Last year in May 2020, Google announced that it would be incorporating more user experience signals as ranking factors in its algorithm. This update has been called the “Google Page Experience Update,” and it will implement a system for measuring how quantifiably “good” the user experience is on a website and adjust the site’s position in search engine rankings accordingly. Sites with strong user experiences according to Google’s new Core Web Vitals metrics are expected to benefit, while sites with poor experiences would likely slide in the rankings.
Although the original launch date of May 2021 has been delayed to mid-June, this update is fast approaching. And while the update initially will be gradual (it won’t be fully live until August), from a long-term perspective, the Google Page Experience Update is going to have some notable ramifications for local, regional and national brands alike. Here’s what you need to know.
UPDATE: The June Core Algorithm Update — noted for its rollout on June 1st, 2021 with a second part scheduled for July — is a separate update from the Google Page Experience Update described in this blog. You can read more about Google’s standard broad core updates and why Google releases them throughout the year in this Google Blog.
What Does Google Mean by “Page Experience?”
At the risk of oversimplification, the term “page experience” is exactly what it sounds like. That is, it’s what a user experiences when visiting any given page on the web. According to Google:
“Great page experiences enable people to get more done and engage more deeply; in contrast, a bad page experience could stand in the way of a person being able to find the valuable information on a page. By adding page experience to the hundreds of signals that Google considers when ranking search results, we aim to help people more easily access the information and web pages they’re looking for, and support site owners in providing an experience users enjoy.”
Google also warns that it will “prioritize pages with the best information overall, even if some aspects of page experience are subpar,” so the quality and substantiation of your content will continue to matter. However, the real trick will be to create great content and a strong page experience on both mobile and desktop. In other words, the sites standing to benefit the most from this update will be informative, easy to navigate, and intuitive to use. The latter two aspects will be measured by Google’s new set of metrics, the Core Web Vitals.
What are Google Core Web Vitals and How Do You Measure Them?
Image courtesy of Google web.dev
Google first introduced its new Core Web Vitals metrics last year, around April. When the update becomes live, the “page experience” signal measured by Core Web Vitals will become combined with existing signals. These signals include mobile-optimization, safe browsing, hypertext transfer protocol secure (HTTPS) compliance, and intrusive interstitial guidelines adherence.
With that in mind, these are the three main factors to consider when optimizing your site’s Core Web Vitals:
- Loading: Google calls this metric “Largest Contentful Paint” (LCP). It measures how long it takes for the primary content on your page to load. Ideally, it should load at 2.5 seconds or better.
- Interactivity: This Core Web Vitals metric is called “First Input Delay” (FID). It measures how long it takes for a page to become interactive for the user. Google considers FID times of 100 ms or less as “good,” while 300 ms or more is considered “poor.”
- Visual Stability: The third metric in this cocktail is called “Cumulative Layout Shift” (CLS). It measures how much unexpected layout instability (or “shifting”) occurs in a page’s visual content. High-performing sites will have a measurement of .1 or less; poor-performing sites will score .25 or more.
Also of note — Google has teased the possibility that it may begin including labels and other indicators to signify which pages and sites meet these metrics. So even if the update doesn’t significantly change rankings in a given SERP, the labeling could affect user behavior in other ways, including click-through rates (CTRs). To this end, pretty much all of Google’s primary developer tools are capable of measuring Core Web Vitals:
- Search Console: Measures LCP, FID, and CLS.
- PageSpeed Insights: Measures LCP, FID, and CLS.
- Chrome UX Report: Measures LCP, FID, and CLS.
- Chrome DevTools: Measures LCP, FID (Total Blocking Time), and CLS.
- Lighthouse: Measures LCP, FID (Total Blocking Time), and CLS.
- Web Vitals Extension: Measures LCP, FID, and CLS.
Image courtesy of Google web.dev
Although Google says that AMP is an “easy and cost-effective” way to achieve optimal page experience, AMP will no longer be a requirement to appear in the Top Stories carousel. A recent poll reported by SEORoundtable found that 40% of SEOs are planning to remove AMP in the wake of this update.
How Should Businesses Prepare for the Google Page Experience Update?
First of all, don’t panic if this is the first you’ve heard of this update. The update itself likely is only a couple weeks away, but Google has been very clear that the rollout will be gradual. So in most cases, site owners will have until August to get their houses in order.
Google recommends taking these basic steps to begin preparing:
- Begin with a site-wide audit using the Search Console Core Web Vitals Report.
- Identify areas of opportunity based on this audit.
- Use Google’s developer tools (listed above) to begin troubleshooting and iterating on improvements.
- Consider AMP if your business lacks the time and resources required to overhaul your existing site.
Finally, although the Google Page Experience update is going to be a major change, don’t expect results to be immediate or world-shattering. Indeed, the significance will depend on your specific industry and how competitive search is in your particular market(s).
According to a recent Search Engine Journal interview with Google Developer Advocate Matt Splitt, in many cases, the update will be “…a tiebreaker. For some it will be quite substantial, for some it will not be very substantial, so you don’t know which bucket you’ll be in because that depends a lot on context and industry and niche. […] I think generally making your website faster for users should be an important goal, and it should not just be like completely ignored.”
See the full video here:
Need Help Getting Your Site Ready for the Google Page Experience Update?
Here at Mediagistic, our digital strategy and web development teams have had their eyes on the Google Page Experience update for the better part of the past year. As a result, we can say with the highest level of confidence that Mediagistic’s clients are all well-prepared for this upcoming update.
Does your site need help? At Mediagistic, our team specializes in keeping our clients at the forefront of all major shifts in the digital marketing landscape. Get in touch with the Mediagistic team today and find out what we can do to ensure your website is ready to take full advantage of this change.
Eddie Childs is the Director of Digital Marketing Communications & Social Media at Mediagistic. His writing has been published by a range of websites and publications including Copypress.com, Jambase.com, NFLSoup.com, FootballNation.com, and Boating World, KnowAtlanta, Men’s Book, Cobb in Focus, TCL, Blush, Charged Electric Vehicles, Business to Business, and Catalyst magazines. Follow him on Twitter and connect with him on Linkedin.
Featured image via Getty Images