Joining the Ranks: Google Page Experience Update

While your web page might appear professional and appealing, evidence shows that its success depends heavily on user experience – in fact, 88 percent of internet users are less likely to return to a page after a bad experience.1 Thanks to an upcoming Google update, this will be truer than ever.

Google announced last month that Page Experience would be a new ranking factor implemented into its search algorithm. While this modification is set to take effect sometime in 2021, no official date has been reported yet. That’s good news: It means there’s time to prepare!

 

What is Page Experience?

One of the last changes that impacted Search rankings was Google’s move to prioritize mobile friendliness. As users relied more on smart phones to search, Google’s goal to present their users with the most relevant and user-friendly sites required site owners to adapt to the mobile user.

Then, in May 2020, Google released a set of reporting variables called “Core Web Vitals,” which added to the list of factors site owners should be paying close attention to in regards to page rank.

Now, Google is taking it a step further with the Page Experience update. According to Google, Page Experience collectively measures “how users perceive the experience of interacting with a web page.” Basically, it boils down to how much people enjoy using your page. Does the web page load quickly? Can they access this page on their phone without trouble?

The answers to these questions were already important in terms of converting site visitors. However, they will soon carry even more weight as they influence your page rank in Search.

 

Core Web Vitals and Other Factors

Core Web Vitals show site owners reports on speed, visuals, and responsiveness so they can improve the overall use of their website. To break it down, these are the main three:

  1. First Input Delay (FID): rate of interactivity with the user. How quickly does the page respond when you act? Optimal FID should be under 100 milliseconds.
  2. Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS): measures how much a page visually shifts as it loads. The lower, the better!
  3. Largest Contentful Paint (LCP): overall loading performance of the web page. Good user experience means an LCP of fewer than 2.5 seconds after being clicked.

Other important factors that come into play include browsing safety, HTTPS security (an encrypted way of making information more secure), and accessibility of content without intrusive interstitials (those annoying pop-up ads). Your page should have no malicious content and should give users a feeling of safety and trust.

 

Why Does Page Experience Matter?

Not all web pages are created equal. If you want to maximize the traffic on your site, put yourself in your users’ shoes. Would you want to spend a lot of time on a website that doesn’t respond while everything shifts around as it loads? Neither do your site visitors.

When the Google update launches, pages that don’t perform well in Page Experience measures will rank lower in organic search results. That being said, your site can outperform the competition if you address and optimize your Core Web Vitals.

In the words of Neil Patel, a New York Times best-selling author and digital marketing expert, “What Google is doing is adapting its algorithm to more closely align with the mission of showing the sites first that users love the most.”

 

How to Improve Page Experience

Page Experience is not a single, comprehensive score. Rather, each factor of the total Page Experience has its own ranking system that affects the algorithm. With that said, the following steps are some ways to improve your page:

  1. Make sure your site has a secure connection. You can and should secure your site with HTTPS.
  2. Run tests like the Mobile-Friendly Test and a Security Issues report.
  3. Work to reduce loading time and run field tests.
  4. Investigate weak points in usability.

In addition, Google has provided detailed page experience criteria that further detail the components of its Page Experience update.

 

Continue to Prioritize Good Content

Because Google is constantly updating their algorithm while taking feedback from users and site owners, they know right now is a difficult time for businesses as they continue to navigate the challenges of COVID-19. As a result, the company has promised a six month notice before any changes take place, but estimates are currently showing the algorithm kicks in early 2021.

However, it’s important to note: much like their earlier updates, Google is still going to prioritize content over features. If your site has a few components that aren’t exactly user-friendly, but your content is the best available to users, your ranking shouldn’t suffer too much.

Ultimately, just keep Google’s top goal in mind: an overall better user experience. There are tools you can use to track user engagement with your site to find areas to improve site navigation and eliminate spammy or interruptive features. Finally, continue to create top-notch content that directly addresses customers’ needs.

This algorithm change isn’t happening now, but it is coming soon. Don’t wait until Google sounds the alarm to start finding opportunities to improve. Reach out for a website analysis and consultation to see how your site is currently performing and how it can do better.

1 UXCam