Google’s Page Experience update: What you need to know
Google has confirmed that Page Experience will become a website ranking factor in June 2021 as part of its upcoming algorithm update. Originally set for May of this year, the tech giant has given businesses a few more months to prepare for the changes.
The algorithm update will see Google prioritise websites that provide users with a good experience, giving them an edge on their competitors and a higher ranking in Google search results. In other words, websites that don’t deliver a good experience may see their search engine rankings suffer, and web traffic decline.
But don’t worry. There are actions you can take to prepare.
What is Page Experience?
Page Experience measures how users experience and interact with your website. Google’s objective is to encourage site owners to develop more user-friendly websites - ones that work well on mobile, are safe, and allow users to transact online easily. In essence, it’s a measure of your site’s user experience (UX).
How will Google measure Page Experience?
Google has released the specific criteria for how it will measure page experience. But the first clue is in the name. It’s likely that when looking at your site, Google will focus on the experience of individual pages, rather than your site as a whole. Of course, it’s still best practice to ensure your entire site is functioning well, but when preparing for the changes, look at fixing individual pages before actioning site-wide optimisation.
The key elements of page experience are:
1. Core Web Vitals
Your site’s “Core Web Vitals” represent specific factors that Google considers important to how users perceive your site. They relate to how fast your page is and how quickly users can interact with it. Core Web Vitals are broken down into three aspects:
Largest Contentful Paint (LCP) - LCP measures how fast your page loads.
First Input Delay (FID) - FID measures how quickly the page becomes interactive (i.e. how quickly users can click on a button or navigate through the page).
Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS) - CLS measures visual stability. If the elements on the page, such as text, images and buttons, shift around as your page loads, this is a poor CLS.
You likely already know that the majority of people access the web on a mobile device. This is the driving force behind this factor being included in the algorithm update. Google will look at how well your site performs on mobile, focusing on aspects such as:
- The use of mobile-compatible plugins
- The responsiveness of text and images on different-sized screens (do your web elements resize automatically for different screens?)
- How easy it is for users to click on buttons and links
3. Safe Browsing
Safe browsing refers to how safe your site is for users. It means not serving visitors malware, unwanted software, or tricking them into providing information that may later be used for fraud.
You’re likely not doing any of these yourself, but if your site is not up-to-date with the latest security measures, it’s at risk of being hacked, and these hackers may be responsible for placing dangerous content on your site.
Another security-related factor, Google will prioritise sites with a Secure Socket Layer (SSL) certificate. If you look at your site right now, and you see http:// rather than https:// in your URL, then you don’t have a valid SSL certificate.
An SSL certificate ensures any data that is sent between users and your servers are encrypted and safe from hackers.
5. Intrusive interstitials
This one relates to web elements that stop your users accessing the content on your site easily - think pop-ups that cover the entire screen or are hard to dismiss. However, reasonably sized banners or important disclaimers won’t negatively affect your ranking.
How will your site be affected?
Page experience has the potential to impact your site’s ranking in the long term, but Google has announced that sites shouldn’t see a dramatic change as soon as the update is rolled out. In most cases, page experience will act as a “tiebreak” to differentiate sites that are otherwise on par with SEO best practice, meaning Google will rank sites with an optimised page experience above sites without.
That being said, you should still start preparing for the changes. It may be unclear at this stage how much weight Google will place on this new metric, but ensuring your site delivers a good user experience is still a valuable activity. After all, sites that deliver good user experiences are better sites, and are likely to have lower bounce rates and higher conversions.
What can you do to prepare?
Some more advanced optimisations will require the help of an SEO expert and/or developer, but there are some quick fixes you can implement to improve your site’s user experience:
1. Remove large or intrusive pop-up banners
Make sure any pop-ups are subtle and can be easily navigated away from. Don’t have banners pop up too frequently as users navigate through your site.
2. Keep an eye on your security
Install a firewall to protect your site from hackers, and an SSL certificate for data encryption. And this one hopefully goes without saying, but don’t intentionally install malicious software on your site.
3. Optimise your site for mobile
This one might require the help of a developer, but where you can, make sure your website is optimised for mobile. The elements on your site (text, images, etc.) should automatically adjust for different screens. Links and buttons need to be easily clickable.
4. Improve page speed
Again, another optimisation that you’ll likely need some developer support with, but the more you can speed up your website, the better. This may mean reducing the size of your images, making sure any plugins you’ve installed are 100% required, or switching to a host with a faster server.
Given Google tends to be pretty tight-lipped about its algorithm, it’s hard to predict what the impact of the changes will be. However, they do have the potential to negatively affect your site’s ranking and web traffic.
Fortunately, there are steps you can take to protect your business. We’ve listed some quick fixes above, but for a more comprehensive audit of your site, and advice on what you can do to prepare, get in touch with the team.