughly where they sit on the Google results in relation to you. You can take the time to really delve into their websites and see what they are doing differently to you!
When Google updates occur, it’s important to remember that your approach to SEO should remain holistic. Of course, you should be making sure your website is usable and prioritising user experience, but you still need to focus on other elements, such as producing high-quality content and building links.
We hope you’ve found this guide to the Google Page Experience update useful! If you have any questions at all, you are welcome to get in touch.