Google has always gone out of its way to prove how much it values its users. What’s more, the search giant has prioritized user experience and also pushed webmasters to follow suit. Since its inception, Google has used a combination of ranking signals and algorithms to deliver top-notch experiences to its audience.
Although Google algorithm updates weren’t frequent in the past, in recent years, it has been rolling out thousands of changes. This summer, Google took its commitment to provide optimal UX to the next level by announcing the Google Page Experience update. The update will use search signals and Core Web Vitals, such as mobile-friendliness, safe-browsing, HTTPS, the site’s loading speed, interactivity, and visual stability to rank websites.
Google went on to explain that the page experience is a set of signals that measures how users perceive their experience when interacting with a web page beyond its information value or the content provided.
In other words, this new update does not only focus on the content and also evaluates other aspects of user experience. Google will build upon the Core Web Vitals released in 2020 and evaluate web pages based on a set of metrics. If your website isn’t offering a top-notch user experience, it may not rank high in the SERPs. This update, referred to as the Google Page Experience, is expected to go live soon!
So, what’s the aim of this update?
The answer is simple – to offer users a web experience that’s straightforward, reliable, responsive, and safe.
As we prepare for the update, it is essential to understand the following:
- What’s this update about?
- How will this update impact your website’s ranking?
- How can you stay on top of this update?
What is Page Experience?
Page experience encompasses all aspects of user interaction with a web page. Here’s Google’s reasoning about creating Page Experience and why they think webmasters should prioritize it.
Here is Google’s graphic depiction of the page experience signals (including some old and new ones).
Moreover, Google wants webmasters and SEOs to focus on these signals. Let’s understand each of them in detail.
- Core Web Vitals
These metrics show how performance connects with UX. It focuses on the following aspects:
- Loading – It measures the perceived loading speed. Specifically, the factor Largest Contentful Paint (LCP) measures the loading performance. Webmasters should aim at having LCP occur within the first 2.5 seconds of a page starting to load.
- Interactivity – This concept refers to the time elapsed from the moment the user first interacts with a page in the form of a click or a tap. Accordingly, First Input Delay (FID) measures interactivity. Websites should strive to have an FID of less than 100 milliseconds.
- Visual instability – This concept relates to preventing annoying and unexpected movement of page content. Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS) is a new metric that determines whether the page is stable when it loads. For optimal UX, websites should strive to have a CLS score of less than 0.1.
This is a measure of whether your site has a mobile-friendly design. Simply put, it shows how well a web page translates to mobile devices. If your site has issues, it will be flagged by the Google Mobile-Friendly Test tool or by the Google Search Console.
- Safe Browsing
Does your site have malware or social engineering issues? Does it have harmful downloads, malicious or deceptive content (such as phishing), or other similar problems flagged by Google Search Console? If so, it’s time for you to tackle these issues. Safe browsing is a critical aspect of the user page experience.
- HTTPS Usage
This focuses on whether or not your website has an SSL certificate and serves on HTTPS, an encrypted network protocol, and a secure alternative to HTTP.
- No Intrusive Interstitials
Interstitials and popups ruin the mobile experience by making content less accessible to users. Accordingly, this signal is a measure of whether your website shows intrusive interstitials to mobile users.
Google has been planning this update for some time. However, it has given webmasters enough time to adjust to these changes, especially during this volatile and stressful pandemic era.
Why Should You Care About This Algorithm Update?
Google is clear about prioritizing the page experience and will be considering the above-mentioned signals when ranking pages. Consequently, pages falling short of these new benchmarks will be left behind in rankings and as a result, they will suffer a drop in traffic. Hence, it is important to take the new page experience metrics seriously.
Here are four reasons why you should care about this update.
1. Google Will Be Placing Less Relevance on Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMPs)
AMPs were specifically created for media outlets and news publications. Until now, Google only allowed AMPs in the top stories section; however, after the new update, Google will remove the AMP requirement for the top stories section. Instead, the Page Experience Update will determine which content should be in the “Top Stories” section.
2. Unresponsive Websites Will Be Penalized
If your website isn’t mobile-friendly, there’s a high chance this will negatively affect your site’s SEO. Use the Mobile-Friendly Test to determine whether your website’s responsiveness and work towards creating a responsive design.
3. Your Website Speed Will Be Crucial
A site’s loading time is a critical element in the Core Web Vitals. Therefore, a fast-loading page offers a great user experience.
As a part of the new update, Google will heavily focus on the site speed as it directly impacts the website’s bounce rate.
4. You Cannot Escape Google’s Visual Indicators
Besides the new update, Google plans to roll out its visual indicators to reward the search results that fulfill the page experience requirements. The goal is to highlight these pages even before the user clicks on the page.
Therefore, if you do not optimize your web pages for the Page Experience update, your site’s CTR will be impacted. Google is yet to announce these indicators, so you still have time to prepare!
Staying on Top of Google’s 2021 Page Experience Update
So, how can you optimize your website for the Page Experience update? Read on to learn more.
1. Begin with the Basics
Before working on the page experience, it’s important to do some preliminary research about this update. Here are a few pointers we recommend paying attention to.
- Understand what the new metrics mean. Google offers a clear explanation of terms such as LCP (Largest Contentful Paint), CLS (Cumulative Layout Shift), and FID (First Input Delay). Gaining mastery over these metrics will help you work out strategies to improve your page experience.
- Conduct a site audit to assess your website’s load speed, responsiveness, UX, mobile usability, and security. There are a variety of tools that can help you in this endeavor.
For instance, Google’s PageSpeed Insights can help you gauge the performance of a page on both mobile and desktop devices. We will discuss this in more detail later in this post.
Similarly, Google Search Console offers a new Core Web Vitals report that provides a snapshot of how your site is currently performing.
