Google Page Experience Update – What you need to know

As of May 2021, page experience signals will be part of Google’s ranking algorithm. Find out what this means, and why it matters.

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Back in May 2020, Google announced that page experience signals would, at some point, be included as part of its ranking algorithm.

Earlier this month, Google confirmed that this change is set to roll out in May 2021 (probably), giving site owners a good six months to make improvements to their websites.

Things like delivering a mobile-first experience, having a secure site (https) and taking elements of the user experience into account (i.e. not having a million pop-ups) have been part of the ranking algorithm for a while now, so what exactly is going to change in May next year?

Well, core web vitals are set to be added to the existing factors that make up the ‘search signals for page experience’.

Google said it has been testing ways to let users know which sites deliver a good page experience right from the SERPs. It sounds as though they will be using some kind of visual indicator to display this information, but for now, at least, they haven’t revealed exactly how this is going to look. They have previously tested icons and labels in search results for AMP, slow sites, and mobile-friendly sites.

Getting your site ready for the Google Page Experience Update

First of all, you are going to need to login to your site’s Google Search Console account. Navigate to the ‘Enhancements’ section of the menu, and click ‘Core web vitals’.

What the flip are core web vitals?

Core web vitals focus on three aspects of the user experience: loading, interactivity, and visual stability.

  • Largest Contentful Paint (LCP): measures how fast a page loads by looking at the render time of the largest image or text block visible within the viewport. Google likes sites to load quickly, so for a good user experience, LCP should occur within 2.5 seconds of when the page first starts loading.
  • First Input Delay (FID): also relates to speed, but measures interactivity – this means the time from when a user first interacts with a page (clicking a link/button, for example) to the time when the browser is actually able to begin processing event handlers in response to that interaction. To provide a good user experience, pages should have a FID of less than 100 milliseconds.
  • Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS): measures visual stability. Nobody likes to think a page has loaded only for the elements to wobble about all over the place. To provide a good user experience, pages should maintain a CLS of less than 0.1.

The core web vitals reports

Here, you’ll see two graphs, one for mobile and one for desktop. You are able to click into the report for more information.

As you can see, some of the URLs on this site ‘Need improvement’.

In this case, there are 130 URLs flagged for improvement (yikes). If I click on these URLs, I will be presented with a link to the PageSpeed Insights tool which will provide a more detailed report on what can be done to help the page load faster.

These fixes will need to be completed by a developer. Once fixed, you can click the ‘Validate Fix’ button within Search Console to let Google know you’ve addressed the issue. Hooray.

Mobile Usability

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that a good mobile experience is super important. If it does, where the heck have you been hiding? Under a rock?

Anyway. Shame on you if you’re still making your users pinch and zoom and click the wrong links on tiny text when browsing on a mobile device in 2020.

LIKE THIS, UGH.

In this report, if you click on a URL you’ll be redirected to the Mobile-Friendly Test tool.

You’ll then be able to see how ugly your stupid landing page looks on a mobile device, and also check out the page loading issues at the same time. As you’ve probably guessed, the next step is to FIX IT.

Anything else to consider?

As well as fixing any issues with core web vitals and mobile usability, taking time to review the user experience overall can be hugely beneficial. You might love your website and think it’s the best thing since sliced bread, but who cares what you think?

Have a good dig about in Google Analytics to identify any pages that have poor engagement metrics, and if you have sufficient traffic to those pages (I’m talking 1,000+ visits a month or your test will have to run for yonks), why not consider A/B testing of elements on those pages to see if you can improve engagement or conversions?

Equally, if you want feedback on how your site fares against a competitor, why not conduct some user testing for unbiased feedback on what could be better from complete strangers? Yes, they might be brutally honest and upset you a little bit, but it’s probably better than asking mummy what she thinks.

To be completely honest, there is nothing actually that new about this update. However, it is fairly likely that the relative importance of these factors (which you can already measure) will become even more important once it rolls out next year.

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