This is a good time to get your search marketing, UX, and IT teams on one platform to discuss the ramifications of this update on your business website. Further, you need to ensure that each team member is perfectly aligned to the future goals and strategies you plan to implement.
2. Improve Your Site’s Mobile-Friendliness
In Q1 2021, nearly 55% of the global website traffic came from mobiles. Therefore, it is not surprising that Google’s algorithms place a lot of emphasis on a website being mobile-ready.
Make sure to assess the mobile-friendliness of your site and resolve the issues seen in the Mobile Usability report of Google Search Console or by using the Mobile-Friendly Test tool.
The Mobile Usability report points out the errors mentioned below. You can use this tool to diagnose these issues and improve your site’s mobile-friendliness.
- Pages using incompatible plugins are not supported by mobile browsers.
- Pages not defining a viewport property that tells mobile browsers how to adjust the page’s dimension and scaling to suit the screen size.
- Pages with a fixed-width viewport property. This means that it cannot be adjusted for different screen sizes, affecting its responsiveness.
- Pages with text that’s too small to read.
- Pages where content is wider than the screen.
- Pages where the clickable elements such as the buttons and links are too close to each other.
3. Improve Your Page Loading Speed
We’ve already shared how a site’s speed directly affects its bounce rate. Users are more impatient these days and want immediate access to the information they search for. A slow site runs the risk of losing traffic, making it less favorable for search engines. A high bounce rate signals search engines that users aren’t finding a particular page useful. In other words, the page experience is evaluated as poor, and this negatively affects its ranking in the SERPs.
Hence, it’s critical to take measures to improve your page speed. Consider these quick tips to boost your site’s loading speed:
- Use Google’s PageSpeed Insights to check how long your site takes to load completely. The tool shares a score from 0-100 (0-49 = poor, 50-89 = needs improvement, and 90-100 = good).
For instance, Growing Search’s score is 92, meaning its loading speed is good.
On the other hand, the score for Search Engine Land is 77 (needs improvement).
The tool also helps you find out whether your website passes the Core Web Vitals assessment test. As you can see, Search Engine Land does not pass the Core Web Vitals assessment because its LCP is more than 2.5 seconds and its CLS is more than 0.1.
Finally, the tool offers recommendations to improve your site speed.
- Once you have followed the suggestions shared by PageSpeed Insights for boosting site speed, it’s time to compress the images on your site. Use the WebP format, a modern image format that employs superior lossless and lossy compression for images on the web.
WebP lossless images are 26% smaller when compared to PNGs and lossy images are 25-34% smaller than JPEG images. As a result, this significantly reduces the load time.
- Create AMPs of your site as they are the lightweight version of your pages that load quickly.
- Invest in a CDN (content distribution network) that saves copies of your website across different locations, thus reducing the load time.
- Enable browser caching for visitors who return to your website.
4. Boost Your Site’s Security
Keep your website free of malware, viruses, and other security threats. Google wants its users to get the best possible web experience, and that includes safeguarding their information.
Check Google Search Console to spot security issues. If you see any issues, fix them and click on ‘Request Review’ to inform Google that you’ve taken remedial action towards improving your site’s security.
Here is a valuable tutorial that can help:
Furthermore, you can also use Google Transparency Report to understand how Google identifies unsafe sites. This will help you improve your site’s security.
Finally, it is recommended to implement an SSL certificate (Secure Sockets Layer) on your website or make your site HTTPS. SSL is a digital certificate that offers authentication of an encrypted connection for a website. Websites without HTTPS are at risk of performing poorly after the Page Experience update is rolled out.
5. Work on Other Factors Influencing UX
Several other factors influence your website’s user experience. Don’t miss out on them!
- Customize CTAs
Every website has some form of a call to action, persuading visitors to take specific actions, such as subscribing to a newsletter or booking an appointment. However, all CTAs aren’t equal – they need to be tailored as per the customer’s frame of mind.
Accordingly, you should design short, specific, and clear CTAs that will help your customers achieve their goals or solve their problems.
- Add Alt Text to Images
The alt text describes the image and its function on a page. These descriptions not only help users but also allow search engines to better understand the content, allowing them to index it and rank the page accordingly.
- Get Rid of Intrusive Interstitials
As mentioned earlier, interstitials and popups interfere with page experience. To help users access content with ease, it is important to get rid of these popups. If you need to add them, you should make sure these interstitials are discreet and don’t get in the way of primary content.
6. Don’t Forget to Create Great Content
Although the above-mentioned components of the Page Experience update are important, webmasters should also prioritize content to improve the site’s ranking. High-quality and relevant content is a crucial aspect of a good page experience. So, regardless of how good your page experience is, if your content’s not good, you are bound to lose.
Here are a few tips to improve the quality of your content.
- Create content for your target audience, not just for the search engines. Your content should address the pain points of your audience. It shouldn’t be stuffed with irrelevant keywords.
- Share data-driven content that embodies EAT – Expertise, Authority, and Trustworthiness.
- Use the skyscraper technique for content creation. Research the best-performing content of your competition and then use this technique to create better content.
- Write a compelling headline. Use tools such as CoSchedule, OptinMonster, and Sharethrough to write short, informative, and catchy headlines.
- Make sure you add relevant images (and not just stock imagery!) to your posts. Infographics, screenshots, and videos can be used to break large chunks of text and improve UX.
Website design, content, security, and page speed have always been critical page experience indicators. With Google’s Page Experience Update going live soon, these factors will become even more important.
If you are concerned about how this new update will affect your site’s ranking, the information in this post can help you learn more about the upcoming changes. Go ahead and start implementing the tactics shared above to successfully sail through yet another Google algorithm update.